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.

The search

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.

Seaching for short-term rentals on Roomorama

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.

Things to check before your enquiry

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.

The booking

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.

The stay

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.

Recoleta cemetery Buenos Aires
Recoleta cemetery, ten minutes' walk from our first apartment (pictured above)

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.

The move

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.

New apartment

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.

New street art! A Pum-Pum mural right next door

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.

To check availability where you’re heading next:

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Your thoughts on "Roomorama review – our first apartment rental"

  • I have been hesitant to use these apartment rental services because I worry about not getting a security deposit back or finding out that things don't work (like internet) when you get there. Good to read an honest review.

    on December 9, 2011 at 8:26 am Reply
    • Yes - we didn't like the look of places that asked for big cash security deposits; that was one thing we weren't interested in. We choose a vendor who could accept security deposits by credit card (and also looked at those who accepted Paypal, or small cash deposits). Roomorama seems to combine all reviews for the vendor, rather than the property -- which I think gives you a better idea of the person behind the rental. That might not work out so well if you're wondering about the internet not working, but might give you a better idea of if they'd fix it.

      on December 9, 2011 at 11:30 pm Reply
  • Wow, you've been really lucky with Roomorama! I have tried a few similar sites and twice have found myself in a paid 'couchsurfing' situation although it was advertised as 'whole flat for rent'. Now I love couchsurfing, but not when I pay $50 to sleep in a 1 room apartment with three other people.

    on December 9, 2011 at 2:44 pm Reply
    • That sucks! If you're booking an apartment, you should get ... an apartment! Not a room or share arrangement. Did you stay, or did you contest the rental arrangement?

      on December 9, 2011 at 11:31 pm Reply
  • This is a really good honest review. I'm considering a rental such as this on my next trip :)

    on December 9, 2011 at 10:15 pm Reply
    • Hi Samuel, thanks. I think systems like Roomorama that bring together vendors and casual customers are going to keep on growing. I'm glad to report this one worked out for us. Let us know how you go.

      on December 9, 2011 at 11:33 pm Reply
  • Thank you so very much for sharing. I'm in the process of becoming a host with my 3 bedroom home in Atlanta. Your blog gave me some insight of expectations from both sides of the spectrum.

    on July 25, 2012 at 1:11 pm Reply
    • Hi Michelle, good luck with hosting. We'd be keen to hear how it goes after you've had your first few visitors come to stay.

      on July 25, 2012 at 1:29 pm Reply
  • Thanks for this review. I just inquired with about ten different apartments in NYC that had small cash deposits or accepts card deposits. The places look great and I hope to hear back from at least one person with some good results. This review helped me feel a little more at ease about it, as this is my first time using one of these sites and I must say, I am a little nervous, but reading this along with what I read on my own makes me feel better !!! Thank you!

    on September 12, 2012 at 10:54 am Reply
  • it’s not easy to find a place, you have to request then get a response. I tried this website, they are very friendly when are charging you but i wanted to ask questions after paying and even cancel a reservation, it becomes a nightmare. nobody answers, they send me documents in double, extra charges for cancelation. Be sure that you want to take the flat or room before booking and if you want to cancel, better not do it and just leave th place empty.

    on October 10, 2012 at 7:17 am Reply
  • Thank you for sharing your thoughts about the pros and cons of staying in an apartment. Actually, If I were to choose, I rather stay in an apartment than hotel, less expensive and accommodating and you can do whatever you want.

    on October 27, 2015 at 4:09 am Reply
    • I agree, apartments have a lot going for them -- for example, there's usually a kitchen and a clothes washing machine, which I find very convenient.

      on October 27, 2015 at 11:04 am Reply
  • Apartments are great alternative to hotels. I've tried booking with AirBnB before and its great, their hosts are friendly and has a quick customer respond, I wanna try Roomorama if that works well too. Thanks for the review!

    on December 1, 2015 at 3:27 am Reply

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