Hostels Vs. Hotels Vs. Airbnb Apartments Vs. Boots on the Ground Rentals
It’s time to get back out there. Hit the road, again. Do the damn thing. You’re hyped. The flights are booked, but there’s still one more thing to take care of.
What’s that? Accommodation.
For most, this means deciding between hotels vs. Airbnb apartments. For the young bucks, you might consider a hostel or a budget hotel.
For me, this means deciding if I’ll book an Airbnb apartment for a few months or try to find a longterm rental once I’ve got boots on the ground.
But, how do you what works best for your travel needs? Well, after years of traveling around Latin America, I’ve figured it out.
See, there’s a time and a place for everything. Every type of rental has its use. If you’re young and looking to party, then a hostel could be ideal. If you’re working online and totally sober, a hostel would be horrific.
With that in mind, let’s dive in and take a look at hostels vs. hotels vs. Airbnb apartments vs. boots on the ground rentals.
Once we’re done, you’ll know exactly what type of accommodation to book – whether you’re staying for one week or one year.
Which Accommodation Type is Best For You?
Once you understand the benefits and downsides of each accommodation style, finding the ideal spot will become a cakewalk. It’s not hard to decide whether you want a hotel vs. Airbnb – once you’ve stayed in a few.
But, I know some of y’all are new to the game. I get that you might want to peep a lil’ game before dropping hundreds of bucks on a hotel or apartment.
That’s what I’m here for. Just a habitual putter on game. Or something like that. Not really making sense here, but hear me out.
Here’s a detailed breakdown for ya:
I remember my first stay in a hostel. I was 24 years young and enjoying a weekend with the bros in South Beach.
Without incriminating myself too much, it was a damn good time. The hostel we stayed at was definitely a party spot.
Filled to the brim with young European backpacker girls, my buddies and I spent our evenings intoxicated by their cute English accents, amongst a few other substances, and our days nursing hangovers while swimming in the ocean.
It was amazing, but not at all productive. Fun for a weekend. Fun while you’re young. Not conducive to making dough online. Which brings me to my next points…
Benefits of Hostels
Hostels are absolutely amazing for a few things. Certainly not for everybody, but definitely ideal in a few scenarios.
If you’re young and looking to party, then staying in a hostel can be ideal.
If you’re on a crazy tight budget, then hostels make it easy to travel on the cheap.
Hostels also make it easy to find things to do in the city. Most are set up with local tour companies and groups. So, you’ll have easy access to tourism and activities.
If you’re looking to meet new people, hostels are inherently social. You will make friends if you simply open your mouth.
Downsides of Hostels
But hostels certainly aren’t perfect. In fact, I don’t stay in hostels any longer – for a number of reasons.
You won’t have any personal space in a hostel. Dorm rooms are filled with 4-12+ people per room. That’s not good if you enjoy privacy. Even most private rooms in hostels force you to share a bathroom with others.
Horrible for getting work done. It’s highly unlikely you’ll crush work while staying in a hostel. It just doesn’t happen. The Wi-Fi is often shit, there are distractions around every corner, and it’s hard to get a good nights’ sleep when the hostel couple in the bunk beside keeps rocking the bed frame a couple times a night.
You might not meet many locals. Hostels are quite social, but the socializing tends to take place with other travelers. You could stay in a hostel for a whole week and never have a real interaction with locals from the city you’re in.
Things tend to get “lost” in hostels. I’d need more fingers to count how many times I’ve heard tales of people getting electronics jacked from the hostel dorm room.
Lastly, communal bathrooms blow. They’re just disgusting. I don’t like to share a bathroom with one other person, much less a half dozen.
Back in the day, hotels were the wave. If you were an actual adult and traveling full-time, you stayed in hotels until you had boots on the ground and decided to stay in one city for a good amount of time.
These days hotels have lost a bit of their luster. The hotels vs. Airbnb apartments argument has made longterm hotel rentals almost obsolete. Who stays in a hotel for more than one week at a time? Almost no one.
I occasionally stay in hotels for their added convenience and services. Hotels tend to come chalk full of amenities that most Airbnb rentals simply cannot offer.
Hell, I even made some of my best memories staying at hotels, especially the one month staying at that rundown joint in Managua, Nicaragua.
But, you’ve always gotta take the good with the bad…
Benefits of Hotels
Hotels offer amenities for travelers that hostels, Airbnb, and apartment rentals typically cannot offer. Things like gyms, swimming pools, hot breakfast made every morning, concierge services, and more.
Everything tends to work in hotels. The Wi-Fi is never out for hours on end. If your toilet starts to mess up, they switch your room. Any issue you have is addressed automatically.
Daily cleaning services are tight. There’s nothing like coming back from a nice swim at the beach and a little red snapper lunch to find your room smelling like roses, again. You’d have to hire a maid at most Airbnb rentals to have someone else clean the place.
Often better for business. As everything just works in a hotel, it can be ideal for shorter business trips. If you’re only in a city for a few days to a week, then a solid hotel will make life that much easier for getting work done.
Lastly, most hotels have solid security. As they work on a review system these days, a guest getting robbed and mouthing off online is bad for business. So, most hotels take 24/7 security measures.
Definitely a fan of hotels for short trips to the beach. Tons of great hotels in Santa Marta, Colombia.
Downsides of Hotels
While hotels can be pretty dope, they’re not perfect either.
First off, hotels can be costly. You’re talking at least $100 USD a night in the United States. In Latin America, a decent hotel could cost between $35-120 USD a night depending on the location and amenities.
While you can find great value hotels, most don’t offer significant discounts for longer stays. Where an Airbnb rental may shave 40% off their nightly rate if you stay a few months, a hotel might only give you a 15% discount.
Some hotels have strict rules, too. This is especially true regarding guests who aren’t on your reservation. If you make local friends or find a novia, there’s a chance the hotel will hassle you when bringing someone on hotel grounds.
No kitchen. While some hotels do offer kitchenettes, most don’t. If you like to cook your own meals, then a hotel usually is a no-go.
Airbnb apartments are pretty awesome. I tend to book through Airbnb around 80% of the time I travel because of how convenient it is. Although, the service certainly isn’t perfect.
For example, there was that one time in the Dominican Republic where I had to piss in the shower, manually flush the toilet with a bucket of water from the roof, and shower ass-naked on my roof while the neighbors watch.
I’m not shy, but it wasn’t a pleasant experience. Definitely an episode of when Airbnb goes wrong.
For the most part, Airbnb is an ideal option for travelers who work online and like their privacy, but there’s a little more to it than that…
Benefits of Airbnb Apartments
So many benefits, not enough words. I’m a huge fan of Airbnb rentals. There’s nothing like rolling into a new city, but still feeling like you have a home.
Airbnb rentals offer privacy, tons of personal space, and the ability to live like you’re back home.
You’ll typically have access to a full kitchen, which is ideal for those of us who like to cook our own meals or have someone cook them for us.
Airbnb rentals offer great privacy. If you rent a private apartment, you’ll generally have the ability to live however you please – as long as you don’t piss off the neighbors too much.
Many Airbnb rentals have dedicated routers and decent Wi-Fi. They also have kitchen tables or a desk, which makes getting online work done pretty easy.
Overall, I find Airbnb rentals tend to be exceptionally comfortable. They’re safe, private, and filled with amenities to make your stay simple.
Condesa Airbnb apartment in Mexico City. Around $50 USD a night.
Downsides of Airbnb Apartments
While I love renting on Airbnb, the service is not perfect. In fact, it’s far from it.
First, Airbnb rentals are going up in price. This is especially true in the United States. Many times a hotel would be cheaper.
Even in Latin America, landlords have caught on to tourists paying way too much for Airbnb apartments. They might charge you 3-4X what they’re paying in rent on a daily or weekly basis.
Certain Airbnb hosts are great. They’re attentive and live close by. If you have any issue, they’ll fix it within an hour or two. Other Airbnb hosts hand you the keys and leave. If you have an issue with the Wi-Fi router or the kitchen sink, they might not reply for 48 hours.
The great unknown. Sometimes you just don’t know what you’re getting with an Airbnb rental. Maybe the pictures aren’t great or look nothing like they do online. The place could be newer and without reviews, you don’t know what you’re getting into.
Boots on the Ground Rentals
When you plan to stay somewhere longterm, most travelers find it cheaper to find a place to stay once they arrive. While certain Airbnb hosts will offer great discounts, many still inflate their prices for tourists – no matter how long you’re in town for.
Once you have boots on the ground, you have the ability to locate properties that aren’t posted online. These places are generally cheaper and you know exactly what you’re getting with them.
For example, I rented a place once I arrived for six months in Bogota, Colombia. I walked around for six hours calling signs in windows with my broken Spanish.
Eventually, I stumbled upon a place. The location was absolutely ideal. I couldn’t have asked for a better locale and the price was right.
I ended up paying around $550 USD per month, all included. In the exact same building, there were two similar apartments that rented on Airbnb for $1,110-1,200 a month.
Because I put the effort to find a place upon arrival, I ended up paying half price. Talk about a deal…
Benefits of Boots on the Ground Rentals
Boots on the ground rentals are great in certain scenarios.
First, you have to be staying long term. Most local landlords who don’t use Airbnb are going to be looking for a two-month commitment or more. I’ve found the sweet spot tends to be around 3-6 months. If you need a rental for 3-6 months, landlords will offer you a great deal once you’ve arrived.
This is the biggest benefit. If you’re staying long term, you could get a place upon arrival for nearly half of what you would pay on Airbnb. Boots on the ground rentals are often a great deal.
Once you’re in a city, you can check out the exact location of an apartment and see if it suits you. While you’ll have an idea when renting a hotel or Airbnb online, you get so much more information once you actually arrive.
You’ll also get a better sense of the quality of the apartment. You can sit on the bed and see if it’s comfortable. You can run a Wi-Fi speed test and see if it’s fast. This ensures everything meets your expectations before you spend a dime.
Boots on the ground in Bogota, Colombia.
Downsides of Boots on the Ground Rentals
There are a few major downsides to renting upon arrival.
First, you have to build a sense of trust with your landlord. You don’t want to work with a scammer. Many will ask for a deposit and you don’t have the Airbnb insurance policy to fall back on. There’s rarely any reviews to look at when you rent upon arrival.
You’ll probably have to take cash out of an ATM each month to pay the landlord, which can be a huge hassle in a foreign country.
Lastly, most landlords won’t rent to you unless you’re staying for an extended period of time. You’d be silly to search for boots on the ground rentals if you’re only staying a week or even a full month.
Now, I’ve gone way too in-depth on this topic, hotels vs. Airbnb. Why? Because it’s really not all that complex.
For most travelers and digital expats, you’ll decide how to rent based on your needs and how long you’re traveling for.
In fact, the timeframe is usually the most important factor.
Here’s how I’d break it down:
Hostels are ideal if you’re staying a few days to a week. If you’re only in the city for a bit, are younger, and like to party/socialize – stay in hostels.
Hotels are ideal if you’re staying a few days to a week, too. If you’re in the city for a short bit, prefer solid amenities, and need reliable Wi-Fi – staying in a hotel is great.
Airbnb apartment rentals are perfect when you’re staying in a city for more than a week but less than three months.
Renting an apartment once you arrive is ideal if you plan to stay three months or more. This will allow you to find the perfect place at a cheaper price.
Hostels Vs. Hotels Vs. Airbnb Apartments Vs. Boots on the Ground Rentals
Whew, that was a lot to ingest, but I wanted to thoroughly breakdown accommodation types and what works best for each type of person and traveler.
As for me, the hotels vs. Airbnb apartments isn’t much of an argument. I’m an Airbnb guy. The flexibility to pack up and move every one or two months is worth the premium you pay to rent online.
I travel 8+ months every single year and use the service often. While it’s not perfect, I couldn’t recommend it enough.
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Travel junkie turned blogger. Location independent. From the Midwest, but often based in Latin America. Big on beaches, rumba, and rum. Addicted to the gym. Committed to showing a different style of travel - one that involves actually interacting with locals and exploring different cultures.