As Digital Nomads, we tend to use Airbnb quite often to book our accommodation. Mostly, we find what we are looking for. We like Airbnb and it offers a lot for Digital Nomads, such as the option to check WiFi speeds and long stay discounts. But recently, we’ve been wondering about alternatives to Airnbnb. Particularly because the cleaning fees for Airbnb seem quite high and the cleaning policy, has in the past been a little irritating. We’ve also noticed that fewer properties are allowing for free cancellation on Airbnb. So we’ve started looking at Vrbo. Airbnb or Vrbo, which is better for Digital Nomads?
- Airbnb or Vrbo: website functionality
- Airbnb or Vrbo: property prices
- Airbnb or Vrbo: service and cleaning fees
- Airbnb or Vrbo: long stay discounts
- Airbnb or Vrbo: cancellation policy
- Airbnb v Vrbo final thoughts
- More resources for Digital Nomads available here:
Airbnb or Vrbo: website functionality
We generally like the Airbnb browser and app functionality. It’s easy to navigate and mostly intuitive. There are some issues, the main one we have is that you cannot search for outdoor space, gardens or terraces on Airbnb. With Vrbo, this issue is resolved and you can easily search for outdoor space and filter the listings accordingly.
We’ve highlighted the main differences in website search functionality below:
|No option to filter by outdoor space||Filter by outdoor space|
|Filter by “room” or “entire place”||Vrbo only offers entire places|
|Filter by WiFi||Filter by WiFi|
|No option to filter by discount||Filter by “long stay discount” or “new listing discount”|
Airbnb or Vrbo: property prices
The big deciding factors for us when booking accommodation, will always be price and availability of suitable properties. Here, we’ve compared a few similar listings on Airbnb and Vrbo in some of our favourite cities:
|Lisbon||Small central apartment for $2235 per month ($2580 including fees)||Small central apartment for $2000 per month (including fees)|
|Belgrade||Waterfront apartment $1275||Waterfront apartment $2000|
|Tblisi||Modern flat in the heart of Tblisi $750||Modern flat in the heart of Tblisi $960|
|Oslo||$2800 for a central apartment (inclusive of 50% long stay discount)||$4800 for a central apartment (inclusive of a 40% long stay discount)|
For the sake of comparison, we looked at listings for these cities for the same month (June 2023), for two people, with one bedroom.
The prices for Lisbon and Tblisi were fairly similar and both sites offered many properties. But we noted that searches in Oslo produced very few results on Vrbo for the period of research. The prices in Belgrade for Vrbo were quite different to Airbnb.
Airbnb or Vrbo: service and cleaning fees
We have long been perplexed by the service fee charged by Airbnb on each booking. Sadly, it looks to be the case the Vrbo also charge a service fee on each listing too. The service fees on Airbnb and Vrbo seem to be very similar.
Cleaning fees however, are a slightly different situation. Of all the listings we viewed on Vrbo, most tended to charge a standard $6 cleaning fee. This is significantly less than Airbnb cleaning fees, which can sometimes be around $30 or more.
Airbnb or Vrbo: long stay discounts
One of the reasons that we like to use Airbnb as Digital Nomads, is that frequently take advantage of the long stay discounts. The discounts on Airbnb can apply for a one week stay, but the longer the stay the bigger the discount tends to be. Therefore, for a month long stay the discount can be significant. We’ve booked a number of places that offer 40% to 50% discount for a one month stay on Airbnb. We also like that Airbnb shows you clearly the % discount that you have been given when you book.
Vrbo also offers long stay discounts. These can apply for one week or one month. As with Airbnb, the discount for long stays is decided by hosts therefore is discretionary. What we really love about the Vrbo system however, is that you can search for listings specifically by selecting the option “long-stay discount.” This is really helpful if this is what you are looking for. A useful piece of functionality for Digital Nomads.
Having looked through a number of listings on Vrbo, it appears that most long-stay discounts are around 10% to 20%, which seems a little less than Airbnb. But, I did find one or two examples of discounts that were around 50%, mostly on more expensive properties ($8,000 per month rather than $16,000 for a flat in Lisbon for example.)
We also noticed that Vrbo listings often have a “new listing discount” applied. This is, clearly, for new discounts. We like this idea, and expect it’s a good feature for hosts too. Often, when a property doesn’t have many reviews because it is new, it can be off putting to guests. But a little discount definitely sweetens the deal.
Airbnb or Vrbo: cancellation policy
Both Airnb and Vrbo have an option to search for listings that have a “free cancellation” clause.
Anecdotally, we have noticed that increasing numbers of Airbnb hosts are setting their listings to 48 hours cancellation only, so you have only a short window to cancel after booking. Whilst we do understand that hosts need to have reliable guests and bookings, this can be a little frustrating when you are booking accommodation in advance.
With Vrbo, we observed that roughly 70% of the listings that we sampled have free cancellation. The cancellation options tend to enable cancellation around one month before your booking, for free. To us, this seems a really sensible way to give some assurance to hosts, whilst allowing greater flexibility for guests.
Airbnb v Vrbo final thoughts
On balance, we are pleasantly surprised by Vrbo. The website appears to be easy to use. Plus we’ve read lots of great reviews about the customer service and booking experience. We thought that Vrbo might not live up to Airbnb when it comes to property selection, but it definitely does.
Here are a few final comparison points:
|Can book a room or an entire place||Can only book an entire place|
|Offers weekly and monthly discounts||Offers weekly and monthly discounts|
|Cancellation policy decided by host||Cancellation policy decided by host|
|Website sometimes not intuitive||Website intuitive|
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