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AirBnB vs Hotel Pros and Cons

Traveling overseas, you have to ask yourself: where do I want to stay? Plenty of options exist, and first-time travelers can be overwhelmed with the choices. As such, we’ll use this article to discuss two common options and review AirBnB vs hotel pros and cons. 


In addition to writing about his and Jenna’s travel and work adventures, Chipp is a CPA and founder of Walutes Capital, a real estate development and accounting firm. Wearing this “other hat,” Chipp offers real estate investment and development consulting services to clients. If you’d like help with your own real estate investing journey, contact Chipp here to set up an appointment! 

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What is an AirBnB?


When the company started, AirBnB offered people with homes and apartments an opportunity to rent a spare bedroom. But, the platform has now evolved. For the sake of most travelers, staying at an AirBnB overseas means renting an entire house or apartment from an owner who’s listed his or her home on the website. 

In most cases, AirBnB rentals are more expensive than hostels but less expensive than a hotel room. Travelers who choose this option have solo access to an entire home without any common areas in the home (though some apartment buildings offer rooftop pools and other building-wide lounge areas that guests can access). 

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AirBnB Pros and Cons


Pro #1: Complete Privacy


Privacy is the number one benefit to AirBnBs. When you rent your own apartment, you’re the sole occupant of the space, giving you total privacy. If you want some down time or need to focus on work, this can make a huge difference. 


For example, when driving down Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast, we spent a week in Zadar. We both knew we’d have to buckle down and get some work done during this particular stretch, so we chose a great little AirBnB - private cottage in the rear of a larger house. This set-up gave us our own space while still keeping us close to the historic city center - great balance for working during the day and exploring in the evening.


Pro #2: Private Kitchen Access 


When you rent an entire apartment, you have the luxury of your own private kitchen. To save money during our travels, we always ate breakfast at home (then usually had a big lunch or dinner out somewhere). There’s a tremendous comfort in having your own fridge and cooking space, knowing your food will always be there, dishes will be clean, and you won’t have to wait for other people to finish cooking for you to make your own food. 


On extended stays, having your own kitchen can definitely save you money, because shopping for and cooking your own meals doesn’t typically cost as much as eating at restaurants. And, if you’re trying to stay in decent shape, it’s nice to be able to cook some healthy meals for yourself! 


Pro #3: Free Wifi and Reliable Remote Work Environment


In hotels, you 1) usually have to pay for wifi, and 2) potentially have dozens (or more) people sharing the same connection. Conversely, an AirBnB apartment will have its own router and connection - just for you. For the digital nomad community, this creates a more secure, reliable internet connection. Last thing you want while traveling abroad is to have Zoom calls with your boss or clients drop due to spotty WiFi! 


Pro #4: Cost


While you can splurge on over-the-top, mansion-style AirBnBs, this isn’t the typical model. Instead, relative to a comparable hotel room, most rentals cost significantly less. For budget travelers, this reality makes AirBnBs a great option. And, this affordability played a huge role in letting us spend a year on the road, as the money we made working remotely could more than cover extended our stays. 


Con #1: Limited or No Common Areas for Meeting Fellow Travelers 


Unfortunately, most apartments provide limited opportunities to meet new people. When you prioritize privacy, you lose access to common areas for meeting fellow travelers. For introverts and people not concerned with socializing with random people, this obviously doesn’t matter. But, if you want to meet other people while on the road, this lack of communal living can be a big obstacle. 


Fortunately, a middle ground exists in some places. While staying in Cape Town, we found an awesome high-rise apartment in the Green Point neighborhood of the city. The top of the building had an infinity pool and deck with a stunning view of the harbor. This area gave us a place to hang out and meet other people, but we still had the flexibility to head back downstairs to our apartment when we wanted some down time. 


Con #2: Limited-to-No Concierge Service 


Whereas hotels provide some sort of on-site concierge service, most AirBnBs don’t. Yes, the host may offer to help you if you need some support, but that’s more the exception than the rule. As a result, if you’re looking for round-the-clock access to concierge services, AirBnBs probably aren’t the best bet for you.

Looking out at Istanbul from our AirBnB balcony

Looking out at Istanbul from our AirBnB balcony

Hotel Overview


The Oxford Dictionary defines a hotel as: “an establishment providing accommodations, meals, and other services for travelers and tourists.” The latter part of this definition marks the major difference between an AirBnB and a hotel, with hotels offering meals and “other services” to guests. That is, hotels come with private rooms, access to some sort of food, and some level of concierge service for guests. 


Hotel Pros and Cons


Pro #1: Significant Privacy


Similar to AirBnBs, hotels provide guests their own rooms - and the privacy those rooms entail. Yes, you still have to deal with hotel staff and other guests in the building. But, your room is your own. 


Pro #2: On-site Support and Concierge Service


If you have an issue with your hotel room, there’s always someone on-site to help. Whether you’re in a one-star or five-star hotel, you always have someone to call if you have a problem or need some assistance. Sure, that level of service varies widely from hotel to hotel, but all provide some level of on-site support, with the nicer ones having concierge services to help with all sorts of requests (e.g. dinner reservations, finding show tickets, etc). 


Pro #3: Amenities


Hotels also generally include additional amenities beyond your own room. For example, many hotels have pools, gyms, laundry service, room service, and business centers for their guests’ convenience. While some AirBnBs in apartment buildings include access to a pool, this is more of a bonus. Conversely, with hotels, having extra amenities is the norm. 


Pro #4: Reliability of a National or International Chain 


Comfort exists in national and international hotel chains. With an independently-owned AirBnB, you’re never sure what you’re going to get (though online reviews provide a great equalizer, and AirBnB provides pretty responsive customer service if an issue arises). On the other hand, a hotel chain’s individual hotels will be pretty much the same, for better or worse, wherever you go. This means that, if you’re traveling to a new place, you at least know what you’re going to get lodging-wise. 


For example, when we flew to Cape Town from Zanzibar, we’d never been to South Africa, and we were landing pretty late at night. Unfamiliar with the new spot, we didn’t want to screw around with checking into an AirBnB late at night. Instead, we used some of Jenna’s Marriott points to spend our first couple nights in Cape Town at a hotel chain we knew - made arriving in a new city late at night far easier. 


Con #1: Common Areas Not Designed for Meeting New People


Though hotels do have common areas (lobby bars, pools, etc.), these areas aren’t really tailored towards meeting new people. As a result, for solo travelers looking to cross paths with people in similar situations, hotels just don’t have a ton of opportunities (hostels make more sense if you’re looking to meet people where you’re staying). But, if you want the convenience of in-house bars and other common areas without the expectation of socializing, a hotel definitely makes sense.  


Con #2: No Kitchen Access


What you gain in hotel room service and restaurants you lose in kitchen access. Some longer-stay hotels may have little kitchenettes, but these aren’t too common. Hotels just aren’t designed for travelers looking to save money by cooking their own meals. 


Con #3: Cost 


Lastly, the major drawback to hotels relative to AirBnBs is their cost. Across the board, hotels just cost more than AirBnBs. As a guest, higher per-night costs mean you indirectly pay for the support, amenities, and privacy that come with hotels. If you’re traveling on a tight budget, this means that you’ll likely need to significantly cut down on the length of your stay if you opt for a hotel over an AirBnB. 


Final Thoughts on AirBnBs vs Hotels


In terms of privacy, AirBnBs and hotels are both great choices - you’ll have your own space. Where the two really differ is cost and kitchen access. If you want a more inexpensive option with the ability to cook in your own kitchen, find an AirBnB. But, if you’re willing to splurge a little, hotels offer on-site amenities and concierge services that you just won’t have when renting an apartment or home.

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