AirBnB Alternatives for Digital Nomads

As numerous cities worldwide enact stricter regulations or outright bans on short-term rentals available on platforms like AirBnB, VRBO, and Booking.com, long-term travelers and digital nomads are feeling the crunch.

The recent near-total ban in New York City is just the tip of the iceberg with similar regulations already enacted in Vienna, Florence, Paris, Berlin, Bali, and other popular destinations.

While platforms like AirBnB were once the go-to solution, offering affordability and a chance to live like a local, the surge in extra fees, decreasing customer focus, and gentrification have travelers exploring other avenues.

The Evolution of AirBnB

Picture of a couple checking into an AirBnB.In the beginning, AirBnB was a boon for locals, allowing them to rent out their spaces and improve their quality of life while also boosting the local economy.

However, it’s not the traveler-friendly, affordable, and customer-focused platform it once was. A plethora of extra fees and common scams have become synonymous with the service since it went public in 2020.

Meanwhile, corporations and investors have purchased hundreds of properties in popular areas contributing to gentrification, which is pricing locals out of long-term rentals in the places they’ve always called home.

AirBnB Still Offers Benefits

The pros of AirBnB are still relevant, especially for long-term travelers and digital nomads:

  • They provide more space and a more home-like feel than a hotel.
  • They’re still often more affordable than a hotel in the same area, especially for longer term stays.
  • They allow you to “live like a local” in authentic neighborhoods.
  • They offer the opportunity to save money by cooking meals rather than eating out three times per day.

However, gentrification, extra fees, inconsistent quality standards, security concerns, hidden cameras, unreliable reviews, and inflexible check-ins and checkouts beg the question: Are there any better alternatives to AirBnB?

Watch Our Video About Alternatives to AirBnB

Exploring the Alternatives to AirBnB

If you’re a long-term traveler or digital nomad, here are several options that might work if you’re ready for a break from AirBnB.

Other Short-Term Booking Sites

Platforms such as VRBO, Booking.com, and Hotels.com offer alternatives but largely present the same listings and similar rates as AirBnB.

While they do have some lower fees for guests and some offer enticing rewards programs, their contribution to gentrification is similar to AirBnB, and customer service and guarantees may not be as good.

Social Media “Classifieds”

Some travelers are turning to local short-term rental listings found on social media groups and sites like Facebook, Reddit, Craigslist, and GringoPost (in Cuenca, Ecuador). Most cities around the world have similar online options to find short-term rentals.

These provide a chance to deal directly with local owners and potentially secure better deals, especially on longer-term stays of a month or more.

However, scams are common and the lack of protection or guarantees, along with the need for upfront payment or security deposits, can be risky. Do you research and ask for references.

Hotels

A man checking into a hotel with a woman smiling at the reception desk.A more conventional approach is reverting back to hotel stays. Hotels offer a consistency in service, security, and amenities like pools and gyms, along with rewards programs and daily housekeeping services.

However, they usually come with a heavier price tag and lack a homey ambiance and kitchen facilities so you might be stuck eating out every meal, which can significantly elevate travel expenses.

Some hotels include breakfast for an extra fee, usually $10 per day. However, if you eat out three times per day, it can easily add up to $50/day or $1,500/month in extra travel expenses per person.

Combined with the extra lodging fees and lack of month-stay discounts, hotels are not a viable option for most long-term travelers.

Marriott Homes & Villas

Marriott Homes & Villas (not a sponsor) blend the hotel quality with a home-like ambiance in condos, single family homes and villas. However, they’re a lot more expensive than AirBnB and hotels, and they often lack hotel amenities like a restaurant, bar, pool, gym, etc.

Despite offering a more homey feel like AirBnB, they still contribute to gentrification due to corporate ownership of local properties.

ApartHotels or Extended Stay

Exterior view of Gran Colombia Suites ApartHotel in Cuenca Ecuador.ApartHotels are emerging as a popular middle-ground, combining the benefits of both hotels and AirBnB.

In the United States where the franchise model abounds, places like Extended Stay America, Residence Inn, Fairfield Inn, Choice Hotels, and others have a studio apartment feel with small kitchens, but are typically more expensive than a hotel.

In other countries, locally owned ApartHotels are generally more affordable, secure, offer kitchen facilities, and provide a platform to meet other travelers in common areas.

However, the quality and size of accommodations can vary, usually being smaller and more basic compared to full apartments.

We stayed at both Apartamentos Otorongo and Gran Colombia Suites in Cuenca, Ecuador. They were similar in price to AirBnB condos in the area and units in both places had small kitchens, but they offered more of a secure hotel feel than AirBnB.

Hostels

Several young men and women talking to each other while sitting in a room with bunk beds at a hostel.Hostels present a cheaper and more social alternative, particularly favored by younger travelers.

They offer a communal atmosphere, reliable reviews, and some have communal kitchens.

However, they often come with shared bathrooms and bunk beds, a possible party atmosphere, and generally fewer amenities compared to hotels.

Final Thoughts…

In the ever-evolving landscape of short-term rentals, there is no perfect solution, but you might be able to find a balance that works for you.

ApartHotels offer the best of both worlds with a more homey feel and a kitchen for cooking while providing some of the benefits of hotels.

Or, you can book a short hotel stay upon arrival in a new area and then look for a short-term rental through local sources to blend comfort, experience, and budget.

With the rise in regulations, staying informed and adaptable is crucial in finding the perfect home away from home, whether it be a hotel, hostel, ApartHotel, or a short-term rental platform like AirBnB.

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