When planning a trip, one of the most important decisions you’ll have to make is where you’re going to stay. This guide lists the pros and cons of staying in an Airbnb vs hotel. We’ll cover cost, comfort, cleanliness, amenities, the check-in process, security, and more. Which is best for your trip depends on how long you’re staying, where you’re traveling, your budget, and personal preference.
Generally, hotels are the better choice for short stays (1-4 days). They are the better choice for vacationers, luxury travelers, business travelers, romantic getaways, and those who enjoy hotel amenities (a pool, gym, room service, etc.)
Airbnbs are the better choice for longer stays (7-30 days or more) because they offer amenities for day-to-day living, such as a kitchen. They’re perfect for digital nomads, long term travelers, and large groups who need multiple bedrooms and bathrooms. One thing to keep in mind is that Airbnb can contribute to housing shortages in some destinations. Some travelers consider it to be unethical for this reason.
I’ve been living as a digital nomad for the past 2.5 years. During that time, I have mostly lived in Airbnbs. I have stayed in over 30 Airbnbs over the past couple of years. I’ve also stayed in well over 100 hotels while traveling over the past decade. In this guide, I’ll share my experience with these two accommodation options.
Pros of Airbnb
- Cheaper for long stays (1 week or more)
- You can live like a local. Airbnbs are located in residential neighborhoods.
- Most properties come with amenities for day-to-day living, such as a kitchen and workspace
- The atmosphere is more homey and comfy
- Larger properties with multiple bedrooms and bathrooms are available for large groups
Cons of Airbnb
- Airbnbs have different check-in and check-out procedures
- The cancelation policy is more strict
- It’s harder to change the reservation
- Airbnbs often have expensive cleaning fees and service charges
- You may have to do some basic household chores like washing dishes and taking out the trash
- Fewer amenities and services than hotels
- Cleanliness can be an issue at some properties
- Hosts can be hit or miss.
- Airbnbs are inconsistent
- Discrimination can be an issue
- Less secure
- There are a number of scams to look out for
- Could be unethical. Airbnb causes housing and rent prices to increase
- Kids and pets are not welcome at many properties
- You can’t change rooms if there is an issue
Pros of Hotels
- Easier check-in and check-out process
- 24-hour reception
- Easier to cancel or change reservations
- Cheaper for short stays (1-3 nights)
- Convenient locations. Hotels are centrally located
- You don’t have to clean or do chores
- More amenities and services are available
- More luxurious
- Hotels are generally cleaner
- Better hospitality
- More consistent
- Safer and more secure
- Hotel rooms offer plenty of privacy
Cons of Hotels
- The atmosphere can feel corporate and dull at large chain hotels
- Hotel rooms are often smaller
- Less comfortable for long stays. Most rooms don’t have a kitchen.
- Expensive for long stays
An Overview of Airbnbs and Hotels: What’s the Difference?
Airbnb is an app that connects people looking for accommodation with hosts that have spaces to rent. On Airbnb, you can rent an entire property, a private room, or a shared room.
Most Airbnbs are located in residential homes or apartment buildings. On Airbnb, you can rent both short-term and medium-term accommodation.
Airbnbs come with all of the amenities that you would expect a home to have including a kitchen with cooking utensils, Wi-Fi, an office or workspace, linens, and basic toiletries.
Hotels offer short-term accommodation. The space is always private. In addition to rooms, hotels offer a range of facilities, services, and amenities including a pool and spa, a gym, a bar and restaurant with room service, event centers and conference rooms, and more.
Staying in an Airbnb Vs Hotel
The Check-in and Check-out Process
When you check into a hotel, the process is always the same. Most hotels offer 24 hour reception. You can check in at any hour of the day or night after check-in time. Most hotel receptionists around the world also speak some English. This makes check-in smooth and easy.
When you’re ready to check out, you can return the key and pay your bill. At some hotels, you can simply close the door behind you and leave. The check-in and check-out process is painless.
Every Airbnb has slightly different check-in instructions. This can be annoying.
Sometimes check-in isn’t so easy. You may have to meet with the host in person to check-in. This can complicate the process because you have to schedule a meeting time. Travel is often unpredictable. You never know exactly when you’ll arrive. You’ll also have to schedule a check-out time.
Sometimes there is also a language barrier between you and the host. Sometimes you have to check in with a doorman or building security. This can be a challenge if you don’t speak the local language. I struggled when checking into a couple of Airbnbs in Brazil because I don’t speak much Portuguese.
Most Airbnb hosts also don’t offer late check-in. Most hosts don’t want to stay up late. Some hosts can’t check you in while they’re at work. Many Airbnbs have set check-in hours. For example, many hosts only allow check-ins between 2-8 pm.
If you take a red-eye flight and arrive at 3 AM, you’ll either have to book a hotel for the first night or find a host that will accommodate you. Some hosts charge a late check-in fee. Many simply don’t welcome late arrivals.
When you’re traveling, it can be difficult to communicate with your Airbnb host. Your phone might not work when you land in a foreign country. You may need to buy a local SIM card or find wifi to message your host. I experienced this issue after my flight to Buenos Aires was delayed by 12 hours. Luckily, the host was understanding when I found wifi and explained the situation.
Sometimes hosts complicate the check-in process. On a couple of occasions, I have had to wait around for a host to show up.
The best properties allow self-check-in. They may use an electronic keypad or a lock box on the door that you can operate by yourself with a code that the host gives you through the Airbnb app. When you’re ready to leave, you simply lock the door behind you. This is easy.
Winner: Hotels offer easier check-in.
Flexibility: Cancellations and Reservation Changes
In my experience, hotels offer a more generous cancellation policy. Many properties allow you to cancel and receive a full refund as long as you give them notice 24-72 hours notice before your check-in date.
Most hotels are lenient and flexible with their cancellation policy. If you have a good reason for your cancellation, they usually won’t charge you. Worst case, you’ll be charged for the first night if you don’t give enough notice.
Hotels also allow for reservation changes. If you need to change your reservation by a day or so, they will be happy to accommodate you if they have availability.
Airbnb offers a range of cancellation policies that hosts can choose from. You can check the various cancellation policies here. Generally, Airbnb cancellation policies are less flexible than hotel cancellation policies.
According to Airbnb’s strict cancellation policy, you only receive a full refund if you cancel within 48 hours of booking and at least 14 days before your check-in date. If you cancel after this, you’ll only receive a 50% refund. If you cancel less than 7 days before check-in, you will not receive any refund.
Some hosts offer a flexible cancellation policy. In this case, you can cancel until 24 hours before your check-in time and you will receive a full refund. This is the most lenient cancelation policy. If you book at the last minute, you may not be able to receive any refund if you need to cancel.
Reservation changes can be more difficult as well. It’s up to the host to approve the change. If the room is already booked during your new dates, you’ll have to cancel and find somewhere else to stay. Most hosts don’t have another property to offer you. You may not receive a refund depending on the cancelation policy.
Airbnb hosts can also cancel your reservation. Hosts are penalized for this so it isn’t common but it does happen. A host could cancel for a variety of reasons. Maybe the property needs an unexpected repair. Maybe the host found a higher-paying renter. If a host cancels on you, you’re on your own to find another place to stay. All Airbnb will do is refund your original payment.
If your host cancels on you and you need to book another Airbnb or a hotel room, you may end up paying much more for accommodation if you have to book last minute. You may not be able to find a room at all if you’re traveling during a major event or busy season. Airbnb won’t compensate you for the higher price you’ll have to pay.
Winner: Hotels generally offer a more generous cancellation policy. They’re also much more flexible with reservation changes.
Price: Are Airbnbs cheaper than hotels?
In the past, staying in an Airbnb was always cheaper than staying in a hotel. Airbnb hosts could charge less than hotels because they had less overhead. Many hosts simply rented a spare room in their own home.
These days, you really have to compare the prices of hotels and Airbnbs at your destination to determine which is cheaper. The cheaper option depends on the city you’re staying in, the number of people in your group, the type of property you’re looking for, and more. In some cases, staying in an Airbnb is cheaper. In other cases, hotels are cheaper.
Airbnb is often cheaper if you’re traveling with a large group. You can rent a large home with multiple bedrooms and share the living area. Renting one large home on Airbnb is usually cheaper than renting 4 hotel rooms.
For example, if I search for properties in Seattle, I can book a 3 bedroom apartment that can accommodate 6 people for $300 per night. Booking 3 separate hotel rooms would cost around $450 per night. This makes Airbnb a great choice for family vacations and groups of couples traveling together.
Airbnb is often cheaper for long-term stays as well. Many hosts offer significant weekly and monthly discounts. If you stay for a month or more, the price is often 20-50% lower. Most hotels don’t offer long-term discounts.
Airbnb can also be the cheaper option if you’re willing to share the living space. On Airbnb, you can rent a private room in a home or a shared room. This is a good option for travelers who are on a tight budget. Renting a single room might cost $50 per night while a private hotel room costs closer to $80 per night.
In many cities, regular hotel rooms cost less than private Airbnbs these days. You might be able to rent a basic hotel room for $30-$40 per night. A comparable private Airbnb might cost $40-$50 per night.
While traveling abroad, I often stay in hotels because I have found that it’s cheaper. This is the case because Airbnb charges so many fees these days. You have to pay a service fee to Airbnb, a cleaning fee to the host, and taxes to the local government.
The cost of accommodation isn’t the only factor to consider. Sometimes you can save money in other ways.
For example, when you stay in an Airbnb, you usually have access to a kitchen. You can save a good amount of money by cooking your own meals. You can cook in a hotel room without a kitchen but your options are more limited.
It’s also important to consider the location. Some cheap hotels and Airbnbs are located far outside of the city center. When you stay in one of these properties, you’ll have to drive or take public transport into the city. You’ll spend more money on transport. More expensive properties are located in the city center. You’ll save money on transportation.
It’s also important to consider the value of the amenities that are included. For example, some Airbnbs come with a washer and dryer. Airbnbs often come with a kitchen. Many hotels offer free parking and free breakfast and a pool and gym. These amenities all have value if you use them.
Winner: Staying in an Airbnb is cheaper than staying in a hotel in many cases. There are some exceptions.
Hotels offer loyalty programs. Many large hotel chains such as Hilton, Marriott, Hyatt, etc. offer a points system. You can use the points that you earn toward free rooms or room upgrades. This can save you money if you travel frequently for business and stay in the same hotel chain regularly. Some hotel chains also offer discounts for AAA or AARP members. These savings can add up.
Airbnb doesn’t offer any kind of loyalty program at this time. You can earn points on your credit card when you book. An Airbnb is considered a travel purchase.
Cleaning and Chores
One of the biggest drawbacks to staying in an Airbnb is that you will have to do some household chores during your stay. Exactly how much housework you have to do depends on the host’s rules
At a minimum, you’ll have to wash your own dishes. You’ll also have to take out your own trash. You’ll also have to make your own bed and tidy up after yourself if you want to keep your living space clean. Most hosts don’t offer daily housekeeping.
Some hosts are more strict about cleaning and chores than others. They may have a list of chores for you to do before you check out. For example, they may request you to remove the dirty sheets from the bed, gather the dirty towels, wash the dishes, and take out the trash before you leave.
Some hosts go as far as to expect you to actually clean the space. They may tell you to sweep the floor and clean the countertops. This is rare but it does happen. To me, expecting a guest to clean during their vacation is completely unreasonable.
On top of all of this, most hosts also charge a steep cleaning fee. Many hosts charge around a $50-$80 cleaning fee per booking. The cleaning fee is often the same regardless of the number of days you book.
It’s important to note that some Airbnbs do offer housekeeping. Many hosts will provide fresh sheets and towels if you ask. Some hosts will hire someone to come in and clean for you weekly.
If you leave the Airbnb a mess, the host may leave you a bad review. Hosts do review guests. If you receive enough bad reviews, people may be less likely to host you in the future.
When you stay in a hotel, you don’t have to clean up after yourself. You can leave the room a mess if you choose. Housekeeping changes your sheets, makes your bed, provides fresh towels, vacuums, cleans the bathroom, and empties trash, every day. When you return to your room, it will be clean and tidy.
Winner: When you stay in a hotel, you don’t have to do any cleaning or chores. Many Airbnb hosts require you to do some cleaning.
Hotels tend to be more centrally located within cities than Airbnbs. They often have tourist attractions, restaurants, nightlife, and transportation nearby. This makes it easy to get out and explore. You’ll also find hotels conveniently located near airports, convention centers, and major tourist attractions. This makes staying in hotels a bit more convenient.
Airbnbs are often located in residential areas. You’ll stay in an apartment building or a home in a normal neighborhood among locals. The benefit of this is that it gives you a bit more authentic experience. The drawback is that you may be further from attractions. You might have to take a bus or Uber into the city. Security can also be an issue in some neighborhoods. You could accidentally pick a bad neighborhood if you don’t know the city.
Of course, not all Airbnbs are located in residential areas. There are plenty of centrally located Airbnbs. There are also hotels located outside the city center in bad areas. Before booking, it’s important to do your research so you don’t choose a poor location.
Winner: Hotels are more conveniently located in the center of cities.
Taxes and Fees
Before booking an Airbnb or hotel, it’s important to check the taxes and fees. The advertised price may not be the final price that you pay.
Airbnb fees have increased significantly over the past couple of years. These days, you’ll have to pay a service fee, cleaning fee, and occupancy taxes.
In most cases, the Airbnb service fee is 14-20% of the cost of the room. The host sets the cleaning fee. Most charge $40-$80 per stay. Many jurisdictions charge the same occupancy taxes for Airbnb as hotels. In many cases, 30-40% of the price of the Airbnb rental goes toward taxes and fees. These fees wipe out most of the cost advantage that Airbnbs had over hotels in the past.
Some Airbnb hosts have started charging a low nightly rate and then tacking on massive fees to make the price appear lower than it actually is. For example, when searching for an Airbnb in Seattle, I found a nice private apartment for $121 per night. This sounds like a great deal. The total price per night after adding the taxes and fees comes out to $170. In this case, the total price per night is 40% higher than the advertised price.
Hotels also charge taxes and fees but they tend to be lower. Hotels can charge lower service and cleaning fees because they are operating on a larger scale. They can take advantage of economies of scale for room cleaning and maintenance. The fees are also generally included in the price when you book a hotel.
Winner: Hotels usually charge lower fees.
Amenities and Services
Hotels offer more amenities than Airbnbs. Hotels have a pool and spa, gym, business center, minibar, toiletries, free parking, coffee maker, in-room safe, and a restaurant and bar on site. Higher-end hotels might have a golf course, a kitchen in the room, a jacuzzi tub, and more.
In addition, hotels offer services such as daily housekeeping, valet parking, room service, concierge service, luggage storage, wake-up calls, turn-down service, and laundry service. Most of these services are not available at Airbnbs.
Airbnbs tend to offer amenities for day-to-day living. This might include a full kitchen, washer and dryer, Wifi, and a workspace. These amenities can make Airbnbs the better choice for long-term stays. You can make yourself at home, cook meals, and work in your room.
You have to do your own housekeeping while you’re there. Some hosts do offer a weekly cleaning included in the room rate. Sometimes hosts offer cleaning or laundry service for an additional fee. Airbnbs don’t have restaurants but you also order food delivery through delivery apps.
Winner: Hotels offer more luxury amenities and services. Airbnbs offer better amenities for day-to-day living.
If you’re planning a luxury vacation, you’ll absolutely want to stay in a hotel. Five star hotels offer a range of high-end amenities and services such as premium bedding, high-end mattresses, room service, spa services, concierge service, valet parking, multiple restaurants on-site, entertainment options, and much more. If you want to be pampered, a luxury hotel is the best option.
Most Airbnb hosts do not offer any luxury amenities or services. Airbnb does offer a service called Airbnb Luxe where you can rent a high-end home. When you stay at these properties, you have the option to book luxury services such as a private chef, massage therapist, a driver, etc.
Winner: Hotels are more luxurious than Airbnbs.
Generally, hotels are cleaner than Airbnbs. Hotels employ a staff of professional housekeepers that specialize in keeping the rooms clean. Housekeeping tidies up your room every day during your stay. They’ll make the bed, take out the trash, replace towels and sheets, and clean if necessary. Your room always stays clean when you stay in a hotel, even if you’re messy.
The cleanliness of an Airbnb depends on the host. Different hosts have different standards of cleanliness. Some keep their property spotless. Others are a bit more lax about cleanliness. The best hosts hire a professional cleaning service to clean the space between every guest. Some hosts do the cleaning themselves. Cleanliness is hit or miss when you stay in an Airbnb.
I have stayed in some Airbnbs that are as clean as any hotel room. I have also stayed in a couple that were pretty filthy. For example, I once arrived at a place with old food in the fridge and a sticky floor. I have also stayed in a couple of places with bug infestations.
Most Airbnb hosts also do not offer daily housekeeping. If you’re staying for more than a few days, the space can start getting dirty. If you want your bed made, you’ll have to do it yourself. You’ll also have to take out your own trash. I have stayed long-term in a couple of Airbnbs that hire a housekeeper to clean the space once per week.
Winner: Hotels are often cleaner than Airbnbs. When you stay in a hotel, you don’t have to do any cleaning yourself.
Problems with your Room
When there is an issue with your hotel room, management will do their best to correct the issue. If something doesn’t work, they’ll send a maintenance person up to fix it. If they can’t fix the issue, they’ll move you to a different room.
When you stay in an Airbnb, you’re at the mercy of your host and Airbnb’s online customer service team. If there is a problem with your room, you have to rely on the host to fix it. If the host can’t fix the issue or if they refuse to fix the issue, you’ll have to find another place to stay. Most hosts don’t have any place to put you if there is a major issue with the room. This may mean booking another Airbnb or looking for a hotel.
Sometimes hosts aren’t completely honest about the place that they’re renting. If there is something wrong with the room when you show up or if the listing is inaccurate, you have to inform both the host and Airbnb immediately. Preferably within the hour you check-in. If the host can’t correct the issue, you can usually get a refund from Airbnb. If you wait more than an hour, you may be out of luck. Airbnb tends to side with the host in most situations, unfortunately.
Winner: You’re less likely to encounter problems with your room when you stay in a hotel.
Short Term and Long Term Stays
For long stays, Airbnb is usually the better choice. Many properties come equipped with all of the amenities you would need for day-to-day living including a full kitchen with utensils, a washer and dryer, and a desk and chair. Basic hotel rooms don’t offer these types of amenities.
Many Airbnb hosts also offer weekly and monthly discounts. For example, you might receive a 20-50% discount if you stay for a month. Staying in an Airbnb long-term is usually cheaper than staying in a hotel long-term.
Hotels are usually the better choice for short stays. They tend to offer better locations in the city center. This makes it easy to go out sightseeing and to restaurants. When you stay in a hotel, you also don’t have to do any cleaning. This saves you time. Hotels also don’t charge expensive cleaning fees.
Winner: Airbnb is better for longer stays. Hotels are better for short stays.
Hotels and Airbnbs offer completely different atmospheres.
Airbnbs can provide a more homey atmosphere. When you stay in an Airbnb, you usually stay in an apartment, condo, or house that is designed to be lived in. Most properties have a kitchen, a living area, a dining area, a bedroom, and a bathroom. The room may even have homey touches like houseplants. This makes you feel at home.
Airbnbs are often larger than hotel rooms as well. Many people turn studio and one bedroom apartments into Airbnbs. You’ll feel like you have your own space to live in. In addition, you’ll be staying in a residential area. Your neighbors will be locals. This can add to the atmosphere. It feels a bit more authentic.
You can also find unique accommodation experiences on Airbnb. For example, there are hosts renting out yurts, houseboats, treehouses, and other interesting properties. If you’re looking to stay somewhere different, you’ll find it on Airbnb.
Hotels offer a more luxurious atmosphere than Airbnbs. Hotels are often beautifully decorated and landscaped. It’s nice to be surrounded by luxury.
The atmosphere of hotels is also more professional than hostels. Hotels are run by people who are formally educated in hospitality. They offer excellent customer service. This makes the place feel more polished. It also adds to the atmosphere.
Not all hotels offer atmosphere. For example, hotel rooms at large chain hotels can feel kind of bland and corporate. The decoration and bedding are usually plain and neutral. Hotel rooms don’t have much personality. When you’re inside a large chain hotel, you may not be able to tell if you’re in Rio de Janeiro or Cape Town.
Hotel rooms are often smaller as well. Basic rooms only have a bedroom and bathroom. Staying in a hotel can feel depressing. Particularly if the hotel is lower end.
Winner: Airbnbs often have a more homey atmosphere. Hotels tend to feel more luxurious but can feel too corporate.
Hotel staff and Airbnb hosts are both in the hospitality business.
Hotel staff are trained to be welcoming and friendly to everyone. Many have even taken hospitality courses in university. At a hotel, you can be pampered and waited on by the staff if you want.
Airbnb hosts are hit or miss. I have had some excellent hosts that go out of their way to make me feel welcome and comfortable. For example, while spending Christmas alone in an Airbnb in Mexico, my host brought me fresh homemade tamales on Christmas morning. While staying in an Airbnb in Brazil, the host invited me into their home for a beautiful dinner of freshly caught fish. This wouldn’t happen at a hotel.
Some hosts offer zero hospitality. They treat Airbnb like an easy way to make some extra cash. These hosts don’t seem to understand that they are running a hospitality business. They treat guests as an inconvenience. Some hosts cut every possible corner to save a few bucks. They end up providing a poor quality service. Some hosts are simply unprofessional. They may act like your friend instead of a host. Hosts can also be demanding. They may have unreasonable rules or require excessive cleaning. Most hosts are not trained in hospitality.
There are also dishonest Airbnb hosts out there. Some will lie about amenities. Hosts can steal. A host could spy on you with a hidden camera. When you book an Airbnb, you never know who the host will be. Usually, they’re an honest person just trying to make some extra money. There are some bad hosts out there.
Winner: Hotels usually offer better hospitality. Airbnbs are hit or miss.
Hotels offer a much more consistent experience than Airbnb. When you stay in a hotel, you know what you’re getting. This is particularly true if you stay loyal to a particular brand. For example, if you always stay at the Marriott, you know what to expect. The experience is more or less the same at the Marriott in Shanghai, Dubai, and New York. A consistent experience provides comfort for many people. This is one of the main reasons that people stay in large chain hotels.
When you stay at an Airbnb, you never know what you’re going to get until you arrive. Sometimes you’ll end up staying in a beautiful, comfortable, and clean space with a friendly host. Sometimes you end up in a dirty, smelly, and noisy room with a rude host. Every Airbnb also has a slightly different check-in process, level of cleanliness, house rules, etc. The experience is not consistent at all.
When staying in an Airbnb, sometimes you get a winner and sometimes you get a loser. You can increase your chances of choosing a quality space by carefully reading the reviews, studying the photos, and only staying with Superhosts. In my experience, most Airbnbs are okay.
Winner: Hotels offer a more consistent experience. Airbnbs are hit or miss.
Airbnb has had a problem with discrimination. This is because the host gets to decide who can and who can not stay in their property. This policy is reasonable but it does allow for discrimination. Some hosts may not accept guests of a certain ethnicity, religion, or nationality. Some hosts may not accept guest requests from younger guests out of fear that they may damage the property. Not renting to someone because of their age, race, religion, or nationality is discriminatory.
To attempt to combat this, Airbnb has created a nondiscrimination policy. Airbnb also recently started testing out hiding the guest name in some areas.
Airbnb’s review system can also create discrimination. If you received a negative review from a previous host, you could have a hard time finding someone to host you in the future. Hosts can discriminate against those with negative reviews. This is possible because Airbnb allows hosts to review guests. Airbnb can also ban you from using their platform.
You’re less likely to encounter discrimination when staying in a hotel. Hotel booking sites are automated. Nobody is reviewing your information before the booking is accepted. Hotels also do not review guests. You don’t have to worry about getting a bad review.
Winner: Discrimination is less likely when you stay in a hotel.
Safety and Security
Hotels are generally safer and more secure than Airbnbs. There are several reasons for this.
Hotels are more regulated. In most countries, each room must have a smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector as well as easy access to a fire extinguisher and first aid kit. Evacuation routes and emergency exits are clearly marked. Hotels are inspected for safety by the local fire department.
Airbnbs may or may not have any safety equipment. Where it is legally required, properties have a smoke detector. That’s about it. Nobody is physically inspecting Airbnbs. Hosts report what safety equipment is available.
Hotels also feature security cameras. Larger hotels have 24 hour security staff on site. The risk of falling victim to a crime such as a break-in or theft is lower when staying in a hotel.
Airbnbs often offer no security system. The only security is the lock on the door. Some Airbnbs are located in secure apartment buildings with doormen and security systems. These properties are safer.
Hotel staff are also a bit safer to deal with. If a hotel staff member behaves inappropriately or acts hostile toward a guest, they are let go. There are also more people around when you stay in a hotel. If an Airbnb host behaves inappropriately or in a hostile manner, all you can do is complain to Airbnb. Chances are, nothing will happen. Airbnb does perform a basic background check on hosts. Hotels also background check their employees.
Most hotel rooms also come with an in-room safe where you can store your valuables such as your cash, passport, credit cards, laptop, camera, etc. Airbnbs usually don’t come with a safe. Even if they did, the host would have access.
One problem that is specific to Airbnbs is hidden cameras or microphones in the room. This is against Airbnb’s terms and it’s a crime in most jurisdictions but it does happen. People do occasionally find a hidden camera in an Airbnb. This is a violation of privacy. You’re less likely to find a hidden camera in a hotel room. You can read about this hidden camera problem in this article from The Atlantic.
For more info on Airbnb safety, check out this great article. It outlines a number of different common safety issues and common guest complaints.
Winner: Hotels are safer and more secure than Airbnbs.
Hotels offer the most privacy. You have the room all to yourself. If you place the ‘do not disturb’ sign on the door, nobody will bother you. Privacy makes hotels a great choice for couples who are traveling for a romantic getaway.
Whether or not you’ll have any privacy at an Airbnb depends on the type of space you book. If you want privacy in an Airbnb, you will have to book an entire space. This way, you won’t share with anyone.
If you book a private room or a shared room on Airbnb, you won’t have much privacy. You will be sharing the space with other travelers.
Winner: Both hotels and private Airbnbs offer excellent privacy.
Scams and Crime
You’re less likely to get scammed when you stay in a hotel. There are a number of common scams that you can run into on Airbnb.
Probably the most common scam on Airbnb is bait-and-switch. The host advertises a nice property with beautiful photos. When you arrive the host informs you that the room you booked is not available. They offer you another property claiming that it is exactly the same.
In reality, the actual room you’re getting isn’t as nice. You do not have to accept the change but you may be tempted to if you’re arriving late or if you’re tired. If you don’t accept the new room, you’ll have to find someplace else to stay.
Some hosts relist the property on a different platform for a higher price after you book. If someone else books for the higher price, they cancel your Airbnb booking. This leaves you struggling to look for another place to stay at the last minute.
Occasionally, a dishonest host may claim that you broke or damaged something in the room and try to charge you for it. For example, maybe they claim that you stained the carpet and bill you $500. Airbnb allows hosts to charge for damages. The best thing you can do to avoid this is to document any damage when you arrive at the property.
Some hosts use little dishonest tricks to get you to book the room or spend more money. For example, they may use photos that don’t accurately show the space. They may use stock photos of amenities such as a pool or gym. This is done to make the property look nicer than it is. Some hosts exaggerate the amenities.
Fake reviews are also a problem on Airbnb. A host may ask their friends and family to book and then write fake reviews.
Some hosts also charge for extras. For example, you might be charged for electricity. This is common in some countries in Asia where electricity costs are high. Sometimes the host advertises Wifi but you only get a few gigabytes of data. You have to pay if you need more.
The best way to avoid falling victim to an Airbnb scam is to read the reviews carefully. Try to only stay in properties that have 50+ reviews with an average rating of 4.8+. This will weed out most of the scams. Serious hosts will go out of their way to prevent a bad review. If you book a place with a review under 4.5 or only a handful of reviews, you’re taking a gamble.
Of course, a bad Airbnb host could also steal from you. They could enter the room while you’re out and go through your belongings. This isn’t common but it happens.
Hotel scams are a bit less common but they do exist. I once stayed in a hotel in Tanzania that tried to increase the price on me at the end of my stay. When I went to check out, they quoted me almost twice the pre-agreed upon price. I showed them my confirmation email from Booking.com with the correct price. They told me that they put me in a better room and that the price was higher. I refused to pay the higher price.
Theft can also be an issue in some hotels. If you leave valuables or cash sitting out, a dishonest housekeeper could steal from you. It is also not unheard of for hotel staff to enter your room while you’re out and go through your belongings. This is an issue at some sketchy low-end hotels in some parts of the world. Theft at hotels isn’t common but it happens.
Winner: Scams are less common in hotels. There are a number of common scams that AirBnb hosts run.
Airbnb contributes to housing shortages and housing pricing increases for locals. In touristy cities, people buy up dozens of properties and rent them out on Airbnb. People do this because short-term Airbnb rentals can bring in more than twice as much revenue as standard long-term rentals.
When someone rents their home as an Airbnb, it is off the market to regular long-term renters who live in the city. This means there is a smaller supply of housing available to rent. As a result, rent prices increase. These houses are also not available to owner-occupants to buy. The price of housing increases as well. This makes the city more expensive for both buyers and renters.
The problem is that lower-income people are being priced out of the housing market in some areas. They can’t afford to buy or rent. They are forced to move to a different neighborhood or a different city where housing prices are lower. This creates an ethical issue. People need an affordable place to live.
How much the price of housing increases depends on how many Airbnbs are in a particular area. According to this article, “a 1% increase in Airbnb listings leads to a 0.018% increase in rents and a 0.026% increase in house prices at the median owner-occupancy rate.” In a touristy area with lots of Airbnbs, housing prices can increase substantially. In areas where the majority of homes are owner-occupant, the increase is less significant.
If you’re a homeowner or landlord, this increase in pricing is a good thing. Your property value may increase if more people run Airbnbs in your city. The amount that you can charge for rent will also increase. If you’re a renter on a tight budget the price increase is difficult to handle. You may have to move.
Some people refuse to use Airbnb for ethical reasons. They believe that supporting Airbnb helps to price poor people out of the housing market.
Personally, I’m conflicted about this issue. On one hand, I feel that people should be able to do whatever they want with the property that they own. If they want to rent it short-term on Airbnb, they should be able to. Let the free market control the price of real estate and rentals.
On the other hand, short-term vacation rentals have been proven to cause housing prices to increase substantially. This negatively affects many people living in the city. Some people get priced out and have to move.
Housing shortage is a serious issue in many cities. It’s a difficult problem. Of course, Airbnb isn’t the only factor causing housing costs to rise. There are many other factors at play such as excessive immigration.
Hotels do not increase the price of housing in an area. They are designed specifically for short-term accommodation. They don’t really affect the housing market.
Winner: There are no ethical issues when you stay at a hotel. Some people find staying in an Airbnb to be unethical because it causes housing prices to increase.
One major annoyance of Airbnb is the review system. After your stay, both Airbnb and your host will pester you to write a review. Airbnb will send you multiple notifications through email and the ap. Some hosts ask for reviews. This is a minor annoyance. If the stay was great or really poor, I have no issue leaving a review. If it was average, I sometimes don’t bother.
Another consideration is that the host gets to review the guest. If you leave a mess, have a party, cause damage, or behave oddly, your host may leave you a poor review. If you get enough bad reviews, you may have trouble using Airbnb in the future. Some hosts may choose not to rent to guests with bad reviews. You don’t have to worry about reviews when you stay in a hotel.
Having said all of this, Airbnb’s review system is extremely helpful for guests. It helps you avoid dishonest hosts, scams, and dirty or dangerous properties. Hosts that receive too many poor reviews go out of business. Personally, I avoid booking any property with a rating lower than 4.5 stars. I also never book any properties without reviews.
Hotels don’t pester you for reviews. You can leave a review on Google, Yelp, Booking.com, or your favorite review site if you choose. Hotels also do not review guests.
Winner: Hotels don’t bother you about reviews. Airbnb bothers you to write reviews.
Length of Stay
Hotels are the better choice for short-term stays. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, hotels tend to have more convenient locations near attractions, restaurants, transportation, etc. Hotels are often cheaper for short stays of 1-3 days because you won’t have to pay an expensive cleaning fee.
Airbnbs are the better choice for stays of one week or more. There are a few reasons for this. First, many hosts offer weekly discounts. You could save 10-20% or more by booking by the week or by the month. Airbnbs also offer amenities for day-to-day living like a kitchen, washer, and workspace. Airbnbs are often more comfortable as well. Most are located in homes or apartments that are designed to be lived in. They are roomier and cozier. This all makes life a bit easier if you’re staying somewhere long-term.
Winner: Hotels are better for short-term stays. Airbnbs are better for long-term stays (1 week or more).
Solo Travel and Group Travel
Hotels and Airbnb can be excellent choices for both solo travel and group travel.
If you’re traveling with a large group, staying in an Airbnb can save you money. You can rent one large home with multiple bedrooms and split the cost. As an added benefit, everyone will have more space. You’ll also have a kitchen and living room. The drawback is that you won’t have much privacy if everyone is sharing a space.
Hotels can also work well for groups. Everyone can have their own private room in the hotel. You can also book adjoining rooms. This allows you to socialize when you want and close the door and have privacy when you need it.
For solo travelers, Airbnb can offer a social experience. You can stay in a shared home and meet other travelers in the common areas. Some Airbnb hosts will also invite you out or offer to show you around a bit.
Hotels also work well for solo travelers. If you want to socialize, you will have to meet people outside.
Winner: Hotels and Airbnb are great for solo travelers and group travelers alike.
If you’re traveling with children, hotels are the better choice. Almost all hotels welcome children. Some large hotels even offer childcare facilities. This can be a great option if you want to have a date night with your partner.
Most hotels also offer adjoining rooms. You and your partner can stay in one room and your children can stay in the adjoining room.
Some resorts are child-free but this is rare.
Many Airbnb hosts specify that their property is not suitable for children and infants. This is very common on Airbnb listings. If a listing has this specification, it means that the host does not want children staying at their property. You can still book the property and stay there with children. Airbnb does not allow hosts to discriminate by age. The property may not be comfortable or convenient for those traveling with children.
Also, many properties on Airbnb are only designed to accommodate 2 people. There may only be one bed. These properties are not suitable for families. This eliminates many properties from Airbnb.
Winner: Hotels are better for families. Many Airbnb hosts do not welcome children.
Which is Better? Airbnbs or Hotels?
There is no clear winner. The best accommodation option depends on the city you’re visiting, how long you’re staying, who you’re traveling with, your budget, which amenities and services you require, and personal preference. Sometimes Airbnb is better. Sometimes hotels are better.
Before booking your accommodation, it’s a good idea to check both Airbnb and your favorite hotel booking site to see what’s available. It’s also a good idea to check the price of both accommodation options cost.
When it comes to price, you do have to be careful. These days, Airbnb charges occupancy tax in many cities. This is the same tax that you pay when you stay in a hotel. Hosts also charge steep cleaning fees. It’s important to take these taxes and fees into consideration. Oftentimes, you can find a hotel room for less than the price of an Airbnb these days. In some cities, it’s still cheaper to stay in an Airbnb.
When I travel, I stay in a mix of hotels, hostels, and Airbnbs. Before I arrive in a city, I always check both Airbnb and Booking.com and compare the prices and amenities of different properties.
If I’m staying in a city long term like a couple of weeks or more, I usually stay in an Airbnb with a kitchen and workspace. If I’m just staying in a city for a few days, I usually stay in a hotel. When I’m traveling in a particularly expensive region, I stay in hostels to save money. If I had to choose, I would say that I prefer to stay in hotels.
I have found that the price of Airbnbs has increased significantly over the past couple of years. I think the reason is that many local governments have begun charging occupancy taxes on Airbnb properties. Hosts have also found sneaky ways to make more money, such as charging expensive cleaning fees.
For example, I used to stay in Airbnbs in Mexico frequently. I could often rent a private room for less than $300 per month. In 2020, Mexico started collecting a 16% VAT tax on Airbnbs. This increased the price substantially. Now it’s hard to find a room under $500 per month.
I have also found that hosts have started charging higher fees. These taxes and fees have driven up the price so much that Airbnbs and hotels cost around the same these days.
Over the years, my Airbnb experience has been pretty positive. Hosts are usually friendly and welcoming. I’ve stayed in a couple of places that weren’t as clean as I would have liked. Once I booked a room that I thought was private that turned out to be shared. That was my own fault. I didn’t read the listing close enough. Airbnb isn’t perfect but I am a big fan of the service.
As you can see, there are benefits and drawbacks to staying in both Airbnbs and hotels. The best type of accommodation depends on where you’re traveling, how long you’re staying, and personal preference.
For long-term stays or those traveling in a large group, Airbnb is a great option. For shorter stays and those who value luxury, a hotel may be the better option. Hopefully, this guide helps you choose the best accommodation option for your next trip.
Where do you stand on the Airbnb Vs hotel debate? Share your experience in the comments below!
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Zachary Friedman is an accomplished travel writer and professional blogger. Since 2011, he has traveled to 66 countries and 6 continents. He founded ‘Where The Road Forks’ in 2017 to provide readers with information and insights based on his travel and outdoor recreation experience and expertise. Zachary is also an avid cyclist and hiker. Living as a digital nomad, Zachary balances his professional life with his passions for hiking, camping, cycling, and worldwide exploration. For a deeper dive into his journey and background, visit the About page. For inquiries and collaborations, please reach out through the Contact page. You can also follow him on Facebook.