Which Backpacker Accommodation is right for you? (Inc. World Hostel Price Guide)

which backpacker accommodation is for you?

If you are about to venture out on your first backpacking trip, you might not even realise what different accommodation options are out there. Going on a regular vacation you may have stayed in a nice 4* hotel perhaps with a pool and restaurant? Perhaps you went camping?

When it comes to backpacking there are a ton more accommodation options to choose from. Choosing the right one for you comes down the way you want to travel. Simply to score the cheapest bed possible? Seek out a unique local experience? the accommodation you choose will determine the style of trip you have.

So hostel vs hotel what should you choose? What about alternatives?

At the bottom of this article is an overview of Average prices for hostels worldwide. This will help you plan your budget.

Lets start with every backpackers first go-to in accommodation:

Youth Hostels

What is a hostel?
Hostels are low budget accommodation for travelers, where you can rent a cheap bed for the night. Most hostels will require you to provide your own bedding and towel, but you can easily hire these from the reception. There are no bells and whistles so you will have to remove your sheets and return them to the front desk after you’re done with them.

You can also get private serviced rooms in some youth hostels, but for a solo backpacker these will cost you more. If traveling as a group these rooms can be a great option to give you more privacy.

Hostels are a great place to find cheap drinks at the bar and meals, especially breakfast.

Many hostels offer access to kitchen facilities so you can cook for yourself as well.

Hostels are generally known to be sociable accommodation where the staff will host activities like walking tours, pub crawls, theme parties, etc.

There are 3 main types of hostels out there. Regular hostels, boutique hostels and party hostels. Depending on what sort of backpacking trip you are after – depends on where you choose to stay.

youth hostels

The bar at Wombats The Lounge in Vienna

What is a dorm?
Dorms are shared rooms where you share with strangers (Unless you can get a group together and book out the whole dorm). Usually a dorm will have anywhere from 3 – 32 beds in the room (Though we took an overnight ferry in the Philippines and the dorm was 300 beds). There will be a shared bathroom for the guests in the room. Some dorms are mixed where both boys and girls will share the same living quarters, but you can find dorm rooms that are either female or male only.

Most dorms will have lockers to keep you belongings locked in.

Our two preferred sites for booking hostel rooms are Hostel World and HotelsCombined. Hostel World has more hostel options – as the name suggests. Some Hostels are only listed on one or the other site, not both. That’s why we like to search both.

Dorms – The good, bad and the ugly.

It’s 3 am. The light gets turned on and wakes you up. You hear giggling. Through unfocusing eyes you see Dave. He’s brought a girl back. Sadly, Dave is your bunk mate and as the two of them climb onto the bunk above you, it’s clear you won’t be getting back to sleep for a while. Then the mumbling starts. The inevitable creaking of your bunk. The noises. You know the noises I’m talking about.

So, if you happen to be Dave in this story, you may be quite happy that you had a dorm to come back to, rather than a homestay where you just couldn’t bring anyone back. Of course, there is more to staying in a dorm than random bunk-mate sex.

It’s impossible NOT to make new friends, so long as you say hello, it’s going to happen.

With dorm beds starting as low as $1 in SE-Asia, and even from $6 in Europe, it’s certainly going to help your budget.

For all the potential of smells, sounds or annoying bunk mates, hostels are a melting pot of socialisation. Sharing travel stories. Learning new things. You may not want to stay in them all the time but it’s a backpacker experience that happens to us all at some point.

Staying in the single gender rooms reduces the chance of late night “noises”. But hey, getting raw and free may be part of your style – who cares about some dorm room indiscretions as long as everyone is having fun…

Hostel Vs Hotel - what is the best accommodation option for you?

4 Bed dorm at Book-A-Rest hostel. Our favourite hostel in Bucharest.

PROS

  • Sharing a room with new people always leads to making new friends (and some enemies!)
  • Generally the cheapest option for solo travelers
  • A hub for young people and backpackers from all different countries.

CONS

  • Sharing a room with strangers. People coming in and out at all hours waking you up. Snoring.
  • Less security for your belongings than in a private room
  • If you “get lucky” the rest of the dorm gets to listen – and vice versa.

Party Hostels

Party hostels are ONLY for those who like to get drunk, stay up really late and then do it all over again the next day.

In party hostels they hire staff that both keep the hostel in working order – and work as social staff to make sure everyone that stays there has a great time, and gets really drunk.

If excessive drinking and shenanigans isn’t your scene we recommend you stay clear of a party hostel. There’s plenty of other hostels to choose from. But, if you want to let loose and go completely off the chain – then you’re gonna have a blast!

Our favourite party hostel EVER is Retox Party Hostel in Budapest. We stayed with these guys for 3 nights, and they made sure that we were smashed every single night – it was great! The staff are amazing. They offer different events every night of the week including the alcoholympics and the famous Jager Train. They even have a street art stencil workshop.

Hostel Vs Hotel - what is the best accommodation option for you?

Alcoholympics at Retox Party Hostel

There are actually a few hostels run by Budapest Party Hostels to choose from. So depending on the level of mental you want, they have something for everyone. Retox is probably the most mental of the lot – we loved it.

PROS

  • Party like a rockstar every night
  • Happy hours PLUS very easy to meet new people

CONS

  • Noisy and crazy. People having sex in the dorms when you are trying to sleep.
  • Liver damage.

Boutique Hostels & Design Hostels

The latest trend in hostelling – the boutique hostel or Luxury hostel. Want to go backpacking but can’t bare the idea of staying in a grimy backpacker hostel? You’ve heard all the stories, and you’re just looking for somewhere clean and funky to stay. Somewhere where the accommodation will also be an experience.

These hostels are springing up all over the place. They are offering a quirky, artistic and diverse range of accommodation options. Also known as design hostels, each hostel will usually have a theme, like Rock N Roll, Vintage, Up-cycled etc. and they will be the ultimate in style and design but still affordable.

Hostel Vs Hotel - what is the best accommodation option for you?

Sir Toby’s Boutique Hostel Prague

Prices are normally higher than regular hostels – but you’re getting an experience as well as a bed.

If you’re heading to Prague, we absolutely adore Sir Toby’s boutique hostel. They offer a fantastic, friendly atmosphere and the vintage decor is to die for. They also have some great midweek discounts. Use the code Travel Freedom to get 10% OFF at Sir Toby’s or any of their sister hostels across Prague.

PROS

  • They are just nicer to be in.
  • Great environment to meet new people – great design keeps travelers staying “home” for the night more often.

CONS

  • Generally more expensive than a budget hostel but you can get some great deals on dorms

Hotels

Just because you are backpacking, doesn’t mean you have to stay in a hostel. Of course you can choose to stay in a hotel and have a room all to yourself. Just like with hostels, the hotel you choose will depend on the trip you want to take. Cheap and cheerful? Somewhere with a pool? Designer chic? The options are endless depending on how much you want to spend.

Hostel Vs Hotel - what is the best accommodation option for you?

Hotel Nord 1901 Girona – One of the BEST beds we’ve ever slept on!

And remember if you are planning a big backpacking adventure, sometimes it’s nice to treat yourself to a bit of luxury at the end. Book a room all to yourself, with big fluffy pillows and a bath tub. Spoil yourself after a crazy couple of weeks slumming it in dorms, and be nice and relaxed for your return home.

However, hotels are not always about luxury. In many countries, like Thailand or India, for example, there are some super budget hotels! You could be paying as less than $10 per night for a twin room. I can’t promise it will be a nice room…

PROS

  • Generally the most comfortable option, if you pay for the better ones.

CONS

  • Normally impersonal. Every room feels the same and opportunities to meet people are less than other options.
  • You rarely have kitchen access
  • Generally not as focused at backpackers – so may not meet anyone else at all.
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Camping / Glamping

This blog is NOT about the wilderness backpacking style – in fact in most of the world this is referred to as “hiking” not backpacking. But there are occasions during your backpacking trip that you might find camping to be a good, cheap option. And in fact some hostels and airbnb’s are offering camping as a budget friendly alternative.

youth hostels

Camping / Glamping in Vietnam (Photo courtesy of Agoda)

So, what about Glamping? – it’s camping in style or Glamorous Camping. This type of accommodation is the complete opposite of roughing it, it’s about luxury, and if you want to spoil yourself why not go glamping in a tree house or go completely random and go glamping in a eco tent in the middle of Belgium? It’ll certainly be a tale to tell your friends.

PROS

  • Can be cheaper than a dorm
  • In some countries, you can camp for free

CONS

  • Lack of comfort (unless you can afford to go glamping!)
  • Campsites are rarely located as close to city centres and transport links

Guesthouses

A guest house is like a small hotel, often converted from someone’s home. You will get your own separate room which may or may not have it’s own private bathroom – it really depends on which guesthouse you stay in.  Quite often the owner will live on the premises so you get the added benefit of local knowledge from them. Guesthouses can sometimes include breakfast which is certainly an added bonus, and a great way to try local food.

The main bonus with a guesthouse, over a hotel, is it is generally more personal. You will likely meet the owner and it’s easier to interact with other guests as you will see them everyday.

PROS

  • Typically a more family feel – home away from home.
  • Less people make it more personal than a hotel or large hostel.

CONS

  • More expensive than a hostel
  • No Dorm room options – so you’ll need a buddy to share with or to pay single supplements.

Airbnb / Homestay

Hostel Vs Hotel - what is the best accommodation option for you?

An airbnb in the Sahara Desert we stayed in while in Morocco

This accommodation option is where people are renting out a room in their home or sometimes their entire home to travelers. This has quite a few benefits as:

  1. You get access to local knowledge from the owner, especially if you are staying with them. As they likely only have one or two rooms, they may have more time to chat with you than the receptionist at a hostel.
  2. Accommodation is normally cheaper than staying in a hotel and sometimes cheaper than hostels too (Especially if you share with a buddy)
  3. Accommodation to suit every budget. From luxury villas to a tent in the backyard – it depends on what you want to spend.
  4. Places are often situated away from the ‘touristy’ areas, so you get an insight into how people really live in that particular town.
  5. Some hosts will offer to cook a traditional meal (sometimes for a fee) or even offer cooking classes. You normally get kitchen access.

Get $25 USD off your first airbnb booking by clicking this link 

CONS

  • Less sociable than staying in a hostel. You may not meet anyone at all. But if the host is cool they may take you out for a beer (sometimes)
  • You are staying in private accommodation and won’t have things like 24 hour reception.

 

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Couchsurfing

Couchsurfing is free, homestay accommodation and is a great travel experience. People known as hosts will allow travelers to stay on their couch or in their spare room free of charge. Couchsurfing is different from airbnb as there in as expectation with couchsurfing to interact with your host. You don’t just turn up and then avoid your host the entire time – it’s about a cultural exchange. This is why it is important to not look at couchsurfing as free accommodation, but as a chance to meet a local and get to know them.

If you haven’t tried this before or have concerns about staying with stranger, or are not sure how to start applying for places to stay, then take a read of our Short Introduction to couchsurfing

Pros

  • Make great new friends with locals all over the world
  • It’s Free Accommodation

Cons

  • You may have to sleep in the floor or on the couch
  • You have to apply to a lot of people to find a bed – a lot of hosts stopped hosting and now rent spare beds on AirBnB, so the community is less active than it used to be.
youth hostels - couchsurfing

Couchsurfing in Paris France

 Hostel Price Guide

This is a rough guide, by region. It’s general and by no means a gold standard for planning your trip budget, but in the initial phase before you have done specific research this should help you get a ball-park figure to aim for. Then head over and use our Travel Budget Calculator to start working out your specific budget for your next adventure!

I’ve included a number of regions and prices for a private double (per room price) and a hostel bed in a dorm room (per person). The “Low” price is an estimate of just how low you could get if you shop around, turn up, or stay out of the main tourist areas rather than booking through popular places that have shiny websites.

The “average” price is based solely on an average of the many cheapest prices for accommodation that advertise online, based on my research and experience – it’s an average CHEAP price, not an average price for all types of accommodation.

So, if you can find accommodation between the “low” and “average” price listed here, you are doing ok 🙂

If you have found prices lower than my “Low” price, please leave a comment (be specific: Hostel name, location, price) so I can make changes, and if the “Low” price is no longer possible, due to massive inflation, then please put that in the comments too 🙂

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which backpacker accommodation is for you? When it comes to backpacking there are a ton more accommodation options to choose from. Choosing the right one for you comes down the way you want to travel. Simply to score the cheapest bed possible? Seek out a unique local experience? the accommodation you choose will determine the style of trip you have.

 

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Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, i’ll receive a small commission payout. Probably enough for a beer or two at the pub which keeps me happy and keeps me sharing helpful content. All opinions remain our own.

 

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