If you've read any of my previous posts, you will have realized by now I am a cheap traveler. I won't be caught dead paying for a fancy hotel or first class flights. A friend, who shall remain unnamed, said something like "every trip could be your last, better make it good". Okay, wise friend, you are not wrong here. But I think I'd rather die happy with a hundred future trips booked (even if I may never actually take them), than in a comfy first class seat. But that's just me.
Before getting into pricing, let me just start by describing my past experiences with both AirBNBs and Hostels.
I've been using AirBNB for years. I've definitely heard some horror stories, but I've never had a terrible experience myself. Sure, there have been a few frigid showers, unflushable toilets, noisy neighbors, and weird smells - but nothing that would scare me off (but I don't scare off easily). With that said, most of my AirBNB experiences have been excellent. One thing to keep in mind: always try to book places that already have plenty of reviews. This way you kind of know what you're getting yourself into, as pictures can be very (VERY!) misleading.
Hostels are a much newer thing for me. I didn't start using them since I started traveling solo to Europe last year. Honestly, I was a bit nervous (especially being a tiny girl, alone in a strange country), but again - pretty decent experiences. As a girl, I prefer the Hostels that have female-only dorms, although they tend to be a few extra dollars per night. I have, on occasion, stayed in mixed dorms, but there's usually a lot more to worry about:
You can't just change in the room. I mean, you could... But I wouldn't recommend it.Sorry men, but a large percentage of you are loud sleepers. I know you're gonna say girls snore, too. Whatever. From my hostel experience, they don't.This one may be different for you, but most times my sleeping apparel is short shorts and a tank top. If I know I'm staying in a mixed dorm, I try to wear a bit more clothes. Not a huge deal, but just something to consider.
There are also down-sides to staying in an all-female room, of course. One thing that comes to mind is girls tend to be in the room WAY longer than men - showering, getting ready, texting or whatever they're doing for 30 minutes in the middle of a small room STANDING IN MY WAY. Also, women tend to shed a whole lot of hair. So be ready for all sorts of strands in your luggage.
I know I'm making it sound unappealing, but I swear hostels are great! If I haven't yet completely turned you off to them, here are some of the perks:
A lot of them offer free city tours. Some offer free bike rentals.If there is a restaurant attached to it, chances are you get a guest discount (even on alcoholic drinks!)Most have a little bar/lobby/lounge area where you can hang out, read, work, or do whatever and meet tons of new people. This is especially awesome for solo travelers.Hostels usually don't take payment until you check in, even if you reserve your bed in advance. Because of that, you can cancel at any time without incurring a fee.
See? Am I winning you back? I hope so, because another advantage of hostels is, of course, the price.
Yes, the price. The reason why you are reading this post in the first place.
So, what's a better deal?
For a solo traveler, hostels will be cheaper 90% of the time. There are, however, exceptions to this.
City vs. Small Town: Sometimes in smaller towns, AirBNBs can be really cheap. I'm currently looking at some in middle-of-nowhere, Italy, and they are averaging at $35 per night for an entire place. That's kind of hard to beat.
Length of Stay: A lot of AirBNBs offer weekly or monthly discounts (sometimes upwards of 25% off), so if you're staying in one place for long, it might end up costing about the same, as most hostels I've come across don't offer any type of deals.
New Listings: I know this goes against my "pick AirBNBs with lots of reviews" routine I did up there, but sometimes newly listed properties offer really great deals. Owners do this in order to quickly book guests, so that they can build up a reputation on the site. So if you're willing to take the risk, it might pay off.
Number of Travelers: If you are traveling with friends, it will almost always be cheaper to get an AirBNB. For example - Hostels in Paris average out at about $25-$35 per night, per person. I just looked up AirBNBs in Paris for 4 guests. This example here is as low as $130 per night, which ends up being about the same as a hostel, but with all the comforts of a private apartment (unless your friends snore), AND if you're staying longer than a week, there will likely be a weekly discount - so you can save even more.
To sum it up, my best advice is to always look at both options before deciding on where to stay. What is cheaper for one trip, may not end up being your best bet for the next one.
If you don't have an AirBNB account, you can make one here.
For Hostels, I always book through the HostelWorld app or site. They have tons of properties everywhere, and you only pay a small deposit at first - the remainder of the balance is paid at the hostel. Most also allow you to cancel up to 24 hours before for free. That comes in really handy if your plans end up changing.