For a while there, HostelWorld.com had a real monopoly on the hostel booking business. After all, they hold the license to the BackpackOnline booking software used by nearly all of the hostels I’ve been to, not to mention their customer interface (the HostelWorld.com website) is friendly, attractive, and easy to use.
But one main competitor wants to get in on the share, and they’re doing a great job, with banner ads all over touting direct claims like “8.7% cheaper than HostelWorld!” And it’s true. First, HostelWorld charges a booking fee for each reservation you make, unless you buy their $10 card which waives the fee. HostelBookers doesn’t have a booking fee at all – the 10% they skim off the top from the hostel (just like HostelWorld,) is enough for them. The per-night rate is usually less expensive as well. Here’s a stay I just booked at the Steam Engine Hostel in London for four nights.
(click any screenshot for a larger, more readable version)
HW was more expensive for a lesser room, and would have been even more if the 9-bed dorm were available as it was on HB.
I do like HW’s search interface more than HB’s. Let’s take a look at both. HostelWorld is first, HostelBookers is below it. Each search is identical – a seven-night stay in London filtered by the cheapest few available hostels – a regular search for me:
Notice the gap in prices between the two? It’d make you think HostelWorld was cheaper, wouldn’t it? Let’s look further into it. Here’s the same search on HostelWorld, with the cheapest price circled from St. Christopher’s Greenwich:
Notice HostelWorld says “Dorms from $16.10” – that’s a great deal. Not so fast though. Let’s click on that result…
Turns out only one of the seven nights is at that price; the rest of the days are much more expensive, and one of those days you might have to switch to an even more expensive room. Not such a good deal anymore. “But Chris, then how are you supposed to know while searching how much your stay will actually be?” Exactly, which is what drives me mad about HostelWorld’s otherwise great website.
HostelBookers has more accurate pricing in that it averages the days and spits out what you’ll actually be paying on the search results. But St. Christopher’s doesn’t even show up in the results on HB, because it’s not available on one of the days we’re searching for, which is also quite annoying. On HostelWorld it will show up as “Partial Availability” so you can always extend the stay in your current hostel for a day and book the other one for the rest of the time, or change rooms. In this case I modified the results a bit and found HB to be more expensive than HW, which isn’t the norm, but proves you need to search both to get accurate results.
Having said all that, you want to use both websites to do the same search each time you’re looking. Sometimes one will have a special that the other won’t, such as a cheaper seven-night stay that HostelWorld might have and HostelBookers won’t, or vice-versa. Also, I’ve noticed that sometimes some properties will show up under one or the other as being available when it won’t with the other site, so it’s definitely worth checking both sites. It’s also worth checking the hostel’s actual website. Most of the time booking through one of the portals will be cheaper, but sometimes you’ll find cheaper prices or special deals on their own website.
When all is said and done, however, I use HostelBookers more frequently to get a more accurate view on pricing and booking, and usually book through them.
Which one do you use most, or do you use something completely different?