Every travellers everlasting debate: Where do we book to stay? Air BnB, Hotel or Hostel? Here are the pros and cons of each of them based on our experience:
As this was our first time organising our own trip, we were overwhelmed by where to sleep. In an attempt to make our lives a little easier, we tried to have the majority of our trip pretty well planned in regards to booking accommodation and transport. Also, travelling at peak season meant it was super important to book places in advance to ensure availability and good prices. So there we were, flights booked, staring at a screen wondering how on earth do we pick where to sleep! Do you base it on price, location, aesthetic? Which areas are the best for Air Bnb and hostels? And how do you find the luxury of a hotel, for a less than luxurious price?
After buying our flights, we almost instantly began booking accommodation and just as quickly set a budget. All accommodation across our four month adventure we booked for an average of $75 Australian dollars (per person) per night. This was with the exception of two very lush nights in Santorini (because hello its Santorini!). We were also quite diligent in making an effort to spread our stays across a mix of air Bnb, hostels and hotels to properly get a feel for travel and learn as much as possible. We ended up with almost exactly one third of the trip dedicated to each form of accommodation, giving us a great taste of what’s out there.
To all the snobs out there (yes I was one of them!): Hostels are awesome! I know we’ve all heard horror stories about how cheap and nasty they can be but i can absolutely assure you the majority of them are delightful. They were possibly our favourite kind of accommodation for so many reasons. As a couple, we stayed in all private rooms, which while more expensive than a dorm, were a lot less expensive than staying in a hotel room. Our private rooms almost all included a bathroom- and if not, any share bathrooms we used were kept in immaculate condition. Whilst the rooms were a lot more minimalist than fancy hotel rooms, they were just as spotless, spacious, and functional; meaning we had no complaints whatsoever.
This is the view from our hostel room in Vienna. As you can see it was amazingly central as that is the Naschmarkt markets you can see in the centre.
#1 Social: One perk everyone always says about travelling is the amazing people you meet, and hostels won’t disappoint in this regard. Hostels in particular are renowned for their social culture. Many had organised pub crawls, games nights, and other organised activities! This made for fun nights out you otherwise might not have had. As young travellers it was the perfect environment to mingle with fellow travellers sporting a similar budget and likeminded interests.
#2 Staff: The other thing that was great about hostels is that they are designed for travellers- by travellers. All the hostels we stayed in were run and staffed by young travellers, meaning they understood exactly what the guests were chasing; a clean, cheap, fun night. The staff everywhere we stayed couldn’t have been more accomodating or understanding, being travellers themselves.
#3 Reception: Most places had very generous reception hours, also making them very accomodating for early/late checkins and any necessary help throughout your stay.
Our hostel in Berlin had a huge range of books available which was a nice pass time when we were just relaxing. A huge range hostels also included an array of books that assist with finding your way around the city in a range of languages.
#1 Noise: Due to their high density of guests they can often get quite noisy and from what I’ve heard dorms can get a little disruptive throughout the night. If you make sure you pack a pair of ear plugs you shouldn’t have any issues, and in private rooms we never had any issues getting a good night sleep.
#2 Shared facilities: I’m sure for some shared bathrooms are a daunting, inconvenient concept. However I promise all the ones we stayed in were incredibly well maintained and I never had to wait. Most hostels have a good bathroom to guest ratio to minimise any queuing. A tip to be sure- the earlier in the morning you go the less likely you’ll have to wait (and the same for night time).
Overall, I honestly couldn’t recommend hostels more, especially for young people on a budget. They are a great fun way to meet people and make the best of your stay somewhere without breaking your bank account.
Top Pick: The best hostels we stayed in were throughout northern Europe, particularly Austria and Germany. They were SO clean, run extremely professionally and very aesthetically pleasing. The private rooms we stayed in were hotel quality to say the least. A chain I would definitely recommend staying in is the 'Wombats' hostel chain. This is an Australian chain set up by two Aussie blokes who wanted to change the face of backpacking for young travellers. We stayed at both their Vienna and Berlin sites and would highly recommend. The staff were extremely friendly and the rooms were all spotless with ideal, highly functioning facilities. Check out their locations, pricing and facilities here.
The main tip I can give you for getting cheap but nice accommodation is to book early. Early bird specials are the best thing ever and it often landed us in accommodation wondering how on earth we afforded it before remembering we got an awesome discount from being so early
This was a very luxurious hotel in Thira Santorini. Admittedly we did splurge quite a bit on this one as it was a special occasion and nothing beats feeling like royalty with your own spa.
#1 24/7 Staff: Majority of hotels we stayed in had staff all day every day who were fully accessible to answer questions, give directions, and help organise things like day trips and airport transfers. Particularly in Italy and Greece this was ideal as there were so many amazing day trips to be done. They organise you to be picked up and dropped off right at your door.
#2 Cleaning: Who doesn’t love coming back from a big day out and having their bed made for them and fresh towels? I found nothing felt more like a holiday than spending my day out and about to come back to a spotless room.
#3 Room service and breakfasts: Unlike hostels and Air Bnb, hotels almost always give an option for an inclusive breakfast. Which for people on a tight budget paid off as it was a meal we were able to stock up on and not have to worry about buying too much for lunch. We also definitely utilised the room service whenever we were unwell or tired from a massive day and didn’t want to worry about finding dinner somewhere.
The inside of the Roombach Hotel, Budapest. It was only considered a star hotel however it had amazing staff and was one of the cleanest places we stayed. The rooms were super cute and perfectly central.
#1 Price: More often than not hotels are far more expensive than Bnbs or hostels, but thats due to the luxuries that come with them and the fact they require a lot more staff. Like most things though, if you book far enough in advance you should be able get a decent deal.
#2 No kitchen: When on a budget, hotel rooms are often just a bedroom and bathroom and rooms with access to a kitchenette are far more expensive. We found this frustrating occasionally when we wanted to save money by cooking ourselves- like we were able to in hostels and Air Bnbs.
Top Picks: We spent most of our time in hotels throughout Greece and Croatia however my favourite hotel from the experience was the Roombach hotel in Budapest. Budapest was easily one of my favourite places to visit and this awesome location just made it that much better. It was so reasonably priced and easily 4 star quality with regards to cleanliness, style and staff friendliness. It had an amazing breakfast buffet and was a short walking distance from public transport, parliament and heaps of cool cafes and bars. Check them out here.
So there’s not subtle way to put this: BEST IDEA EVER. Air BnB is a saviour in the travel industry. We stayed in Air BnBs all throughout France, Italy and Croatia and we couldn’t have been more impressed. There are just so many pros to them its unbelievable:
This is the balcony of our Air BnB in Nice, France. It was amazingly central, walking distance from the beach and right in the old town.
#1 Locations: the best thing about Air BNB is the locations that are available. Due to them being people’s properties as appose to large hotels and hostels, they are available in areas far less tourism dense, allowing you to snag a stay away from thousands of fellow travellers. This can often land you in a beautiful deserted part of a city, or right in the heart of it, meaning you get a whole new level of cultural exposure outside of the hustle and bustle of mainstream tourism.
#2 Prices: Nine times out of ten you’ll find you can get the same quality as a hotel- as far as location and aesthetic goes, for less than half the price.
#3 Versatile: Air BNB is massive worldwide so a lot of the time you have a lot more choice of where to stay in a city. The other thing that’s so great about the versatility is that they vary from a single room, to entire apartments. Entire apartments were ideal for us because they often gave us access to washing machines and kitchens without any extra charge.
This is the street our Air BnB in Paris fell on in Montmarte. The location was super ideal being just a 2 minute walk from the closest subway station.
#1 No Staff: the one downside to Air Bnb’s that allows them to be so cheap is that they aren’t staffed and therefore you do lose out on that 24 hour reception that most hotels and hostels provide. More often than not though the hosts are incredible and will answer most questions hotels staff can however you can’t always bank on it. We had some particularly helpful hosts throughout Europe who even picked us up from train stations and provided some food!
#2 Getting there: Due to most Air Bnb’s not being as well signed as hotels and hostels in the area, it is common to have difficulty finding it as it isn’t well known. Also sometimes, if you’ve picked somewhere off the tourist track you often have to opt for a cab fare rather than public transport to get there, which can be a little more pricey.
#3 Losing the key: one of the best things about hotels and hostels is the universal key card. So should you lock your key in your room or misplace it, staff are able to easily unlock it immediately. With an Air Bnb however, there is often only two sets of keys. One for you and one for the host, so should you have any kind of key mishap, you can get stuck waiting for them to reach you before it is resolved.
Top Pick: honestly, there were SO many!! Italy definitely had some of the most amazing ones so I would definitely recommend there. Air BnB was so ideal for us throughout Italy because they always cost so much less than hotels however you could usually land one with equal if not better location than a lot of hotels. There are way too many good ones to pick one for this article though, so I promise you coming soon will be an article dedicated to the best Air BnB's we stayed in and why so keep your eye out.
The view from our Air BnB balcony in Sienna, Italy. You could see the sun set on the entire old town it was one of the best views I have ever seen and for such a reasonable price!
and finally... TOP TIPS when booking
As you can see, all accommodation has its perks and faults depending on what you’re after. It also depends on how confident you are travelling and what kind of experience you are chasing. You will most likely differ between each choice of accommodation, however the best tip I can give you when deciding is: RESEARCH. Read all about things- like where you want to go, transport in the area, facilities, and other travellers recommendations. Book in advance. If you want to be able to stay in nice places for really nice prices get hunting months in advance to your adventure. Make sure you read reviews. Particularly do this on Air BnB as every review has to be published, meaning the site can't selectively publish bias opinions, giving you a honest review of the place.