We have been asked quite a few times whether we are staying in normal hotels, renting short-term apartments, or going true “backpacker” by staying in hostels. The answer is a little from column A, a little from column B….and a little from column C.
One of our priorities is to travel cost efficiently, which is a necessity when traveling for an extended period of time. We like to be able to self-cater, generally for breakfast and dinner (we tend to eat out for lunch – this lets us still try out cool cafes and restaurants, but the lunch menus are typically less expensive than dinner and are more casual). To self-cater, we need a kitchenette or at least a fridge, toaster and hot plate. That rules out most hotels, and limits us largely to apartments and hostels.
At 37, we’re no longer willing to sleep in a dorm bed in a hostel. It’s nice to have a bit of privacy (a private bathroom etc.) and bit more space. While hostels can also be great from a social perspective, meeting other travelers, joining tours etc., they can also be much louder and we’ve run into problems in the past with parties in the common areas going until early in the morning.
One downside is it is often difficult to rent an apartment for a single night, but we tend to try to stay in each location for at least 2-3 nights, so this hasn’t been a significant issue for us.
We have found that apartments can be as cost effective, and in some cases cheaper, than getting a private double room in a hostel (and way cheaper than a hotel). This is somewhat dependent on the country, so we always check our various options. Combine that with the extra space and privacy (i.e. not having to share a bathroom or the kitchen) and the fact that some apartments have laundry facilities (extremely convenient when traveling for a long time out of a small backpack), our choice is often pretty easy!