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What is the Difference Between a Hostel and a Hotel?

By Deborah Ng
Updated May 23, 2024
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Hotels and hostels both provide accommodations to travelers, but while the two provide a dry place to stay, the similarities end there. In most cases, hotels are the more luxurious of the two and, therefore, more expensive. At a hotel, a traveler can have his own room and bathroom as well as maid service and other amenities. Hostels are generally used by younger travelers with less money to spare, and those visiting one will most likely be required to share a room as well as bath and shower rooms. A person staying at a hotel will have his bags carried to his room, fresh towels delivered, and his bed made up daily, but none of this is likely to be included in a hostel stay.

Hostels are most often associated with backpackers looking for inexpensive, temporary shelter as well as a place for a shower and a meal. Some will include a hot meal or beverage in the accommodation price and most will provide a kitchen area where guests can cook their own food. During a hotel stay, one is on his own when it comes to finding places to eat, unless a meal is included in the package. In the past, rooms were set up dormitory fashion, with communal showers. In recent years, however, some have started offering single rooms and bathrooms, while shared, might accommodate only one guest at a time.

Some hostels will allow guests to work in exchange for a discount or even a night's stay. When staying at a hotel on the other hand, visitors best not attempt to check in without cash or a valid credit card. Also, the management may turn away guests who are less than clean, while hostel owners are used to backpackers and long distance bicycle riders showing up in need of a shower.

A hotel will often provide guests with mini refrigerators, wet bars, cable television, wireless Internet service, telephones, irons and hair dryers. The accommodations in a hostel, on the other hand, while minimal, are not unpleasant, and they rarely include any extras. People who stay there often have some interesting tales to tell, and a community room is often available where guests can mingle and shoot pool or watch television. In a hotel, visitors probably won't get to know the person staying in the room next to them, and the goal is typically privacy and quiet.

Some hostels don't supply linens, which means that guests are required to bring their own. In addition, many, especially youth hostels, require their guests to abide by their rules, which include a curfew. This may also include no drinking or smoking. Since the accommodation is more communal, travelers might need to guard their property and may want to sleep with their cash and credit cards.

Both hotels and hostels offer a bed and roof to weary travelers. Extra amenities are up to the individual so, it's important to note, that visitors usually do get what they pay for.

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Discussion Comments
By anon996251 — On Jul 31, 2016

Hostels are a great way to save money, and they are safe because you won't be alone in a room with some creep. There are usually others around in case something does happen.

By anon282499 — On Jul 30, 2012

You said "A hotel will provide guests with... A hostel usually provides none of the above." the majority of the hostels do provide these facilities. There are en-suite bathroom facilities where you do not have to share a bathroom. If you are one to like sightseeing and like traveling a lot then all you need is a bed, shower and basic food. Hostels are not necessarily for only backpackers.

By anon270023 — On May 21, 2012

Thanks for the information. Really, this is a nice Post. A hotel is more comfortable and luxurious than a hostel, but more costly also. A hotel like the swosti hotel is more luxurious than other hotels in bhubaneswar.

By anon193883 — On Jul 06, 2011

Really interesting article. I recently stayed at the baxpax Downtown Hostel Hotel in Berlin, which is a really cool mix between a hostel and hotel- the best of both worlds! I think that today the borders between hostels and hotels are coming together more and more nowadays, which makes for a really cool experience.

It is really great to stay in a place that has the relaxed, young vibe of a hostel but the quality, service, and amenities of a hotel. The baxpax Downtown Hostel offers standard dorm style rooms as do all hostels, but also offers studio apartments with private bathrooms and kitchen amenities. The rooms aren't too expensive either; they start around 8 euros for a dorm style room. I would definitely recommend staying somewhere like this, you can save money while also feeling the quality of a hotel.

This particular hostel has many great amenities that you wouldn't normally see in a hostel- free wifi, laundry service, in-house club, and no curfew. Definitely check it out if you are headed to Berlin anytime soon.

By anon161918 — On Mar 21, 2011

Very useful information, thank you! Can you also give additional explanation about the difference between a budget hotel and a hotel? Thank you!

By Like — On Feb 20, 2011

Thank you for the info. It is all useful, in particular this one about hostels, because I am running a budget accommodation in Hvar and I was not so sure if and how it is considered or categorized.

By Moldova — On Aug 14, 2010

Greenweaver- That sounds really great. Also hostels or hostelling is very popular in Europe. Many travelers book hostel accommodations in quaint neighborhoods with a lot of character.

Hostel booking saves you a lot of money but I don’t think I would like to share my bathroom with complete strangers.

That kind of turned me off to them. I think that hostel vacations can be great for traveling students.

Backpackers hostel sound great for students on a budget. You save money and enjoy a sense of adventure at the same time.

By GreenWeaver — On Aug 14, 2010

Anon58701- I agree. Many people book hostels hospitals because they are more economical than hotels.

College dorms are often turned into hostels in the summer months. I had a friend that used to stay at a hostel at NYu in New York.

It was a cheap hostel that was very safe. Most hotels in New York City are $200 and up a night. This was only about $ 30 a night and she got to stay in Greenwich Village.

By anon58701 — On Jan 03, 2010

very useful information, thanks a lot.

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