How To Use Airbnb For Budget Travel

Hostel dorm rooms are great.

I’ve met some of my best friends and travel mates in hostel rooms and shared dorms over the years.

But now and again, we all need a little bit of me time.

A bit of luxury, even if just for one night, where we don’t have to think about anyone else, don’t have to be quiet or fumble around in the dark because someone’s sleeping. A break from having to lock your things up every time you leave the room. A break from making conversation and the same classic 7 questions to every new person you meet.

Sometimes, you just need your own space.

This article is going to show you how to get the most out of sites like Airbnb, Flipkey and Tripping.

The kind of sites you wouldn’t normally consider, because you’d assume them to be out of budget.

Today, I’ll show you why that’s not always the case.

Sometimes you can find a place or a room on airbnb or somewhere similar for on or around the same price as a hostel. Which is pretty crazy when you think about it.

In this article, you’ll learn:

  • How to get the most out of the airbnb travel credit system and get your stay for free
  • Which countries you should be airbnb’ing in and why
  • How seasonality plays a role in finding even cheaper private rooms
  • One bonus tip that could save you an extra 15% or more on your next booking

Get Free Travel Credits

There are a lot of ways to earn free travel credits on airbnb at the moment, and their referral system is an awesome way to get money off your next booking. As we’ll see later, this can often bring the cost of a private airbnb room down to equal or less than a hostel, but more on that later.

For now, let’s run through the travel credit system.

Here’s all the ways you can earn free travel credit on airbnb right now:

  • Refer a friend. Your friend gets $40 free travel credit, and you get $20. Sign up through my link here to get started with your $40.
  • Get your referred friend to become a host. You’ll get $75 in credit when they get their first guest.
  • Add your work email address. Next time you take a trip of $75 and over you’ll get $50 credit.

So just by referring a couple of friends, you can already see how those credits are going to start racking up.

I know airbnb has grown a lot recently, but you definitely still know one or two people at least who haven’t got an account yet.

Get your parents on there, sign up for work, tell the random person you met at that party, get your hairdressers friends friend on there, write a blog post telling people about it…who doesn’t want a free $40 to go towards their next trip?

With just a couple of referral signups, your next airbnb booking is going to be a much more reasonably priced affair.

Know The Best Places To Use Airbnb

In some countries, where the cost of living is high, hostels are a no brainer.

That’s kind of why they exist in the first place. As a means to make accommodation more affordable.

That perception of affordability is what makes them the go to option for budget travellers the world over.

But the truth is that hostels in some countries aren’t actually the good value they appear to be.

Fair enough, 10 dolalrs a night on average for a dorm bed in Central America is cheap by most of our standards. But with 6 beds to a dorm, that’s $1,800 a month to the hostel. Per room.

In Central America, that’s about 7x the average monthly wage.

In other words, they’re making a lot of money.

We recently spend 3 months travelling around Central America and were frequently paying $20-$25 US for a room in a hostel, or around $20 for two beds in a dorm.

In quite a few places on the trip though, we were able to find decent airbnb rooms to rent for very similar prices. Sometimes even cheaper.

This was especially true when we maximised our travel credits, as we talked about earlier, which could often bring the overall cost of a 3 or 4 day airbnb down to below what you’d pay in a hostel.

For example…

If I go over to airbnb and search for San Juan Del Sur – a popular beach/surf spot on the pacific coast in Nicaragua – I get a whole bunch of results. I can then use the handy price range selector to drag downwards and only display the low priced rooms like this:
using airbnb for budget travel
Then, zoom in using the map feature to get a quick and easy overview of prices in different areas around where you’re searching for.
how to find the best budget accommodation on airbnb
As a general rule when we’re looking for airbnb’s it’s for a bit of a treat. So we can get a break from the hostels for a couple of nights and recharge the batteries.

So usually we don’t mind paying slightly more than we would in the hostels. It’s still budget accommodation, don’t get me wrong, but it’s just a smidge better.

For example, this place just up the coast from San Juan Del Sur which I found on the above search is only $29 US per night right now.

finding airbnbs for cheaper than hostels
Click here to check out this property in more detail and claim your $40 credit

That’s $14.50 each if you’re in a couple of with a friend. Around town, you’d be expecting to pay on average $10 US for a bed in a dorm room, so just look at how much more you get for just $4.50 extra.

Or check out this awesome find on an organic farm on Ometepe Island with views of the volcano for $25 US per night.

cheap aibnb rooms on ometepe island
Click here to check out this property and grab your $40 free credit

And if you have travel credits to use, it can even work out cheaper.

TIP – If we refer a friend and get a $25 travel credit, we like to use it to book somewhere like the above for 3 nights. That brings the average nightly cost down to around $20 / $10 each. So we get 3 nights here for the same price as 3 nights in a dorm.

The same is also true in many cheaper countries.

I guess my takeaway here would be that, depending on the country of course, airbnb doesn’t have to be a non-budget travel option.

Sometimes, there’s a very affordable side to the platform and it’s always worth a quick check when you get somewhere new, just to see what you can really get for your money.

Why Seasonality Matters

If you find yourself travelling somewhere in the ‘off season’ when things are slightly less busy than normal (like we recently found when we travelled Central America in the rainy season) then airbnb and other similar sites could get even better.

Hostels and budget accommodation in towns don’t tend to change their prices according to demand.

Many airbnb owners and property managers however, do.

In low season, some owners will put on a ‘special offer’ or discount to fill the room.

Sometimes it’s just a small discount, other times it’s bigger. But it’s worth keeping an eye out for these in your searches. We recently booked a nice room that had been reduced by $10 US due to it being slow season, so there are some good deals to be had.

Bonus Tip

New hosts to the platform know that trust is a big selling factor for people looking for somewhere to stay. They know that most people, in a straight choice between two equally or closely priced rooms will opt for the one with the better reviews. You can spot new properties easily in the search results, as airbnb will usually put a handy notice on their profile pic saying “NEW”. Look out for properties that are new to airbnb, as they will often have special deals and discounts to get their profile started.
discount prices on airbnb

Over To You

What are your airbnb tips? Where’s the best place you’ve stayed? Let me know in the comments below.

cheap aibnb rooms on ometepe island

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4 comments on “How To Use Airbnb For Budget Travel

    1. Thanks Agness, glad you enjoyed it 🙂
      Finding a good host makes such a difference, but that could probably be a whole other post in itself though I’d say!

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