Airbnb vs Booking a Hotel – Which One is Better?

With the dominance of accommodation booking websites such as Airbnb, Booking and Agoda, booking your own accommodation for your holiday or overnight getaway has never been easier!  However, since there are now so many options to choose from (not just the ones I mentioned above), users are not entirely sure which option is the best one to use.

Well let’s just say that Marci and I have never booked accommodation (or flights) through a travel agent since we believe we can find better deals ourselves!  I have nothing against using a travel agent, but, I’m under the impression that their prices will usually be more expensive as opposed to you going online and doing it yourself, how else do you think they make money!?

For those of you who have never used Airbnb, it has been around since 2008 and has grown massively since.  I’ve been using Airbnb for a good few years now and have never really had any problems, other than one small hiccup which didn’t turn out to be an issue in the end anyway.  On the other hand, more people are familiar with hotel booking websites such as Booking, which is not surprising, as it has been around since 1996.

Since these two platforms are what I’ve used the most over the past few years, I’m going to be talking more about Airbnb vs Booking, rather than other platforms.  But, Booking works in a very similar way to sites such as Agoda, so you can still apply the same logic. 


Airbnb vs Hotel – Pros & Cons

There’s no straightforward answer when it comes to using Airbnb or booking a hotel, it really does depend on your circumstances.  Nonetheless, I’m going to break down the pros and cons of using Airbnb vs hotel on booking, so you can see which one will be more suitable for you.


Airbnb Pros:

Cheaper rates

This host gives a massive 50% discount if you stay for longer than 28 days

Usually the rate per night works out to be cheaper for every whole week you book.  You’ll get an even bigger discount if you book for 30 days or longer for most listings.  Best way to check this is to go onto Airbnb, put in some dummy dates for a few days, then amend those dates so the duration is a whole week or 30 days, and it will say whether a discount has been applied.

Finding cheap accommodation on Airbnb does also depend on the country you’re travelling to.  For most places in Europe, yes you can get a cheaper rate as opposed to using a hotel.  However, for many South East Asian such as Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia etc, you can walk into most hotels, hostels, guesthouses and even condominiums and negotiate a rate on the spot.

This is exactly what we did when we were looking for a condo to rent in Chiang Mai, Thailand.  But, I wouldn’t even think about doing this in places such as Japan and Europe, the last thing I want is to be left stranded.  So, from my experience the prices on Airbnb in SE Asian countries are not cheaper than booking a hotel on booking.


Local knowledge

Most Airbnb hosts will have extensive knowledge on where to go or what to do in the location you’re staying in.  As it’s in their best interest to make you “feel at home”, it will feel more personal and can even turn into a personal tour guide!  When we stayed in the Algarve, our landlady was from Lisbon and we were going Lisbon after our stay in Algarve, so she suggested we can meet up and she’ll show us around when we’re in Lisbon. 

Unfortunately, we didn’t end up meeting up with her as we had done quite a bit planning on what to do in Lisbon, so didn’t get around to meeting her.  Either way, more often than not, we have had very friendly and helpful hosts who were able to give us a few local tips and recommendations.  If you’re worried about them being overly friendly to the point it becomes invasive, don’t worry this has never happened to us.


Rent just a room or the entire place

If you’re quite a sociable person or couple you can rent a room inside an apartment or house.  The other rooms will be occupied by other travellers or the host, but it’s a great way to meet new people and beneficial if you want to get to know more locals.  As an added bonus, by renting a room you’ll also save more money!

Sharing accommodation with the host also means you can practice your language skills if you’re learning or already speak the language of the country you’re visiting.  When we visited Menorca, we rented a room in a large barn which had around 6 rooms in total, most of the holidaymakers were Spanish, so Marci was able to brush up on her Spanish, although she’s fluent anyway. 

Being multilingual when travelling can be beneficial, so in this case, Marci and I (I can’t speak Spanish I just kept nodding and saying “si”) was able to gain some new friends and she was able to practice speaking Spanish, so she doesn’t lose her fluency.  Had she not spoken Spanish, we probably wouldn’t have been able to mingle with the other tenants, as it was a place where mainly Spanish people would rent out.

On the other hand, you can rent out the entire place if having a housemate is just not your thing.  Many types of accommodation will be like a normal apartment, so you’ll have your own kitchen, living room and bedroom.  Unlike hotels, where generally there is no kitchen included, renting out the entire apartment on Airbnb allows you to cook your own if you don’t always want to dine out.


Encourages you to explore

Since you’re likely to be based in a normal apartment or house you feel more like a local, as your neighbours probably will be locals.  With the absence of a swimming pool and on-site restaurant, you’re not going to want to stay indoors much when you’re on holiday.  Therefore, being in this sort of environment will only encourage you to go out and explore, which is our idea of a great holiday.

The way I see it, how can you go to another country or city without seeing what it has to offer!?  It’s bizarre how some holidaymakers will visit a country only to have seen what their hotel, swimming pool and hotel restaurant looks like!  They wouldn’t have even gone out of their resort to try the best dishes or see famous landmarks.


A wide range of choices

There are plenty of choices to choose from on Airbnb, it can range from a very basic tiny apartment to a luxury villa with a private swimming pool.  Even the lower end hotels will have some sort of standards, but if you’re not bothered by this and you just want cheap, then you can find this on Airbnb.

However, if you want luxury or unique, then you can also find this on Airbnb.  You might not find some of these luxurious villas or unique places to rent on websites like Booking or Agoda.

Just an example of what you can get on Airbnb – An entire 6 bed villa in Dubrovnik with your own private pool. It’s unlikely you’d find something like this on Booking



Cancellation not always flexible

Depending on how long you book your accommodation for, a specific cancellation policy will apply.  Before you book your accommodation, check the Airbnb cancellation policy in case you need to cancel if plans change.

Even with the most lenient cancellation policy (flexible), you only get a full refund including Airbnb’s service fee (applies to every booking) if you cancel within 48 hours of making the booking, this is only available up to 3 times per year.  However, if you booked your accommodation a month before and you decide you cancel 2 weeks before the dates you booked, you will get a full refund but less the Airbnb service fee.

This service fee can vary but if I feel like there’s a slight possibility my plans can change, I prefer to steer clear of Airbnb for shorter stays.  Paying the service fee as a penalty for shorter stays is not really justifiable in my opinion.  For those who are wondering is Airbnb reliable, I’ve wrote a whole section devoted to this subject below.


May not be as accommodating for business travellers

Business travellers who will need 100% reliability and need a taxi arranged for them to get to places with short notice would probably be better off in a hotel.  Arranging your own taxi is not difficult, but even the local taxi driver might not be able to find your Airbnb address as easily as they’ll be able to find the hotel you’re staying at. 

In addition, the hotel may have contacts they regularly use, so these contacts may give higher priority to the hotel clients.  But, not every business trip is the same, not all business trips will require visiting clients or a hectic schedule.  Some Airbnb hosts are fully aware some users will be using Airbnb for business, therefore will cater for these users by providing a working desk and fast reliable Wi-Fi.

May not be the best option for business travellers with a busy schedule


Check in time not as flexible

Before you arrive at your accommodation, you’ll usually have to arrange a check in time with your host, unless it operates on a self check-in service.  However, this is not very common, so arranging to meet the host so you can pick up the keys can be a pain, especially if you’re bad at time keeping and don’t know what time you would be arriving.

Also, this doesn’t allow you to be as flexible, say if you wanted to grab something to eat first before checking in, but you already agreed to meet the host at a certain time, you don’t really want to keep them hanging around waiting for you.  Arriving late at night can also be an issue as it might be difficult for the host to make that time.

Nonetheless, most hosts will be quite accommodating as essentially this is a side income or even a full-time income for them.  They shouldn’t be in this business if they’re not willing to accommodate to an extend themselves.  A good way to check how accommodating a host can be is to check their feedback and read comments left by previous users as many would quote their own personal experience and if the host was accommodating. 


Hotel Pros:

Flexible cancellation option

Most hotels on Booking offers free cancellation before a certain period

When we’re travelling we always like to have some room for flexibility for spontaneous decisions.  This is especially handy if you’re travelling without a fixed plan, in case you want to stay in one place for longer.  Most of Booking’s listings do offer free cancellation even up to 48 hours before check in, this gives you peace of mind and more confidence to book, knowing you can get your full money back.

We had to use the cancellation option more than once in the past because of late changes we had to cancel our accommodation on Booking, but benefited from the free cancellation policy.  In addition, most listing don’t require you to pay any money up front, you can simply pay when you check in, this is ideal if you need the cash for other stuff in the meantime.

Whilst we’re on the topic of free cancellation, I paid for airport parking but for some reason choose to include free cancellation for only an extra £1.  I had no idea we were not going to be able to make this trip, but I just thought worst case scenario at least I can get my airport parking money back and it actually was well worth paying that extra £1!  That’s just a little tip for you guys.


Manned reception

Not only is this good for checking in anytime after the earliest check in time, but if you have any questions regarding the hotel facilities or nearby attractions, the reception staff should be able to help with this.  Going back to my first point, being able to check in at anytime puts your mind at ease, as if you’re running late, you’re not making anyone wait!

Many hotels have a 24 hour reception so even if you’re heading out quite late and need to book a taxi, they can arrange this for you.  Also if you’re in your room and need room service, you can call reception from your room and ask for help.


On site facilities

Having a restaurant on site means you don’t have to go far for dinner!

You don’t have to go far if you don’t want to for food, entertainment and relaxation.  Many hotels will have a hotel restaurant, a bar, a gym and a swimming pool to relax in.  Having all this without having to leave the complex is supposed to provide you with the ultimate holiday experience.  But, for me, I can’t by the pool for too long, I tend to get bored and feel like I’m wasting my holiday away.

It really depends on what type of holiday you’re after or what’s your idea of a holiday.  Some people wouldn’t even entertain the idea of using public transport and seeing a city when they’re on holiday.  Don’t get me wrong, if Marci and I end up going somewhere like Maldives, we’d probably love having all these amenities and being pampered for our stay.


Family friendly

As you can simply call the reception staff or housekeeping if you require any assistance, this can be more family friendly.  For example, if you requested for a no smoking room, but it smelt of cigarettes then you can request for your room to be changed.


Grouped together with similar holidaymakers

You won’t have to go far to find like minded holidaymakers since you’re likely to find these people within your complex.  If you like socialising and interacting with people who are there with a similar purpose to yours then this would be ideal for you.



Usually more expensive

Having the extra luxury and convenience a hotel offers does come at a higher price tag.  It makes sense paying more money for your accommodation on Booking if you plan to spend most if not all of your time within the complex.  However, if you only plan to use your hotel to sleep in and you’re out all day, then maybe a cheaper hotel or trying out Airbnb can save you a few quid.

Of course there are different ranges of hotels from budget ones to luxury ones, so it doesn’t always have to be much more expensive than what you can find on Airbnb.  In fact, it can even work out to be cheaper in some cases, this could be the case when only booking a 1 or 2 night stay. 

Airbnb charges a service fee and cleaning fee, these fees remain the same no matter how long you stay for.  For instance, if you were to book an apartment for 1 night through Airbnb the service fee could be £25 and the cleaning fee could be £15, but if you booked the same place for 7 nights, the service fee will still be £25 and cleaning fee will still be £15.  These fees are already included in the cost of the hotel room.


Can make you lazy

Once you start lounging around the hotel pool, it can make it feel quite lazy and make you want to stay there all day.  Having all the amenities you need on your “doorstep” like the ones I mentioned above under the heading “on site facilities”, can make you not feel the need to venture out and head to the top restaurants in town or see the main attractions.

I view this as a negative if your intentions were to see more of the city or country you’re visiting but you got roped into staying within your complex just out of pure laziness!


Ok, guilty…even we at times have fallen victim to lazing around the pool instead of going out there and exploring!


Is Airbnb Safe for Guests?

Check whether the host has any positive feedback before booking

One major concern for some people is safety, especially for solo female travellers.  Users who are concerned about safety will often wonder is Airbnb safe for guests, and without having a sense of security, this can put off many users. 

The truth is, you just have to use common sense like you do with anything.  For example, if there was an apartment listed for way cheaper than the average price, but the host had no reviews, you probably shouldn’t book your accommodation there, as this looks a bit suspicious.

Instead, to be on the safe side, rent your accommodation from a host with several reviews from previous users and with positive feedback.  Perhaps, solo female travellers can even choose to rent from female hosts if this makes you feel more comfortable.  We’ve always rented from hosts with positive feedback, not only for our safety, but also to ensure our possessions will be untouched when we’re out.

Check to see if the host has been verified by Airbnb and whether they have any reviews from previous guests, you can also read the reviews to see what the previous guests have to say about the accommodation and host.  Bare in mind it works both ways, a host isn’t going to want to rent out their accommodation to someone that wouldn’t treat their place with respect.

I do understand the concern with “is Airbnb safe for guests”, so another way could be to ask the host to meet you in a public place like a nearby coffee shop rather than meet at your booked accommodation alone.  This way, you can speak to them in person first where you feel safe, and if you have a really bad feeling about staying at your booked place (even if you choose to rent the whole apartment) then you can refuse to go and contact Airbnb to let them know.


Is Airbnb Reliable?

Lastly, I will touch on “is Airbnb reliable”, well it’s not as reliable as booking a hotel, because if there’s anything wrong with your room, they can just move you to another one.  Whereas if the host decides you can’t stay at their place anymore once you’ve already paid, you just get a full refund but you’re left with no accommodation.

This actually happened to us when we booked our accommodation in Lisbon, but luckily there was still plenty of time to find an alternative accommodation, which we did.  Apparently, the reason why we couldn’t stay in the place we had initially booked was because there were some plumbing issues which were causing the kitchen walls to break down.  I’m sure he was being honest and he apologise, and I rather have not stayed there and encountered the problem during our stay!

Our Airbnb booking has only been cancelled on us once, but the host wouldn’t intentionally cancel your booking for no reason as they have to pay a penalty fee to Airbnb.

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