Most of us aren’t quite fortunate enough to stay in five star luxury hotels. The cheaper alternative surely then is booking with Airbnb…
Airbnb is a virtual space in which hosts can advertise their spare rooms/studios/entire apartments or houses to travellers across the globe. The company started off small but now have an international following of hosts and guests, a community of like minded people who would pick staying among the locals over a centrally located hotel any day.
So how does it all work? The host posts a space on the Airbnb website, with pictures. Guests select their preferences using the search engine by price, size, location and appearance, contact the host, arrange suitable dates and time, book and pay. Simple as 1,2,3.
I have been using Airbnb for the past couple of years and since I started I haven’t looked at another cheap hotel room. Here’s why:
1. I can select the exact location that I want to stay in
Whether I want to wake up at the foot of Montmartre, opposite the Colosseum or a brisk walk away from the Empire State Building I have that choice. Most hotels are based around the centre of town or near busy train stations which makes it noisy and expensive (which I will get to in my next point). I’d much rather be settled in a communal area where I can have my morning coffee in a local cafe or have a glass of wine in a bar locals head to after work.
It is much cheaper to rent through Airbnb. This summer I rented an entire studio apartment a stone’s throw from the Sacre Coeur with a friend. The cost… something along the lines of £15 ($25) per night for an apartment in which we had our own space and privacy with a kitchen where we could cook our own dinner (which really helped to save on eating out).
How nice it is to have flexible check in and out times, not having to wait or rush and to have a host who’s prepared an itinerary for you. In Copenhagen I was very kindly given guide books, a map and some really good advice on what to do and what to not bother wasting my time with. My host understood my passion for architecture and instead of suggesting Contemporary Art galleries or designer shops he pointed me towards vintage markets and churches, neat.
No more false advertising only to find that my hotel room has cockroaches, no windows or a broken shower. Hotels can put you in any room they want to, not necessarily the one you looked at on their website. With Airbnb you get what you pick. Reviews by previous guests also helped in the selection process. If you don’t like the reviews, you don’t book.
5. Little treats
Hosts always provide little treats, it is sooooo nice to turn up to chocolates, cheese, nutella, champagne, good coffee etc. Of course I either bring small gifts from London or restock the fridge as a thank you in return. This is a little extra touch you don’t get at a cheap hotel.
It’s nice to make friends with the locals – your host is the locals. I’ve made friends with the hosts of the places I’ve stayed in. When I visit Paris I make sure I pop round to Matthieu’s flat to say hello. He introduces me to new bars (though recently I’ve been introducing him to a few) and this just starts a chain reaction of meeting new people.
Of course, as with all things in life, you have to be wise when using Airbnb. The website offer plenty of advice on how to travel safely and how to pick the right place to stay as unfortunately there is always be one not so nice person who spoils all the fun. So some words of advice to those considering using Airbnb for their next trips:
1. Select wisely
Take your time to carefully look through your options. Look at the images carefully, make sure they are all of the same place. Do some background research on the neighborhood (Airbnb even help with this), don’t pick a cheap room in the middle of nowhere just to save on a couple of Euros.
Read the reviews. If the person has a lot of negative reviews (broken toilet seats, not hospitable, no towels etc…) think twice. If the person do not have many reviews and you are traveling on your own then use your head. When traveling alone I make sure I stay at a place owned either by a woman or a couple, or somewhere that has plenty of reviews by women.
Do not just book in a rush. Contact your host first. I always throw a few messages back and forth asking my host questions about their life, job, hobbies etc. This builds up a bit of a relationship, especially if you are renting a room within a house and not the entire apartment on your own.
4. If you don’t feel right, don’t do it.
Use your instincts people.
And there you have it. I hope you consider using Airbnb after reading my review.
For more information on Airbnb visit here.