Travelers nowadays have an incredible amount of choice and control over their accommodations. Popular review sites like TripAdvisor and Hotels.com provide people with detailed reviews that offer information about hotels that isn’t traditionally knowable based on a generic star rating alone. As an alternative to traditional hotels, many people opt to save by staying in private homes through Airbnb. So which is a better choice? Airbnb or hotels? Let’s break down some of the pros and cons.
Airbnbs allow you to save money
Perhaps the most obvious benefit of Airbnb over hotels is the ability to save money. It’s almost always cheaper to live somewhere than it is to travel there. In other words, Airbnb hosts can make a decent amount of money by charging only a little more than they pay in rent or mortgage. On the other hand, hotels have staff to pay and larger facilities to maintain utilities for, so the per-night equivalent will always be more. So where you might get a totally mediocre hotel for $100 a night, you can usually get an awesome Airbnb for $50.
You can save even more if you’re willing to rent a room in a house or even share a room. That’s not everyone’s first option, but in a pinch, it can provide accommodation so cheap that the only other alternative is a huge shared dorm, sometimes with 10-20 other people.
…but Airbnbs aren’t always the cheapest choice
In cities where the cost of living is extremely high, this trend might be reversed. For instance, San Francisco might have cheaper hotels because of the exorbitant cost of rent. In order to turn a profit on Airbnb rentals, the listing prices have to be inflated, too. That’s why it’s always important to check both to compare prices to see which is the better deal.
Airbnbs are held to a higher standard
A hotel can have hundreds of guests in a single night, so they tend to get more online reviews, and thus, negative reviews carry a lot less weight. But a single bad review on an Airbnb listing can tank someone’s business, so hosts have a greater incentive to make sure your stay is pleasant and enjoyable. They might be more flexible on check-in times or do personal favors – anything to ensure they get a good review. Hotel employees, on the other hand, are a mixed bag. They don’t own the hotel (and they usually get paid shit), so what do they care if you think they’re rude or inflexible?
Hotels provide round-the-clock service
Maybe the biggest difference between Airbnb and hotels is that in a private Airbnb home, you’re basically on your own. If there’s a problem with your hotel room at 3 in the morning, you can go down to the front desk and have it fixed or move to a different room. If you have the same issue in an Airbnb, you’re probably screwed until next morning. There’s no guarantee your host will be awake, nor is he obligated to be on call. Hotels also offer more services like airport transfers or tours that you won’t normally get through Airbnb. If you’re the kind of person that needs a lot of support when you travel, a hotel would be the better option.
Airbnbs allow you to select your specific room
Though hotel rooms have a certain degree of uniformity to them, ultimately the place that you book can differ in a lot of important ways. You may get a room on the first floor or the 4th with no elevator. You may have a lovely sea view or a crappy back alley. On Airbnb, you have more control over these factors, because you can see the exact place where you will be staying. You know if it has carpet or tile, if it’s a fifth floor walkup, and what the exact view out the window looks like.
Hotels won’t cancel your reservation
One of the major downsides of Airbnbs is that they can leave you high and dry with nowhere to stay even at the last minute. A cancellation on short-notice obviously affects the hosts negatively, but even the best hosts may have emergencies that render their place uninhabitable, like flooding or broken heating. The positive thing is that Airbnb is fairly helpful in these cases. I once had a host cancel on the day of arrival, and not only did Airbnb refund me, they also paid for my stay somewhere else. But the hassle can be a huge detriment to people who don’t handle last minute hiccups very well.
Airbnbs can provide more unique stays
A hotel is a hotel is a hotel. But an Airbnb can be a boat, a log cabin, a treehouse, an RV, an igloo, even a castle. If you’re looking for something a little more unique and memorable, you won’t find it in a Marriott. Airbnbs also allow you to stay in more remote areas where traditional accommodations may not be available. So if your travels will take you off the beaten path, an Airbnb might be a better – sometimes the only – option.
Hotels are better situated in the central parts of town
Most major cities have areas of town that tourists visit and areas of town where residents live. And sometimes those two don’t have a lot of overlap. A hotel can put you across the street from the most important sights in a city, where there are more businesses and less residences. If you stay at an Airbnb, you may be a little far from the places where you’ll spend most of your time. On the other hand, Airbnbs might be in quieter areas that allow you to get more rest and see how the locals live.
Safety can be a bigger concern in Airbnbs
Airbnbs can be more isolating. That can be nice because you don’t have to worry about housekeeping barging in on you or about fighting for the elevator during check-out time. But it also necessarily means you are in the home and at the mercy of a perfect stranger. Like getting in a cab or an Uber, you have to just hope that your host isn’t gonna flip out and murder you. This can be ameliorated though. For instance, by avoiding booking new listings that are unverified or have few reviews. As a solo female traveler, I often avoid staying with male hosts. In some countries, I might not want to take the risk of an Airbnb at all.
Airbnbs can have more useful amenities
A hotel room is basically a place where you can sleep and shower when you travel. An Airbnb is a house or apartment that is meant to be lived in. As a result, a kitchen is almost always standard, for much cheaper than it would be to rent a hotel room with a kitchenette. You might also have access to a washer and dryer, as opposed to paying per item to have something laundered at a hotel.
At the end of the day, neither one has a definitive advantage over the other. Their pros and cons vary from place to place, and especially from traveler to traveler. With all these factors in mind, which do you think is better?