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Is It Cheaper to Stay in a Hotel or Airbnb in South Africa?

Havana Dauncey
· January 31, 2024
Is It Cheaper to Stay in a Hotel or Airbnb in South Africa?

Whether you’re an international or local traveller, when planning your trip through SA and booking your accommodation, everyone faces the same question — hotel or Airbnb?

While Airbnbs originated as the more affordable option, in a lot of destinations around the world, this is no longer always the case. With the rise of super hosts with luxury accommodation options, some Airbnb prices have come to exceed those of hotels.

So, is an Airbnb still cheaper than a hotel? Well, let’s find out!

The Criteria

Looking at South Africa’s major cities, I've done some research and created a helpful breakdown of the average prices of accommodation in South Africa, settling the debate once and for all whether Airbnb or hotels are cheaper.

My criteria? Two adults for one nights in each city. I used the ever popular aggregator website Booking.com to find hotel rooms that had to have a double bed and its own bathroom. Airbnb listings had to be for whole properties and not shared spaces. All the places I chose were located in central areas.

Disclaimer - It's possible to find lower rates by booking directly with the hotel instead of through a third-party website.

First, Hotel or Airbnb? The Pros and Cons

Both hotels and Airbnbs offer such unique experiences, guaranteeing the perfect accommodation for every traveller. Whether you should choose to book a hotel or Airbnb in South Africa greatly depends on what you’re looking for in accommodation.

With hotels, you get:

  • Easy check-in

  • Regular cleaning

  • Instant assistance support

  • Extra facilities

  • The essentials like tea and coffee

  • Generators for load shedding

On the other hand, Airbnbs typically offer:

  • Complete privacy

  • Larger spaces with a full kitchen

  • Parking

  • Multiple rooms to share and split costs

  • More local locations

Another big reason travellers often opt for an Airbnb is because they are known to be cheaper. To figure out if this is the case in South Africa, we’ve done the research and drawn up a breakdown of the prices of accommodation for 2 adults for one night in South Africa’s major city centres.

There can only be one winner — let’s check out the results!

1. Cape Town Accommodation for Two

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A post shared by OnlyAirbnb (@onlyairbnb)

Nestled between the iconic Table Mountain and the crystal blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean, Cape Town has become the main destination for travellers in South Africa. As South Africa’s most expensive city, if you’re staying in Cape Town’s city bowl, it’s going to be on the pricier side.

While it does largely depend on the location and season , if you’re looking for more affordable accommodation in Cape Town , it may be better to book an Airbnb over a hotel.

For the most part, Airbnb tends to be cheaper than hotels in Cape Town, particularly around the city centre. With that being said, you can easily find luxurious Airbnbs with prices that are far higher than any hotel room. While you may be able to find discounted rates for hotels during off-peak periods, Airbnb options in Cape Town’s adjacent suburbs like Green Point or Observatory can provide budget-friendly alternatives without compromising on comfort.

Breakdown of Cape Town’s accommodation prices

Cape Town Airbnb Hotel
Lowest price per night R465 ($25) R490 ($26)
Average price per night R1 400 ($75) R 2 400 ($125)
Highest price per night R80 000 ($4 250) R28 000 ($1 500)

2. Johannesburg Accommodation for Two

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A post shared by Maboneng Loft (@maboneng_loft)

As South Africa's economic powerhouse, Johannesburg is a sprawling metropolis with lots for tourists to explore. The accommodation landscape here varies widely, offering something for every budget.

In the city centre, hotels cater to business travellers and tourists alike. While hotel prices can be steep in the heart of Johannesburg, there are often promotions and discounts available. Airbnb options, especially in suburbs like Melville or Maboneng, tend to be more competitively priced.

All in all, booking an Airbnb is typically significantly cheaper than booking a hotel in Johannesburg, offering an affordable option for tourists in South Africa’s epicentre. Just consider the perks of hotel security when booking.

Breakdown of Johannesburg's Airbnb and hotel prices

Johannesburg Airbnb Hotel
Lowest price per night R190 ($10) R400 ($21)
Average price per night R975 ($52) R1 400 ($75)
Highest price per night R2 900 ($155) R25 000 ($1 350)

3. Durban Accommodation for Two

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A post shared by Happy Host- Durban, CT, JHB (@happyhostsa)

Known for its golden beaches and warm climate, Durban is a popular destination for sun-seekers. When it comes to choosing accommodation, the city offers a balance between affordability and luxury, both in the city and on the beachfront.

Hotels along the beachfront (more popular than the CBD, let's face it) tend to be more expensive, especially during peak holiday seasons. However, Airbnb options, particularly in neighbourhoods like Glenwood or Berea, can provide a cost-effective alternative.

While Airbnb and hotels run a tight race in Durban, on average, Airbnb earns the title of cheaper accommodation. But this isn’t always the case when looking at the more expensive properties.

Breakdown of Durban’s Airbnb and hotel prices

Durban Airbnb Hotel
Lowest price per night R400 ($22) R450 ($24)
Average price per night R1 300 ($70) R1 400 ($75)
Highest price per night R6 500 ($365) R 4 500 ($240)

4. Pretoria Accommodation for Two

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A post shared by Travel & Food | Let’s Go Out 🌍 (@letss_goout)

South Africa's administrative capital, Pretoria, is a city of Jacaranda-lined streets and historical landmarks. The choice between hotels and Airbnb in Pretoria hinges on preferences and priorities.

In the city centre, hotels cater to government officials, business travellers and tourists. Prices can fluctuate, but deals are often available, particularly during weekdays.

Airbnbs scattered across suburbs like Brooklyn or Waterkloof offer a more tranquil setting at potentially lower costs. However, on the luxury end you might save a bit if you book into a hotel.

Breakdown of Pretoria's Airbnb and hotel prices

Pretoria Airbnb Hotel
Lowest price per night R375 ($20) R850 ($45)
Average price per night R1 000 ($55) R1 700 ($90)
Highest price per night R5 600 ($300) R3 500 ($186)

5. Port Elizabeth Accommodation for Two

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A post shared by Anchorage Guesthouse PE (@anchorageguesthouse)

Known as the Friendly City, Port Elizabeth (now called Gqeberha) boasts a stunning coastline and a laid-back atmosphere. The accommodation choices here mirror the city's relaxed vibe.

Beachfront hotels may come with a higher price tag, especially during the peak holiday season. Airbnb options, whether in the trendy neighbourhoods of Richmond Hill and Summerstrand or the quieter areas like Walmer, often provide a more budget-friendly choice.

Exploring Port Elizabeth through an Airbnb lens not only saves money but also opens doors to local insights and hidden gems.

Breakdown of Gqeberha Airbnb and hotel prices

Port Elizabeth Airbnb Hotel
Lowest price per night R340 ($18) R700 ($37)
Average price per night R840 ($45) R1 400 ($75)
Highest price per night R6 000 ($320) R5 525 ($300)

6. Bloemfontein Accommodation for Two

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A post shared by 30 on Whites Guesthouse (@30onwhites)

Situated in the heart of the Free State province, Bloemfontein is known for its charming architecture and academic institutions. While it is one of South Africa’s smaller and more affordable cities, it still provides a wide range of accommodation options for travellers to suit every budget.

The hotels concentrated in the city centre typically tend to be more expensive than Airbnb’s, but they do tend to offer a more extravagant setting.

If you don’t want your accommodation to break the bank, Bloemfontein's Airbnb scene allows visitors to immerse themselves in the city's university culture and explore its historical charm.

Breakdown of Bloem's Airbnb and hotel prices

Bloemfontein Airbnb Hotel
Lowest price per night R320 ($17) R630 ($34)
Average price per night R840 ($45) R1 400 ($75)
Highest price per night R1 500 ($80) R5 280 ($280)

The Final Verdict

In the quest to determine the more budget-friendly accommodation option across South Africa's major cities, the comparison between hotels and Airbnbs has revealed an interesting spread of South Africa’s accommodation prices. As we journeyed through South Africa’s accommodation landscapes, the answer became clear with Airbnb options consistently proving to be more affordable than hotels.

While Airbnbs not only offer cost savings but also presents an opportunity for unique and authentic experiences, ultimately, your final decision depends on your individual preferences, travel priorities and budget constraints. Hopefully, with this in-depth analysis of South Africa’s accommodation prices, you'll be equipped with everything you need to know to choose whether a hotel or Airbnb is right for you.

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