Have you ever wondered what type of accommodation is best for you when you travel? Well, here I bring you a guide comparing hotels, hostels, and apartments. Besides, I mention the advantages and disadvantages of each, so you can decide which to book the next time you go on a trip.
I’ve made this guide based on my experience traveling through Europe. So this comes from the impression I’ve had of the accommodation in this continent. I’ve not used all these hosting options, but I have a lot of information from the searches I’ve done when planning my trips in the last 5 years.
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Let’s start with the first and most traditional accommodation option, the hotels. Hotels are a comfortable, easy option and there are from the cheapest to the most luxurious. For the ease of guests are classified with stars according to the services and amenities offered. Hmm although… not always matches the quality of the services with the stars
- Professional service
- Daily cleaning
- Change of towels and bed sheets (if requested)
- Front desk available where you can go if you have any problem or concern. (Although the reception sometimes is not 24 hours, they are available at times when you may need something)
- Usually, hotels have a restaurant where you can take some of your meals.
- Extra services like laundries, transfer to the airport, taxi service.
- Less privacy since the waitresses come to clean. Although apart from that, nobody will bother you.
- They are usually more expensive, especially when they have more services (of course this is relative, I’m speaking in general terms.)
- Service and treatment, although courteous, is more impersonal.
- You should eat outside or in a restaurant, some hotels do not even allow you to enter food in the room. Of course, you can smuggle it 😛
Booking a hotel room is recommended if …
- your stay will be for a short time, one night or two.
- You want or need clean towels every day
- You want someone to clean and order the room for you (this is my favorite 🙂)
- It doesn’t matter to you that strange people touch or see (or have access to) your things in some way.
- The luxury and extra service offered by some hotels are appealing to you
- You need the transfer to the airport without complications.
You can also check my 10 travel tips for your first trip to Europe
Hostels are one of the cheapest accommodation options you can find. This option is chosen by “backpackers”, solo travelers or simply by those who want an economical lodging. In hostels, you will usually pay for a bed in a shared room (for women, men or mixed). Although there are also hostels that have private rooms with showers, of course, paying more $$
Many travelers like this option because they can share a room and thus meet other travelers. There are hostels that, not because they are cheap are crappy. Many have wi-fi, lockers, work areas, restaurant, pool. They also offer various services such as tourist information and breakfast, etc.
In fact, some people are starting to use the term hostel indiscriminately. Perhaps to attract more customers. Hostels are supposed to be a category lower than hotels. Yet, currently, there are some hostels more expensive than cheaper hotels. We could say that they are the same than inns, bed & breakfasts or guesthouses. Although in the booking websites there are properties listed under these categories.
- You have the opportunity to meet people from all over the world.
- Youthful and lively atmosphere (although this may not be for everyone)
- Equipped with kitchen and other communal services which you can use.
- Often they have luggage storage to keep your belongings safe.
- If you like privacy, shared rooms are not for you.
- When sharing a room with strangers you have to endure snoring or other situations that may not be pleasant.
- If you want a private room with own bathroom then … the price might not be so cheap. Although you will always have the advantage of using the services of the communal areas.
- Even when they have lockers for your belongings, you risk that when you are distracted someone “borrows” something from you.
It is recommended if you…
- travel alone
- only want a bed to sleep because you plan to be outside all the time.
- Use the services in common like the kitchen from time to time.
- want to meet people and make friends with other travelers.
- Don’t mind sharing a room or bathroom, nor do you care too much about privacy.
To book an apartment has become quite popular recently. Especially with sites like Airbnb, and it’s a good option to consider for your trips. The category “apartments” include a wide variety of rental properties to choose. Houses, apartments, studios, chalets, riads, villas.
In some properties they request a minimum of days to stay, yet, the apartments that allow a single night’s booking is increasing. There are apartments as small as for one person and as large as for a complete family, some accept even pets. Most of them will include the fridge and a kitchen. They can also include a washing machine, dryer, TV, coffee makers, internet, etc.
- The main advantage is the privacy since they will give you your key and nobody will bother you during your stay. If you need something, you contact your host and that’s it.
- You can prepare your own food and spend less in restaurants.
- It’s possible to wash your own clothes and pack less or spend less in the laundry.
- If you rent a large property the whole family can stay together (including your pets).
- You will live like a local and thus you will have an experience closer to their culture.
- Your host knows the place well and can recommend you little-known places to visit or restaurants frequented by local people.
- The treatment of a host is more personal.
- You will have to clean up, at least, during your stay. Many departments include a cleaning fee at the end of your stay. That doesn’t mean you can leave the apartment messy. On Airbnb, if they don’t include a cleaning fee, it means that you are expected to hand the apartment as it was. Read the rules and compile them. Some properties offer daily cleaning or as you need for an extra payment.
- You may miss the services of a hotel, such as the 24-hour reception. But you can always contact your host to reserve a service for you.
It’s for you if you…
- Want to save money by making your own meals.
- Don’t mind cleaning and tidying up, taking the trash out and, occasionally, watering the plants.
- Want to live like a local, do your shopping in the supermarket, greet the neighbors, live in a typical neighborhood.
- Enjoy the privacy and the homelike atmosphere.
- Travel with your family and/or your pet.
- Plan to stay several days in the place. Many apartments have lower rates for long stays.
Besides the apartments, there is a type of hybrid between a department and a hotel: the Aparthotel. It is a property managed as a hotel, with a front desk and some services, but they rent apartments or studios. Usually, they include the fridge and a kitchenette, without many utensils. It is convenient if you are going to stay for a short time and want to prepare a snack from time to time.
Hospitality exchange or Couchsurfing
Have you heard about Couchsurfing? I’m sure you have. Then you will know that this is the cheapest lodging option that exists. It is about exchanging “couch” (or lodging) with other people. The term arises from the company (which at the beginning was not a company) of the same name. It is an online community where members are willing to accommodate a traveler in their own homes. It works based on common trust and interests.
The hosts, not only provide accommodation, they also share their culture with you. There are other members of the community who, even if they cannot host you, are willing to show you their city and help you on your trip. I’ll drop the link to their page in case you are interested in knowing more about Couchsurfing
- The accommodation is free (although it’s polite and nice to give a gift to your host)
- You’ll live with and as a local
- It’s possible to meet people and make friends
- Your experience will be more authentic and less touristy.
- Less privacy
- You have to behave because you are a guest in a home (It means you can not leave your stuff scattered all over the place).
- You will have to clean and help as much as you can.
- It’s not ideal for long stays (have you heard the saying Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days?)
- It could be unsafe to stay with a … stranger? Although, on the site, they give you many recommendations for safety, and, all the profiles are verified
It’s for you if you…
- Are outgoing, adventurous and sociable
- Like to make friends from all over the world
- Love knowing the local culture
- Travel with a limited budget
- Don’t mind cleaning and helping with household chores
- Don’t care too much about privacy
After this community became a profit-making company, new non-profit communities were created. I have never used them, and I think that as an accommodation option, I would not use it. Just it’s not for me. Although it seems a good idea to meet local people and know more about their culture. If you have that adventurous and extroverted spirit, why not?
Other hospitality communities you can check:
Servas I liked this one a lot because it is based on the fact that peace can be achieved through the understanding of other cultures.
Besides, there are other options to get free or cheap accommodation in exchange for light work. There are some sites online which offer programs, such as working on farms or caring for older people. But this topic is too wide to discuss it here, so I’ll let it for another post.
What type of accommodation to choose?
It depends on your needs and budget. For example, it has been convenient for me to book apartments. I like privacy and the ease of preparing my own food, I can save money like that. If you travel alone then a hotel or a hostel could work for you.
Another thing that I take into consideration when booking is the location of the property. I like that it is close to the center, but not so close so that the price goes up. If I can’t find accommodation near the center, then I book near the station I’ll be arriving. So I don’t have to walk around dragging my suitcase all over the city. You’ll decide that depending on the place you’ll travel to.
If you are going to stay several days, the apartment suits you. You have the option to choose the services and amenities that you need. For example, in my case, I always check that the apartment has wi-fi and a washing machine. Those two are my basic. The Internet is essential these days and the washing machine helps me to avoid packing much.
I’ve booked a hotel because of the free transfer to airport, as I had to take a flight very early in the morning. I’ve also booked hotels if they are at a good price, near the center or because I stayed only a couple of days. In some small towns, there aren’t many apartments (or they are very far from the center) and a hotel is the only option. But if you travel by car you may want to rent an apartment even if it is not close.
My resources for booking accommodation:
These are my favorite sites when I’m searching accommodation
I have used many sites since I traveled abroad for the first time and Booking is by far the best site I’ve found. They have the best prices and a lot of options for booking hotels, apartments, hostels, bed & breakfast, etc.
Another thing I like about this site is that they accept bookings without a credit card, and sometimes allow you to pay at the property. Besides, there are no service fees. Read well because sometimes hotels and apartments have extra fees, like cleaning or taxes.
The popularity of Airbnb is growing. That’s because they have many properties available to choose from. You can rent a bed, a room, studio, apartment, house, etc. Each apartment has their rules so take the time to read them and see if you agree with them. Airbnb charges a small fee for using their site, and they charge the full amount when you complete your booking.
You must contact the host to see if the apartment is available for your dates. You must wait to have a confirmation of your reservation. Some properties are available right away even without contacting the host. At the end of your stay, you can leave a review for your host, and they will do the same with you.
The sites I use the most are Booking and Airbnb, however, I have also searched in Tripadvisor and Housetrip. In my experience, Tripadvisor has slightly higher prices. Housetrip is the Tripadvisor branch for apartment rentals.
I hope this guide is useful for you and that I shed some light on the subject of accommodation. It is important that you make clear which are the basic services for you before you start your search. Try to book as soon as possible so you get the best prices.
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