Airbnb, aka Air Bed & Breakfast, is a website where you can book an entire apartment/house, private, or shared room from a regular person instead of dealing with corporate hotel chains.
It’s becoming a more popular way to find a cheap, affordable room because you avoid the more expensive costs behind a traditional hotel (staff, permits, leasing fees, overhead, etc).
I’ve used their service multiple times including my recent visits to Panama and Senegal. While I recommend it for finding a cheap room, I will admit there are several pros and cons to keep in mind.
In this article, you will learn whether you should consider using Airbnb during your trips/vacations overseas and how to find the best deals.
How Does Airbnb Work?
Step 1 – Create a free Airbnb account
Step 2 – Enter the city you plan to stay in and both your arrival and departure dates
Step 3 – Check where you need an entire room, private room, or shared room
Step 4 – Click Search and browse the listings
Step 5 – When you see a room you like, click the link and select Book now to reserve the room
Step 6 – You will be taking to a special page where you can enter a personal message and contact your host
Step 7 – Submit your request to book the room
Your host will receive your request and will either approve or reject your bookings.
In order to complete your booking request, you need to add a payment method. Airbnb accepts all major credit cards and paypal.
My Firsthand Experience with Airbnb
I knew about Airbnb for a while, but I didn’t use it for accommodations until my trip to Panama City, Panama last year. I wanted to experience life like a local Panamanian so I rented a large yet affordable room in San Miguelito, a suburb of Panama city.
I found a very large private room with a king sized bed for only $20 per night. The owner of the house was a local Black Panamanian family who made me stay incredibly comfortable.
My host lived with his mother, sister and grandmother in a spacious house that had an amazing view of downtown Panama City. I learned a lot about the local culture quickly and they made me feel right at home.
My host gave me perfect directions from the airport, showed me around his neighborhood and helped me find the local supermarket so I could buy some food. He also showed me how to get a SIM card for my phone and make calls for cheap.
Many foreign countries do not speak English so having a host that speaks English can really help you get around the city more.
It was nice to make instant friends while in Panama because sometimes it takes a few days to find friends when visiting a new country. Although this was my 2nd trip to Panama, I learned a lot more from my Airbnb host.
Of Course, living with locals has its negatives
Staying in local neighborhoods is quite different from living in the main tourist area. In this particular neighborhood, the young kids would play music loudly at night and drink beers with their friends.
It didn’t bother me that much, but I wish I knew about this behavior in advance. Also, I had to take a taxi everywhere because my host’s house was so far away from the main tourist action in Panama City.
Is Airbnb Worth it?
Absolutely. You get access to a wider range of affordable rooms including everything from a shared dorm room to your own private villa. If you book your trip for more than 1 month, you can get up to 70% discount of your daily rate through Airbnb.
Many people are desperate to earn a side income in many countries and will give you a huge deal if you book a long term stay.
Commonly Asked Questions
In this section, I want to answer some commonly asked questions about Airbnb:
Is Airbnb better than hotels?
For longer stays, yes. Hotels are better for a few days because you get your room cleaned daily plus you have access to things like tours, employees who speak English, etc. Over the long term, hotels will be way too expensive for your budget. Spending 2 weeks in a $50 per night hotel will cost 2x as much as a monthly apartment rental on Airbnb. Airbnb is cheaper than hotels over the long run because hosts are more willing to provide discounts if you secure a long term booking.
I recommend hotels for less than 1 week and Airbnb for stays greater than 7 days.
Is Airbnb Clean?
Yes. My hosts provided clean linens and towels on a regular basis. I had to purchase things like toothbrush and toothpaste myself. All my Airbnb rentals have been clean and safe.
Is Airbnb dangerous?
In my experience, no. However, you must be careful when booking a room. It is important to check your host’s profile, feedback and customer reviews. Most hosts are on Airbnb to make money, not to cause too much trouble. You have to be careful though and use common sense. Avoid hosts who don’t show a picture, haven’t filled out their profile, or fail to show good quality pictures of their room.
Is Airbnb Expensive?
It depends on the city. In most world class cities, Airbnb will be similar to the cheaper, low end hotel chains. However, you can find amazing deals on Airbnb for longer term stays. I’ve found awesome modern apartments in places like Bangkok and Rio de Janeiro for just $300 per month. Finding a hotel room for $300 online in those cities are nearly impossible.
Is Airbnb Racist?
I’ve never experienced racism on Airbnb because I am extremely careful about who I contact. I usually try to rent a room from either Black or Asian people. This works for me since I experience the least amount of racist from these two types of hosts.
At the end of the day, a host has the right to approve or reject your booking request. It is their property and they deserve the right to do whatever they please with it.
The best Airbnb hosts rent to people, not skin colors. If you experienced racism on Airbnb, please share your story in the comments.
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