One thing I have never understood as a budget backpacker is why some other travellers prefer not to stay in bigger dorms. For me, if I am going to share a room with 3 other people, I may as well be sharing a room with 13 others in a 14 bed dorm where it is much cheaper cost per night. The reason for this is that when you’re sharing a room with even one other person, then you’re not going to get privacy anyway, so why not save money and open up your opportunities to meet other like-minded travellers by staying in a big room with lot’s of them!
The funny thing is, often when I find a hostel which has a really large room available, like a 20 bed dorm, you’ll often find it is very rarely even half capacity, because everyone books up the 4 bed dorms first. I’ve actually been in an 18 bed dorm before with only one other girl, while my friend was staying in a 4 bed dorm in the same hostel that was full. I was paying less per night than she was, and I actually got more privacy because there were only 2 people including myself in the room. Obviously, however, you can’t guarantee that, and during peak holiday periods in busy cities you could find that it does fill up, but most times they are never full.
Another benefit of a larger room is that a lot of the time you get an en suite bathroom. About 50% of the hostels I have stayed at where there is more than 10 beds in a dorm, there is usually an en suite toilet or bathroom area. You very rarely get this in 4 or 6 bed dorms, although this is not always the case. More importantly however, the over-riding benefit to staying in a larger dorm other than price is that you are never short of friends. As a solo traveller myself, the easiest way of making friends I have found other than hanging out in the common rooms is to book into the largest room available. More often than not you’ll find someone who wants to go for a drink, or do a trip during the day somewhere, and you’ll also find a lot of other solo travellers like you there for the same reasons.
If you are on a budget or travelling alone then my advice is to pick the larger dorm rooms. At the end of the day, you’re sharing a room with strangers anyway, so why not save some money and make more friends along the way!