Airbnb vs Hotel: When NOT to Use Airbnb – Podcast 014

In this episode B and Jack discuss 4 scenarios that Airbnb might not be the best options in terms of accommodation as a digital nomad.


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1.1. This topic within the context of the broader Digital Nomad Life System [4:10]

    • The Digital Nomad Life System is a 6-step meta-system created by us at Nomad Tactics that aims to explain how someone can go from living a non-nomadic normal life to living an optimized digital nomad life.
    • The fifth step of the system is called “Base Research and Arrangements”. Once the nomad has selected the key variables related to the base (Step 2: Base Pre-Planning), he needs to do some in-depth research and arrangements about his soon-to-be new base. Deciding if you will stay on an Airbnb or on an alternative form of accommodation (e.g. hotel, Couchsurfing, hostel) is one of the things you must do in this step.
    • To have a general overview of the Digital Nomad Life System you should listen to this episode.

1.2. The Living Cost of Your Destination is Low (Airbnb vs Hotel) [5:29]

save money

It is fair to assume that in most cities Airbnb will offer cheaper accommodation than hotels.

Nonetheless, there are some cities where the cost of living is so low that hotels tend to be cheaper than Airbnbs.

Let me explain why this is the case.

On the one hand, hotels are used by both locals and foreigners. On the other hand, Airbnbs are mostly used by foreigners. Due to this asymmetry of the customers’ demographics only hotels are compelled to set their prices in accordance with the rest of the prices paid by locals. If the city has a low cost of living then it is likely hotel prices will be low also. Conversely, since Airbnb mostly appeals to foreigners, Airbnb hosts can set prices that are not necessarily in accordance with the other prices in the city. In other words, hosts can set a higher “foreigner price”.

Keep in mind that this rule is not absolute. But it is generally true when we are comparing a hotel and an Airbnb of the same “quality” in cities with a cheap cost of living.

Southeast Asia is a good example. In this part of the world, which has a very low cost of living, it is very common to find hotels in the city centre that are cheaper than Airbnbs in the same area.

1.3. Small Cities (Airbnb vs Hotel) [8:24]

The smaller the city is, the less likely there will be a good (if any) option in terms of Airbnb.

Generally, there isn’t enough demand for Airbnbs in small cities, since this type of accommodation is more targeted to foreigners.

Hotels are a more traditional form of accommodation. Therefore these can be found almost anywhere.

So, as a rule of thumb, if you going to a small city it is better to look for a hotel.

Therefore, when visiting a small city and comparing Airbnb vs hotel, I would say hotel is your best bet.

1.4. You Want to Socialize on Your Trip (Airbnb vs Hostel and Couchsurfing) [9:31]

My place or your place?

If you are a social butterfly that can even make friends in a restaurant’s toilet or a funeral, then you can probably ignore this advice.

On the other hand, if you are like most people, and you want to socialize in your trip then you are probably better off staying in a hostel or using Couchsurfing.

With hostels you will be staying in a place that provides a chill vibe where people are generally open to meet other travelers.

With Couchsurfing you can socialize with the host which most likely is a local himself and a person that is eager to meet travelers.

You might ask yourself “What is the difference between socializing with a Couchsurfing host and an Airbnb host?  Both are likely to be locals”.

The answer has to do with the hosts’ attitude.

Generally, there is a difference in terms of the attitude of Airbnb hosts and Couchsurfing hosts concerning the relation of themselves with their guests.

Most Airbnb hosts see what they doing as a business, thus they are less likely to be interested in socializing with the guests. But, of course, there are exceptions here.

On the other hand, Couchsurfing is a free and voluntary service. Consequently, Couchsurfing usually attracts hosts that are directly interested in meeting and talking with their guests.

Pro tip: If you still want to rent an Airbnb but want to maximize your chances of meeting people, then try to look for a place that has many rooms to rent. Most likely you will be staying in a room and next door to you will be another traveller that you can interact with.

1.5. You have little time in the destination (Airbnb vs Hotel and Hostel) [13:14]

If you have little time in a place, it makes sense to stay in a hotel or hostel, rather than on an Airbnb.

You will be able to save a lot of precious time.

There are several reasons for that:

    1. Check-in/out: By staying in a hotel or hostel you can avoid the trouble of needing to arrange a check-in and check-out time with the Airbnb host. This can waste a surprising amount of your time.
    2. Directions: It might be difficult to find the location of the Airbnb. This is a very big problem in cities like Hong Kong or Marrakech that have complicated streets and alleys. Sometimes finding the Airbnb location takes time. Hotels and hostels are easier. You just look at Google Maps.
    3. Extra Care: If you are staying on an Airbnb, then you need to take extra care of how you will leave the place in the check out. The extra care is needed to avoid receiving a bad review from the host (in this episode I explain how to get good reviews and avoid bad ones). Cleaning takes time.

To conclude, in this situation if we were to compare staying in an Airbnb vs hotel I would say that hotels would clearly be a better option.

And, if you somehow still decide to use Airbnb, why not check out my episode on saving hacks.

2. Transcript

B: Hey guys just before going to the actual episode a quick announcement so this episode is part of a small series that me and Mister Jack decided to do about Airbnb which is the most widely used platform by digital nomads to book their accommodation.
B: I hope you find this series useful.
B: Hello welcome to nomad tactics podcast here we provide life optimizing tips and systems for digital elements. I'm your host B And I'm joined by the co host Jack. Today we gonna talk about in which scenarios you should consider not using Airbnb as your accommodation. I'm going to start with a quick summary of the episode.
B: First me and Mr. Jack gonna talk about which kind of problem we're trying to solve with this episode. After that we will talk about in which place within our broader digital nomad life system this topic would better fit in.
B: Third we will talk about the four main scenarios in which you should consider other types of accommodations apart from Airbnb.
B: I hope you enjoy the episode.
Jack: So hello Mr. B.
B: Hello Jack.
Jack: So the topic we're gonna talk about today is when not to use Airbnb and when this better to use other options.
Jack: So I think a way to illustrate this problem is to talk about the next trip I'm going to have after this pandemic.
Jack: So Mister B I'm thinking about going to Japan okay there's a small city called or Oita on the coast.
B: I think I heard about it. I think you told me about it last year the the fact that you wanted to go there I'm not sure why you want to go there.
Jack: I mean there's a ferry you can you can take a ferry from there to other islands okay sounds really quick and I think would be kind of cool to the next of the coasts and eating some fresh seafood It'll be nice So with the problem I face here as I was looking around to book accommodation maybe next year and I found there aren't a lot of option for Airbnb but instead the hotel prices are quite affordable this is kinda kinda goes against what we sort of preaching that we should always choose Airbnb as a default option so in this scenario which one's better.
B: So yeah I think as you said that the example in which you just illustrated you can be a good lead away to the problem we are trying to tackle of this episode and as you said I mean the way you should see Airbnb is as the default or the go-to-option when you are looking for accommodation as a digital nomad but of course Airbnb is not the only game in town right there are other types of accommodation from hotels as you mentioned to hostels couch surfing but I think the problem we gonna try to tackle today is exactly as you said alternative scenarios in which the default option I E. Airbnb would not be the best type of accommodation or if there are other types of accommodation that are equally as good as Airbnb.
Jack: So this is more like a tool in the toolbox you can use on your digital nomad journey.
B: Yep when appropriate.
Jack: Yeah so as usual I think we should link this topic to our digital nomad life system. And for you the audience who don't know what the system is it is a six step system that aims to help people go from a normal life into a fully optimized digital nomad life.
B: The topic fits the third step in our digital nomad life system the third step is called base research and arrangements and we can understand the third step as the stage in which the nomad needs to make the key arrangements and research related to his soon to be base.
B: Of course among the key arrangements the accommodation is something the nomads needs to be considering more specifically the type of accommodation I E. Airbnb hotel hostel or any other alternative type is one of the key things in which the in digital nomad needs to decide if you want more information about our digital nomad life system I would advise people to go back to our episode number two and have a listen there we give a general overview of the whole system.
Jack: All right so let's go into the main topic of the day which we're gonna describe four scenario that we think Airbnb might not be the best option for you.
Jack: So the first scenario is when the living costs are for destination is low.
B: It is fair to assume that in most cities Airbnb we'll be the cheaper option at least if we compare it to hotels.
B: Nonetheless there are some cities where the cost of living is so low that hotels might be a better option when comparing to Airbnb and the reason why that's the case is because hotels are used by both locals and foreigners.
B: On the other hand Airbnb is only used by foreigners or at least the great majority of people staying on Airbnb are foreigners.
B: Due to this sort of asymmetry between the customer demographics only hotels are compelled to set their prices in accordance with the rest of prices paid by locals.
B: If the city has a low cost of living then it is likely hotel prices will also be low conversely since Airbnb mostly appeal to foreigners Airbnb hosts can set whatever prices they think foreigners would be willing to pay when visiting the city.
B: Which means that they can set up what is called foreigners prices and of course this rule is not absolute.
B: But it's generally true when you compare a hotel and then Airbnb that have more or less the same quality in terms of the accommodation in cheap cities around the world so if you think about Southeast Asia for instance.
B: It is a part of the world in which the cost of living is quite low and it's very common to find hotels in the city center that are cheaper than the Airbnb options offered in the same area I think me and you Jack we already had exactly this experience in Southeast Asia right so we stayed there and it was simply when we compare the Airbnb and hotels hotels were a better deal that is not to say that Airbnb were really expensive and of course if you preferred the whole Airbnb experience in terms of staying in the place by yourself like a place that feels more like home you would still choose that.
B: But if price is your major consideration than in such cases in cities that are really cheap perhaps hotel are a better option.
Jack: I see so the second scenario we have here is a small city so it's quite obvious that if you go to the small city the last likely there will be a good option for Airbnb.
B: He Fannie.
Jack: Right they are sometimes there are no
B: Yes depending how small the city is
Jack: Yeah and this is quite reasonable since Airbnb usually target for foreigners yeah so since hotel are more a traditional form of accommodation.
Jack: Therefore it is usually everywhere so as a rule of thumb if you're going to the small city it is better for look for a hotel.
B: You have higher chances to find basically.
Jack: Yes just as I talk about the the city I was looking to go Oita I think it's better for me to get a hotel this case.
B: Because you don't have a lot of Airbnb options and the ones that you do have since the days are targeted to foreigners they tend to be higher price.
Jack: Yeah I agree so the third scenario we think you probably shouldn't choose Airbnb is when you want to socialize on the trip.
B: So if you're very extroverted person. And you can pretty much make friends everywhere. Than probably you can ignore the advice that will follow on the other hand if you're like most people and you want to socialize in a trip then it seems to me that you will be better off by staying in hostels or using a service called couch surfing.
B: So when you think about hostels we know that we you will be staying in a place that will provide a very you know relaxed vibe where people generally are open to meet other travelers and this is because they generally have a lot of common areas either a kitchen or a lounge and it's just it's just the vibe of the place is like people are there to meet other people especially other travelers.
B: Now if you think about couch surfing it's slightly different but still the general pretext is of socialization so for people that are not familiar couch surfing is the service that allows travelers to stay on the house of local hosts little bit like Airbnb.
B: But you might be asking yourself what is the difference between socializing with a couch surfing host and Airbnb host.
B: Both might be locals. And the answer for that has to do with the hosts attitude so generally there is a big difference in terms of the attitude often Airbnb host in a couch surfing hosts concerning the relation of themselves with their guests so most Airbnb hosts see what they are doing more or less as a business so they are less likely to be interested in socializing with the guest.
B: Of course there are exceptions but this is the general trend I think most people observe on the other hand couch surfing is almost free I believe you only need to pay like three dollars a month therefore couch surfing usually attracts hosts that are more directly interested in meeting and talking with their guest.
B: There's no financial incentive whatsoever so if they are willing to to put their places in the website. Most likely they really want to talk and and meet new people.
B: If you still would like to stay on an Airbnb but at the same time you want to socialize one good tip is that you can rent an Airbnb that has many rooms to rent so most likely will be staying in the room and next to you there will be another traveler that you can interact with so even though the host might not be interested in talking to you since there are many rooms in the same place you gonna be able to meet other travelers but still I mean and have a go at the couch surfing or hostels these are great options as well.
Jack: Yes as the travel blogger Nomadic Matt mentions in his blog that hostels is a cool place to hang out with people and you also get great tips on how the staying in hostels so we are going to the last scenario here is what if you have little time and the destination.
B: So in this last scenario we are talking about situations where you have very little time in the place therefore you want to save as much time as possible.
B: And I think there are three main reasons why choosing a hotel. Or a hostel is a better option if compared to Airbnb in such scenarios.
B: The first reason has to do with check in and checkout by staying the hotel or hostel you can avoid the whole trouble of needing to arrange a check in and check out time in the same way that you would need to do with an Airbnb host.
B: The hotel simply you get there you give your passport and you can check in same thing for the check out and this can be a surprising way in which you can waste quite a bit of time right sometimes there is some sort of miscommunication between you and the host or the host is late or even yourself you might be late.
B: The second reason why Airbnb might not be a good option is because of directions more specifically finding the specific location of the Airbnb so this is a very big problem in cities that are kind of complicated to navigate think about places like Hong Kong or Mara cash in Morocco that have very complicated streets and alleys sometimes simply finding the Airbnb location takes time hotels and hostels on the other hand are much easier because you know they're listed on things like Google maps.
B: Finally the third reason why perhaps it's better not to choose Airbnb if you are staying very short in the place is because if you're staying on the Airbnb then you will need to take extra care of how you we will live the place once you check out since explained in the previous episodes is all about reveals.
B: Airbnb is a review based website therefore they way in which you leave the property and this subsequent review you receive based on that is very important for you because if you keep getting bad reviews you won't get good places in the future. But to leave a place in a real nice condition that demands some effort.
B: You got a range things perhaps for all the garbage and things like that and this extra effort necessarily demands extra time.
B: Therefore in such case I think hotels and hostels are better option again.
Jack: I see so just a quick recap of this episode so we have four scenarios that we think it's better for you to choose other accommodation rather than Airbnb the first one will be the living costs are for destination is low.
Jack: The second as the destination is a small city the third one as you want to socialize on trips and the last movie you have little time and the destination.
Jack: So I think this is the end of episode Mr B. Do you want to add anything to this?
B: Hey I just would like to reiterate that we still think Airbnb should be your default option as a digital nomad.
B: But as we said it's always good to know the kind of situation where you should consider these other accommodation options such as hotels hostels or even couch surfing.
Jack: I see so if you enjoy this episode and I hope you do please leave a review on your listening platform this is Jack and thanks for listening
B: thank you.

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