After a chilly start in Uruguay, we headed across to Argentina in search of warmer climes. Buenos Aires is only one hour across the Rio de la Plata by boat from Colonia del Sacramento, but we had been told that the temperatures in the big city would be more favourable. Besides Colonia, although pretty, is very quiet and we were in search of more life.
After only four nights of dorm life, we were already beginning to crave some personal space, mainly so that we could spread our stuff out a bit and not have to lock away all of our possessions every time we left the room, and so we were looking into a private room for our stay in BA. Most hostels offer a choice of a private room, but prices are very high, especially in Buenos Aires. Then we stumbled upon Airbnb, a website that promotes itself as “a global network of accommodations offered by locals”. Basically, the deal is that anybody with a spare room, house or apartment can offer it up for rent on a short-term lease.
I’m not sure how we heard about Airbnb, I think maybe our new Aussie mate Ben might have mentioned it one night at the hostel in Colonia. We had a quick look the night before we left Uruguay and were surprised to find a nice looking apartment in the San Telmo district of BA that had a private room for $33 a night. As we were already paying almost $15 a night (each) for a bed in a dormitory, this seemed like a good bargain to us.
A taxi from the port to the apartment cost 20 Argentinian pesos ($5) and the driver found it quickly and easily. When we arrived we were greeted by Angela, our lovely US host who runs a few similar lodgings around the city. She provided us with maps, guidebooks and even helped us identify fake bank notes, which can be a problem for the unsuspecting tourist. She gave us a mobile phone should we need to contact her at any point. The apartment housed a fully equipped kitchen, 3 bedrooms—1 ensuite, and a comfortable shared lounge/dining area. Angela had put together a file of useful information for her guests and there were various copies of the Time Out guide to Buenos Aires available for our perusal.
On our first night we were chatting to Giang, a friendly solo-traveller who was staying in the ensuite room at the apartments. After exchanging a few pleasantries, Giang found our story very familiar and we realised that we had all met before on the terrace of a cheap backpacker hostel on the shores of Boeng Kak Lake in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, a few years earlier. As we had not exchanged email addresses or even befriended each other on Facebook, we thought this was as random as coincidences get. I have her on Facebook now so hopefully our next meeting can be more coordinated.
If you are visiting Buenos Aires, then I recommend you contact Angela, either through the Airbnb site or her own blog www.santelmoloft.com We were really happy with the room and the apartment. The location was also good, being close to the pretty streets of Caminito and only a 10 minute walk to the main streets of San Telmo where the bars and nightlife can be found. Parts of the walk can be quite dark and isolated at night so it may be better to take a taxi rather than walk out alone, this would only cost a few pesos which would buy peace of mind for a solo traveller.
Will I use Airbnb again?
Definitely. It was great to feel like I had a home in Buenos Aires rather than a bed in a dorm. We did miss the social side of life in a hostel, however.
Here is my list of advantages and disadvantages of staying in a shared apartment rather than a hostel.
- Private room at cheap price
- Fewer people using the amenities
- Amenities often better quality than in a hostel
- Homely atmosphere
- Experiencing life in the city as an expat might, rather than a backpacker.
- Other occupants likely to want own space rather than make a lot of noise. You will probably find that the occupants have more respect for each other
- Apartment likely to be in a nice area of the city
- Not having an instant social group to hang out with
- Unable to take advantage of hostel entertainments, tours or discounts
- Other occupants may not want to socialise at all
Have you used Airbnb or a similar site? What was your experience? Do you prefer to stay in a hostel or a private room? Please leave a comment!