We’d been thinking about short-term apartment rentals for a while, but always expected they’d be too expensive: a combination of couchsurfing and hosteling has always worked to keep our prices down. But when Roomorama offered us a credit to review their service, we found what works — and what doesn’t — when you rent someone’s apartment through an online marketplace.
We were heading to Argentina’s capital, and we knew there was plenty of good cheap accommodation in Buenos Aires — five nights in a nice private room at Kaixo hostel, for example, would set us back around US$250. Amazingly, we found a studio apartment for rent at US$225 for the same time period … so there were definitely bargains to be found.
We started our search on an iPhone in a café in Salta. It was a bit difficult to sign up and start looking, although we got an idea of prices and what to look for.
Some of the properties have compulsory charges — like cleaning bills — that get tagged onto the end of the bill; others had huge security deposits that needed to be paid in cash. And there’s no way I’m handing over US$800 in cash as a security deposit. Those properties all went in the virtual bin.
Later that day, back on a laptop, we were able to do much better searches and found half a dozen properties that we liked, in the areas we wanted to stay. Since we had recently spent three weeks in San Telmo, we wanted to be on the other side of the central city: in Recoleta or Palermo.
Roomorama connects the traveller with accommodation owners, so the next stage was sending emails to those properties we were interested in to confirm pricing and availability. The system made it easy to bulk-email the places we liked the look of — no copying and pasting the same information over again.
Unfortunately we received more rejections than we expected … admittedly we were searching just five days out from our arrival date, but those places had booked up fast. Luckily, on Saturday morning as we were about to board our bus from Salta to Buenos Aires, we managed to confirm a place!
The owner emailed, and flicked a virtual switch that meant the property was available and able to be booked. The total cost was $421, including a fee that goes to Roomorama. We were stoked, and completed the booking before jumping on the bus… it was 20 hours before we arrived, and then we had a few hours to wait before we could check in. No worries there.
Everything was rushed, and — of course — we managed to miscommunicate. The apartment rental was only available for the first four nights of our stay, but we had paid for five. Luckily the apartment owner came to the rescue: they had another property they could move us into for the last night. We negotiated a little and managed to score a late checkout, which was an excellent compromise.
That wasn’t the only excellent thing. We were also able to check in three hours early! We had disembarked at 7am, found ourselves a nice café and ensconced ourselves for a few hours before heading up to the Ateneo Grand Splendid on Callao (and just a block away from the apartment). While we were there we got that wonderful phonecall: the apartment has been cleaned — you can check in now.
We were greeted by a bubbly host who took us up to the apartment, walked us around the place, and provided a dozen local recommendations for non-touristy places to eat, drink and shop: an excellent value-add for us as we had never stayed in Recoleta before. The apartment was spacious, light and clean; there was wifi and a cable internet connection; a TV to watch Tom Hanks in Big — dubbed into Spanish of course; and the bathroom and kitchen were fully stocked with everything you’d expect. There was even a pool on the roof!
The real advantage was being able to spread out, make some mess, make some noise. All things you have to be careful of when you’re in a hostel — no-one wants the contents of your bag spilling across the floor. Well, to be honest, Linda isn’t that keen on it either but I enjoyed the space.
Eventually we had to make a move. It was a bit of a pain to do so on our second-to-last day in the city, but we were mollified by the late checkout: we were flying out at 2am! It took less than an hour to pack up, get down to the subte (see Buenos Aires transport) and across town from Recoleta to Palermo Hollywood.
The system was the same: arrive, get keys, sign a contract, get orientated. The new apartment was smaller than the last, but the pool was a bit bigger. We took the opportunity to explore this side of town, and the amazing murals at the Antiques Market are worth a visit just by themselves.
Roomorama review: the conclusion
So, short-term apartment rentals? Here’s our thoughts:
Pro: Your own space, and own apartment — without a hotel feeling.
Con: Lacking the social support of a hostel or couchsurfing.
Pro: A kitchen of your own, so you can cook better meals than in a hostel.
Con: Booking fee can be prohibitive for stays of one or two nights.
Pro: Prices vary, but are generally cheaper than a hotel, similar to a private double in a hostel.
Pro: If you are in a group (3+ people), you’ll save a lot.
Be aware: Of additional costs, like compulsory cleaning or high security bonds.