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My review of AirBnB.com

I’ve been wanting to write a review of AirBnB.com for a long time now. As a budget traveller, I’m always looking to get the most value for my money. We know exactly what we can skip out on with every trip – like fancy meals, souvenirs, and expensive tours – but accommodation is something we obviously have to have. And no matter how hardcore of a backpacker you are, there are only so many nights in a row you can sleep in a tent (my record is 7).


I usually rule out hotels because, unless my accommodation is sponsored, they’re are usually too expensive for me. Hostels are a great frugal choice, but sometimes all you want is a little peace and quiet for a few days. That’s where my review of AirBnB comes in.

If you haven’t heard of AirBnB before, it is a peer-to-peer website for people to list, discover, and book unique accommodation around the world – at any price point. What I really like about the service is the amazing and diverse accommodation options there are. From a spare room in someone’s house to a oceanside villa, there’s something for everyone, and there are listings in more than 19,000 cities and 192 different countries.

So far, I’ve used AirBnB to find accommodation in Toronto, Geneva, Freiburg, and my most recent booking – London, England.

I knew trying to find accommodation in London just a week after the 2012 Olympics was going to be tough, so I started my search by using my four favourite websites for accommodation searches: HostelbookersExpediaHotwire, and AirBnB.

Here’s how they stacked up:

Availability

I was looking at bookings in London from August 16-19, 2012 (3 nights, Thursday-Sunday). My stay is happening after the Olympics, but I still knew that prices were going to be inflated. I wanted something centrally located, so if there was an option in my search to select “City of London,” that’s what I chose.

AirBnB lead the way by quite a wide margin because any individual can put a room up for rent. There were actually 521 results, but for the purposes of this comparison, I omitted entire homes or flats for rent, and only showed accommodation offering a private or shared room.

Pricing

For me, price is the biggest factor when choosing accommodation. Note that all prices are in U.S. dollars.

  • Hostelbookers: $72 low, $357.38 high (based on a private room for 2 people)
  • Expedia: $87 low, $683 high
  • Hotwire: $206 low, $818 high
  • AirBnB: $55 low, $1,399 high

As you can see, the accommodation prices vary by a huge margin. Hostels are 100% the cheapest accommodation option as a solo traveler, and when I’m traveling with my boyfriend, sometimes we don’t mind sleeping in dorm rooms if we’re on an extended trip. But hostels are almost never the cheapest option when you want to book a private room. In fact, I recently booked stays in multiple cities in Turkey, Hungary, Amsterdam, and Belgium – and I ended up booking a hotel in all of the cities except for Budapest, where I was able to book a private room in a hostel for a few euros less per night than a hotel room.

Drawbacks

I really like AirBnB because it’s a great compromise between a hostel and a hotel. However, it does have its drawbacks. For example, by using AirBnB, you will likely miss out on the social aspect of staying at a hostel with fellow travellers. It’s a better option for those traveling with a couple of friends, or with a partner. You can split the cost of the room, bringing the per night price down to something comparable to a hostel room.

Which is right for you?

Everybody travels differently. I have friends who refuse to stay in hostels, and others who bring tents for camping in each city they visit. Recently a relative spent what seemed like months living in a hostel in Australia – and had the time of his life.

As a budget traveler, I drift in between hotels, hostels (both dorm and private rooms), and peer renting all the time. My preference is to save money on accommodation, since I spend the majority of my time outside exploring the city – meaning I will usually go with the cheapest option based on double occupancy.

Krystal Yee

Krystal Yee is a travel blogger and personal finance expert with substantial media credits to her name. Lover of off-beat travel, hiking, French macarons, barefoot shoes, and her iPhone. Excel spreadsheet addict. She is currently living in Vancouver, plotting her next adventure.

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Hi, which airbnb did you stay in London?
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