Airbnb Vs Couchsurfing Vs Hostels in Budget Accommodation

Airbnb Vs Couchsurfing Vs Hostels in Budget Accommodation Kenya

Say Goodbye to Hotels: 3 budget accommodation alternatives

In today’s World, there so many accommodation options to choose from for your next trip. Hotels have dominated for a very long time but in the recent years, share economy has disrupted the way people stay during their travels around the world.

When I travel, I rarely opt for hotels.  This is mostly because of budget and limited interaction with local people.

Recently, Airbnb has turned out to be my best accommodation option although I still do stay in hostels, with friends and Couchsurfing hosts.

When choosing between Airbnb, Hostels, and Couchsurfing, there are a number of factors to consider. These factors include the price of the facility, comfort, privacy, safety, and interactions with locals and having fun.

In this post, I will share with you the good, the bad and the ugly side of each option based on the above factors.

Airbnb (Share economy website)

“Book unique homes and experiences all over the world.”- Airbnb website

Of late, I have been using Airbnb for most of my travels. With this platform, you can get a private apartment, house or a decent room for a lower price than most hotels in the area.

The company has also added tours to their platform which enables you to see the destination with your host during the stay.


Airbnb is more expensive compared to Couchsurfing and hostels but way cheaper than most hotels in the same class.


Hosts on Airbnb are very friendly and since you get your own private apartment or room, it is much safe and secure. Before booking, you can see pictures of the facility and know the exact location in advance. There are Scammers in almost every online platform so it is best that you do some research before booking.

Privacy and comfort

Airbnb is the best option if you are looking for privacy and comfort. Unlike Couchsurfing and hostels where you will have to stay and share facilities with strangers, with Airbnb you have an option to choose from private apartments with own kitchen, bedrooms, and washrooms.

Fun and socializing

Unless your host is in the same compound and they are willing to socialize, Airbnb is the closest you can get to a hotel. In terms of fun and engaging with locals, I would rate it as the last option. But as it is with hotels, you can arrange a meet up with locals from other platforms or wander around on your own.

Couchsurfing (Web and Mobile App)

From their website, “Couchsurfing is a vibrant travel community of over 14 million locals and travelers. Use Couchsurfing to find accommodations, meet up with nearby locals and travelers, discover the best things to do, or find travel advice.”

Couchsurfing is a share economy website, where you can host or get hosted by locals from all over the world for “Free”.  It is a great platform for travelers whose aim is to stay with and learn from locals.

Price of the facility

Couchsurfing is “free” because there is no money exchanged. If you are planning to use Couchsurfing because it is free, I would advise you to look for an alternative. Most of the time as a “Surfer” you have to buy your host a gift, buy groceries or at least cook and wash dishes after the meal. To me, this is not free but I enjoy surfing because my goal is to meet and stay with locals.

To get verified with Couchsurfing requires that you pay a small fee although it is not necessary. The most important thing is to get positive and genuine references from other surfers.


When it comes to safety, Couchsurfing has many horror stories. Some of the stories could be true. I have surfed in a number of countries and all my experiences have been positive.

Getting a good host can be hard work and if you are going to accept just any host or surfer, I would advise you to stay away from the platform.

Some of the best practices when looking for a host are to check on their profile, references (Hosting and surfing history), age, and gender. You can then message them requesting to be hosted or for recommendations.

When you post your public trip on CS, you will get many messages with people requesting to host you. I trust people who I reach out to personally.

Privacy and Comfort

On rare occasions, you can be lucky enough to get your own room and a key. Most of the time you are offered a couch, an air mattress or a place to lay your sleeping mat. You will be staying with your local host (s) so privacy is not guaranteed.

If you are not lucky to get a spare key, be prepared to leave the house at 7:00 am as your host goes to work.

I have heard cases where surfers stay all night drinking and then show up at 3 o’clock in the morning at the host’s place. This is not a good practice but as a host be prepared for anything.

I consider Couchsurfing as the best way to learn a new culture, a new language, how to cook a local meal and new ways of life. I once surfed in Indonesia and the experience was priceless.

Fun and socializing

Surfing is fun!

While staying with a local host, they take you to places which are not on Lonely Planet, Tripadvisor or any blog on the internet, you get to share stories, learn new languages, cook local meals, and many other fun activities.

Backpacker’s hostels

If you want to have fun, stay on a budget, make friends, share travel stories and explore destinations with new people, then hostels are the best option.

In my opinion, I would go for a hostel over a hotel anytime.

There are many decent hostels around the world but you can also expect to find some terrible ones. A good backpacker’s hostel has the following facilities;

  • Communal Kitchen
  • Bar (Drinking beer s a good way to safe water)
  • Private and communal washrooms
  • Lounge and recreational area
  • Mixed-gender shared dorm rooms
  • Single-gender shared dorm rooms
  • Swimming pool
  • Private Banda
  • Hammocks
  • Campsite

A very good example of a backpacker’s hostel in Kenya is Distant Relatives Eco Lodge in Kilifi which has all the above facilities and more.


Hostels are relatively cheaper compared to Airbnb in most places. They also have different accommodation options to choose from which includes shared dorms, campsites, and private rooms.


For personal safety, hostels are the best since there are many people around.

When it comes to belongings, you are staying with strangers so just take care of your stuff.

Privacy and comfort

Forget it!

While you might get some comfort, forget privacy in hostels. In most cases you have to put up with some guy snoring at night, travelers checking in the dorm past midnight, people getting back from club crawl at 2:00 am among others. Almost every facility is shared unless you book a private Banda.

Fun and socializing

Hostels are a winner when it comes to having fun. If you are traveling solo or as a group, you will meet other travelers in hostels who will make your experience more memorable.

This experience may be short-lived as most backpackers (travelers) are always on the move. But it is worth it.

Hostels staff are very welcoming and can help you organize day trips, club-hopping, and adventures in the destination for you and your newly made friends.


If none of the above options seem to please you, there are other accommodation options that are not as popular. They include WorkAway, Voluntourism, and WWOOF. Learn More.


Airbnb: convenience, privacy, comfort, and safety

Couchsurfing: Fun, budget, cultural exchange

Hostels: Fun, adventure and meeting new travelers

Get 25% off your next stay with Airbnb

Stay at Distant Relatives Eco Lodge

Which is your most preferred accommodation option? Share in the comment section below.