Alternatives to Airbnb for Slow Travel
Planning your next Slow Travel adventure? Concerned about how your travel may impact local economies? This blog is for you! Read on to learn more.
Airbnb has been at the epicenter of a troubling global trend since before the Covid-19 pandemic. Coined by an early 2020 Forbes article, the “Airbnb Effect” on housing and rent has become a moral as much as an economic dilemma for socially conscious travelers.
As stated in a report from the Economic Policy Institute, “While the introduction and expansion of Airbnb into cities around the world carries large potential economic benefits and costs, the costs to renters and local jurisdictions likely exceed the benefits to travellers and property owners.”
Essentially, the issue is as follows:
➡ Travelers from more economically stable countries travel to countries where their currency goes further
➡ Airbnb facilitates these travelers' access to homes in highly sought after areas
➡ This leads to two issues:
o 1) artificial rent inflation as hosts increase their nightly rates to match demand (which many travelers will pay);
o 2) a decrease in the availability of homes for rent or sale as private owners move their homes to the short-term market
I could go on with more evidence, reports, and case studies, but you can find all of that in the Forbes article I linked above!
As seasoned digital nomads, remote workers, and slow travelers, we know better than most what impact our presence (and our purchases) may have wherever we travel. This is why many of us choose to take advantage of the benefits of slow travel.
But when a corporation like Airbnb practically has a stranglehold on long-term accommodation options, what are we meant to do?
Believe it or not, there are more than a few ways to find long-term accommodations these days. You don’t always have to use Airbnb (though if that’s your only option, I have tips for that, too!) or even stay in an apartment.
Below are some resources for:
- finding apartments or other types of accommodations to consider for your next slow travel trip;
- the best ways to find them;
- and how to avoid feeding into business practices that negatively impact local economies
Are you ready? Let’s go!
Alternatives to Airbnb
For slow travelers who need quiet office space and reliable wifi, you’re probably going to want to rent a private room or an apartment. If you’re looking to book long-term in one place but don’t want to use Airbnb, here are a few options to check out:
· Booking: though it’s usually used to book hotel rooms at a better price, booking.com also has many low-cost options for holiday homes and private apartments.
· Housing Anywhere: if you want the Airbnb experience without using Airbnb
· Nestpick: great for students and young professionals
· Uniplaces: primarily for students going abroad or on Erasmus, but I’ve rented from here as a “young professional”.
· Homestay: Rent a room in a house for more reasonable prices and stay with locals
· TrustedHousesitters: you are responsible for a whole house (and some pets), but you get the place to yourself!
· Facebook Groups: this one deserves a bit more attention. Read on below!
Search for any major city on Facebook, and they will almost certainly have a Group page! Whether you’re a local, foreigner, yogi, foodie, or whatever you’re into, you’ll probably find the people you’re looking for, the answers to your questions, or even a new apartment (!) on a city’s Facebook pages.
Facebook Groups like these are usually named “Expats in [City or Country] or “[City] Expats”. You may also find Facebook Groups specifically for finding rentals or homes for sale. I’ve seen many amazing deals on these pages, so finding fairer, local pricing is possible.
However, these are individuals you are dealing with, and there is no intermediary to help if something goes wrong, so you need to be very savvy when you reach out on a post or make a post of your own looking for accommodations.
Do’s and Don’ts for using Facebook Groups:
1. DO NOT name your price range in the post: I see this ALLLLL the time. Stating your price allows landlords to give you a “great deal” on a place that’s really worth half the rent. This also lets people know that you’re new to this, and they can probably get away with a lot more than other seasoned travelers or renters might allow.
2. DO ask for pictures of everything: This might seem obvious, but you should ask for photos of every room, including the front door of the house or the apartment door and the building. This way, they can’t bait and switch you for a different apartment on another floor or building somewhere.
3. DO NOT sign anything or send a substantial deposit before you arrive: This opens SO many doors for problems. Book a hotel for the first few days or weeks when you first arrive and see the place. For me, a “reasonable deposit” is a few hundred dollars. More than that? Alarm bells start ringing.
4. DO ask what’s included in the rent: and how you will pay it. I personally don’t have a problem paying rent in cash for a short-term lease, but this may be inconvenient for some and morally ambiguous for others.
Alternatives Accommodations for Slow Travel
For slow travelers who don’t necessarily need an apartment or a private room in a house, you have many more options at your disposal! How exciting for you 😄
If you want to meet more people, have a unique travel experience, and truly soak in the local culture, these will be excellent options for accommodations for you.
Slow travel in a hostel? Can it be done?? Absolutely! If you’re an adventurous soul seeking to meet more people on your slow travels, I 100% recommend staying in hostels on your slow travel journey.
If staying in hostels excites you, but you’re kind of past the point where you want to share a bathroom with 12 other people, hostels these days usually offer an option for private rooms with ensuite bathrooms. You can have some privacy and comfort while still taking advantage of the social benefits hostels can offer.
Here are a couple resources for finding great hostels:
Hostelworld is still the best resource for finding and booking hostels. I would check google maps reviews first before booking, however. Sometimes the reviews on Hostelworld don’t align with reviews on Google Maps. Eek!
Booking strikes again! This is an excellent resource for finding lots of affordable community living options at your destination.
Hostelz allows you to compare prices for hostels listed on Hostelworld, Booking, and Hostelclub.
World Packers is a unique online community that offers individuals the opportunity to travel and volunteer abroad. There are hosts in over 140 countries worldwide, so you should be able to find your desired destination.
Their “Academy” also has tons of courses at your disposal, including how to make money while you travel!
If you want to learn more, here’s how world packers works.
Okay, I’ll admit I’m a little biased on this one! I actually did a study with WWOOF hosts in Italy for my graduate research and fell in love with this organization. Truly, you can’t find a more passionate group of people.
WWOOF stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms and has hosts in over 130 countries. This is a fantastic opportunity for people who want to volunteer on farms worldwide without paying for room and board.
And don’t worry, you’ll have plenty of free time so you can work online, travel around where you’re staying, and explore. WWOOF guarantees its volunteers will only have to work about 20-30 hours per week.
If you’re interested, visit their website to learn more about WWOOF and its mission.
How to Rent Responsibly With Airbnb
Okay, okay, I know. I just gave you a list of alternatives to Airbnb, so you don’t have to use it. However, sometimes it’s the only option in certain areas, and hosts can offer good deals if you’re renting long-term.
Though it’s not always the cheapest or most socially responsible resource, often it’s the case that Airbnb is the easiest way to book short and long-term accommodations in your new city.
If for some reason you can’t find any other alternative to Airbnb at the destination you’re planning on visiting, here’s how you can curb your economic impact:
Rent from private hosts
Nowadays, Airbnb “hosts” are often companies posing as individual homeowners. In my opinion, this is an incredibly shady – and frankly annoying – trend. Large companies will buy up a block of apartments in a building or neighborhood, cheaply furnish it, and list it for exorbitant prices.
You can usually tell if the host is a company or a private owner by checking the host profile. Often a company will have multiple listings at the bottom of the profile.
You can avoid feeding into predatory business practices by renting from private homeowners and reducing your economic impact.
Compare the rent you’ll be paying to what locals would pay. While paying $1,000 for a two-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment or $500 for a spacious room with office space might sound like a steal, it may be significantly more than what others are paying.
You can easily find local rent rates by searching on google “apartments for rent in [city, country]”. This will usually result in a few random country-wide real estate websites that will give you a good idea of what you should expect to pay.
Avoid touristic areas
I know it’s way more appealing to stay in the city center but if you’re slow traveling, live like a local: walk or take public transport! By staying in apartments outside tourist areas, you will save money on rent and food and have a more authentic experience. Additionally, your money will be supporting locals who often don’t get much business from travelers.
Before we conclude this blog and you plan your slow travel adventure, I want to give you some final tips on booking long-term accommodation to save money and save yourself some headaches. These are things I’ve learned by doing (i.e., making these mistakes 🤦🏻♀️):
Check the calendar for local holidays to avoid paying extra
Book outside of the high season
Try and book as far in advance as possible
Look up the neighborhood on google maps and make sure grocery stores/markets and other amenities you might need are within walking distance.
Inquire with the host about internet speeds (if you are going to need to rely on it for work)
I hope this blog has helped you figure out some alternatives to Airbnb. I’m sure that my experience finding slow travel accommodations will be different from most. So I would love to hear from other travelers below and get your tips for alternatives to Airbnb or slow travel accommodations!