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What's The Difference Between An Airbnb and A Hostel?

Posted by Lindsay Hall on 6/19/18 4:09 PM

ILP Mexico

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?

Especially if you want to budget for a trip you're taking, choosing the right accommodation is going to be huge. 

Wanting to experience the world but a bit worried about finances? 
Traveling On A Budget

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

One of the biggest differences between an Airbnb and a hostel is what is included in your stay. 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're often staying in someone's home (or a section of their home). That means many times you'll 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! The set up is sort of like you're staying in a friend's apartment or house.

(We have this guide to choosing a good Airbnb — something you should read before booking). 

If you go with a hostel, you're really just paying for a place to sleep, and get a shared hang-out space and often times, a shared bathroom.  Bed/bedding, access to a shared bathroom (unless you're splurge on a private room), a common area (with other travelers), employees that can help you out and possibly free breakfast, are all common hostel amenities. 


If privacy is big for you, then this may be a deciding factor in what you prefer. Airbnbs are typically very private as you'll have the whole place to yourself!

Head's up: If you're volunteering abroad with ILP, you will be required to rent out the entire house/apartment on Airbnb to help keep you safer. 

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. 

ILP Adventure

Where It's Located

Now, both of these can range drastically from where they are located, but typically hostels are located on busier streets, right in the center of town, 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 budget travelers who want to chat and get to know you — usually there is a common room where everyone can hang out in. Some of these people might be traveling 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 from people all over the world. 

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), 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 often extra fees with Airbnb. It's often something like a cleaning fee (which is decided by the host so it varies). They will be listed in the total fee so it's all spelled out for you before you purchase. Fees are things like a cleaning fee after you leave and a couple of other things. 

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.

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Come travel the world by volunteering with International Language Programs

Airbnbs and hostels are awesome and will save you a lot of money when you're backpacking Europe, living in Asia for a semester or whichever one of these ILP countries you're in. 

Ready to apply for the International Language Programs? Click that button below to get started (you'll get your own ILP representative and everything to help you through the whole process)!

Start My Application!


Topics: All The Travel Tips, Saving Money + Fundraising

Hey friends!

We are ILP, a Utah-based non-profit org that has service abroad opportunities for college-age volunteers. We love travel so we're sharing all our tips for making the most of your time living abroad + seeing the world, and how to do it all on the tiniest budget.

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