Oh, so are you going to Bangkok for the weekend?
Have you booked your Airbnb yet?
What?! What do you mean you are not using Airbnb?! I thought you were a TRUE digital nomad! You are betraying the movement...
I hope you are not one of these people that think Airbnb is the only game in town.
Even though I think in most situations using Airbnb is the best way to find accommodation, there are exceptions.
However, in this article I will outline situations where I don't think Airbnb (or any similar service) is the best option. In other words, I will compare Airbnb vs hotels (and other forms of accommodation).
It is fair to assume that in most cities Airbnb will offer cheaper accomodation 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.
Small Cities (Airbnb vs Hotel)
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.
You Want to Socialize on Your Trip (Airbnb vs Hostel and Couchsurfing)
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.
You have little time in the destination (Airbnb vs Hotel and Hostel)
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 article 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 article on saving hacks.