Rahul is an app enthusiast who loves scouring the web for alternatives to popular apps. Monopoly mustn't prevail!
What Apps and Websites Are Like Airbnb?
If you are a regular traveler or even someone who takes trips once or twice a year, you have probably used or at least heard of Airbnb by now. For the uninitiated, Airbnb is a famous travel accommodation site and app used all over the world. Whether you're looking for budget bookings for one or something swanky for a larger group, you can find almost any type of accommodation among their almost infinite listings. Gone are the days of booking cookie-cutter hotel rooms in bland surroundings. Airbnb offers a fun, alternative way to spice up your vacation.
Some of the site's listings are for properties in which homeowners will be present during your stay, so you can chat with your host and get inside info about the local culture. There are also plenty of options for private rooms if you'd prefer to have a place all to yourself. With offerings ranging from cabins to condos to villas to treehouses, versatility is one of the best aspects of this app, so it's no wonder that Airbnb is an industry leader when it comes to vacation rentals.
The site is becoming quite mainstream, however, so booking in advance is quickly becoming both a necessity and a hassle, and rates are definitely higher than they used to be. So, if you're striking out on Airbnb and can't find what you're looking for, check out these alternative apps and make your next getaway a memorable one.
Online Alternatives to Airbnb
- OYO Rooms
Vrbo is short for vacation rentals by owners. It is not as famous as Airbnb, but it has actually been around for a longer time. The way this app works is simple—you rent out vacation properties listed by homeowners in the area you're visiting.
While Airbnb has all kinds of options when it comes to properties (e.g., single rooms, service apartments, shared spaces, and hosted experiences), Vrbo offers only full properties. For this reason, many users book places through this app if they're in groups of four or more.
In terms of interface, Airbnb once again takes the cake. But to Vrbo's credit, the quality of its listings noticeably higher. If you're a homeowner, you can register on the app and rent your property with a nominal booking fee.
It's a well-established fact that Booking.com is the king of the online hotel-booking business. The site is one of the best places to get awesome deals on hotel rooms all across the globe. If you're on the lookout for a rental, Booking.com has got your back in this department as well. Although not its main function, you can book apartments and vacation homes for a fair price on this website. With the decline of hotel culture, it seems like Booking.com is trying to keep up with the times.
Once again, if you're someone who owns a property and is looking to rent it out, you can sign up on booking.com for free. However, the site will charge for every booking you make. If you're looking for an alternative to Airbnb, Booking.com may be a good fit.
HomeAway is another famous vacation-rental giant that is quickly catching up to Airbnb. Vrbo, the portal I talked about earlier, is in fact a subsidiary of this company. As a result, you will find similar places on both websites. However, being the parent company, HomeAway has a lot more options and listings.
While Vrbo mainly lists vacation homes for small groups, HomeAway also provides listings of smaller apartments and cottages ideal for solo travelers or couples. If you're not finding what you're looking for on Vrbo, chances are you might find it here.
Property owners can register at HomeAway either by paying a fixed annual fee or signing up for free and paying interest for every booking. It may not be a leader in travel accommodation, but it is a solid substitute for Airbnb nonetheless.
You may or may not have heard of Flipkey, but you have almost certainly heard of TripAdvisor, which owns this company. Like Airbnb, Flipkey provides property listings of all kinds, but fewer properties and cities are covered, which is true for pretty much all Airbnb alternatives. Another major difference is that Flipkey doesn't provide dormitories. You will not find communes or hostels on this site, so it is not always very budget-friendly.
However, Flipkey does have a pretty neat search filter. If you're on the lookout for something specific—like a property with an ocean view or mountains nearby—they have got you covered. And if your four-legged furry friend will accompanying you on your travels, you can look specifically for pet-friendly accommodations as well.
For property owners, registering on Flipkey has a distinct advantage. Once registered, your property will show up on the TripAdvisor search engine, ensuring that your place gets all the exposure it needs.
Homestay is one of the better travel accommodation services out there. Unlike Airbnb, which lists both hosted and private properties, Homestay exclusively offers places inhabited by the owners. Staying at a place listed on this site is not only a great experience overall, but it can also be very culturally enlightening.
Using Homestay, you can stay with a local who knows everything about their city. Most of the time, the properties listed are gorgeous, and the resulting experiences are quite enriching. Did I mention that breakfast is complementary?
Of course, this site does have some drawbacks, the major one being the high demand and low supply. Let's face it—not many homeowners opt to rent out part of their personal space, and this severely limits the number of houses available in any given city. Compared to Airbnb, there are far fewer listings, so to use this site, you'll need to book your stay well in advance.
That said, Homestay is still a brilliant and authentic way to experience a new place and its culture. Homeowners can rejoice, too, as it is completely free to sign up on the app.
Imagine Airbnb but with a higher-priced model and super swanky properties to match, and you get onefinestay. It is currently operational in only a few cities across the globe, but it is still a premier choice for the affluent. Now, these aren't five-star hotels that charge a bomb for a room or a suite. All the properties on onefinestay are actual private properties, but there are no hosts. So you get luxurious and extravagant accommodations in major cities around the world all to yourself. If money isn't a problem for you, and you don't mind splurging a bit for the right place, onefinestay is the perfect choice for you.
Homeowners can register their properties to be rented out on the site, but the company has very high standards for what qualifies as a suitable place. Also, the booking fee is quite steep. With the payoff so high, however, that doesn't come as much of a surprise. Those looking for a higher-end Airbnb alternative will love what onefinestay has to offer.
More professional and streamlined than other vacation rentals, VILLASdirect is a great place to find properties specific to one's needs. The best part is that they are not a part of some larger conglomerate, so the listings are often unique. If you want a lot of interesting options you can't find elsewhere, VILLASdirect fits the bill.
However, the way the app works is different from most of the other entries on this list. Properties are rented out by management companies instead of individual owners to ensure better quality and service. Also, there is no booking fee when you rent a place on VILLASdirect, which is a major win for any traveler.
Homeowners can still register their properties here, just not directly. They are usually paired with a middleman group that takes things forward. Of course, owners still have to pay a certain commission for every successful booking.
Outdoorsy has adopted an intriguing business model in comparison to sites like Airbnb. Instead of renting out rooms and properties, the website lists out RVs and caravans.
It goes without saying that you can travel in your selected RV in addition to staying in it for a single price, which is a major win for budget travelers. The caravans listed also tend to be pretty spacious, which is an added bonus. There are no middlemen or hidden fees on Outdoorsy, as all the properties listed on the app belong to actual owners who rent them out when they are not using them. Unique, exciting, and completely private, Outdoorsy is a wanderer's dream come true.
If you own a caravan and are looking to rent it out, you can register on the website for free. There are no strings attached, and the money you receive for bookings is entirely yours. Sounds appealing, doesn't it?
Want to try something radical and equitable at the same time? Then try Couchsurfing. It's a brilliant way to travel and stay, especially if you're on your own. With Couchsurfing, you can stay in your host's home for free. Yes, you read that right—absolutely free!
However, the procedure to get this free pass is not so easy. The app is also a kind of social network—a way for travelers to connect and make friends all around the globe. If you're looking to stay someplace, you must fill out your profile completely, including basic details and interesting information about yourself. The more creative you are, the better. Then, if you find a place in a city that you really like, you have to make a request to the owner and strike up a correspondence. Finally, if you two click, the place is yours, and you also earned yourself a new friend.
Of course, Couchsurfing works on a quid-pro-quo basis, so if you find a great place with a lovely host, be sure to keep a spare room ready at your home, too. A prime example of a budget travel service catered to those with openminded lifestyles, Couchsurfing is a must-have on every globetrotter's phone.
10. OYO Rooms
When one thinks of OYO Rooms, hotels usually come to mind. But this Indian-origin hospitality chain has a jaw-dropping variety of options, including affordable hotel rooms, service apartments, private homes, vacation rentals, and a lot more. It is the third-largest vacation-rental provider in the world.
The app, which is user-friendly and easy to access, lists affordable properties around an area—ideal for solo travelers, couples, or small families. In addition to their affordable pricing, they usually also provide some variety of complimentary service to woo potential customers.
With millions of properties listed all across the planet, there is no dearth of options here. From small cities to bustling metropolises, OYO Rooms are everywhere. So, if you are looking for an affordable, reliable place to stay, look no further.
While it is safe to say that Airbnb will remain the undisputed vacation-rental leader for some time, it would be prudent to keep an eye on the apps listed here because in the fast and ever-changing world of online services, nothing is set in stone.
So, what did you think of the list? Do you know of any other sites and apps like Airbnb that deserve to be listed here? Let me know in the comments section.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Rahul Pandey
Liza from USA on August 14, 2020:
Great list! I have used a few of the apps/websites you've mentioned on the list in the past. However, there are a few I have never used or heard. I think it has to do with the pandemic. This year my husband and I have missed a trip that we have booked, so I don't pay attention to any new travel apps or websites. However, we are still planning for a future vacation after the pandemic is over. Thank you for the suggestions and tips!