Hotels, Hostels & BNBs

Alternatives to AirBNB for Short Term Rentals

Finding apartments to rent for a month or two in a foreign country isn’t always easy, and planning your travel year is difficult if you can’t figure out where to stay. AirBNB has made it easier in some ways, as travelers can find furnished apartments all around the world, but there are downsides.

I’ve never had an issue with my AirBNB bookings, but I do know that others are not so fortunate. Lately a lot of people have been looking for alternatives for finding short-term accommodation so they’re not dependent on AirBNB, but it can be hard to find good websites to search on.

So here’s some alternatives to AirBNB for finding short term furnished rentals!

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General Tips

All short-term accommodation websites have potentially the same problems as AirBNB does, depending on what goes wrong. It’s important to vet places thoroughly before booking them. Check reviews, contact the host with questions, and make sure you understand the booking site’s cancellation/refund/help policies before booking somewhere and forking over a lot of cash.

It’s worth asking for recommendations from fellow nomads. Join some Facebook groups and see what other people have suggested for specific locations. I also have some recommendations in my locations posts here.

When you arrive at a new accommodation, try to get in early enough that you still have time to leave and get a hotel room if needed. Nobody wants to show up at midnight after a long day of travel and have to deal with damages, wrong rooms, pest problems, dirty laundry, etc.– easier to book one night at a proper hotel and then check into your apartment the next day when you’re feeling fresh.

Take a video of what the apartment looks like when you arrive. Take photos of any damages you see, and if it’s egregious then be sure to let the host know ASAP even if you don’t need it to be fixed. I found a broken curtain rod in an AirBNB before, but because I let the host know right away (with photos) I wasn’t charged for the damage when I checked out.

Similar Websites to AirBNB

Booking.com

You can book basically anything on Booking.com but in particular you can search for monthly rentals in apartments and hotels. I’ve personally used it to rent apartments in Fukuoka, Japan, one in George Town, Malaysia and another in Barbados and had good experiences each time. This is the one I check first when I don’t see anything I like on AirBNB.

Agoda

Very similar to Booking (and owned by the same company) but slightly better for finding rentals in Asia.

VRBO

aka Vacation Rentals By Owner. Very similar to AirBNB and I’ve found that most owners have their properties listed on both sites anyway.

Furnished Finder

Good for finding apartments in the US; aimed at traveling nurses primarily but others can use it as well.

Sabbatical Homes

Home rentals and home exchange website, been around since 2000! Particularly good for scholars and academics who want to stay near universities.

More websites to search through:

Aparthotels & Extended Stay Hotels

Aparthotels are apartments rented like hotel rooms; they’re common in parts of Europe and most of Asia. The easiest way to find them is to go on Google Maps to the city you want to stay in and type in “aparthotel.” They might also be called “serviced apartments.”

Extended stay hotels are more common in the US, I think, and honestly they’re just another name for aparthotels: apartments rented like hotel rooms. You don’t sign a lease and can check in and out whenever you’d like.

However, some hotels have “extended stays” that are just monthly discounts for normal hotel rooms i.e. without kitchens. If you don’t need to cook anything complicated, it can be a good deal. If you find a hotel you want to stay at for a month or more, contact the hotel manager directly and ask if they have monthly discounts.

Some places to find extended stay hotels:

A sneaky bonus way to find apartment rentals aparthotel-style is to look for student dorms. For instance, I booked several dorms in the United Kingdom during the summer when students were gone, for a VERY good price. Most of them only had a room with an ensuite, but some had kitchens (shared or private) as well. Check in university towns a few weeks before the semester ends and see if something good pops up!

Share Houses & Coliving Spaces

Share houses are what coliving spaces used to be called before digital nomads became super popular a few years ago. Basically, you rent a room in a house with other people, and share common spaces including the kitchen and sometimes bathrooms. A rental company facilitates everything, and the rent usually includes electricity, water, internet, trash, etc.

Share houses (under that name) seem to be more common in Asia. Some examples:

Coliving spaces are aimed at working nomads, so they often have access to a coworking space with desks, printers, meeting rooms, and so on. This can be great for people who want to meet up with other digital nomads!

There’s tons of coliving websites out there now as it’s very popular, and some hostels are even transforming into coliving-branded spaces. The best way to find them is to search “coliving CITY” on Google.

But here’s some websites to get you started otherwise:

Book Direct with Rental Companies

Usually if a city has a lot of tourists and expats coming to stay for a while, there’s tons of vacation rental companies ready to book them into an apartment.

You can find many of them by searching “CITY vacation rentals” on Google, or by joining Facebook groups called something like “CITY Short Term Apartment Rentals.” Once you join the group, you can search through properties posted by rental agents, or you can post your own inquiry with your specifications and budget and they’ll contact YOU with offers.

The old school way is to book a hotel for a few nights, walk around the neighborhood you’re interested in, and look for “for rent” signs in apartment building windows.

It still works in Southeast Asia and Latin America! Several of my nomad friends have gotten very good deals on monthly rentals by doing this, though it takes more time than searching online, and more physical effort. On the plus side, you can see exactly what the apartment is like before you book it, and not just depend on photos.


How do you find furnished short-term apartments for rent?

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Anastasia is a former librarian turned digital nomad. She's been traveling the world full time for two years and has visited 18 countries so far! Just Gone Wandering is a travel resource for solo female travelers on a backpacker's budget-- or slightly more-- and highlights amazing places to visit as well as providing tips and tricks for traveling smart and frugal. Read more...

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