There are many things that need to be organised when you go on a trip. One of the biggest issues is the decision where to stay. It’s hard to find the perfect accommodation when there are so many options. Hotel? Hostel? AirBnB? Couchsurfing? Possibilities are endless. So are the differences between each style of accommodation. It starts with the prices, and goes on to the amount of privacy, the possibility for socializing, and the kind of people you are likely to encounter.
In this post I want to concentrate on one specific decision that needs to be made in this regard, especially when travelling solo: do you go for a private room, or a dorm? Both have their advantages, and their drawbacks. Here’s a closer look at each one’s pros and cons and some factors you should take into account when deciding where to stay.
How much are you willing (or able) to spend?
Let’s start with the obvious one, because it simply can’t be ignored. A dorm room will always be cheaper than a private one. Single rooms are particularly expensive, much more so than doubles or triples. Depending on your budget and the prices at your destination, the decision might be made for you right there. If you are unable – or unwilling – to pay two or three times the amount you’d pay for a dorm, a private room is not going to be an option.
But what if the price difference isn’t all that big, or at least not so high that you wouldn’t be able to pay it? When your budget is not the all-deciding issue, you have to look at other factors to come to the right choice. You don’t automatically have to go for a single room only because you can afford it. Instead, you now can look beyond financial factors to figure out what accommodation is right for you.
How much privacy do you need?
A single room has a lot of obvious advantages. Most importantly, it gives you privacy. This is particularly important for introverts, because we need the opportunity to withdraw and recharge our energy for another day out in the world.
In a dorm room, you are surrounded by people almost all the time. It offers very limited possibilities to be alone. For an introvert that can be an exhausting experience. Being with a lot of people, especially strangers, is exactly the kind of thing that most drains my energy. I don’t think I ever walked into a new dorm room without some trepidation about what kind of people I would meet inside. Your room should be a place to relax and recover after a long day of sightseeing, not one you dread going to because you feel uncomfortable around the people in it.
On the other hand, I have found some wonderful friends in roommates. Sometimes we started going out for activities together, sometimes they were just someone to relate my adventures to at the end of the day. Either way, they turn the hostel from a place full of strangers that triggers my social anxiety to one filled with friends and like-minded people that I enjoy to hang out with. This is an experience you will not make in a private room. I often use dorm rooms for a similar reason as group tours. They are a way to force myself to make new acquaintances, when I’m struggling to do it otherwise.
In the end it comes down to what you prefer. You may not share my introversion or social anxiety, but you nevertheless might have a preference of whether you want to meet lots of people on a trip, or whether you’d rather stay for yourself. Whether socializing or privacy is more important to you is a decision you’ll have to make for yourself – and it does not have to be the same decision for every trip.
What kind of people do you want to meet at your accommodation?
A lot of the people staying in dorm rooms are travellers somewhere in their twenties. Of course you meet other age groups occasionally, but the majority will be backpackers and students. Whether you’re happy to share a room with a bunch of people from that age group is up to you, but it’s worth thinking about beforehand.
Other accommodations may also have specific kinds of guests. Some hotels are great for families, other are close to the party district and attract more of the young party crowd. Are you willing to put up with that? Or maybe it’s exactly what you’re looking for? Either way, be sure to do your research, especially if you plan to stay somewhere for longer. You can often find that kind of information online, either from the accommodation itself or through reviews.
How long will you stay at your chosen accommodation?
At last, I would always consider the length of the trip. Staying in a hostel for one night is different from staying there several weeks or even months. On the one hand, the longer the stay, the greater the price difference is going to be. On the other hand, staying in a hostel for such a long time also means going without any real option for privacy for very long. It can mean many changes of roommates, which leads to a lot of new people and consequently a lot of awkward introductions.
Sometimes you might be lucky and share with the same people for a long time. That can be the perfect ground for friendship. It’s impossible to predict how well you’ll get along with your roommates, because you don’t know who they are going to be. I usually found at least one or two among them with whom I clicked. It helps to be open-minded and friendly, which you should be anyway when you’re travelling. And maybe don’t make a complete mess of the room…
I hope this list gave you a bit of an insight into what I consider before booking a room. There’s no definite answer as to which kind is better. It depends on your trip, on what you want from it, and of course on yourself. Dorms are the right choice if you want to make new friends and have a lot to tell. Dorm experiences often make for the more exciting stories. If you prefer it quiet and more private, go for a single room. Or do a mix of both. No one ever said you have to stay in the same kind of accommodation the whole trip, after all.
What’s your preference, dorm rooms or singles? And why? Have you ever had roommates that turned into good friends? Or did you meet the roommate from hell? Share in the comments!