How to Use Airbnb to Find Cheap Apartments Around the World (and Save $25)

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Airbnb has revolutionised travel. It makes it easy to find apartments (or rooms in people’s homes) around the world, providing a cheaper, more comfortable, and more interesting alternative to hotels. We love it and stay in Airbnb apartments often.

Why We Love Airbnb

  • Saves Money – An Airbnb apartment is almost always cheaper than a hotel or hostel private room in developed countries—we use it frequently in Europe and North America. We’ve rented an apartment in Paris for £40 ($60) and Istanbul for £23 ($34) a night. It’s less good value in developing countries like Thailand where a basic hotel room will probably be cheaper and you’ll find better apartment rates locally, although the range and prices are improving.
  • Convenient – The Airbnb website is easy to use and it’s much more convenient to book in advance than search around when we arrive in a new place.
  • Access to a Kitchen – We get sick of eating out all the time so we love having a kitchen to cook for ourselves—it’s healthier and we save money.
  • Affordable Monthly Rates – We do rent on Airbnb for short stays but the best deals are on month-long rentals. It’s the only apartment site we’ve found where the special month rate most hosts offer comes up in the search results. The same applies to weekly rates too.
  • Ideal for Digital Nomads – When you are working as you travel Airbnb is much better than a hotel. You get a quiet place to work, more space, better facilities, and it’s easier to feel at home.
  • Explore Interesting Neighbourhoods – Renting an apartment is the best way to live like a local, and it gives you the opportunity to stay in less touristy parts of town that don’t have hotels. We loved staying in the Hawthorne neighbourhood in Portland, close to many fantastic independent cafes and restaurants.
  • Meet Locals – You don’t always meet the host if you rent a private apartment, but they are often a great source of local knowledge and will provide tips on the best things to do and eat in the area. Our host in Granada was wonderfully welcoming and not only stocked our fridge before we arrived, but also brought us homemade soup a couple of times.
  • Discover New Places – If you are flexible on your location you can find bargains on Airbnb. When we wanted to spend a month in Tuscany, Italy we searched for an Airbnb in the whole region, rather than just a well known city like Florence or Siena. We ended up with a two bedroom apartment for €567 a month. Not only was it cheap but it was a short walk from Montecarlo, a tiny but stunning hill town that tourists rarely visit—we’d never have found it without Airbnb.
Airbnb coupon code -Granada apartment

Our Airbnb apartment in Granada

Some people worry about safety and problems when renting from a stranger but we’ve never had any issues. It’s best to rent from a host with lots of positive reviews, and read the reviews carefully for any potential issues. You can also contact the host to ask any questions and get to know them better. We occasionally rent places without reviews if we find a deal and the photos look good—it is a risk but has always worked out well for us.

How to Rent on Airbnb

Create An Account

First you need to sign up to Airbnb using your email address or with Facebook or Google. If you sign up using this link you’ll get $25 (£17) off your first stay: www.airbnb.com/c/emcneaney. The Airbnb coupon code will automatically be applied to your account so all you have to do is a book a place to stay (the minimum spend for the coupon is $75).

Next create your profile. Make sure you at least include a photo and some information about yourself. Remember that hosts are letting strangers stay in their home so they’ll feel more comfortable knowing a bit about you.

How to Search

On the Airbnb homepage choose your location (city, region, or country), dates, and number of guests.

Airbnb coupon code- search apartments

My search for the whole region of Abruzzo

You’ll get a list of options which you can refine by choosing Entire Place (for a private apartment/house which is what we do) or Private Room (in a shared house). You can also move the price slider down to your budget, and click on More Filters for options like number of bedrooms, amenities, and neighbourhood.

If you can’t find anything for your budget then try searching for a Private Room instead which will be in a shared house. We’ve never done this but my mum has and enjoyed getting to know the hosts—they even made her pancakes for breakfast.

Airbnb coupon code -choose filters

Filters you can choose

The refined list based on my filters

The refined list based on my filters

Choosing An Apartment

You can then browse through the listings, look at the photos, read the reviews, and check the location on the map at the bottom of the listing. You won’t know the exact address until you book but you get a rough area and can always ask the host more questions. In big cities there is often a neighbourhood summary next to the map and you can click through and read the neighbourhood guide.

You should check the total price as Airbnb fees and sometimes a cleaning fee are extra. I also look at the host’s profile and their response rate—if it’s low it might be an indication that they aren’t very active on Airbnb.

If you don’t want to make a decision right away you can add the place to a wish list.

Contact Host

If you are interested in an apartment contact the host first (there’s a button by About the Host) before you request a booking. Have a few options and don’t assume you’ll get your first choice—places aren’t always available even if the calendar says it is. Now is the time to ask if it’s available and any other questions you have such as public transport options, WiFi speeds etc. You can also try negotiating the price but I’ve never had any luck with this—it might work best for longer stays.

Once the host has confirmed availability they’ll pre-approve you and you have 24 hours to book. Payment is taken in advance by credit card and you’ll be emailed the confirmation with the address and more details. You can see the cancellation policy in each listing—usually you can cancel up to a few days in advance and get a refund minus the Airbnb fees.

Keep in Contact

Once you’ve booked get in contact with the host to get directions and arrange a check-in time. Unlike hotels you can’t just turn up at any time as the host needs to be there to meet you (unless they have a lock box to store the key which is much easier). Stick to the arranged time as much as possible and let the host know of any delays.

Leave a Review

After your stay make sure you leave a review. Be honest about the pros and cons of the place as it helps others make a decision. The host will also leave you a review but you won’t be able to see each other’s reviews until both have been published.

Consider Hosting

If you own a home you might want to consider becoming an Airbnb host. You could either rent out your spare room or your whole home while you are away. A number of our friends do this and you can make a good amount of money and even fund your travels.

Our Favourite Airbnb Apartments

Airbnb coupon code - Sonoma Airbnb

Our Airbnb in Sebastopol

Here are links to some of our favourite Airbnb rentals:

  • Portland, USA – A sunny, comfortable one bedroom apartment in a cool neighbourhood.
  • Sebastopol, USA – Gorgeous two bedroom house with a huge garden in a peaceful setting close to wineries.
  • Granada, Spain – Modern one bedroom with a patio, lovely host, and ideal location in the historic El Albaicin.
  • Istanbul, Turkey – Affordable studio with a massive terrace and convenient location.
  • Paris, France – Cute studio in untouristy Belleville.
  • Mexico City – Spacious, artsy one bedroom apartment in a central location.
  • Montecarlo, Italy – Simple two bedroom apartment in the Tuscan countryside.

Our next Airbnb stay will be four days in a Williamsburg apartment in New York City next month—we’ll let you know how it goes.

Airbnb is our first stop for accommodation these days. It’s not the only way we rent apartments—you can read about the other ways we find apartments here—but it is our favourite, with a wide range of options all over the world and great prices.

If you want to give Airbnb a try remember to sign up using this link to get $25 (£17) off your first stay (and we do too, so thank you!).

Are you planning a trip? See our Travel Resources page for our favourite tools and gear to help you plan the perfect trip. 

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18 thoughts on How to Use Airbnb to Find Cheap Apartments Around the World (and Save $25)

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  6. Great post, Erin. I wrote a similar one a while ago too. We are huge fans of AirBnB and it’s our first go-to for accommodation. It’s never let us down! Wifi is always such a big issue for us and we’ve found that whenever we’ve rented via AirBnB, the hosts have been so honest about what their internet is like… as opposed to other accommodation sites where they advertise “free wifi” but it’s often too slow or only available in public areas.

    Just a tip for anyone considering living in HCMC. We are currently in Saigon and found lots of short term accommodation choices on AirBnB for when we first got here but found long term choices were limited and very overpriced. We ended up researching and finding local agents who helped us find a normal priced and better apartment for our 3 month stay here. So maybe, if in Vietnam, it’s worth looking elsewhere first.

  7. I used AirBNB a few years ago, but they charged me like a $100 fee. Do they still do that? Other sites are free to renters.
    Also, I signed up to follow you a while ago, never downloaded the book. How can I get it again?
    Kind of a drag to “sign in” each time I comment…is that necessary for all comments?

    • Yes, Airbnb do charge a booking fee but I still find they usually work out cheaper than the other sites that don’t charge.

      Leaving a name and email for each comment is pretty standard practice in blog commenting to reduce spam. I will email you the download link to the book.

  8. As a digital nomad, I’m desperately seeking a home like environment soon … working out of hostels is starting to get too tenuous for me!

  9. My husband and myself are planning to spent the next 5 months in South America. Where do you reccomend finding places to stay other that Airbnb? Thanks!

        • Hi Lindsay! AirBnB is really good for Rio. There are heaps of apartments! We stayed in 4 different places in Rio and all were via AirBnB. Booking.com seems to have a few serviced apartments coming up in Rio as well.

          I’m not sure if you’re looking for longer term accommodation in the rest of South America but we found CompartoApto useful in Colombia (CompartoDepa in Mexico – if you’re headed northwards). Also, I second Erin’s Craigslist suggestion – we found our first apartment in Colombia via Craigslist.

          Good luck!

  10. I just wrote about exactly this the other day too! We love Airbnb so much, it’s always the first place I look for renting apartments pretty much anywhere we’ve been, with the exception of a few places in South America where we found better deals elsewhere. Thanks for linking to your favourite places – I’m always curious to see what kinds of places other people like to rent, and comparing whether I’d be happy in those places too!

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