There’s no question AirBnb has revolutionised the way we travel. While happier pockets are only by-standers to all the other ways they’ve made our travel richer, I find myself advocating an AirBnb experience over a fancy hotel booking every time. Traveling to a new country can be intimidating, and we hardly ever get to experience a culture and city through the eyes of a local. That’s where AirBnb bridges the gap, bringing locals on board, who open up their homes to travellers- some offering entire apartments while others offering rooms inside their homes.
Every time I’ve booked through AirBnb, I’ve been greeted by real people far more helpful, warm and interested in helping me experience the “real deal” that they’ve gone much out of their way to touch my heart. AirBnb led me to Nadia in Munich, who offered me Oktoberfest costumes, tiny bottles of wine and a basket full of snacks to devour; old Mrs. Volodorf who opened up her home to me at 5:00 am when I couldn’t get into my apartment next door, offering me tea and a few good stories to get through the morning; and Peter in Prague who traveled half way across town just to collect his keys from me when I was short on time and had conveniently conveniently carried them with me.
First-timers are often worried about the safety of a transaction with a portal they aren’t familiar with. To speak from personal experience, I cancelled a 20-day Euro Trip due a family emergency some time ago, and every single booking through AirBnb was refunded to me 100% which is more than I can say for any hotel- specially since I come from the travel industry. When home owners were unable to refund the entire amount to me, AirBnb shelled it out of their own pockets to ensure that a vacation refund is the last thing on my mind as I crusade through the medical crisis at home. That’s only one of the reasons I have been- and remain, loyal to the Airbnb experience till date.
If you’re finally joining the AirBnb bandwagon- good for you! Here are a few things to consider as you make your first booking, so you can enjoy the AirBnb experience just as beautifully as it’s curated to be:
1. Choose what works for you:
While AirBnb offers beautiful accommodation for all budgets, it’s important to be exactly sure what you’re looking for. Listings include entire homes, private rooms and shared rooms. Always keep your budget in mind when settling for an apartment. Often it’s possible to get an apartment at the cost of a private room by simply moving away from the city center. Factors such as public transport accessibility in apartments that are located on the outskirts could help get you a better apartment at a cheaper price. Sometimes it’s only 15 extra minutes on the bus!
2. With distance and location, prepare to be surprised:
No matter how easy it seems to reach an apartment, always remember that it could take longer, metro/bus connectivity might not be ideal, and the location could be further away than you imagined. It’s always a good idea to look up bus and metro routes to that particular part of the city before you finalize on a location. If you’re traveling for a short period of time, it helps to be aware in advance so you don’t waste precious hours.
3. Always rely on the reviews:
It’s always good to be aware of what you’re signing up for. Reviews on AirBnb are unbiased, and cannot be manipulated or deleted by either the host or the traveler.
4. Always check the cancellation policy:
If you’re awaiting your visa or are still unsure about your travel/accommodation plans, opt for apartments with a lenient cancellation policy; or connect with your host to get the exact details on cancellation charges and last dates- specially if your visa is still on its way.
5. Remember to check the security deposit:
Before your heart is set on a particular apartment, remember to check the security deposit section. Some hosts like to be careful about misuse of their apartments, specially when children are traveling along. It isn’t tough to find apartments that don’t charge security deposit though, and in my experience people who have been renting apartments for a while are less likely to ask for one.
6. Parking space is important:
If you’re planning to rent a car, it’s helpful to get an apartment with parking space. Specially helpful for those traveling to Europe where parking is expensive and probably tough to find in a residential colony.
7. When it’s about directions, the more the merrier:
If you’re reaching the apartment on your own, make sure you check with your host for the closest landmark to the house. Directions should be as detailed as possible. Obscure instructions could lead to a lot of delay and confusion that’s best avoided after a long journey. Request for a few pictures of the building/house to help you identify easier. Set up a time with your host and in case you can’t make it then (and are unable to connect with them), arrange in advance for another place they could leave the keys for you.
8. Check the rooms and bathrooms:
If the listed number of rooms is two, but the pictures include one bedroom only, it’s likely the other “room” is the living room, and the “bed” in question is really just the couch. A lot of studio apartments don’t have beds, making them significantly cheaper. If you’re on a budget- go for the couch!