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.
I’ve used AirBnB a few times now, and only ever had a bad experience once. To give them credit where credit is due, they did resolve my problem, or at least gave me funds to resolve it myself.
So – the good parts:
- 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 it 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.
- They pay the deposit: This is important, I think, because once when I booked independantly via a different website the guy whose apartment it was decided, right at the end when we 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.
- The prices: 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.
And the bad points:
- 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 location.
- They need to crack down on security a bit: 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.