Hostel, guest house or bed and breakfast: what are the differences?

Do you normally travel solo, with your significant other or with friends and family? Depending on who you travel with and the kind of experience you seek, you may want to stay somewhere cosy, sleep in a place that resembles your own home, have meals included so that looking for places to eat does not become a concern or socialise as much as you can to make new friends that will join you in upcoming adventures. By reading this post, you will learn how to distinguish between hostels, guest houses and bed & breakfast lodging, thus being able to decide which type suits you best.

If you are taking a trip on your own and would like to meet new people from other countries, a hostel will be just perfect, while a guest house or b&b are better for couples travelling together and groups of friends. It must be noted that all three options are cheaper than hotels -the hostel being the cheapest one-, a characteristic that makes them strong candidates when planning trips on low travel budgets, whose members do not necessarily have to be young travellers. In view of this, we advise you to take good note of the information provided below in order to ensure that you will both save money and have all your needs covered while abroad when booking your accommodation.

What is it like to stay in a hostel?

When you want to pay the lowest nightly rate possible for your accommodation, few other options will beat the hostel, where it is very likely that you will share the toilet and shower with other travellers and almost sure that people you do not know (sometimes up to sixteen) will sleep in the same dormitory. Take into account, however, that hostels in some countries are simply very cheap hotels offering the basics: a small bedroom to spend the night, a sink, a shared toilet and sometimes breakfast, as is the case with the “hostales” or “pensiones” in certain areas of Spain.

The concept of international or youth hostel was conceived for backpackers, although nowadays it is neither restricted to this kind of traveller nor open exclusively to young people. That being said, hostels are normally oriented towards tech-savvy globetrotters, and so they aim at catering to their specific needs with much sought-after free WiFi –preferably available in the entire premises-, kitchen spaces where they can cook their own healthy meals, coin-operated laundry rooms and onsite libraries.

The model described above encourages socialisation and the sharing of daily life with like-minded people who may have come from the other end of the world. Language exchange meet-ups, parties and outdoor activities are also frequently organised by establishments of this kind. Obviously, you are free to decide whether you want to join the social life at your chosen hostel or not, but if your personal space and privacy are important to you, you must be prepared to lose some of it during your stay in a hostel.

To tackle this and to avoid unwanted situations, these low-cost establishments keep implementing new security measures like technologically-advanced lockers for private use, female-only and male-only dormitories and segregated shower facilities.

Choosing a guest house as accommodation

Considered as a hotel inside a private house, and actually providing similar amenities, the guest house is still a cheap accommodation type as it does not rely on receptionists, maids or kitchen employees, but it is the members of the family running it who are typically in charge of everything. When you book your stay in a guest house, you are offered a bedroom and a bathroom along with homemade meals (as many as agreed) included in the nightly rate. The main perk of this modality is that it gives you the feeling of being at home and you will have someone dedicated to solve any issue you may encounter at all times, as opposed to the front desk staff at hotels, who are required to take care of the requests of hundreds of guests at once. In spite of that, in case your hosts live in the same building, they will normally stay in a separate area so that you can enjoy the utmost privacy. Especially in England, there is a very thin line between a guest house and a bed and breakfast.

Advantages of sleeping in a “Bed and Breakfast”

The term bed and breakfast” (B&B) pretty much says it all about this sort of accommodation in which guests benefit from a low price per night and cosy units where they can sleep and have the first meal of the day. In most cases, this modality implies living in someone else’s house, an owner who will let you use their bathroom, the wireless internet and maybe the kitchen, contingent upon the conditions specified in your reservation. For some travellers, this gives you the freedom to have your basic needs covered (sleep and eat in the morning), then setting off for a long day of exploring, whereas others make the most of the experience by spending time with the managers, thus getting the chance to learn about the culture of the place or even a new language. The bed and breakfast model has become a growing tendency in countries which have recently undergone a reinvention of their tourism industry, the best example being Cuba with its “casas particulares”.

As you can see, the distinction between hostel, bed and breakfast and guest house largely depends on the degree of privacy you will enjoy and to what extent the owners will get involved in your stay, although the three options are very good choices for anyone wanting to find cheap accommodation for their travels.