When my family came over to visit England , I chose to put them in Airbnbs instead of hotels and that saved them a huge sum of money. Though... They had complains about airbnbs and I think they would have preferred a hotel (pft!)
But If you're just a (semi-broke) student like me, you wouldn't op to stay a hotel in the first place. So knowing how Airbnb compares to hotels wouldn't really come in handy. My past few experiences with staying in an Airbnb (Barcelona, Nice, Amsterdam) have been pretty enjoyable. With a budget of ~60$ a night, Jerald and I seldom rent a whole apartment. Most of the time we rent a room in an apartment.
For our recent winter trip, we decided to book hostels for the first half of our trip and then (because I was afraid I couldn't survive 25 days of hostel life), for 10 days in Italy, we chose to stay in Airbnb apartments.
Here are some comparisons (and what I've found out) between both options to help anyone out there who might be deciding between hostel or an Airbnb. I'm not an extremely budget traveller, but, I'm traveling with the money I save up from my regular scholarship allowance (and not my parent's money), and since I have a ton of places i'd like to visit, I would rather have accommodation that is value for money. More importantly, if I can save a little on accommodation (and spend more on food and attractions!) I would absolutely do that.
Here's how much we spent for our 25 days trip.
Hostel: 496.92 euros for 14 nightsIt may seem like hostels win hands down, but the thing is, with hostels, we chose to stay in rooms that have 6 beds, at times we had the whole room to ourselves - like when we were in Prague, but most of the time, all 6 beds were occupied.
Airbnb: 539.08 euros for 10 nights
Wheares for Airbnb, we stayed in guest houses and had a room to ourselves.
In both situations, we typically had to share the toilet with other tenants.
So technically a cross comparison like that isn't exactly legit.
For Airbnbs the cost per person goes down when you're in a larger group. So if you're traveling in a big group (say 6) renting a house on Airbnb might be a better option for the cost to space ratio.
However if you're traveling alone, or in a group of up to 4, hostels should be the way to go.
That being said, during non-peak periods of travel, Airbnbs can be quite cheap. Jerald and I once rented a room with a king size bed for less than £40 a night. Which was just slightly more expensive than the cost of 2 hostel beds. If you're traveling during your school term in groups of 4, do check out Airbnb for good deals before booking going for hostels.
General guidelines, if you are traveling in a group of more than 4 - go for airbnbs, if you're traveling in a group of 4 and below, private rooms in a hostel, or 4 beds in a 6 bedroom hostel is usually more worth it.
I had a slight phobia of staying in hostels prior to this trip because my first hostel experience was with 5 other friends squeezed in a tiny room without any space to open our luggage (we actually took turns to open them one by one before we could shower).
I had this erroneous perception that hostels were crammed and small, low and behold, I was proven wrong. Granted some hostels are small and you practically have no space to put your things, but generally, that isn't the case. EVERY ONE of the 4 hostels that Jerald and I stayed in had space for everyone to put their suitcases. Sometimes they even have a coffee table and chairs in the room.
For a slightly higher price in Airbnbs, you get a standard room size with a king bed sometimes with an additional couch. At times, there is not as much space to walk around as a hostel.
Generally, if you choose good/popular hostels, the space is comparable to a private room in Airbnbs.
Do not go for rooms with more than 6 beds if space is important to you.
Of course, when you have a room to yourself in an airbnb, it is definitely cosier and you get more privacy. That being said, there is no issue with privacy in the hostels that i've stayed in. Typically, people keep to themselves and everyone comes back to the hostels pretty late.
Jerald and I have the habit of leaving early and coming back slightly earlier, that way we never had a problem with rushing for the shower or the toilet, and there were no clashes.
If you don't feel very sociable, you can always turn on your laptop and plug in your headphones. The existence of a common lounge or bar in most of the hostels we've been to meant that people who wanted to drink or have fun and make noise would be down at the bar instead of in there rooms. We were lucky enough to have peace and quietness every night.
If you are a light sleeper, maybe go for an airbnb instead. Nobody wants to lose sleep during their holiday! But if you're like me, and you can sleep with the lights on, and you don't particularly get affected by noise generally a medium sleeper, you'll definitely have no problems in hostels!
When I stayed in Astor Hyde Park, I was pretty grossed out by the cleanliness level as well. So this came to me as a surprise. Because the hostels I stayed in during my winter trip were actually CLEAN. In fact at times, they were actually cleaner IMO than Airbnbs. Most of the time when we check in to an apartment, the previous guest had just checked out. This gives the owners quite little time to clean up the room/apartment. But with hostels, they have cleaners to help with the cleaning as well as specific time periods for them to do it.
This is not to say that Airbnbs are not clean. Some of the guest houses that we've stayed in were FANTASTIC. That's because there were no guests there before us.
I guess with cleanliness with Airbnb it really depends on the popularity of the house and how much time there is for the owners to clean it. For hostels however, if you choose to stay in popular hostels like Wombats, the level of cleanliness is pretty good (even the lockers were clean and not dusty!)
So if you're big on cleanliness, choose to stay in more popular/recommended hostels, and you won't have much to complain about.
Another side note, higher end hostels have REALLY good shower pressures. I'm sort of weird like that, and shower pressure is one of the key things I find it very difficult to live without, so I was incredibly surprised when all the hostels I went to had GREAT shower pressures, mostly better than those in the airbnbs!
AMBIENCE / SERVICES
Hostels typically serve pretty awesome breakfast buffets (the one in Prague was amazing) for a cost of about 3 - 5euros per person depending on the hostel. I know BnB stands for bed and BREAKFAST, but half the time, breakfast is cereal in the fridge and a few teabags. Unless you pay and additional fee or it is explicitly stated on the webpage that breakfast is included in the fee, it never is.
People say living in an airbnb gives you the feeling like you're an inhabitant of the country and you're going back to your "house" after a long day. I honestly think that's questionable. I've lived abroad (in a studio apartment I found on airbnb) and it is definitely NOT THE SAME, as if i'm living there as a tourist. Sure the higher end airbnbs will probably have great furbishing, but the same cannot be said for that of a lower priced (under 50 euros per night) studio or room. That being said, airbnbs are definitely more cosy. If you're the type of person that prefers to have very quiet evenings, and you rather pay a little bit more for that, go for an airbnb.
The winning point hostels have is that the higher end hostels have bars, a nice lounge area and wombats Munich had a gorgeous canopy, and you get to make friends while you're there.
You get to meet the locals who work there, and you get to meet foreigners who are traveling. Perfect of people who want to meet new friends or just... people watch (I do that a lot!)
I think by now we all have established that I enjoyed the hostels i've stayed in. And just to reiterate what budget travellers (just google why should i stay in a hostel and you have a ton of blog articles to read) have been saying all these while, HOSTELS ARE SAFE.
Some hostels (like ALL those in the list below) come with lockers, and wombats is so high tech you use your keycard to lock the door of your locker.
Hostels have people in the reception round the clock, so that means in case of an emergency or anything serious, you will have someone to ask for help (I saw a female hostel receptionist guiding a drunk/tipsy girl to the toilet and back to her room making sure she was alright when she got back from a late night out!). This is not usually possible in an Airbnb apartment.
However, some people have lost things in hostels because they don't lock them up. Always find a way to lock your baggage either in the lockers provided or bring your own lock. I typically leave my luggage out and lock my valuables in the lockers provided. Again, not all hostels have the same amenities, so do check if lockers are being provided.
With airbnb, you rent the whole room, and your trust is in the owners of the house. Usually they give you a key to the room so you can lock the room when you leave, and most of the time, nothing would go missing.
Honestly, I don't think the difference in both scenarios is huge. Just make sure to always lock your things up!
Other things to take note:
Like Airbnbs, there are a WIDE range of hostels. I've heard from my friends about their horrible hostel experience, and many of them would rather stay in airbnbs if they could. To avoid experiences like that, always check the hostel for ratings. Just like how you would check Airbnb houses for their ratings and reading previous visitor comments, you should always do the same for hostels.
Base on sites like hostelbookers or hostelworld, the ones with over 90% ratings and recommendation tend to be pretty reliable. Check for the amenities offered in a hostel as well, and look at the images provided so as to gauge the type or room and space given.
Give private hostel rooms a look before jumping to airbnbs as well, because if you're traveling in a larger group, getting a private room in a hostel maybe better that going for an airbnb of the same price, especially if you know it is a reputable hostel.
If you're travelling alone, it might be better to stay in an all female dormitory in a hostel instead of renting a room on airbnb. Just being around people is less lonely and sort of safer in a way.
Here are the links of the hostels and Airbnbs I have stayed in during my winter trip (and some the summer before)
Wombats Berlin / Sleepy Lion Hostel - Leipzig / Mosaic House - Prague / Wombats Munich / Euro Youth Hostel - Munich / Yoho International Youth Hostel - SalzburgThe best hostel from this lot was Mosaic House. Hands down. It felt like a hotel, but with the amenities of a condominium, plus the cosy feeling of an airbnb (located really near the centre of the city).
I hope you find these useful in a way, also, my hostel experiences are limited to those listed above, and don't represent ALL hostels!
Feel free to share any of your hostel and airbnb experiences, or list down your favourite accommodation places, I'd love to hear your thoughts.