If you travel a lot (especially abroad), you know the many, many options you have when looking for a place to stay for the night and the pros vs the cons. Some are pretty obvious, like hotels will be the most expensive, but what about hostels and Airbnbs...Do you know the difference?
Knowing the difference can make a huge difference, especially if you want to budget for a trip you're taking. Most of our ILP volunteers prefer one of these over the other when planning their ILP vacations, but you're going to have to make that decision yourself and find your own preference!
Pst: We wrote a whole guide called Traveling On A Budget that you'd probably be interested in.
Finding the perfect place to stay is one of the hardest things about planning a vacation whether you're vacationing in Europe or spending a semester abroad in Costa Rica. You want to stay somewhere nice, but you don't want to pay outrageous amounts like you might if you stay in a hotel. That's why almost all of our volunteers chose to stay in an Airbnb or a hostel -- depending on which they prefer. How do you know which one you'll like better?
What's the difference between an Airbnb and hostel?
- What's included
- How many people are staying there
- Where it's located
- Price (and fees)
One of the biggest differences between and Airbnb and a hostel is what is included in your "rent". Each and every hostel/Airbnb will come with its own set of amenities, but you will get different things depending on which way you go.
With an Airbnb, you will often get a kitchen that has some cooking supplies in it, a private bathroom (that you share with your ILP group), a bed/bedding and some sort of living room set up. This option is great for those who want to save some money and make their meals at home rather than eating out for every meal! Many times the set up is sort of like you're staying in a friend's apartment or house.
If you go with a hostel, you will get a bed/bedding, access to a shared bathroom (unless your splurge on a private room), a common area (with other travelers), employees that can help you out and possibly free breakfast -- you'll have to check with your hostel on that one. This one is more like you're familiar with - just like when you stay at a hotel except it's more casual and typically has more shared areas.
If privacy is big for you, then this may be a deciding factor in what you prefer. Airbnb's are typically very private as you'll have the whole place to yourself!
**If you're volunteering abroad with ILP, you will be required to rent out the entire house/apartment to help keep you safer - this is usually the way it works anyways though)**
Privacy isn't as much of a thing at hostels, unless you splurge a little more. If you're trying to save as much money as possible, you will be getting a shared room at a hostel. That means you could be in a room with anywhere from 4-15 people. You will be provided a bed and a locker -- remember to bring a padlock with you -- in a big room with lots of bunk beds. You will also share a community bathroom.
There is an option at hostels (if you're okay spending a little more) where you can usually get a private room with a private bathroom. It's for sure pricier, but that's okay if that's what you need!
How many people stay there
A hostel is more like a hotel where you rent a bed rather than a room, so there will be a lot of people staying there (not necessarily in your room, but in the whole building). Like mentioned above, you will also have more people in your room depending on what kind of room you rent.
An Airbnb is someone's house or apartment you are renting out for your vacation, so it will only be you plus your ILP friends!
Where it's located
Now, both of these can range drastically from where they are located, but typically hostels are located on busier streets while Airbnbs are located within neighborhoods/apartment complexes where the locals are living.
You can find hostels/Airbnbs in almost any parts of the city you are staying in, so when booking either, make sure you check out how close they are to the places you want to go.
The atmosphere in these places are very different. In a hostel, you will be surrounded by other travelers who want to chat and get to know you. Some of these people might be traveling in China alone, so they enjoy getting to know their fellow hostel-ers. You will most likely spend your evenings meeting new people and talking up a storm.
In an Airbnb, it will be like coming back to a little piece of home each night. You'll be able to relax, read a book or hang out with your group!
Price (and fees)
The prices can be pretty comparable when broken down. When you're looking at hostels (we recommend using hostelworld.com BTW), you will see the price per bed. When you're looking at Airbnb, you will see the price per apartment/house. Initially, Airbnb will look a lot more expensive, but once you divide the cost down by the number of people in your group, it will be pretty comparable to hostels.
If you decide to do a private room at a hostel, the price may a little more than an Airbnb -- or not, every Airbnb and hostel have different prices, so you may find a killer deal!
One thing to note before booking is there are extra fees with Airbnb. Make sure you look through everything and you know the cleaning fees, deposits (that are most of the time refundable), etc. before you commit to anything! All of the fees are decided by the renter, so it varies ... but they will be listed in the total fee so it's all spelled out for you before you purchase.
Pro Tip: You can often get a referral discount by telling your friends about Airbnb and they can get a discount if it's their first time booking. Ask around in your ILP travel group and see who doesn't have an Airbnb account yet. If you have a new person booking at each vacation you could get some savings that way! Check out their current coupons here.
Airbnbs and hostels are awesome and will save you a lot of money when you're backpacking Europe, living in China for a semester or whichever one of these ILP countries you're in!