The Hostel vs Hotel Experience

A break down of the decision making process.

I’ve broken the comparison between hostels and hotels into four categories:

  • The Cost
  • The Amenities
  • The Staffers
  • The Guests

I’ve selected one reputable hostel and hotel in the same neighborhood for the sake of comparing the categories of costs and amenities.

Below is why I will always choose to stay in a hostel over a hotel. Even if it means putting up with a few inconsiderate punks.


The Cost

Price point is a huge factor in choosing where to stay. That’s why platforms such as Airbnb have seen an influx of active users.

If I’m on a business trip, which requires both rest and attentiveness, I’m going to pick a hotel room. Paying extra means being prepared, and it’s worth the higher cost.

If I’m on a photography assignment, however, or playing tourist in a new city where the only things I really need are a bed to crawl into and access to a shower, I’m going to cut costs by booking a hostel.

Screenshots of price comparisons taken from Booking.com.

On the left is Generator Hostel Barcelona and on the right is Catalonia La Pedrera Hotel. Both accommodations are rated an 8.4 (which is what I usually look for when booking) and located directly across the street from each other in the beautiful neighborhood of Gràcia. A four night stay in an 8 person dorm costs 127 Euros whereas a four night stay in a twin/double room is 760 Euros. Even if you choose to book a private twin room at Generator Hostel Barcelona, you’re looking at approximately 520 Euros.

Generator Hostel wins this round.


The Amenities

It should be a no-brainer that most hotels provide more amenities than their hostel counterparts. That is typically why you expect a higher price point for your stay. Not only do you not have to share your room with several strangers, but you can sometimes find amenities such as a gym, a swimming pool, comfy ass towels and robes, complimentary essentials, and, gasp, functioning aircon!

Hostels offer their amenities in more social ways. Instead of a gym or swimming pool, there’s often a funky lounge or common bar area. Sure, there’s no such thing as room service, but some hostels provide access to a full kitchen and prep area. Hostel amenities are built around socialization and promote inclusion.

I’ve broken down another comparison of the two below:

Okay yeah. The availability of a rooftop pool at Catalonia La Pedrera is DOPE, but did you really come to Barcelona just to fry under the sun while the great works of Gaudi and Picasso are at your literal doorstep?

In comparison, the Generator Hostel still offers a terrace as well as multiple communal spaces for travelers to meet. Overall, Generator scored higher than Catalonia in the facilities category and has some of the best Wifi.

Generator officially takes round two.


The Staffers

Let’s be frank. Hostel staff are WAY kinder and more engaging than hotel staff. Both venues are designed to create an ambiance for their guests, but why the significant difference?

Hotel employees are often hired under a corporate structure and required to maintain a level of professionalism when interacting with guests. They are on the front line of guest complaints and expected to deliver service with a smile. They’re not usually the kind of people you can sit and have a beer with; at least not until they’re off the clock.

Hostel workers are on the polar opposite side of the spectrum. Sometimes they are fellow travelers who loved it so much they decided to stay, friends of the owners happy to help their counterparts, or the hostel owners themselves determined to make a great impression. When I walk into a hostel, I usually feel like I’m staying with family. Before I’ve even confirmed my booking, I scan through the reviews for a sense of community. Atmosphere is everything. Hostel employees are also known to lead social activities, like pub crawls, so you know they are invested in having a good time.

Left photo taken by guest and left on a review for TripAdvisor. Language screen grab taken from booking.com.

Above, Generator advertises a hostel staff with fluency in seven languages while Catalonia La Padrera (below) only advertises four fluent languages. This is often because hostel staff are a mix of former or current travelers and able to connect with people across all cultures.

Can we please also acknowledge how lively and engaging the entry way for Generator is?! After being in Barcelona for the week, I can honestly say they’ve captured the essence of Gràcia perfectly.

No surprise here. Generator is officially three for three.


The Guests

I personally can’t say I’ve had an extraordinary encounter with a random traveler in a hotel. I’ve shaken hands with stiff businessmen and held the elevator doors open for a mother struggling with her children, but that’s about it. Actually, now that I think of it, 90% of my conversations have happened in an elevator and given the very brief window of time traveling down to the hotel lobby, there’s not much room for a deep and meaningful conversation.

But hostels? Man. I’ve met the most EXTRAORDINARY humans in the hostel common spaces. It is absolutely unreal.

Like my dear friend Cena, who I met in Yangon after forcing him to share a taxi with me to the bus depot. We ran through the pouring rain to find a book and then both got sick from sitting under the aircon for 12 hours soaking wet. We traveled together almost every day after that. He’s still one of the most influential people in my life.

Or that time in Dalat when the hostel hosted a family-style dinner. 30 strangers sat on the ground and ate a traditional Vietnamese meal together. We went out for drinks at a the Crazy Cafe and continued our shenanigans at a karaoke bar. We met up again four hundred miles north in Hoi An for Friendsgiving and hiked the Marble Mountains a couple days later. I’ve stayed in contact with a majority of these humans and one of them is even invited to my wedding.

Point is. I’ve never made a friend in a hotel. In fact, I seem to go to hotels when I need to be alone. They foster isolation and they’re great when you need to get things done and a good night’s right. But a hostel is where you go when you’re feeling lonely in your travels and need to feel less like an outcast in your experiences. It’s where you go when you want to meet like minded humans on a similar quest in the world without the obligation of being constantly in each other’s space. Sure, there are some shitty hostel dwellers, but the occurrences are rare. The opportunity to meet extraordinary people is the reason I will always choose a hostel. The decision has never let me down.


What are some of the factors you take into consideration when deciding between staying in a hostel vs a hotel? What is your personal style of travel? Do your preferences fall into either of these categories? What other types of accommodations do you seek out and why?
Drop your travel input into the comments below!