How To Use Airbnb On A Budget

I’ll start by saying that I’m a big fan of Airbnb. It’s my go-to site when I’m looking for accommodation. In recent years I even preferred it over classic hotels. I discovered Airbnb a couple of years ago while I was browsing the web, read: I was procrastinating.

It immediately won me over because of its beautiful design. As a designer I have a weak spot for well executed interactive web-design. It’s a welcome breath of fresh air if you compare it to the often sluggish hotel booking platforms used by other websites.

Airbnb is often regarded as a discount option compared to a normal hotel. I’ve read reports that it’s about 20% cheaper if you book a private apartment and 50% cheaper when you’re staying with someone in a private room. I’m not really sure about it being cheaper, but one thing is certain: you get more bang for your buck.

Most of the time besides a bed and a bathroom you also have access to a kitchen and a washing machine (important if you’re on a long trip!). Not to mention that most of the time the interior design is more pleasing to the eye than the standard hotel room with fitted carpet and a musty smell.

How Much Do You Want To Spend?

Before figuring out how to use Airbnb on a budget you have to know what you are willing to spend of course! I’m aware that this differs from one person to another, but I will use myself as an example throughout this blog post.

From my experience a standard hotel room in a three star hotel usually ranges from 50 to 150 euro depending in which city you’re staying. A private hostel room goes between 30 and 50 euro again depending on where you’re staying.

These are estimates but I found them to be more or less correct. Taking that into account I made the total illogical decision to not spend more than 60 euro per night on an Airbnb apartment. That’s 30 euro each if you’re travelling with a friend or a significant other.

I know it makes no sense, but it gives me a restriction to work with and it’s good for my bank account. Now do your own math and come up with a budget. It can be any number, but don’t expect to find a lot of places for 20 euro per night.

First Things First

The first thing you should do to book with Airbnb on a budget is altering the price range slider. Put the maximum on the budget you came up with earlier. Do it with conviction and do it fast, before you know it you’re scrolling through beautiful penthouses and lofts (dream on hobo). After that I filter the results so that only private apartments show up. If you’re on a city trip don’t forget to zoom in to the city center. Some places can look cheap until you realise they’re 10 km from the center.

The places that catch your attention will again differ from one person to another. For me it’s places in historical buildings, apartments with beautiful pictures and ditto interiors or if I’m visiting a country with a warm climate: a terrace or a garden.

If I can’t find anything within my budget that fit these criteria then I include private rooms in my search query. This happened to me in Barcelona. I couldn’t find a private apartment that fit my budget and I ended up booking a room in Xavier’s apartment. It was in the middle of the Borne district. Literally two steps away from the Picasso museum and to top it off he had access to a private rooftop terrace. Priceless. Normally I shouldn’t be able to afford a place like this. You can check his place out here.

Hidden Costs

Did that budget of 60 euro seem rather low to you? Think again! Want to know why I think Airbnb isn’t necessary cheaper than a hotel? Read on! There are a few extra costs that will be included in the final price.

Airbnb Handling Fee

This is the most obvious extra cost. Because Airbnb has to cover expenses and needs to save up for the CEO’s seaside villa, they charge you for every booking through their system. After all Airbnb is a company and its goal is to make money. The amount that they charge depends on the overall price of your reservation. The higher the price of the accomodation the less they charge and visa versa. You can expect to pay between 6% – 12%.

Cleaning Fee

Some properties charge a cleaning fee. The first thing you should do is analyse it. How much are they charging? Is this amount fair in relation to the size of the apartment? Do they expect you to clean up certain things regardless of the fee? Sometimes home owners try to use this fee as a sneaky way to overcharge you ‘while still coming up in search results of low-end priced apartments.

Also be extra courteous if your host doesn’t charge you a cleaning fee! Make sure you wash the dishes, make the bed and look to it that the bathroom and toilet are clean.

Country Or City Specific Taxes

Some countries or cities charge their guests a tourist accommodation tax. If this is the case then the home owner will tell you about this somewhere in the apartment’s description. This fee isn’t collected by Airbnb, therefore it’s not included in the total amount that you have to pay. This tax is usually paid on arrival in cash. So make sure you got some local currency with you.

To give an example: The city of Rome charges 3.5 euro per night per person. At first sight that amount seems peanuts, but if you stay 3 nights then that will cost you 21 euro extra! Unfortunately small numbers add up quickly.


Most home owners won’t include breakfast. This means that you have to make your own. While if you stayed at a hotel it would probably be included in the price. How much you will spend on this will depend. Some of you will go out to get breakfast, which is more expensive, and others will make use of the kitchen to prepare it. Pro budget tip: if you’re making breakfast why not make a lunchbox for noon?


Keep these tips and hidden costs in mind. A budget of 60 euro may seem low, but it easily adds up. Usually when I’m in the last stage of booking that 60 euro room suddenly costs 70 – 80 euros per night. Imagine what the room would have cost if you didn’t set a budget! (I can hear my piggy bank scream already).

One last thing. Most of my friends don’t know what Airbnb is. So when I introduce them to the website I give them a personal link. This link will credit me 24 euro if they book a room and in return they get a 24 euro discount on their first booking. If you scratch my back I’ll scratch yours, right?

Anyway, don’t feel obligated in any way to use my personal link! It’s just a suggestion. I wish you guys happy travels with Airbnb!

Andrew D. Kahler

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