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The Great Debate: Airbnbs vs. Hostels

Students often stay in hostel dorms to save money while traveling. Photo by Tristen Coffee.

Anyone who has studied abroad during the last decade is familiar with the lodging debate. Hotels typically get ruled out first, due to the price-per-space ratio. The question then becomes: where should we stay this weekend? A youth hostel or an Airbnb?

Both have pros and cons. For anyone who has never hosteled before, these establishments are focused on providing space for large amounts of people (typically young travelers) with a little price tag. They are nothing fancy, supplying a place to lay your head and little else. While hostels tend to be cheaper per person than Airbnbs…you get what you pay for. The hostels I stayed at ranged from €20-€35 per night. Hostels will also be louder, more public, and you are not guaranteed a private bathroom. Heed my warning: youth hostels are party centrals. The upside of how populated hostels are, is that they are easy to find upon arriving in a new city. Plus, hostels often offer discounted or free city tours for customers, as well as free (albeit subpar) breakfasts. Double plus, you are given a unique opportunity to meet people from all over the world and have memorable conversations with them (Calvin from British Columbia, if you’re reading this, it was nice to meet you). Solo travelers often favor hostels for this reason. My personal preference is to spend less on lodging and more on experiences, so I am an advocate for hostels. The website I used to book hostels was hostelworld.com, which I would recommend.

Airbnb’s err on the size of cozy. If feeling at home is important to you, this is the way to go. Pluses include aesthetics, the possibility of a washing machine (this is valuable), and privacy. Renting an Airbnb gives you the ability to come back at the end of a long day of sightseeing and cook dinner, watch a movie, and have a conversation without having to worry about waking the sleeping stranger across from you. One thing to consider, however, is the fact that hostels will always have people that speak English well, while this is not a guarantee for Airbnb hosts. It is completely up to the host how hands-on or hands-off they want to be with their guests. Some hosts will come greet you at the train station and show you to their place, while some you will never lay eyes on.

Possibly the most important amenity to take into account: Wi-Fi. As a general rule, every place of lodging will have wireless internet. Surprisingly enough, there are exceptions. In Cinque Terre, Italy, we stayed at the cutest Airbnb; the only drawback was the lack of Wi-Fi. Ordinarily this would not pose a problem. I am all for unplugging and fully engaging with the people around you. However, all four of us had a huge philosophy paper due that week, so it would have been really nice to have internet connection.

During the three weeks of independent travel at the end of my semester, we alternated between hostels and Airbnbs. If you are only traveling for a short period of time and can afford to splurge, why not go for the cozier option? But if your travel plans are long-winded and you need to cut costs where you can, hostels are your best bet. At the end of the day, it is about what matters most to you.

About Tristen Coffee

My name is Tristen Coffee (yes, I do drink the stuff). I am a junior at Baylor University studying Journalism and Public Relations. I knew I wanted to study abroad before I even knew what dorm I’d be living in freshman year. I chose the Maastricht trip because of the weekend traveling opportunities. My thought process was: “Who knows if I’ll ever get a chance like this again?” I could not pass it up. I am absolutely stoked for the sights, the food, the people, and the enhanced worldview.


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