Just like the proverbial bus, I’ve gone from having no experience with Airbnb to having two in the same week. I thought today I’d talk about how it was for me and you can decide whether it’s something you want to try.
Airbnb started back in 2008, when there were no hotel rooms available during a conference in San Francisco and the founders ended up renting out some blow-up mattresses on their apartment floor. It has now provided accommodation for over 10 million people – obviously it isn’t still just those guys and their blow-up mattresses, it’s like a full-on massive website 😉
You can rent a bed/room/entire apartment or house in 190 cities around the world, it is often cheaper than a hotel (especially if you’re renting a room and sharing a bathroom), plus you can normally use the kitchen of wherever you are staying, which can cut down on the cost of food, maybe do your laundry etc. etc.
All of that is very useful, and can really save you money if you’re going somewhere for longer than a week. But how did it work for us…
First up, a single night stopover in Dublin, we thought we would try something a little different and stay at an Airbnb place in Malahide; it was right by the sea with breakfast included. We spent a few minutes researching Malahide, liked what we saw, were impressed that the hosts offered an airport pick-up for just a little extra, so decided to book.
Excitedly we clicked on that submit button and waited for a confirmation. And waited. And waited. Talk about pissing on your strawberries. Turns out that a host has 24 hours to respond to your booking request. I kept checking my email and my airbnb account, but nothing came back from the host. 24 hours later our ‘booking’ was cancelled and we were back to square one. We ended up at the Metro Hotel, (using booking.com) which was fine, but ultimately was a very disappointing Airbnb experience.
Secondly, a friend of ours booked the accommodation for our New York trip (so he had to deal with the submitting and waiting ;-)). We went for a loft in Brooklyn which looked great on the photos. But that is where the problems began. It wasn’t bad in real life, but nowhere near as cool as the photos made it look. But that wasn’t the main problem. That started when we turned up at the agreed time to find that the owner was still washing bed linen, towels etc, and hadn’t finished clearing up the place.
After 10 hours of travelling, we were tired and wanted to unpack, jump in the shower and wake ourselves up before we went back out for some exploring and dinner. Instead; we had to dump our luggage and leave for 3 hours while he finished off. Not an ideal start, and when we returned we found that most of the lighting had blown. The owner replaced one of the lights, but the others remained dead for the week we were there, despite our texts asking him to sort it.
All in all, not a great experience, and although we saved some money, we were left feeling that for a little more we could have the service, hotel security and cleanliness we wanted. It didn’t help that the owner warned us not to talk to anyone in a suit as the building management was new and didn’t like anyone subletting their lets.
My final irritation and then I’ll stop, I promise, was that when the owner did return to pick up some stuff, he just let himself in. This isn’t a big deal, ultimately it’s his apartment and he can come home when he wants, but I do think it is only polite to knock first – he had no idea what we were doing in there (we were eating pizza and playing Cards Against Humanity – so no damage done, but he didn’t know that!)
So, what is our final verdict on Airbnb?
Philip and I book a lot of trips and we have our way of doing it, we like to sit (usually in the evening) with a
glass bottle of wine and we research where we are going, mark out the sites we are most likely to visit while we we are there and then book accommodation based on our budget and what is most convenient. We book it and we get a confirmation straight away, that’s the way we like it. I know it sounds silly but we don’t want to wait a day and then potentially have to start again.
The website itself is fantastic, but it relies on having good hosts, that respond to messages straight away, list their apartments honestly and look after their guests while they are there, which to me will always make Airbnb a bit of a gamble.
Have you used Airbnb? Would did you think? And if you haven’t do you think it’s something that you’d want to try?