Featured image from The Bauhaus in Bruges.
Once upon a time, in lands all over the world, travellers believed in hostel myths of dirty sheets and dangerous sleeping companions. But now you can find hostels equipped with rooftop swimming pools, strict security, organic cafés, and even luxurious private rooms. But when it comes to dorm rooms vs. private rooms in a hostel – which should you choose?
My private room at Room007 Chueca in Madrid
What is a Hostel Dorm?
Hostel dorm rooms comes in all shapes and sizes. Some offer 4 single beds, others offer 10 bunkbeds.
But the main thing to know about a dorm rooms vs. private rooms is that the beds are sold individually. Which means if you’re travelling with three friends and choose a 4 bed dorm, you will likely have a fourth person in the room that you’ve never met before.
A dorm room at Sant Jordi Gracia Hostel in Barcelona
When travelling solo, dorm rooms are my favourite form of accommodation for two reasons:
1. Meeting new people
I’m a sociable person who likes to meet new people. When I’m travelling solo, staying in a dorm room gives me more opportunity to meet other travellers than I would have in a private room.
The cost of a hostel bed is definitely cheaper than the price of a hostel private room. It makes sense, but it’s worth pointing out.
Take one of my favourite hostels as an example. Die Wohngemeinschaft Hostel in Cologne offers a mix of artistically themed dorm rooms and private rooms – see the full review here! But the price for a bed in one of their shared dorm rooms begin at €20, while the price for a private room begins at €45. So you could stay two nights in a dorm and still spend less than you would for one night in a single bed private room!
A dorm room at Red Nest Hostel in Valencia
Things to know before booking a hostel dorm room
๏ Privacy is limited. Some hostels provide curtains on each bunk, whilst others are completely open
๏ A relaxed attitude is often required. Sharing a room with people who don’t share your travel plans means some will wake earlier than others, some will go to bed later, and some might want to party all night. For a heads up, check out these 9 types of people you’ll meet in a hostel
๏ Mixed dorms are the norm in backpacker hostels, whilst same-sex dorms are the norm in youth hostels. However, almost all hostels now offer female-only dorms. If you’re not sure if you’d be comfortable sharing a room with the opposite sex, I wrote an article for you on whether mixed dorms are suitable for solo female travellers
A dorm room with curtains at St Christopher’s Gare du Nord in Paris
What is a hostel private room?
You might think the answer is obvious. But if you’re used to the traditional idea of hostels where rooms are crammed full of bunkbeds, then you might be surprised to know that many hostels offer luxurious private rooms for guests who don’t want to share a room with others.
In fact, many of the larger hostel chains, such as Generator and Freehand, have found that their hostel private rooms have been just as popular as their dorm rooms. And I think a lot of this has to do with the rising popularity of hostels among digital nomads, business travellers, and families.
A private room at Generator Paris
Of course, when you’re paying by room and not by bed the cost is a little steeper. One blogger went as far as to say that hostel private rooms are ‘terrible deals’ but I disagree with this for two main reasons:
1. Privacy of a hotel with the atmosphere of a hostel
If you’re a traveller, then your needs on the road are probably different to those who take hotel holidays. What I mean by this is that hostels provide more than just a bed (or a room) for the night.
They provide a social experience where you can engage with people from all over the world and gain a more local experience of a destination than you would get in a chain hotel.
2. Hostel activities are more fun that hotel activities
When you stay at a hotel, you might be encouraged to see the city by tour bus, via a few leaflets at the check-in desk. But hostels actively encourage guests to explore the ‘real’ destination, with adventure activities (like this rafting tour I took in Montenegro!), street art tours (like this one I found with the owners of Hostel ROOM), and even local beach cleans (like this one we ran with the locals from our hostel in Morocco!).
As you can see, I think hostel private rooms are a great deal! Especially if you still get a free breakfast and a welcome beer at check-in! What hotel has ever offered you that?
A private twin room at The Yellow Hostel in Rome
Things to know before booking a hostel private room
๏ En-suite bathrooms aren’t always part of the private room package. When I stayed at The Beehive Hostel in Rome, the (sparkling clean) bathroom was just down the hall, whereas my private room at Room007 Chueca Hostel in Madrid had an en-suite toilet and shower
๏ Taking a break in a private room, if you’ve been hopping between dorm rooms for months, is something I highly recommend to get some much needed rest
๏ Kids are allowed to stay in hostel private rooms as long as they are accompanied by an adult over 18. Often, the case is that no one under 18 is allowed to stay in a hostel dorm room. If you are travelling with children and want to stay in dorm rooms vs. private rooms it’s best to get in touch with each hostel to understand their individual policies on this
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I hope this post helped you understand the differences between dorm rooms vs. private rooms in a hostel! If there’s anything I didn’t cover that you would like to know, just let me know in the comments.
You might also be interested in reading my post on the different types of hostels in Europe.