5 Alternatives to Hostels When Traveling

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When I traveled during my semester abroad in England, I mostly stayed in hostels. Not a great fit for someone shy and unused to sharing a room with another female, much less up to 16-32 people of both genders. But I sucked it up because my unverified assumption was hostels were cheaper, and saving money trumped discomfort and minor security concerns.

Then the last weekend of the trip I discovered that a clean 1-2* hotel could be just as cheap as hostels in big cities and much more comfortable. And looking back a year later, when I learned about Priceline, I was really kicking myself. Back then, you could really score some cheap deals on Priceline, and it was a much better option for places like London, where a bed in a 16 person dormitory was going for $70+ a night.

For some, saving money isn’t the only consideration. My more gregarious friends swore by hostels because they were a great way to meet people and also offered kitchen privileges which you wouldn’t get in hotels. To them it was worth increased risk of a random roommate stealing their stuff.

Nowadays, there are better and safer ways to save money and meet people through your accommodations.

5 Affordable Alternatives to Hostels

    Sounds scary, but several friends swear by this community of travelers. People list their (free) couch or room in cities around the world and users submit requests for the dates of their stay. If the host likes your profile, they accept and send you details for connecting. It’s free, though they suggest you do something to reciprocate your host’s hospitality. Hosts are incredibly social and offer a great way to get to meet new friends and tap the local network. It’s not my style, but sounds cheaper and more interactive than a hostel.
    how couchsurfing works
  2. AirBnB
    The offerings span the range of rooms and prices, everything from a shared room to an entire house. A particularly great option for small towns with few hotels or busy cities sold out for events. Hosts typically tend to be very friendly and accommodating but it also allows for the privacy often lacking in hostels. I had a great time with my first AirBNB stayNote: new users can get $35 off their first stay when you sign up through my link.
    airbnb home page
  3. Priceline Name Your Own Price Option
    The days of getting a room for a fraction of the going rate are over, but you can still typically save up to 60% off. You chose your location and star level and make a bid. Major chain hotels make unsold inventory available at a minimum (undisclosed) price. If your bid falls within their range, your offer is accepted.The catch is you don’t know exactly where you’re staying until the transaction is complete. However, sites like BiddingforTravel and Better Bidding can help you identify the hotels likely to come up and see how much other users have successfully bid.Priceline name your own price site
  4. Hotwire Hot Rate Hotels
    If you don’t want to go to the trouble of bidding, Hotwire Hot Deals offer special rates on “mystery” hotels. They display the star rating and the amenities, but you don’t see the hotel name until you book. can help you narrow down the likely hotels in advance. hotwire hot rate hotels search
  5. Guest Houses
    Coming from the US where bed & breakfast is almost synonymous with luxurious accommodations, I assumed they would be more expensive than hotels. Turns out in Europe, the few frills options can be much cheaper than the local hotel and not much more than a hostel. often lists these places among the results. Trip Advisor’s B&B and Inns option is also a good place to start.european guest house

Did I miss something? Feel free to share your hostel alternatives in the comments below!

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