I was about to book my flight ticket and hostel to stay in Kyoto for seven days, when suddenly, two of my colleagues from work decided to join me. Neither of them, however, were keen on staying at a hostel. They raved about “Airbnb.” I found out that Airbnb is a host site that facilitates booking to stay in someone’s house or apartment at your holiday destination. These homes provide usual household comforts like your personal kitchen, bathroom and so on. These are especially ideal for friends or couples traveling together in pairs or groups. I was curious about which accommodation I would prefer, so we went ahead and booked four nights together in our Airbnb, and I booked three nights to stay alone at my hostel for the last leg of my trip.
The Airbnb was a bachelor style apartment. The location was fairly central as it was halfway between Kyoto station (south of the Kamo river) and Nishiki Market (north), and just a three minute walk from Gojo station. I booked my hostel accommodation at the Khaosan Kyoto Theater, as I had originally intended. This hostel (https://www.facebook.com/khaosankyototheater) received rave reviews on hostelworld (http://www.hostelworld.com/), particularly for its ideal location, friendly staff and cleanliness. It also had a bar in the basement and a large dinning room/ kitchen on the 5th floor.
My Airbnb and hostel experiences were quite different. As I compare my them, please note that my opinions reflect my personal tastes and my experience with these two locations specifically. Another Airbnb and hostel may provide a completely different experience for you.
I travelled in late January, 2017. Airbnb apartments were rather hard to find for three friends traveling together. Most Airbnb places accommodate pairs. When we finally found a suitable size with three separate beds, the price worked out to around $25 US per person per night. When looking for hostels, I usually use hostelworld.com because the website makes managing bookings very easy. Khaosan Kyoto Theater was just under $30 US per night, so the hostel stay was a little dearer than the Airbnb shared between three people.
Our Airbnb was bachelor size, and we quickly found that sharing a small apartment gives you little privacy. If your friends adventure without you, you may get some alone time, but otherwise, you could be together most of the time and will have to adapt to each other’s needs for downtime while at the apartment. At Khaosan, I had a solid wood ‘pod’ sleeping-space with a curtain which drew across. The height was tall enough for me, at 5’6, to sit up in. Although I could hear noise from my neighbours since I shared a room with possibly eight other people, I felt that I had my own privacy within my pod sleeping area, and largely, everyone in our shared room was very considerate. The enclosed wooden bed functioned well in keeping out neighbouring noise, however, the top bunks are a little harder to climb up and down from. I had to plan more carefully what exactly I needed to bring with me, for example, organizing for bathroom trips and bringing everything I needed which was temporarily residing in my pod area. I didn’t have this issue while at the Airbnb.
My Airbnb apartment had unreliable Wi-Fi which would drift in and out. Khaosan Wi-Fi was largely consistent, and if it dropped out, I could log into the hostel Wi-Fi on another floor. Khaosan’s Wi-Fi was infinitely better than the Airbnb internet service.
Staying at an Airbnb means you largely have to plan your travel yourself, whether it be to explore the local tourist spots, find your way to your next destination, or return home. This could be challenging if information is largely available in Japanese and you can’t read it. At Khaosan, the front desk staff helped me plan out how to return to Osaka airport early in the morning. They listed for me exactly where my local bus stop toward Kyoto station would be, and printed out the timetable for the JR express trains headed for Kansai airport. Khaosan hostel also plays videos featuring the local sites so that tourists can receive easy reminders about the popular tourist spots.
As mentioned earlier, the Airbnb I stayed at with my two friends was bachelor size, and although it was comfortable enough, it was by no means spacious. Many of the Airbnb properties in central Kyoto seemed to be small, and while small living spaces may be a Japanese city norm, the hostel was a very different experience. Although my private pod space was small, it felt larger than beds that I’ve experienced at other hostels. Additionally, the numerous open spaces for the guests’ use, like the lobby, the upstairs dinning room/ kitchen, the basement bar, and the workshop, gave me a feeling that I had a large, temporary home to live in. The minimalist décor as well as the well-situated furniture added to a feeling of more space.
Meeting new people
Finally, and I suspect that this is true for most Airbnb and hostel experiences irrespective of where they are in the world, that when you travel with friends or a partner, you are likely to continue hanging out with them almost exclusively. No matter the accommodation you chose, you will likely come across opportunities to meet locals and other travelers while out and about, however, it easier to meet new people staying at a hostel as a single traveler. At Khaosan, I meet a stream of new guests constantly within the hostel itself, whether at breakfast time in the kitchen, chatting to guests during hostel organized workshops, or enjoying the bar scene in the evening. I found easy access to socializing with new people especially appealing as I was able to seek social situations when I wanted them.
In conclusion, generally, the Airbnb was comfortable, while the hostel was sociable. I’m glad I tried the Airbnb experience, and intend to use it again if I’m traveling with a group of friends or in a pair, however I will definitely continue to stay hostels, especially when traveling alone.
What has your experience using Airbnb or hostels been like? Is there anything mentioned here you agree or disagree with, or can you add any comparisons between these two types of accommodations?
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