I’ve travelled plenty in my time (one day I’ll make a map and hopefully remember to add a link here), and much of this travel has been on a budget. Back in the day, you were either penny-pinching at a hostel or living it up in a hotel that would swallow up a regular month’s rent in just a couple of nights.
A surprisingly memorable chunk of my French classes in school was spent on hostel vocabulary. “Nous pouvons louer des draps ici?” [“Can we rent sheets here?”.. You couldn’t even assume you’d have sheets!]. Thankfully linens seem to more-or-less standard these days, and with the rise of glostels (glam hostels?) in places like Bangkok, it’s no longer just about the budget, but the social experience, the location, and help with planning travel that the glam-packers want – pub crawls and outdoor adventures.
Lub and plenty of others have refined this process. These places now offer fine linens, sleeping spaces that are more akin to capsules than the childhood bedroom you shared with a sibling, and gleaming bathrooms. So it may be tempting for even seasoned travellers to check in to a hostel. I’ll admit I’ve done this a few times, but then I remember why it’s not worth it. Are you ready to graduate to a different type of accommodation? Highlights of a hotel vs a hostel? See our checklist to help you decide…
12 Reasons Why You might want to choose a Hotel over a Hostel
You need your sleep.
No matter how nice the hostel, there will always be someone rustling plastic bags as they pack for a 4 am flight, or drunkenly whispering to their friends at 1 am as they return from a night out. Hopefully, it’s the same person, because that way they’ll be gone in the morning and your poor sleep-deprived self won’t have to waste what little energy you have on giving them the stink eye.
You have a job.
With hostel prices increasing, in many parts of the world choosing a hostel is not necessarily going to save you money, so if you can afford to spend just a little extra, you can probably find private guest house accommodation. It’s worth it.
You are looking for a unique experience.
Common misconception. It’s actually because backpackers travel in packs. If you’re unlucky, during your trip you’ll notice the same group of people in Saigon, Bangkok, Siem Reap, and Phnom Penh, recounting stories of how they “did” the temples, blacked out at the full moon party, and how that bus took a really long time. It’s hard enough to break away from the tourist trail, but hosteling and getting in with these kids will make it that much harder.
You are getting funny looks from other hostellers.
There is your biological age, how old you feel inside, how old people guess you are when they’re flirting with you, and then the age you actually look. Yes, young kids might judge you for staying in a hostel if you look closer to your parents’ age than theirs. I’m all for intergenerational friendships, but having been a young kid myself, I know for a fact that this judgment happens.
You work while you travel.
If you’ve got an online business or are doing freelance work, you will need privacy for work, and again, decent sleep. Even if a hostel has a lounge where you can go through your emails, think about how it would feel to try focusing on work while someone a foot away squeals about “doing the temples.” (“omg so amazing”) for the millionth time. Noise-cancelling headphones? Well, why not use that cash to upgrade to a guesthouse or hotel.
You are an introvert.
At a hostel, there is no place to hide. Don’t forget this.
You are an extrovert.
… then you don’t need to be sharing a room with someone to start a conversation. You can make friends out on the town without much trouble, and have more memorable and unique experiences this way.
You are an experienced traveller.
This goes without saying. Unless you want to be the wise grandparent to all the gap year children, you’re probably better off doing your own thing. I’m all for helping people out, but maybe it’s best the newbies discuss how “Vietnam was so cheap because you get like thousands of dong for one dollar” amongst themselves. They don’t need your eye-rolling.
You are travelling with friends
This can actually work out to be cheaper than a hostel. Sharing a room with a friend or a partner is going to save you a ton of money, especially if you look for accommodation that allows an extra bed and has breakfast included. And a guesthouse or hotel is more likely to have an actual breakfast, as opposed to 3-in-1 Nescafe and a loaf of lilly-white sliced bread.
You want to meet people who actually live there.
Pack-travel mentality is not helpful when you are trying to get a real feel for the place you’re visiting. You will need to slow down and break away from the tourist trail. As mass-tourism grows, businesses either specialize in providing a mass-produced experience for tourists and backpackers or hone in on locals, who may be protective of their own regular hangout spots. If you start hanging with a group of young kids in elephant pants (see below), doors may be closing to you.
One day in the distant future, we WILL look back at them nostalgically. But at this present moment, no. So let’s say you decide to give hostels a go, your normal elephant-free clothes are going to stand out. So then one day, you think, maybe if I just start accessorizing with one of those hippie scarfs. It’s because it’s practical and I am NOT trying to blend in with my new hostel friends. Then, peer pressure, and next thing you know you are covered in elephant print, head to toe. There is simply no going back. You will notice locals starting to sneer at you a little, but you’ll be too attached to your new-found camaraderie to undo this terrible decision. And a part of you will die as a result.
You care about architecture and design.
If you are still reading because you weren’t offended by my strong views on elephant pants, I’ll assume you care. Many of the new hostels, especially the higher-end ones that have the amenities most travellers want, all look the same. Did you save up for a vacation just to jet-set between Ikea show-rooms? Why even bother.
To be fair, some older budget hotels may have much more of a personality. Once, I stayed at a hostel in Sacramento (CA) that was in a Victorian house with many original fixtures, wooden floors and bay windows. Then again, I also stayed at a budget hostel in Kuala Lumpur that had a charming historical façade, but a grotty interior, with rooms partitioned by something one grade up from cardboard.
The owners had set out to create an ambience of a long-term storage unit with a Rastafarian theme. And there are definitely plenty of soulless hotels out there as well, but with a little research, you are more likely to find something unique yet comfortable if you look for private accommodation.
So there you have it. Twelve solid reasons to leave your hostelling days behind and choose a guesthouse or hotel vs a hostel. If you’ve got more, would love to hear them!
And if you are not sure where to stay in Phnom Penh, make sure to check out our guide!