Vancouver is one of the world’s loveliest and most livable cities. That is, if you have lots of money. Housing costs are second highest in North America (after San Francisco), but Vancouver is 50th in income, resulting in—on average—more than 30% of income going to pay for one’s residence.
Planning to attend the annual Rail-Volution transit and land use conference to be held in Vancouver, I wondered how those stats would impact my accommodation costs and whether a short term rental would be cheaper, but just as comfortable and convenient, as a hotel. Going out two days early before the conference hotel rate kicked in enabled me to set up an experiment to find out which was a better choice for business, both quantitatively (costs) and qualitatively.
Turns out the choices were equally good. Through Airbnb I booked a 22nd floor one bedroom condo with a stunning view of downtown, for the first two nights, and then moved to an 18th floor room at the Hyatt Regency Vancouver, the official conference hotel for Rail-Volution, for four nights.
Costs were nearly the same: US$263/night including all taxes and fees at the Hyatt (conference rate, mind you) and US$251/night all-in through Airbnb. Only difference was prepayment required for Airbnb.
Parking was not necessary and therefore not compared, thanks to the superb Vancouver transit network. The very convenient SkyTrain (called the Canada Line) station just outside YVR Airport international arrivals goes directly to the city center, and it was an easy three or four block walk from there to either the Airbnb location or to the Hyatt, both on Burrard Street (the main drag) in the CBD. I walked most places thereafter because central Vancouver is, well, so walkable, and I took transit buses and trains to places more distant. Thus I had no need of a rental car or place to park one.
Checking into the Airbnb was a breeze. I received a text number for the host in advance and let him know when leaving the airport on the SkyTrain from the airport. It was a Thursday afternoon. He met me in a coffee shop in the building and took me up to the flat, demonstrated how to use everything, how to lock up, and ways to get in and out of the building using an electronic key fob.
The condo was immaculate, comfortable, well-furnished, with every amenity of a hotel room plus a few more, like a kitchen and a washer-dryer in the small but adequate pantry. As the pictures indicate, the small terrace—just big enough for two to sit comfortably—was perfect for relaxing and city-gazing with a glass of wine. The bed did its job admirably well, as did the shower. HVAC was minimal because Vancouver is usually cool and often rainy, but this was a hot period. Plenty of fans and an in-window AC unit did the trick to keep things at the right temp.
Getting in and out of the building required some unexpected furtive moves because the building has a “NO AIRBNB” policy, something I was not aware of until arrival. Egress and ingress discretion therefore meant using a different elevator to a convenient side or back door rather than entering or leaving via the main entrance which passed a desk staffed with watchers. I didn’t care, and it was not a problem. The place was perfect, and I would stay there again if returning to Vancouver on business.
Had I wished to cook for myself, directly across Burrard Street was an urban two-story grocery, and next to that an elegant wine store (alcohol isn’t sold in grocery stores in Vancouver). Lots more nearby services and stores lined the downtown streets. I felt completely at home in the Airbnb condo and frankly hated to leave it. Bit I did, of course, and rolled my luggage about four blocks up Burrard to the Hyatt.
Checked in to the Hyatt Regency Vancouver Saturday about noon after I pre-registered online and asked for 1230p. Got an email at 1130a saying my room (1818) was ready. I have become spoiled with this kind of good service from Hyatts.
The Hyatt Regency Vancouver is a grand 34-floor hotel: spacious, clean, updated rooms and bathrooms. I was impressed at how neat and well-maintained the public spaces and elevators were. On getting to the room, I was wowed at its size, so much roomier and more open than most, especially considering it was just a cookie-cutter double with two double beds.
Two nits were immediately apparent about room 1818: First, it was too dark. Not enough lights. Desk lamp was attractive, but provided insufficient illumination. May not be evident from the photo, but only illuminated about 40% of the table space, making it impossible to read anything on the right side of the desk. Ditto for other lamps except for the bathroom, which was blindingly lit.
Second nit was that the supposedly double beds were too narrow to sleep two adults. Looked like 1.5 single bed size. Appeared to be typical euro doubles, which Joe Brancatelli says are about 20cm narrower than US doubles. Maybe because it’s Canada? That aside, the beds were extremely comfortable to sleep on.
Great staff, though! Example: Pouring rain the following morning, but the very friendly concierge guys instantly provided me an umbrella to walk a half block. When I tried to return it, they to keep it as long as I needed it. I did.
34 floors, but only one ice machine, and that’s on the 4th floor. However, the 4th floor ice room has three or four standard hotel ice machines, side-by-side.
Which was best? They were equal, in my opinion. I loved the Hyatt, as I have always loved well-run, well-maintained hotel properties where I have probably laid my head more often than at home since I was an adult. I am a veteran hotel denizen; it’s in my travel blood..
But the urban Airbnb I rented was a surprisingly good alternative to the Hyatt. Surprising to me because I just like hotels, and this particular Hyatt combined a lot of great qualities, including a very friendly, sincere staff radiating authentic Canadian warmth and hospitality inside the tight, well-kept property. High praise for both in terms of cost and livability. I’d happily stay at either next time.