The hostel or Couchsurfing debate is one that’s easily settled. While both are options preferred by lower budget travelers, they meet different needs. Hostels are for travelers looking to meet other travelers who might be up for exploring the city or going out at night. Couchsurfing is for travelers who are independent but want to connect with the local host and potentially his or her friends. In short, they’re two different animals. It’s up to you to decide what you’re looking for.
At a hostel you have to be ready for dormitory-style housing. This means sharing a bedroom and a bathroom with some folks you’ve never met who happened to choose the same travel destination. Shared spaces and hostel-organized trips to the beach or bar hopping at night make it easy to connect with your fellow travelers. So if you like the idea of meeting travelers and figuring the area in a group, hostels are more for you.
Couchsurfing is a little more intimate and isolated. You move in with a host and share what they have to offer, whether it’s food, their bathroom or their local knowledge. You might miss the group traveler dynamic, but you might get a better feel for what life is really like wherever you are.
A metaphor might be the best way to capture the difference. Hostel stays are road trips on the highway with friends. Couchsurfing stays are a more like taking the backroads on your own. So decide what suits you and your trip before you pull the trigger.