Hostel, Motel, or Hotel? Know the Difference

25 May 2015
| Last update: 29 Aug 2017

With lots of options for where you can rest for the night. Some are more expensive, others are cheaper, and some of them have more amenities and services than the other. But what’s the real difference between a hostel, motel, or a hotel? In this article, we will take each one aside and spot the differences.

Hostel – the loner traveler’s choice


May it sound cliché or not, usually this is the young peoples choice of accommodation. Here, you can find a list of pros and cons when choosing a hostel.


  • More social. In the lobby, people gather and share stories, watch TV, play guitar, or just plan to make random visits. Yes, you will make friends. So, you kind of have to wear your good vibe with you.
  • Pretty cheap. There are hostels that accept work if you cannot afford paying.
  • Not judgy. Usually, in fancier accommodations, if you don’t look sharp and pleasant, your chances of being rejected by the manager increase. Well, this doesn’t happen here. Usually, hostels owners were travelers themselves who felt in love with the current city, and they understand the perks of traveling and the, let’s call it, downside of it.
  • Some might provide complimentary breakfast and toiletries.


  • Lack of intimacy. As hostels are a very cheap alternative, usually you will find yourself in a room surrounded by bunk beds and a lot of people. And the toilet is common, too. Of course, you can book a two-person room or a single, but it might be a little overpriced.
  • Noisy. This is awful, especially when you have an early start or just want to go online. Some of them can have a curfew, so before picking one, you should do your research.

Of course, some of them are more modern and are almost deluxe, but the main principle of socialization hasn’t changed.

Motel – the lair when on the road

Motel is the combination between the words motorist’s and hotel. This was, and still is, a term used to indicate a hotel with ample parking, featured most of the time close to major highway and interstate systems. They were particularly useful to Americans and Canadians who frequently traveled long distances.

The difference between the first accommodation and the last one (will be described later) is that a motel is usually situated close to highways, interstates, or the outskirts of big cities, so they have this “mysterious” feeling.


  • Pretty cheap. Being so close to the highway, you don’t pay a fortune to live there.
  • No hassle. The check-in and check-out procedures are almost nonexistent. Just formalities.
  • Found on major roads. If you are on the road and just need some rest, you can always take a break.
  • Intimacy. It usually has exterior entrances.


  • They can be…seedy. You know, as seen in movies, they are used for clandestine relations.
  • No socialization included. Well, yes, you have the intimacy, but if you want to stop to meet new people, it’s not the best choice.
  • Uncertain toiletries. You’d better pack them yourself.
  • Breakfast might not be included. Usually, motels have a restaurant, but it depends on its price if you do or don’t have a breakfast. If you do, it might be something really small, like cereals and coffee.

Hotel – the luxury choice

Hotels, usually, can be the only choice when travelling. They are situated in the center of the city and provide more comfort and options. There are different types of people who usually check-in at a hotel, from students to businessmen, families, and so on.


  • Depending on its numbers of stars, you can have different amenities. Pools, fancy restaurant, Jacuzzi, spa, sauna, room service. Everything your heart desires.
  • It’s safe. It’s much safer than a hostel or motel because there are security cameras and usually a security person at the front door.
  • Most comfortable. This needs no more explanation.
  • Toiletries provided. For free, and you can make sure they are clean.


  • The most expensive choice. Well, you pay a lot more than for the other two.
  • Unlikely to meet other travelers. People who check-in here aren’t really in a mood for socializing, usually on the contrary. So, yeah, this isn’t the best place to meet others.
  • Very impersonal service. Even if it’s impeccable, you won’t feel the warmth a hostel staff will have.

These are the differences between a hostel, motel, and hotel. Before you book to stay at any of them, don’t forget to check the reviews online so that you won’t have any surprises. This being said, enjoy your trip!