Hotel or Homestay? A comparison of Airbnb, hotels and Couchsurfing
When after some thorough planning you have finally decided on the destination for your next holiday, another question arises: Where do I stay? Luckily the modern world offers a variety of options to spend some days or even weeks away from home. In the past many travellers preferred to go camping, because that way they could enjoy a freedom they didn’t experience when staying at a hotel. For someone who doesn’t want to forego a certain level of comfort but prefers to avoid hotels, there are several possibilities nowadays.Content
- Homestays – A new trend in the traveller’s world
- Homestay as a business model – Airbnb and Wimdu are on the rise
- Couchsurfing – Homestay at its peak / in its purest form
- Hotels in comparison – because even staying at a hotel can be cheap
- Hotels or homestays – which one wins?
Holiday flats are the perfect alternative. Depending on the existing facilities they offer a certain degree of luxury, but are often cheaper than the private rooms at a hotel. In addition they lack the rigid rules and time schedule that inevitably come with staying at a hotel and that some guests find unpleasant. Therefore they don’t have to take into account the specified time for meals, for using the pool, etc. Holiday flats or homestays in general present liberties especially for self-caterers. Who cares if you have dinner in shorts and flip-flops?
In the past finding and renting a flat at a holiday destination was everything but easy. It required some detective work to get lists with the names and addresses of potential landlords from local tourist agencies and you still had no guarantee that they were of high quality. Today the internet makes everything a lot easier. Platforms like Airbnb and Wimdu have recognized the tourists’ needs and wishes, and have provided a remedy for the people who are fed up with all-inclusive offers. Airbnb and Wimdu are similar in terms of structure and function. You simply enter a destination and a travel time and receive a list of flats and even villas that come into question. You can adjust the price range between £7 and £500+ and filter the results to your own taste and budget.
Airbnb, for instance, offers a variety of filters. You can choose beforehand to stay in a room with a host family. That way it is easier to get to know other people and build friendships that may last even after the holidays. Airbnb promises absolute security for both traveller and host. The security measures it takes to avoid nasty surprises are professional and extensive. Only verified members can list a place on the website, just like bookings can only be made by members who have proven that they are who they pretend to be. This can be realized by scanning your passport or linking to your facebook account.
In terms of security Wimdu does certainly not rank behind Airbnb, which isn’t surprising seeing as staying with strangers in their homes requires plenty of trust in the first place. But it also does its best to ensure that every host and every guest is trustworthy. Both platforms offer service hotlines in case problems arise. What differentiates Wimdu from its competition is its target group. It primarily offers city apartments, even though lodgings in holiday regions outside of large cities are listed as well. City travellers are Wimdu’s main target group.
It doesn’t get more private than Couchsurfing – or cheaper for that matter. As the name implies, you don’t stay in a holiday flat. You literally get a couch. It was the founders’ mission to make the world move closer together. Whether it is the German guy in Prague who is shown around the city’s most precious sights by his host and taken to the best restaurant to try the traditional Czech cuisine, or the English girl who gets to taste homemade paella and witness a traditional flamenco show in Seville: those are all experiences that will last for a lifetime.
Couchsurfing intends to bring people together who would otherwise have never found each other. And it doesn’t even charge you for the membership or the stay in general. It is less about saving money than helping each other out, because it is based on reciprocity. I offer you a place to stay and you’ll do the same for me when I visit your city at some point. You never know what you’ll find: Your own private room in a luxurious apartment in downtown London or a shabby couch in a tiny flat on the outskirts of Paris. Hence it is no wonder that mostly young people are drawn to Couchsurfing, especially the penniless backpacker who wants to travel the world with as little money as possible. Nonetheless everyone is welcome and can join the community.
If you choose to stay at a hotel after all, comparing the different options is definitely advisable. Just like with holiday flats there are various price categories in the hotel sector. A simple hotel in the city centre will have a different price range than a luxurious beachside resort. Comparing hotels isn’t only about how much they cost, but also about examining their other services. How many meals does the price include? Are there sports facilities or a spa area? Do they offer children’s entertainment? Answers to these questions can be found by means of a comparison.
As already mentioned staying at a hotel means observing some rules and meeting a schedule, but it also comes with many advantages and conveniences. Not having to worry about tidiness and freshly cleaned towels is only one of them. Not having to cook your own meals is another convincing argument, especially for those who are normally in charge of the housework back home.
In the end it comes down to personal taste. Hotels often involve more comfort, but also rigid schedules and rules you have to stick to, whereas a homestay found on platforms like Airbnb or Couchsurfing offers a certain degree of liberty, but also comes with certain responsibilities. When choosing the latter it is indispensable to be considerate of your hosts and their neighbours. It is impossible to reach a conclusion about which kind of lodging is preferable because the individual tastes and opinions differ widely. And that is a good thing.