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Pintler’s Portal Hostel (PPH) Information & Education Series: Hotel vs. Hostel?

Updated: Oct 18, 2023

Hotel vs. Hostel: How is a Hostel different from a Hotel?

Most people are familiar with hotels, have stayed in hotels, probably even like hotels. They are ubiquitous along highways, in city centers, and in resort towns. But many people, especially in the US, are unfamiliar with hostels, let alone have ever stayed in one. So, what exactly is the difference between hotels and hostels? And how are they the same?

Hotels and hostels are similar in the sense that they both provide a

Pintler's Portal Hostel, Park Ave., Anaconda, MT

nightly accommodation for guests, usually people traveling. Beyond that, the primary differences between hotels and hostels can be broken down into 3 basic categories: 1. private vs. shared rooms and amenities; 2. solitary vs. communal experience (overall vibe); and 3. price. Understanding the differences, and similarities, can help you decide which choice is right for you.

Private vs. Shared Rooms & Amenities

Hotels rent rooms; hostels rent beds. Basically, hotels provide guests with a private room and bath,

Hotels rent rooms;  hostels rent beds.
Hotels rent rooms; hostels rent beds.

whereas a traditional hostel typically has a shared room and common bath. Some hostels do, however, offer private rooms and sometimes private baths, but in order to be called a hostel, they must offer some kind of "dormitory style" room accommodations. Renting just a bed is the hallmark of traditional hostels.

But even with a private room, perhaps the biggest contrast between hotels and hostels is privacy in general. Hostel life is built around a communal atmosphere. With a hotel room also comes isolation. When was the last time you met your neighbor while staying in a hotel ? Hostels sacrifice personal privacy for shared experiences. More on that below.

Room Amenities

Most hostels forgo common hotel room amenities and pass those savings onto guests, amenities many travelers don't use anyway. Think landline, hair dryer, iron and single-use coffee maker. Instead,

Spacious lounge and common area for all to enjoy at PPH!
Spacious lounge and common area for all to enjoy at PPH!

you'll find a TV and other amenities in a common area, shared by everyone. On top of the basic room amenities, many hostels offer libraries, games, musical instruments, and more — all for everyone to enjoy.

Maid Service / Room Service

Beyond the room, bath, and basic amenities of most hotels, fancy or luxurious accommodations may offer daily maid and turndown service, room service or restaurants, bell staff and concierge, fancy pools and fitness rooms -- all at a hefty price! More amenities, more money. Hostels, in turn, forego luxury amenities for experiences! But even without nightly turndown service, hostel owners are maniacal about cleanliness.

Currently on Trip Advisor, PPH has 14, 5-star “Excellent” reviews. “Best Hostel Ever,” says Lou M. in his review. “I’ve never been to such a clean place. Great care is taken to defeat bacteria in the bathrooms and showers and the rooms are spotless.” Sean B. says, “Very clean and inviting…the beds were comfy and the sheets/towels/facilities were pristine.” Lastly, in his review “Best Experience of Hostel Life in the US,” Husam A. writes, “ This place should be on the bucket list of everyone who is interested in the experience of hostels…The amenities are great and super clean.”

Solitary vs. Communal Experience

Vibe, atmosphere, interaction -- call it what you will, hostels attract vibrant people. It's not to say hotels don't, obviously, it's just…you’d probably never meet them. Says blogger Hostel Trust Ever: "The social atmosphere in hostels is totally unique, and it’s what makes hostelling so addictive. It can

Meeting new people is part of the attraction of Hostel life.
Meeting new people is part of the attraction of Hostel life.

transform your trip from a sightseeing tour into a more meaningful experience.” In other words, hostels attract travelers; hotels are for tourists.

Meet new people

On top of being budget-friendly, hostels are ideal places to meet new people and other travelers. Hostels, by nature, tend to be more social than hotels. For example, when was the last time you struck up a conversation with a stranger in a hotel lobby? If you did, you probably got "that look,” right? Meeting new people from around the world is a perk of hostel life.

“Hostels are all about community and connection, so expect hang out areas, lounges, or fire pits, depending on the hostel’s vibe, as well as free wifi and a really great atmosphere full of new friends you haven’t yet met,” says Hosteling US. “The best part of hostels is the shared sense of community that permeates everything. To put it simply: hostels are more fun."

Hostels focus on travelers

Hostels can be a valuable source of local information, both from fellow guests and the staff. "Unlike chain hotels with headquarters based far away, possibly even overseas, hostels are more in tune with the local neighborhood," said Greg Rodgers in his Trip Savvy post Hostel vs. Hotel: Which One Is Right For You? "These experienced business owners know how it feels to be far away from home. In short, they understand what travelers need." Find a great restaurant, a local shop, or a hiking trail. Anything you may need is just a conversation away.

And finally, Price

It’s difficult to generalize the cost differential between hotels and hostels, as prices for each vary greatly from region to region, country to country. As a general rule, however, hostels are almost always cheaper than their counterparts for any given area. For example, in some parts of the world, like Asia, a dorm bed in a backpacker hostel may cost as little as a few dollars to $10 a night, whereas a hotel room in the same area may be $30 to $50 a night.

In the US and most of Europe, where boutique-style Adventure Hostels are the norm, beds are in the $30 to $50 range and comparable hotel rooms will set you back $150 to $250 a night. In fact, according to, the average price of a hotel room in the US in 2023 is $212 per night.

In Summary

So, to sum up: 1. Hotel: private room and bath; more amenities; higher cost. Hostel: shared (or private) room; common bath, kitchen, and social spaces; less cost; 2. Hotel: sterile, uninviting lobby area.. Hostel: shared common spaces that encourage conversation and interaction -- fun!; and 3. Hostels are a fraction of the cost and twice the experience!

Ready to give hosteling a try? Give us a call (406-563-4555) or, better yet, book your bed or room online today: Book Now & Save! Your Base Camp awaits at Pintler's Portal Hostel!

Your Base Camp awaits at Pintler's Portal Hostel!
Pintler's Portal Hostel -- your base camp awaits!


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