So you’re heading to Europe on the trip of a lifetime. Once you’ve sorted out your route and worked out how you’re getting around, you’ll need to start thinking about accommodation. But before you start looking into apartments, hotels and hostels in Europe, it’s time to work out what you’re looking for. You’ll find millions of results – everything from bargain basement hostel dorms to 5-star luxury hotels – so the first thing to work out is what kind of accommodation you want. What you go for will depend on your budget, your travel style and the experience you’re looking for.
In this guide, we ‘ll compare some of the advantages and disadvantages of different accommodation styles for different travellers. We’ll also talk about how and when to get your accommodation booked to make the most of your budget, and what to do if it all seems too overwhelming!
Hostels in Europe are a totally different breed now from in the past. We’re talking top of the range design, amazing bars, tasty food options, carefully planned rooms and new buddies from all over the world. While there still exist plenty of more basic options, the boutique hostel has come into its own.
For first time travellers, a boutique hostel can be a great introduction to the travel community. They’re clean, comfortable and fun places to stay. No longer restricted to just backpackers, you’ll find everyone from young professionals to older people looking for something different. Don’t believe the myths – hostels today are safe, quirky and great places to stay on a budget.
So what kind of hostel should you go for? There are a few more things to consider than when you’re booking a hotel:
Some people swear by small hostels, others will only book with a reliable international chain, such as Generator or Meininger. In truth, the sort of hostel you prefer will depend on your priorities. Larger hostels tend to have better facilities and more onsite food options. Smaller hostels may offer more of a traditional community feel – great if you’re looking to meet people on the road.
In different destinations, you’ll find different options – and there are always exceptions to the rules of size! As with anything, do your research and make sure you read those reviews carefully!
The atmosphere of a hostel is partly to do with the attitude of the staff, and partly down to the travellers staying at the time.
Party hostels will usually be fairly obvious – shots on arrival and pub crawls on every night are a good indication! If this is your vibe then make sure you book hostels which arrange activities so that you can meet other travellers outside the party too. Don’t be surprised if you don’t get the best night’s sleep though – that’s what happens when you choose a party hostel!
Some hostels go for a quieter, more hotel-like feel. This can often be said for modern chains with loads of rooms. The plus side with this kind of hostel is that they are usually extremely clean and comfortable – great for catching up on snooze time! The downside is that it can be harder to find friends if you’re travelling alone. Then again, sometimes a bit of quiet time is exactly what you need after a busy few weeks.
Generally, your best bet is to look for a hostel that falls somewhere in the middle. This gives you the chance to see what mood you’re in. Fancy that pub crawl? Awesome – sign up at reception. More of a bed-by-nine kind of night? No worries!
Check out the reviews and avoid places which put pressure on you to join in with the drinking when you’re not feeling it. It’s not cool when all you want to do is sleep. Unfortunately, places like this do exist, but we think hostel staff should be there to help you make the most of your stay, not make you feel uncomfortable.
Hostels in Europe usually offer a variety of different room options. The largest dorms are the cheapest, and may come with a private bathroom shared between occupants. Alternatively, there might be a separate bathroom block with plenty of showers for several rooms to share. The best thing about a large room is that you’re bound to meet like minded people – especially if you’re travelling alone. Of course, the downside is that there are bound to be more comings and goings – which can make sleeping tough.
Still want to meet people, but maybe just not 12 at a time? A good compromise for your budget could be opting for a smaller dorm room with 4-6 people, or a single sex/female only dorm.
If the idea of sharing a room with strangers is a bit much for you, but you still fancy the sociable atmosphere, why not upgrade to a private hostel room? It’ll often be cheaper than a hotel and – bonus – you can still hang out in the hostel bar.
There are various online booking agents that you can use to compare reviews and book. Most will ask for a deposit, with the rest payable when you arrive. You might also save by booking directly with the hostel.
There are so many hostels in Europe that it can often be hard to pick. Most have decent reviews, and it’s hard to tell what somewhere’s really like online. That’s why on our trips we only include hostels that we are tried and tested personally. We know all our suppliers well, so we can rely on them to deliver top quality accommodation at a competitive price. Interested in reading more about our hostels? Check out our hostel guide here.
Airbnb and other apartment rental sites can offer a great way to get a local feel for a city. Other benefits include access to a kitchen – which can help you save money on eating out, a local host who can give you tips, and the chance to stay in a cool space.
In some cities this might be a good bet, but as more and more Airbnbs are now used solely for holiday rentals, properties often lack the local flavour you might once have found. It may also not be the best option for those hopping on every few nights – many rentals have a minimum length of stay to consider.
For families and large groups, they’re a great option as they provide independence and flexibility. For single travellers or those looking for a little bit more luxury, they might not be quite the experience you’re after.
If you want to add a touch more comfort to your trip, why not stay in hotels? It might not be the classic backpacker option, but there are plenty of advantages to staying in hotels in Europe, particularly if you’re travelling with a partner and are looking for a more romantic getaway. We’ve even had couples book a once in a lifetime Europe trip in top hotels as their honeymoon!
Of course, hotels are usually a pricier option, but they don’t have to break the bank. 3* hotels are usually a good budget-friendly option while offering a decent level of service.
European destinations vary in cost, but 4 and 5 star hotels in Europe’s most popular cities can get extremely expensive and are in high demand. So if you’re keen to experience true luxury on your Europe trip, make sure you budget well and book as far in advance as possible. A 4 star hotel in Paris or Amsterdam can easily set you back €300 a night. This can mean your trip costs mount up very quickly, particularly for solo travellers!
The best idea is to be realistic about your budget so that you can see as much as possible. Not everyone can run to 4* hotels throughout – that’s fine! If you still want a few luxurious stays during your trip without blowing the budget, why not splash out on one or two nice hotels, and stay in hostel dorms or privates the rest of the time?
Solo travellers particularly often ask us what kind of accommodation they should stay in. Concerns about the safety of hostels in Europe are common, but pretty much unfounded! When we talk about safety, we should remember that the normal precautions should apply, regardless of where you stay. Any hostel, hotel or apartment worth staying in should treat your safety with the utmost seriousness.
Europe is a very safe continent to visit. Unfortunately, there’s no way to totally guarantee that nothing will go wrong on your trip. We’d argue that being able to connect with other travellers and pick up local knowledge is the best way to put yourself at ease – and to help you travel safer.
What’s more reassuring when you’re travelling alone: sitting in a hotel room with a guidebook, or meeting new friends from all over the world to explore with? Hostel staff are generally more approachable than hotel receptionists, often joining in with activities and hostel events. They can provide excellent advice on getting around cheaply and safely, and will give you insider knowledge about areas to avoid.
Most hostel guests are in a similar position – keen to meet people and have new experiences. Even if you stay in a private room, be sure to buddy up with other travellers and look out for each other as you’d look out for your friends back home. Read more of our safety tips for solo travellers here.
The classic Europe trip is based on backpacking through different cities, crashing in different hostels in Europe. But that doesn’t mean it’s for everyone!
If you’re deciding between staying in hostels or hotels/apartments, think about how the experience will differ, and what’s truly important for you. This will help you decide which option is best for you.
Hotels cater for a different group of people from hostels – they provide a higher level of comfort and service for tourists and business travellers. Apartments offer more independence at a lower cost, and can be a great option for families or large groups. However, make sure you remember that hotels and apartments often don’t offer the sense of community that a hostel can give.
If you’re looking for a relaxing holiday with your partner, friends or family, hotels could be just the answer. You’ll have privacy, good service and a reliable and comfortable place to stay. If you want to spend longer in each city, soak up some local flavour and be able to come and go as you wish, apartments might be perfect.
If what you’re after is a classic backpacking trip where you can meet plenty of other like-minded travelers, hostels are definitely the way to go!