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Is Airbnb Worth Using?

Updated on August 11, 2014
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My fiancé and I are going overseas for our wedding and have been looking for budget accommodation for the few days after our wedding (or our mini-moon). When we mentioned to friends that we wanted an inexpensive place to stay, several of them recommended us to book through Airbnb.com.

I just spent several weeks researching places on Airbnb, the pros and cons of booking through them, and then comparing it to hotels in the same area. Here's my view on whether or not it's cheaper, more convenient, and easier to book through Airbnb or to just go with a local hotel, instead.

What's Airbnb?

Airbnb is a website that allows people to rent rooms (or larger spaces) for temporary accommodation. You can search for lodging in cities worldwide (currently, there are 33,000 cities and 192 countries on the site), and you can search for anything from a room to rent, to a cabin, or even a RV or trailer. The lodging is put up on the site by "hosts", who are just normal people that are willing to rent out their spare room/property/RV, etc. to travellers. Airbnb has over 500,000 listings for users to search through.

Airbnb has locations all over the world!
Airbnb has locations all over the world! | Source

What's Good About Airbnb?

One of the coolest things about Airbnb is that it allows you to stay in something other than just a standard hotel room. There's literally every kind of lodging you can imagine on the site- from spare bedrooms, to beach bungalows, to even (at least, according to Airbnb's homepage), igloos. There's plenty of quaint and charming little spaces that you can choose from in just about any location. If you're someone that's looking for a place with "character" to stay at during your vacation, you'll probably find something that'll tickle your fancy on Airbnb.

Furthermore, the site is very user-friendly. You can filter your search results by city, date, and price range, but you can even narrow down your search to include only private rooms, shared rooms, or the entire place (listings where you have a whole unit to yourself).

The other cool thing about Airbnb is that each listing comes with an introduction from the owner. The big draw of Airbnb is that it's like a social networking site for lodging; so the site encourages hosts to talk a bit about their place, the neighbourhood it's located in, and even a bit about themselves.

Users who have stayed at one of the listings can come back afterward and leave a review. The reviews are a great way to get a feel for how your stay might actually be at each place.

Again, if you're looking for somewhere unique to stay during your vacation, Airbnb is a great place to search.

Looking for a charming beach house?  You can probably find one right on Airbnb!
Looking for a charming beach house? You can probably find one right on Airbnb! | Source

What Do You Look For When Booking Accommodation?

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What Are The Cons Of Airbnb?

One of the biggest cons I found about Airbnb is that it's honestly not as inexpensive as friends were describing it as. At first glance, I was able to find several affordable rooms to rent in South Lake Tahoe; many of which were between $80-150 AUD a night. To rent an entire small cabin for $122 per/night seemed like a pretty good deal. However, there's a bit of a hitch: most of the listings on Airbnb also include fees.

Every listing comes with a service fee charged by Airbnb (the amount varies, depending on the rental cost). There's also, typically, a cleaning fee, which is decided upon and charged by the host. Again, this varies from place to place, but some of the cleaning fees were triple the amount of a one night's stay!

On top of that, all of the listings have a security deposit, which is only a temporary charge on your account. But again, it's another fee you'll have to add on to the total. So the rooms I saw for $500 (for five days) really amounted to $700-$900 once all the fees were added in.

Furthermore, because Airbnb rentals are hosted by regular homeowners/renters, there isn't really the same peace of mind you might receive about your stay as you would if you were picking a hotel. The room might not be to your cleanliness standards, you might end up with a host that doesn't show up on time or isn't easy to get a hold of, or any number of problems. Of course, the same thing could happen with a hotel, but if that happens, at least you have the ability to change rooms if the room isn't what you want or easily get a refund. I'm not sure how the refund process works for Airbnb, but it might not be as easy as it would be with a hotel.

There's also just the fact that Airbnb lodging doesn't necessarily have the same creature comforts as a hotel would. No daily room service, you might have to bring your own toiletries, there may not be all the amenities you want, and if you share a room or even just rent a private room, you may not have much privacy.

Airbnb rentals also tend to be a bit further away from the city centre in most towns, as you typically wouldn't find house or apartments right in the middle of downtown (though you would find plenty of hotels in those locations). This could be a big con for someone who isn't planning to drive on their vacation, or just someone who wants to stay a bit closer to the city/main attractions of wherever they're on holiday.

Should you book a hotel room or book a room through Airbnb?  Read what I think below:
Should you book a hotel room or book a room through Airbnb? Read what I think below: | Source

Have You Booked Through Airbnb.com Before?

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Who Is Airbnb Good For?

Though Airbnb isn't for everyone, I think it's a good choice for certain types of travellers.

I'd definitely say Airbnb is best for young couples, solo travellers, someone on a tight budget, or people who are very social/enjoy meeting new people when travelling. Airbnb could also be an ideal choice for someone who is looking for a cool place to stay during a stay-cation (i.e. if you're just in the mood for a change of scenary but can't afford a full holiday, it might be a great idea to book a place through Airbnb right in your very own hometown).

If you're just looking for a room for the night, there are a few cheap places on Airbnb that might have a nicer bed than the average hotel, or might be in an ideal location. If you're travelling alone and like meeting new people, Airbnb can also be a great social outlet (particularly if you lodge with a host who enjoys communicating with their "guests"). Airbnb could be fun for young couples who don't mind renting out a room in someone's pad. Anyone who has ever used couchsurfing.com or stayed in a hostel would probably feel just as comfortable booking a room with Airbnb.


I'd have to say that Airbnb isn't ideal for families, couples on a romantic getaway, someone on a limited budget but who also wants a nice room (you can probably find a hotel with the same- or better- amenities for a better price), or anyone who wants privacy during their vacation.

Airbnb Vs. Hotels

 
Airbnb
Hotel
Online Booking
Yes, and a very easy to use site.
Most hotels are available to book online, but some older establishments might not have online booking.
Amenities
Depends on each place. Some lodgements include standard amenities like wi-fi or toiletries, while others are totally BYO. It really depends on what the host decides to leave behind for you to use.
Usually hotels offer a variety of amenities, from free wi-fi, to cable TV, to standards like ironing boards and hair-dryers.
Locations
Varies. Some of the Airbnb listings are in great locations while others (once you look them up on the map) are way further out than expected.
You have better chances of finding a hotel near a big attraction or city centre.
Affordability
Rooms may be cheaper but you usually sacrifice privacy or location for the cheaper accommodations. Also, once fees are added in, the price can quickly become a lot steeper.
You can find plenty of cheap hotel rooms, though you again may comprise quality for a decrease in price. However, hotels tend to run deals or offer discounts for longer stays- something Airbnb doesn't seem to do on a regular basis.
Privacy
Not guaranteed. Many rooms on Airbnb are either shared or have shared common areas (like kitchen, bathrooms, living rooms). You can find entire places, but there aren't as many listed. Airbnb is almost like a glorified hostel, in some circumstances.
Definite. Unless you really ARE staying at a hostel.
Variety
There's TONS of variety in choices on Airbnb. Again, you can search through all sorts of lodging, depending on the area that you're staying in.
Not as much. Typically, each hotel only has a few kinds of rooms and if you've seen one hotel room, you've really seen them all.
A nice hotel room with room service, privacy and a  spa won out for us.
A nice hotel room with room service, privacy and a spa won out for us. | Source

My Verdict

In the end, we chose not to book through Airbnb and picked a local hotel instead.

I think my fiancé and I will try Airbnb at some point, but it wasn't ideal for our mini-moon. Though we found plenty of cabins and spaces that looked nice, we just couldn't find any that were worth the amount of money we'd be charged. The area that we're vacationing in had many hotels that were much more affordable, and offered the privacy, amenities and location that we were looking for.

As I said above, Airbnb could be ideal for some travellers, but it really just depends on what you're personally looking for in accommodation while on holiday. Though it was cheaper for us to book a hotel for our trip, we also looked at Airbnb in bigger cities (like San Francisco, for example) where an Airbnb stay would truly be cheaper than a hotel in the city.


Hopefully, if you were undecided about it before, this article has given you a bit more clarity about the pros and cons of Airbnb vs. a hotel. All in all, making the choice to book through Airbnb really depends on the individual, but I hope I've given you some information to mull over that'll help you choose.

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