Note: If you don’t feel like reading the full article, the quick answer is: stay for a while somewhere, or about a month to get the outstanding deals. Ok, totally read the article now because doing so will enhance your mental state in a way that will enable you to read minds on Thursdays.
I’m not a backpacker. I don’t hop from hostel to hostel living life on the extraordinarily cheap. On the other hand, I don’t have vast amounts of cash to throw away to 5-star resorts, herds of yaks (just for the hell of it), or small islands where the sand is cocaine and everyone is named Wanda. I’m not sure I’d want that anyway, except for the herd of yaks. That would be pretty rad.
The life of the wandering ascetic is just not for me, and being a yak herd buyer is out of reach. Neither is wrong, it's just not part of my game plan. Plus, I’m lugging around my guitar in addition to 2 pieces of luggage.
So what to do?
Why, become an Airballer, that’s what. I’m not talking about a person who constantly misses the rim playing basketball, I’m talking about using Airbnb on the cheap for baller places anywhere in the world. I hope we colonize Mars soon, because I’ll totally be using Airbnb there too (note to Airbnb, you should probably start looking into this).
What is Airbnb?
Airbnb is still surprisingly unknown to many people around the world. I find that nearly everywhere I go there are at least a couple people that I have to explain it to (with perhaps the exception of places like New York or San Francisco). So let’s get this out of the way right now.
Here’s a quick summary: people rent out their places to you, and it’s all managed through the website or app. Hosts and guests alike are vetted and most places already have reviews available. This takes the guesswork out of whether or not the place is a complete dump (I'll speak to this a bit more later in the post). In the past you may have had the following experience.
Husband: “Wow, honey, check out these photographs of this Motel 6. It says here that their beds are made out of real cloud dust. That’s gotta be soft. Also, a whole wall is an 8k TV!"
Wife: “Wow, babe, let’s book it and be happy there snuggling on cloud dust after we first Netflix and chill."
Husband: "Ohhh la la honey, and it won't even be Thursday."
2 months, 1 day, and 3 hours later
Husband: “Wow, babe, that hotel was the shittiest thing that’s happened to us since…well, ever. That was the single worst experience we’ve ever had, and I’m taking into consideration what happened in Portugal."
Husband: “I feel empty and and my soul has a dark tint to it now. Even the cockroaches looked severely depressed there, and they’re survivors ya know."
Wife: “I can’t talk about this now…in fact, let’s never talk about this ever again, lest our mithril strong marriage be jeopardized."
Husband: “Good call honey buns. Good call. I wish you'd stop using Lord of the Rings references, but whatever. I'm with you like Samwise."
You can avoid having these types of experiences by booking through Airbnb. I realize that now many places have reviews in place, but it's simply not so for many places around the world, especially in developing nations.
Finding the Great Deals
Okay, now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about how you can capitalize on finding the best deals out there on this pale blue dot.
The best way to get the best deal is to stay for at least a month somewhere.
I know that this is not feasible for many, but it’s awesome for a number of reasons:
- You really have a chance to get to know an area and the culture.
- You have a home base while you travel to other parts of the area
- The price is cut dramatically
When I was looking for a place in Costa Rica, I found a pretty nice apartment complex. The problem was that it was $50 per night, which was way outside of my budget. However, when I punched in dates to stay for a full month, the cost went down to $18 per night. Let’s put that into perspective. For around $550 I had an apartment a block from the beach to myself for a whole month. If I had chosen the shorter term stay route I would have paid the same amount for just 11 days.
Was this an isolated incident? Nope, I did the same thing in Philippines. In fact, I’m writing this on a couch in a loft a couple blocks from Alona beach. I’m staying at Sanders Apartments, in the Loft. Initially I really wanted the Garden Home, which is the main level, incredibly spacious, blah blah, but it was already accounted for. The loft goes for $27 per night, with a 9 night minimum stay. Increase your time and suddenly the price per night is cut in half.
Let's say I was staying for the required 9 days. This is what it looks like:
If I extend it to a month, look how it magically goes down to about $14 a night.
The reasons for this are pretty obvious. The host doesn't have to worry about bringing in people every few days, hiring a cleaner, a person to do the laundry, detectives to figure out why there's blood on the mirror spelling out "clean me rarrrrr."
I understand that a month in a foreign locale is a luxury not many can afford. I get it. I've spent my entire life believing that I could never do it, and there is no judgment coming from this guy. I consider myself extremely fortunate to be able to do this kind of thing.
In the end, it's up to you regarding how you want things to pan out. I suppose I'm speaking mainly to a U.S. audience here, but consider a few things before you rule something like this completely out:
- Is your job really that awesome?
- Can you work remotely?
- Can you take a sabbatical?
- How much do you pay in rent a month?
- How much do you pay for gas or a car payment?
- The stuff you do have, is it necessary or is it owned to meet some status quo expectation?
- How long would it take to save up for something like this?
- Would you like to do something like this but have fears that you're not acknowledging? i.e. what about health insurance and drug cartels and I saw that movie Hostel and that will happen to me!?!?! Ahhhhh!
- What's the worst that could happen?
Anyway, if you really want to check out another country for a while, I believe it's doable, especially if you live and work in a developed nation. Of course, I don't know your particular situation, so it just may be a simple fact that right now there's no way this type of thing can happen. That's okay too.
That's Great Jeremy, But I Just Want to Spend a Few Days in Portugal
No problem. You can still find effin’ great deals for just a few nights or whatever. It’s pretty intuitive on the site, but just slide that price scroller to the highest price point you want to pay and see what your options are. I like to use the map a lot too, but wish that I could make it bigger.
Factors when determining where to stay
I’m a budget-minded solo traveler, so I can be pretty damn flexible when it comes to places to stay. That said, there are still some things I take into account before staying somewhere:
- Location: is the place located in the middle of a major drug cartel operation? Is it close to things I want to see, or close to transportation to see things I want to see?
- Cost: does the cost of the place require that I go sell rockets for a year before I can afford it?
- What do previous Airballers have to say about the place? Do they love it? Maybe they loved it but offer some good tidbits in their review. For example, someone may leave a 5-star review for a place, but mention in the text that it actually takes 5 hours to get from the place to the beach, as opposed to 5 minutes as claimed by the host. Why would this happen? I dunno, maybe the host is in the middle of a drug cartel operation and is saying “write 5-star review like bear or I take shoes.” Or maybe the reviewer just absolutely loved the host, formed an eternal bond that can’t ever be broken, so wouldn’t dare think of leaving anything less than a 5-star review. It's definitely not perfect, and the following article explains the pitfalls of the current review experience: Why You Really Can’t Trust Airbnb Reviews At All
- What does my gut say? Sometimes my gut says “you ate the wrong thing son, now you gonna pay!” Other times it really helps my brain out. I’ll look at places and my brain will be like “Ah joie de vivre!, would you look at that, this is perfect in all ways. N'est-ce pas my friendly gut brain?" My gut will then quite blithely say “merde mother#cker, that place will end up breaking you in more ways than there are lawyers in America, and that figure is literally infinite.” Anyway, be careful because a small mammoth will sometimes come in disguised as your gut or your brain. He is the voice of fear and comfort mongering, and says things like “that looks dirty and people will try and sell you things and rip you off and get you to join their mafia cuz you’re white as plaster with a shiny bald head.” Don’t listen to that idiot.
How the Hell do I Signup for this Magical Thing Called Airbnb. For I too would like to be an Airballer
Right here my friends, right here: I Want to Be an Airballer