There are a lot of decisions to make when preparing for a trip. (Yes, we’re talking about planning AGAIN.) One of which, and perhaps most important, is where to stay. Usually you want something easily accessible from the airport or metro and centrally located. You almost always want something affordable, unless, of course, you’re celebrating something major or that’s just how you roll. But these are the things I think most about when I’m getting ready to hit the road.
No two destinations are alike, and neither is it necessary for your accommodations to be the same. I have stayed in a hostel, a private guest room, and an AirBnB all on a single trip, each for different reasons, and it’s important to consider all the options before deciding where to stay. Sometimes things like size, location, or price will automatically exclude one or the other from your search. If you’re on a shoestring, for example, hotels will likely be the least budget-friendly option. (Though I do recommend treating yourself once in awhile.)
Hostel vs. Hotel vs. AirBnB
I almost always start with hostels. They’re affordable, they usually offer ideas and discounts on sightseeing, and they leave you less secluded in a new place. You get to meet people and cook your own food (most of the time) and they’re usually strategically located. They cater more-specifically to the backpacker types and they do a damn good job. (Side note: Justin has been known to couchsurf but I’ve never had the chance and need to try it.)
When we were backpacking through Portugal, for example, Justin and I stayed at the Ahoy Hostel in Porto Covo, where Nick, the owner, gave us super useful information on where to stay along the rest of our journey. He even arranged a private guest room for us in the next town when the rest of the hostels were booked – something we wouldn’t have been able to do on our own because of how shockingly bad our Portuguese is.
Guest houses, or pensions, are usually more common where hostels are fewer. You can find them in smaller towns, where there is a train station or a port, but perhaps not much else. Sometimes they are just a room in a private residence (that was the case in Portugal) but sometimes they are a small boarding house.
I’ve stayed in two others, once in Mozambique, when we arrived in Metangula late at night via the ferry and once in Miranda del Ebro, Spain, when I missed a train connection. All were found not by Google, but through local recommendations upon arrival. In these cases, there was neither continental breakfast nor any English spoken. I simply needed somewhere to sleep for the night and they served their purpose.
When I’m abroad, I look to hotels on rare occasion. Like when it’s the only option, or when I’ve been on the road for a while and I could use a good, long bath and a solid night’s sleep. I usually find them too expensive for what little they offer beyond a hostel. It’s unlikely that I’d be able to prepare any of my own meals or meet other travelers, but sometimes it’s a necessity. Traveling can wear on the body after a while, and it can be worth the extra cost to restore a little.
AirBnB also comes in handy for restoring the spirit. In many ways, it is the best of both worlds between a hostel and a hotel. You often get a little extra space and a little more quiet, with amenities like a kitchen and the company of others if you so desire. Though, I’ve never rented an AirBnb when traveling solo, I wouldn’t recommend against it. Frankly, I’ve never had a bad experience. In most cases, I default to AirBnB when I’m going to stay somewhere longer than a few days.
Justin and I rented one when he arrived in Lisbon, so we could have a few days to ourselves to figure out our plans. We stayed in another for a week in Tofinho, Mozambique, when we were nearing the end of our trip and really wanted to relax near the beach. The owner was remarkably accommodating, as I couldn’t make the reservation from my mobile, so we had to shift a night on the schedule. Plus, the casita was amazing.
I rented another while traveling with my friend Ashley in Barcelona, Spain. We were staying a week and wanted somewhere we could cook and do laundry and still be in the mix. We found Fran, who lived right on Las Ramblas and rented two rooms. He was a spectacular host, always giving recommendations when we asked and even made us a full Spanish meal one night. We even wound up going out one night with the other renters and remain Facebook friends to this day.
These kinds of experiences are not something you would likely find in hotel, but they are the kind of experiences that make travel more enjoyable, because it’s not just the places, but the people who make a destination. So, wherever you go, keep an open mind about where to stay and why. When it comes to weighing benefits of a hostel vs. a hotel vs. AirBnB make sure that your accommodations are as unique as the location.