Hotel vs Hostel – Ritz-Carlton vs Montreal Central Hostel

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Hotel vs hostel – which is better for a solo traveler – hotel or hostel? I recently spent one night at the Ritz followed by a night at Montreal Central Hostel. The Ritz-Carlton in Montreal is a 5-star hotel that opened its doors in 1912. It was the first hotel in North America with the Ritz-Carlton name. Montreal Central Hostel is an award-winning hostel that opened its doors in 2009, currently rated Number 1 Hostel in North America.

Hotel vs Hostel - Ritz-Carlton Montreal - AAA 5 diamond luxury hotel on Sherbrooke Street

Ritz-Carlton Montreal – My Deluxe King Room

 

At first glance one might presume the answer to my question would be a no-brainer particularly when comparing the Ritz-Carlton to a hostel. Of course the Ritz is better than any hostel anywhere! Definitely in terms of luxury and comfort the Ritz rules but what about other considerations?

 

Hotel vs Hostel - Top rated hostel in North America - Montreal Central - best hostel in Montreal

4 bed mixed dorm at Montreal Central Hostel

 

When booking my trip to Montreal this year I automatically looked to Montreal Central Hostel for accommodation. This was my third solo trip to Montreal and I had enjoyed my previous two stays at the hostel – in a private room and in the 4-bed female dorm. Suddenly it occurred to me that I could use up some of my hotel points and rewards I had garnered from credit card sign-ups.

I booked 3 free nights at the Hyatt-Regency on Jeanne-Mance Street in central Montreal – how did I manage that? I received 2 free nights upon meeting the $1,000 spend within 3 months of sign-up with the Chase Hyatt credit card last year. I paid $75 for the annual renewal in June in order to obtain 1 additional night – this is part of the card member perks. For a total of $75 I received 3 nights at the Hyatt – win!

Next I remembered I had 50,000 Marriott rewards points in need of a purpose. I had previously tried to use these points at other locations alas the 50,000 will only get a night or two in most big cities. I checked the Marriott website and looked for their most luxurious location in Montreal. I found it in the Ritz-Carlton on Sherbrooke Street! Huge win!

 

Ritz-Carlton Montreal - exceptional luxury at AAA Five Diamond hotel

If you need me I’ll be at my office at the Ritz-Carlton Montreal

 

Luckily for me the cheapest room at the Ritz-Carlton Montreal in August was $505 or 50,000 Marriott rewards points. Tax included. What a deal! I felt like a big winner with a total of 4 free nights in Montreal. Okay, my accounting brain says no, it was actually $75 because I had to pay the annual renewal fee. Whatever, very nearly free!

 

Flight delays out of Montreal Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport - where to stay?

Delayed flights to Chicago out of Montreal meant one more night for me in Montreal

 

With my accommodations booked I hadn’t anticipated spending a night at the Montreal Central Hostel. My late afternoon flight home to Austin – via Chicago – was delayed and further delayed to the point I didn’t think I would make my connection in Chicago. Given the option to overnight in Chicago or Montreal I chose Montreal and opted to change my flight to the following morning. I immediately called Montreal Central Hostel to inquire about availability – they had only one bed available in the 4-bed mixed dorm so I booked it. They already had my contact information from my previous stays and I was set.

I didn’t realize what a hurdle it is to leave an airport departures terminal when one has canceled their travel plans. I had to wait in line in order to get someone to contact security to let me out of the airport – I was a “passenger not flying” and needed proper approval to leave otherwise I would have set off the security alarm on the door!

I purchased a one-day pass on Montreal transit (officially known as STM or  Société de transport de Montréal) which includes the 747 airport bus and I was at Montreal Central Hostel at 8:45 pm. Off to the IGA grocery store for some cheese,  yogurt, and milk for my coffee in the morning.

Here is where the other considerations kick in when comparing the Ritz to a hostel. I met one of my roommates – Shyu from Shandong region of China – she is a student currently living in New York. We have a friendly chat and I tell her I’m going to get a beer then I’ll go walking the neighborhood to have a look around and get something to eat. Shyu mentioned she didn’t feel comfortable walking around at night so I invited her to join me, assuring her that the neighborhood was safe and I had walked around many a night during prior visits.

 

Montreal Central Hostel near the Latin Quarter features a bar and 24 hour reception

Montreal Central Hostel common room, bar, reception area

 

Upstairs in the bar (which is also the reception area, kitchen, and common room) of the Montreal Central I ordered a Blanche de Chambly and checked my email via the free Wi-Fi.

A few minutes later I was enjoying a conversation with Serena (from Toronto) and two of her roommates Philip and Daniel (from Australia) and David, seated at the next table. Serena who is friendly and chatty suggests perhaps I should be their fourth roommate instead of sad-French-girl that is currently sharing their dorm. This was after a discussion about rings and I had shown them my recently purchased Lego ring – I mean how could you not like someone who sports a Lego ring, right? We had a lot of laughs and enjoyable conversation.

My stomach reminded me to get some food so I bid farewell to my new travel amigos and dropped off my laptop in the dorm. Ronald from Costa Rica was now in the room – he is friendly and we have a quick chat before Shyu and I go out for a stroll around the neighborhood.

We walk to the Place Émilie-Gamelin park one block from the hostel. I had seen lights shining on what I assumed to be an art installation and I wanted to investigate. The installation is called Trobadero – we took photos and continued on to St Denis street in search of food. I had eaten a delicious meal at Restaurant Koreana the previous week alas it was already closed. We opted for Kyranis featuring very affordable Mediterranean and Lebanese cuisine. Friendly staff prepared a yummy falafel sandwich for me – only $4 including tax.

As we walked into the hostel our attention was drawn to a smiling guy calling out to us “hey I’m your other roommate” and we sat down in the common room/bar with Tang (from Taiwan) and Ronald – they are both students currently living in Boston. The four of us got acquainted and discussed various topics including languages after Tang observed he was the only one in our dorm that didn’t speak any Spanish.

Around midnight we all headed to the room to get ready to sleep. I had a quick shower in the small ensuite bathroom. There was water on the floor and the hand towel was draped across the bathtub rather than on the towel rack. It was otherwise clean and tidy and the water pressure was great – always a welcome feature. The toilet was just a plain toilet not a fancy toilet/bidet like the one in my room at the Ritz-Carlton.

 

Best bidet - Ritz-Carlton Montreal - highly civilized

Ritz-Carlton Montreal features a fancy toilet/bidet with remote control

 

I finally crashed at 1:20 am and had set my alarm for 5:30 am apologizing in advance to my roommates for the early wake-up – no worries they told me. As it turned out I disabled the alarm after I woke up at 4:45 am. I went upstairs for breakfast grabbing my yogurt and milk from the mini fridge in our room.

I could smell the aroma of baking as soon as I left the dorm. Joel (from Bilbao Spain) was working the night-shift at the hostel and had begun baking muffins. I saw a bunch of croissants and asked for one even though breakfast is not officially served until 7 am. Joel handed me one and continued talking with another hostel guest. Coffee is available 24 hours so I poured a cup and added some milk then enjoyed my yogurt and croissant.

I chatted with Joel for a bit – he talked of his desire to be a writer, his time in Montreal and his plans to remain in the city for another year. I had a plane to catch so I had to cut our conversation short. Finished packing up and off to the bus station to catch the 747 bus on the other side of the block.

During my 9 hours at the Montreal Central Hostel I met 8 people from 6 different countries and enjoyed talking with each of them. Staying in a hostel usually means meeting people from other countries and having discussions that focus on travel, cultural norms, and a myriad of other topics.

For the most part the people I’ve met at hostels have been people who I like to hang out with and enjoy hearing their point of view. I meet a lot of university students at hostels and they usually have interesting stories to tell. There is a commonality in our desire to travel and in our desire to save a few bucks by staying in a hostel.

Contrasted with the Ritz-Carlton where I thoroughly enjoyed my stay in my pristine room with amenities galore but I met absolutely nobody. The staff did make polite conversation with me at check-in and check-out. Not to say that I expected to meet other people whilst staying at the Ritz.

 

Enjoy breakfast or brunch at the Ritz-Carlton Montreal - beautiful terrace overlooking pond with white ducks

I did hang out with the white ducks at the Ritz-Carlton Montreal terrace

Hotel vs Hostel – which is better for a solo traveler?

So how would I answer the question “which is better for a solo traveler – hotel or hostel?”  If I were traveling for business and wanted superb comfort along with peace and quiet I would go with the Ritz-Carlton. Currently the Ritz is not within my budget range. I’m frugal. If you want to stay at the Ritz in Montreal click here for the latest prices.

I like to meet people when I travel and I like a casual atmosphere. Hostels are a better choice for this solo traveler. Even if I were seriously wealthy I think I would stay at hostels (in a private room mind you) on a regular basis simply for the socializing. If you want to stay at the Montreal Central Hostel in downtown Montreal click here for the latest deals.

What do you think – hotel or hostel – which is better when you are traveling alone?

If you have always stayed in hotels while traveling would you consider staying in a hostel?

Dreaming about your next vacation? Explore hotels and hostels in Montreal now!



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Hotel or Hostel? Which is Better for the Solo Travel?

 

About the Author

Susan Moore’s first solo travel experience was traveling around SE Asia for 7 months in 1993. It was life changing and extraordinary. Currently Susan is living a nomadic life, working and roadtripping around the USA and Canada. Read all about Susan » You can reach Susan Moore at Facebook
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31 Comments

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  1. ellen b says:

    How wonderful to have such an adventurous spirit. It really has opened up some doors for you that I’ve never experienced. I have never stayed in a hostel. The closest I’ve come to a hostel was my dorm experience in college. :)

  2. Leovi says:

    Exquisite pictures, I’d like to meet Montreal!

  3. Diane Westwell says:

    I don’t think I’m brave enough to share with people I don’t know, I prefer my own company in the bedroom apart from husband, of course!
    Then you’re such a seasoned traveller Susan You must have a good sense of what to expect…definitely hotel for me !
    Interesting writing again, I certainly enjoyed reading it !

    Di..xx

    • Susan Moore says:

      Di you never know until you try :)
      Hostels are not for everyone and sometimes I do prefer to have my own room – but hanging out with other travelers is a big positive to me when traveling. Thanks for stopping by!
      Cheers,
      Susan

  4. Your first two pics made me laugh – ha ha! Thanks for such interesting comparisons!

  5. Reader Wil says:

    I prefer the hostel to the hotel, because of the company. Anyway it’s much better to sleep in a bunkbed than on the floor of the airfieldbuilding in HongKong, where we were kept for 36 hours due to a typhoon. The hostel is far more interesting, when I was young I often slept in youth hostels.
    Wil, ABCW Team.

  6. Hildred says:

    You make hosteling sound like such fun, but I think you have to be younger than I am to enjoy the adventure.

  7. Interesting experience…I like my luxury hotel any day, but I feel more open to the idea of a Hostel now that I’ve read your blog♪

  8. Roger Green says:

    I need to book you as my travel agent- points, bad airline transfers. Yow.

    ROG

    • Susan Moore says:

      Oh and I forgot to mention I used American Airlines frequent flyer points (from credit card sign up bonus) for the flight – so I only paid $63.90 for the taxes/fee. I made up for the savings in airfare and hotels by dinging out a lot!

  9. Photo Cache says:

    I have not stayed in a hostel, mainly because I don’t want to share bathrooms with strangers. I just learned that there are hostels, especially in Europe where they have private 2-bed rooms with private baths, I’d like to try that.

    • Susan Moore says:

      On my second trip to Colombia I stayed in private rooms in hostels but only 1 of 3 had a private bathroom. Montreal Central Hostel has private rooms with bathroom – I stayed in one my first trip to Montreal and loved it.

      Cheers,
      Susan

  10. Leslie says:

    I’d love to try out that toilette at the Ritz, but from what you write about hostels, I would be interested in trying it out – only I’d need a private room since I’d keep everyone else in the room awake with my snoring. lol

    Leslie

    • Susan Moore says:

      Leslie, I do miss that bidet – it’s so much more civilized than wiping with paper :)

      The snoring is a factor in dorm rooms – I forgot about that! I do bring noise-canceling headphones to wear to sleep sometimes or I have worn headphones and listened to relaxing music (Enya is good) to get to sleep when there is too much noise.

      The private rooms I have stayed in at hostels have been really decent value for the money. Most hostels have a community kitchen which is nice. Happy travels!

  11. Vidhya Rao says:

    You are one smart traveller for sure. But sharing a room, well…as of today it’s not in my agenda, but someday when I perhaps decide to go backpacking and on a frugal budget then seems like hostel may be a good choice. I am a bit shy person :)

    • Susan Moore says:

      Hostels are so wonderful for meeting people. Keep in mind you can also book a private room at many hostels. That way you can have your privacy in your room but also meet other travelers when hanging out in the common area, while having breakfast, etc. I love to be surrounded by travel people so hostels are my kind of place :)

  12. Cris says:

    That`s quite an adventure you had!

  13. ruth apter says:

    I have stayed in luxury hotels, cheap motels, hostels, camped, couch surfed and I would agree that the hostels will most likely introduce you to a great set of people from all over the nation and the world. I have stayed in hostels in Calgary, Vik ( Iceland), Port Townsend, WA and Eugene , Oregon. The one in Port Townsend which is where I now call home, closed a few years ago. It was excellent. In Iceland I ended up traveling for a few days with folks from Norway and Israel that I met at the hostel. My best night in a flea bag motel was in eastern Washington when I was traveling solo across the USA. It was filled with Mexican families living many to a room complete with kittens and little dogs. The young boys around 8-10 acted as translators and I had a great evening playing with them, admiring the beautiful toddlers and babies and getting teased by the boys. I ended up giving cutting from some exotic plants I was bringing with me to several moms who admired them that were in the back of my car. The boys helped me explain how to grow and care from the plants. I had a small sweet dog with me that all the kids wanted to play with. It was in what I would describe as the wrong side of the tracks. I ended up there as it was late at night and other hotels were booked due to a balloon festival. This was before smart phones! My point is that staying outside one’s comfort zone on occasion has great benefits. Your prejudices and fears just might get challenged and for me it was an excellent breakthrough. Next week I go back to tent camping for a week. I haven’t camped in years and it is time to see if I still like it!

    • Susan Moore says:

      Ruth, you have had some wonderful adventures! I love what you said about getting outside of one’s comfort zone – prejudices and fears might get challenged – so true! Travel is a great educator. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your story!

  14. Great comparison. Let’s see. You paid more for the hostel than the Ritz, right? Brilliant!

  15. Yew Kwang says:

    I personally prefer hostel too unless its on business trip… As a photographer, I need a bit of space to work on the images in the evening so I usually book a private room… and sometime I will go with one with shared bathroom in order to save some money. Hostel give me more opportunity to meet with other travelers especially those that has common kitchen or lounge. I also feel it is unnecessary for me to spend too much on accommodation since I hardly stay in the room!

    • Susan Moore says:

      “I also feel it is unnecessary for me to spend too much on accommodation since I hardly stay in the room!”

      Yes! That is a big part of choosing hostel over hotel for me too. If I am only sleeping a few hours in the room I just can’t justify spending the money on a hotel room. Booking a private room at a hostel is the perfect balance for me, I get to have my own space but I have the benefit of socializing with other travelers in the common areas.

  16. Crystal says:

    Hostels were almost the first and only choice we would go for when we were traveling in Europe as students. After starting working in Canada, we would go more for BNB or family hotel. They are sometimes more cozy.
    It has taken me a long time and great effort to convince my bf to try hostels, because they normally mean cheap, dirty and unorganized back in our country. Susan, you are right. You do not know how lovely hostels are until you try. We will live in Montreal Central during our trip to Montreal this month. Hopefully, my bf will like it.
    Thank you for the comparing and details of your experience in the hostel. This article is a courage to him~

  17. Susan Moore says:

    Crystal thank you for your comment. I hope you and your bf have a wonderful time at Montreal Central hostel and I think you made a great choice. I have always enjoyed my stays there and the location is fantastic because you can walk to downtown, historic Old Montreal, the Gay Village, the Latin Quarter, St Laurent Blvd, and St Denis, etc – such a great location. You have got me day-dreaming of my next visit to Montreal :)

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