Looking for the best alternatives to Airbnb for your next trip? With the landscape of travel changing rapidly, there are more options for short-term vacation rentals and self-catered accommodation today than ever before. In this quick and easy guide, we take a look at a range of sites like Airbnb and top competitors to help you find your perfect place to stay.
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Why look for alternatives to Airbnb?
Airbnb wasn’t the first company to create a marketplace for vacation rentals, but there is little doubt it has been the most successful. Its rapid growth in recent years has disrupted the hospitality industry around the world, and transformed the dynamics of how people experience travel.
By bringing the process of home rental booking more in line with a hotel experience, Airbnb has put more options on the table for travellers, while making it easier and cheaper to find accommodation for a trip.
There are many advantages of Airbnb-style accommodation for travellers. Staying in a room or entire home owned by a local can provide a more authentic cultural experience. It means you are not only limited to a choice of hotels, guest houses and hostels. Self-catered accommodation is often cheaper, and a private space is ever-more desirable in a post-pandemic world of travel.
We have often used Airbnb often ourselves in the past. But the model is not without its problems. Many cities around the world have restricted Airbnb or even banned it, citing the effects on the hotel industry, long-term rental pricing and overtourism.
Airbnb competitors growing in the market
Just like Hoover and Biro, the brand of Airbnb has become a generic term for vacation rentals. “Shall we book an Airbnb in London?”, you might hear people say. Not a short-term rental in London… an Airbnb in London.
However, Airbnb is far from being the only option for short-term lettings and vacation rentals. The success of the platform has bred competition. In recent years a slew of alternatives to Airbnb have emerged, offering different takes on the market and a wider choice.
Everybody has different tastes and preferences when it comes to travel accommodation. There are various reasons why you may want to look for alternatives to Airbnb. Here are some of the most common:
- Finding the best price. We have often saved money by using Airbnb, but prices on the platform have risen over the last few years. Checking out other sites can often yield a better deal.
- Finding an authentic experience. As Airbnb has broadened its offering, the experience has merged closer to what you would expect from a hotel in many cases. You might find a better local accommodation experience elsewhere.
- Ethical accommodation. Airbnb has made its fair share of headlines for the wrong reasons. It has been accused of saturating local communities and shirking regulations, among other issues. These are not problems that are unique to Airbnb, but the alternatives are often better aligned with responsible tourism.
- Finding something specific. Looking for a luxury rental, or a homestay perhaps? Some Airbnb competitors focus on specific niches like these, as we will see below. With Airbnb continuing to broaden, an alternative may be better positioned to help you find an accommodation suited to your style.
Alternatives to Airbnb: quick comparison table
Before we dig down into the details of our favourite alternatives to Airbnb, this table shows a quick comparison:
|Vrbo||Vacation home and apartment rentals: entire properties for couples, families and friend groups|
|Plum Guide||High-end vacation rentals vetted for quality for an extra-special stay|
|Booking.com||Finding a great deal from a vast range of apartments and homes with over 6 million listings worldwide|
|Homestay||Staying in hosted accommodation with a personable touch for an authentic local experience|
|Couchsurfing||Meeting travel enthusiasts while staying in a host's home for free|
Best alternatives to Airbnb: our favourites
Vrbo (pronounced “verbo”) is the biggest competitor to Airbnb offering a similar platform. Founded in 1995, it has actually been around for more than a decade longer than Airbnb.
The name is an acronym of ‘Vacation Rentals by Owner’. What makes Vrbo a little different to Airbnb is that it focuses entirely on vacation rentals. This means you won’t find hosted rentals, rooms within properties or shared rooms on the platform – only whole properties.
With this in mind, Vrbo is ideally suited to couples, groups of friends or families looking for an entire property to stay in. The whole-of-property factor also makes it a good option for workations (also known as workcations).
While the interface isn’t quite as sharp and slick as Airbnb, Vrbo has been improving since being acquired by Expedia in 2015. Its reach is expanding, with over 2 million listings around the world – definitely worth checking out as an alternative.Find accommodation on Vrbo
2. Plum Guide
Plum Guide is one of the newest players in the game. With a spotlight on quality, these guys list only the very best properties that have passed a strict vetting criteria.
Only around 3% of properties that apply to be featured on Plum Guide pass the criteria. As a result, you will find some pretty spectacular places to stay on there.
To see some examples, check out our selection of amazing luxury cottages in Cornwall, all of which are featured on Plum Guide.
The platform was founded in the UK in 2016, but is gradually spreading its reach around the world. Despite the stringent requirements to make the grade, there are more than 10,000 listings, and it is growing fast.
The team behind Plum Guide are ultimately aiming to establish its mark as a global standard of quality for vacation rentals. As an alternative to Airbnb, it is perfect if you are looking for somewhere that extra bit special to stay on your next trip.Find accommodation on Plum Guide
This is an Airbnb competitor you have probably heard of before. However, perhaps you weren’t aware quite how many types of accommodation you can find on booking.com.
We’ve used the platform tons of times in the past to book hotels and hostels – it is our go-to tool for this. But you can also use it to find self-catered apartments and vacation home rentals.
In fact, out of the 28 million listings featured on the platform, more than 6 million are homes and apartments.Browse home rentals and apartments on booking.com
If you are the kind of traveller who seeks an immersive local experience, then Homestay may be the best Airbnb alternative for you. The platform is dedicated to hosted accommodation, which means you will be staying in a room in somebody’s home.
Some of our most memorable travel experiences have been homestays. We could never replicate the home-cooked food we tasted with a family in a rural Vietnamese village house. Moments like these are the very best of travel.
Hosts on Homestay have a hands-on approach, welcoming you into their home and offering insights into the local area. Even better, every stay listed on the site includes breakfast!Find hosted accommodation on Homestay
Finally, one of the best alternatives to Airbnb for travellers on a budget is Couchsurfing. This is a worldwide community of hosts and travellers who offer free stays in their homes.
Contrary to what the name suggests, you are not always limited to a couch. We have stayed with Couchsurfing hosts who have given us a spare room with a bed.
As with homestays, our Couchsurfing experiences have created some amazing travel memories, like the time we made food for local hosts in Argentina and went to a community social event. And as Couchsurfing hosts ourselves, it has helped us to stay connected with the travel community.
When we first started using Couchsurfing it was a free service, except for an initial upfront verification fee of $60 for a year. However, as a response to financial issues that were exacerbated during the pandemic, Couchsurfing introduced a platform subscription fee that can be paid monthly or yearly (roughly $3 or $15 respectively).Find Couchsurfing hosts
More sites like Airbnb to try
Didn’t find what you were looking for? Here are some more alternatives to Airbnb you can try:
- Flipkey – a vacation rental platform similar to Airbnb with over 300,000 listings worldwide, owned by TripAdvisor.
- TrustedHousesitters – find a free place to stay in exchange for looking after somebody’s home.
- Sonder – unlike Airbnb, all apartments and home rentals on Sonder are owned and managed directly by the platform. We stayed in a beautiful Sonder while on a workation in Barcelona.
- Fairbnb – a cooperative vacation rental platform that puts money back into local communities.
Have you used any alternatives to Airbnb? Let us know about your experience with Airbnb competitors in the comments below.
The header image in this article is courtesy of Plum Guide and host.
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