Whenever I go away, one of the things I love most is fully immersing myself in a different culture, and what better way to do that than to stay in someone’s apartment? I think of it like workaway, but y’know, you pay for the experience, and all you have to do in return is keep the place clean.
Airbnb is the perfect midpoint between hostel and hotel. If you want a bit more luxury than sharing a bunkbed with a stranger but you can’t afford to splash out on a hotel, the Airbnb is probably your best option.
I’ve also found that if I’m travelling with friends, the cost of booking a private hostel room or beds for all of us can actually even out. There’s also the added benefit of having more privacy and usually areas to cook and relax, too.
I’ve used Airbnb in many countries around Europe and only ever had one bad experience, when the host cancelled our apartment incredibly last minute (leading to some stressful re-arranging) but Airbnb luckily sorted it. They gave me some extra money towards finding a new place within a week of going – no small feat when you’re arranging a trip for six people in the centre of Amsterdam.
So like everything, there are pros and cons to using the website – and sometimes, that’s the price you pay for saving some money.
The ease of searching
Every time I’ve used the website I’ve found an amazing apartment to stay in. I’ve never done it just for finding a room, as I’ve always been in a position to rent the entire place. I love how in depth the site goes as to what facilities are available, how much it costs in total (because there’s always pesky added costs) and the ability to search things depending on what you’re specifically after.
Hosts, in my experience, have always been really friendly and welcoming, too. I had one experience in Amsterdam where the guy didn’t come to the apartment to let us in, and instead left the key on the front door?! I mean, I love Amsterdam and all, but I’m not sure I’d be that trusting myself. Obviously, it was fine, and the host was really friendly. Every time I’ve done this I’ve been given info and tips from the host so help me make the most of my stay, and I think that’s a personal touch that you don’t get with other renting websites.
No worrying about deposits
Airbnb pay the upfront deposit and this is excellent. It works as follows: Airbnb will pay the owner the deposit, and if anything goes wrong/you’re liable to pay, then Airbnb will invoice you. This is important, I think, because once when I booked an apartment independently via a different website the guy whose apartment it was decided (conveniently after we’d left) that we had stained the walls (not true) and left the place a tip (also not true). As a result, he kept our £150 deposit and we had no way of getting it back. With AirBnb, they pay the deposit and then you can dispute it with them if necessary – if you have to pay up. Fingers crossed, this has never happened to me.
The variety of places available
There is almost everything on AirBnb. Whether you’re looking for a cute cottage in the middle of nowhere or a swanky penthouse right in the centre, it’s there to be rented. It might vary in price a bit, but I’m almost certain you can pick any kind of niche dwelling you like and you’ll be able to find it on the website.
Because it’s so competitive, people generally keep their prices low. One thing that also helps, is hosts sometimes reduce the price if you’ve got less people there – although they can also bump it up if you’ve got more. Which is fair enough, when it comes to paying bills and all. But from my own experience, AirBnb is a lot cheaper than a hotel, which would most likely be less interesting, unique and exciting anyway.
Last minute cancellations
Because every host works individually, there’s no limit as to when they can cancel. I booked for myself and five friends to go to Amsterdam for my birthday, and just over a week before we left, the host cancelled the listing. I was worried – how was I supposed to find an apartment for six people in the centre of Amsterdam that last minute? Luckily, AirBnb stepped in and gave me £117 towards my new place; this is presumably done to cover any additional costs from booking last minute. But it’s still a risk, especially if you’ve booked somewhere based heavily on its location.
Issues with authenticity
I found an amazing place in London that I looked at spending a few days at. I live pretty near London, but I thought it would be cute for a weekend away or something. I messaged the host, chatted to him about my prospective trip, and then he told me to email him instead. Finding it a bit odd but intrigued nonetheless, I dropped him an email. He asked me to send the entire payment purely through bank transfer, and then dodged the question when I repeatedly asked why, and asked to pay extra but through the website instead. It’s an easy way to be scammed, and obviously, you’re not covered by their policies.
People will also ask you to pay ‘on arrival’ even if they’re 100 per cent legit. Another place I considered staying at told me he would give me a discount if I could pay partially in cash. I assumed this was so he could avoid AirBnb’s seller fees, which is kind of acceptable (I hear they’re pretty high) but also a risk. Again, it means you’re not covered if anything goes wrong, and your own insurance policy might end up being void too.
Some places do not look like they do IRL
This isn’t a problem I’ve had, but it has been for a few of my friends. Places being messy, far smaller than they look in photos, broken facilities (like a shower not working) or in dodgy neighbourhoods. Obviously you should do your own research before you go away but some people do bend the truth a little too much…
Generally, I would say AirBnb is a great way of exploring a new city for slightly cheaper, and having a better experience while you’re there. It’s like anything: keep your wits about you and if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.