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hostels vs airbnb

Battle of the ages: Airbnb vs Hostels

Yes! Hostels are still alive + where to keep your wallet alive too.

Hostels, Airbnb, and minority friendly options like Innclusive, Noirbnb, and Misterb&b are some of the top choices for keeping your wallet well-insulated on your journey abroad. Each platform provides its own unique flavor and start-up history to consider when choosing your travel accomodation.

Small Beginnings:


The first recorded hostel was established in 1912 when Richard Schirrmann created the first youth hostel, Jugendherberge. The Jugendherberge was established to combat the negative effects of industrialization on children. Hostels in Germany and other parts of Europes also became a sanctuary for the homeless and unemployed because of their accessibility.


Airbnb began humbly in the living room of Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia where the two placed 3 air mattresses in a pseudo-bed-and-breakfast in order to meet their rent. Chesky and Gebbia realized San Francisco’s drought of travel accommodations could turn a quick profit, and 12 years later Airbnb turned from one living room to over 6 million rooms, flats, and houses across the globe. Fun fact: the air in Airbnb stands for air mattress.

NoirBnb  & Innclusive:

Rohan Gilkes and Stefan Grant were both inspired to create a POC friendly alternative to Airbnb in response to their own racial discriminatory experiences. Gilkes, the owner of Innclusive, states on their website that the platform is “where people of all backgrounds can travel and stay with respect, dignity, and love.” Grant, the owner of Noirbnb, states that his platform is a “global travel community that provides experiences and events with a focus on including and celebrating travelers of color”.


Misterb&b is LGBTQ+ friendly travel and social networking platform that provides lodging. The initial idea for the platform came from co-founder Matthieu Jost when he and his partner were discriminated against by their Airbnb host for being gay. Their website states that “misterb&b recognizes the importance of extending its service of providing safe and welcoming stays to the entire LGBTQ community.”

hostels vs airbnb

Thrifted competition:
Today hostels remain a staple in providing accessible and cheap travel accommodations but Airbnb and similar platforms are proving themselves to be a competitive rival. In a 2018 study, it was found that Airbnb hosts frequently advertised their homes as hostels. In another 2016 study’s survey, it was found that if Airbnb did not exist, then 17% of its surveyed customers would go to a hostel instead. A quick Google of the keywords Airbnb and hostel springs up 16,700,000 results varying from heated comparisons of the hostels vs Airbnb and popular Airbnb listings that boast a hostel-like experience. One of the most popular listings found in San Francisco describes itself as a hostel “specifically designed for social, friendly backpackers, world travelers, & wanderlust seekers.”

So which one do I choose?

Your decision will vary based off of what options you have, but here are some general tips to choosing a place to stay:

  • Consider your budget and how much you want to allocate to living costs. Does the quality of the place matter as much as the price? Remember that the price and quality trade-off can be imbalanced and sometimes saving a few bucks isn’t worth the potential trauma of a 2-star cockroach zoo. If price-point is your priority then hostels will usually be your choice but in some cities, Airbnbs can be found cheaper.
  • What kind of experience are you looking for? A communal or cultural experience? If experience is your top priority, then hostels and Airbnbs offer various options. If you’re looking for a communal, social experience, then hostels are a good choice for you. The average dorm-size of a hostel is a 4-bed, but they can reach up to over 35 beds per room. Airbnb in certain cities will have their own pseudo-hostel options too, but if you’re looking for an experience that has the taste of vintage and historical essence, then hostels are the way to go. On the other hand, some Airbnb hosts offer ‘experiences’ or activities that provide “an opportunity for anyone to share their hobbies, skills, or expertise with the world.”
  • Will you feel safe? Consider what different factors make you feel safe. Is the location in a good spot? Will the hostel or Airbnb be accommodating to ethnic or other minorities? Some minority friendly alternatives previously listed include Innclusive, Noirbnb, and Misterb&b.
  • Will there be enough amenities and accommodations for you and your travel partners? Consider the ratio of restrooms to beds, accessibility to the building, and if there’s a kitchen or fridge if you have any special dietary needs.

In short:
What is the price?
What kind of experience will I get?
Where is it located?
Will I feel safe?
Will there be enough amenities?


Making the final decisions:
Carefully sifting through your options and taking time to plan will ensure you get the best experience for your buck. If you’re looking for an anxiety-free and enriching journey, consider our comprehensive summer abroad programs geared for minority youth.

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