Airbnb Review – Should You Use Airbnb?
Airbnb Review – Should You Use Airbnb.com ?
I recently got back from New York after staying in a place I booked with Airbnb (Air Bed and Breakfast or Airbnb.com). While it was easy to find a cheap flight, finding somewhere affordable to stay was far more challenging, especially as a single traveller. It was certainly an experience! Airbnb has many critics and their are plenty of Airbnb reviews out there so I was a bit concerned using it. My Airbnb review is based on my own experiences.
Airbnb Review (from someone who has actually used it)
I stayed in New York several years ago mostly in hostels and never really became comfortable sharing a room with loads of other people. You can still find cheap hotel accomodation in New York but it tends to be airport hotels offering the lowest rates which adds the extra expense and time of travelling to downtown. So I decided to find out who was advertising short holiday lets on the popular American website Craig’s List as people do in London on Gumtree. Just in case you do not know, Craig’s List is a popular American classified ads listing site. In the vacation rentals section there were lists of cheap rooms/entire apartments available with plenty of detailed information about the apartments including photographs. However, after a couple of two way emails with one chap, I was soon asked to wire a $200 deposit to him via Western Union along with a booking form. After further inspection of the Craigs Lists help section, I quickly discovered that if someone asks to be sent money via Western Union, you should back off – it is a scammer!
“How annoying” I thought – especially for the genuine Craig’s List vacation rental advertisers. But then I found a site called Airbnb.com. It is relatively new (2007) and still not very well known in the UK. Airbnb descibes itself as the “Ebay for space” and offers genuine opportunities to save a fortune on hotels but also earn great additional income, all within a protected environment.
Using Airbnb to Save Money
I can honestly say, Airbnb.com saved me several hundred pounds in comparison to a standard hotel. I don’t want this Airbnb reviews sounding in anyway promotional so to prove it how it saved me money, let’s look at a hotel in a similar area and compare it to Airbnb.com.
On the left is a typical price for 7 nights in a New York hotel. A massive £1315! This is two star and while it might be in a Manhattan location and you could get cheaper by booking an airport hotel, the facilities are very basic.
Compare this to what I paid with Airbnb. I paid £464 for 7 nights. I had an entire apartment to myself most of the time that was way bigger than a poky hotel room. I had an outside balcony to relax on and view Manhattan and I was 8 minutes away from Manhatten on the subway. Even though I never did, I could have eaten in and saved money on restaurant meals.
You have three basic choices when searching for a place to stay with Airbnb (Air bed and breakfast). You can chose a shared room (the cheapest option), a shared apartment (what I have booked) or an entire apartment (great if there are a few of you and you can share the cost). The first great thing to say about Airbnb.com is that it is easy to navigate and simple to use with a fantastic help section.
Airbnb currently offers over 7000 places in 160 countries. The greatest choice of places to stay are in America but after the recent Airbnb.com European tour, you should find the choice in Europe increasing. Once you have selected your destination and check in/out dates, you will be presented with a selection of filter options such as minimum and maximum per nightly prices,room type (shared, private or entire apartment), language of host and specific neighbourhood plus you can list the results in various ways such as ‘recommended’ and ‘price’. Hotel companies hate sites like airbnb.com and you will find people shouting “Airbnb is a scam!”. Interestingly, the people who say these things have either never used it themselves or are in some way connected to the hotel or bed and breakfast industry. It is understandable – they are protecting their interests, but why can’t their be room for both? I could not have stayed in New York if it was not for Airbnb.com. While I was their I spent about £500 - that is extra £500 going into the New York economy. I was able to afford Virgin Atlantic premium economy because of it too!
Of course – I would probably be writing a very different review if I had a bad experience but I didn’t – the place I chose (out of over 7000 listed on Airbnb) was excellent so it is time there was some balance. Search Airbnb on Google and you get Airbnb scam warnings but I had the most positive travel experience ever with Airbnb.
The prices each host sets will vary considerably but you will find that it will be considerably cheaper than a hotel, especially in expensive cities like London, Tokyo, Paris and New York. Each listing has an Ebay style profile where you can look at the photographs of the accommodation, view a map of the location, check out the amenities such as whether pets are allowed, if there is WiFi etc. and a link to Google Streetview so you can have a virtual trek of the area.
You will also find a profile of the host and sometimes a link to their Facebook page.
It is suggested that you contact about 5 different hosts when you are looking for a place to stay. Not all hosts will respond and you can ask each host any questions you might have before booking. Always ask if they are expecting anybody else to stay during the time you are thinking of booking an apartment (in case you will be storing expensive equipment) and what their deposit policy is (it should tell you on their Airbnb listing but you should confirm this so there are not any unpleasant surprises when you arrive). The best aspect to Airbnb is that each host can be reviewed by other travellers. These reviews can only be submitted by people have have genuinly stayed (and paid!) with that host. This is very reassuring and they can be both positive and negative so these are very important when considering where to stay.
The above is a typical Airbnb listing and the host I chosed to stay with. This host has uploaded several clear pictures of his apartment which he is offering as a shared apartment (the host and one traveller). His nightly rent is £62 and you can contact him easily via the contact form on the right. Above all, he has eight highly positive reviews (including mine!) from travellers who have recently stayed with him. Example -
“We loved Danny’s apartment! It’s sunny, clean, and comfortable (and very well air-conditioned), and we enjoyed quite a few hours on his amazing deck. The location is ideal: tons of places within walking distance in Williamsburg, but just a quick ride into Manhattan–and the subway is just outside the front door. Plus, Danny is a great host! He was very considerate and really went out of his way to accommodate us. We highly recommend him!”
By the way, if you are still unsure of using Airbnb.com because of some bad Airbnb reviews, I can really recommend Daniel and his apartment. It is a great spacious place in Williamsburg, Brooklyn – the Shoreditch of New York and you can get anyway around New York thanks to the Subway stop outside his apartment.
But it is not all one way. Just because you pay for the booking, it does not always mean your booking will be accepted. Each host has a response rate (the percentage of times the Airbnb.com host responds to any pre-booking questions via the Airbnb contact form) and an acceptance rate (the percentage of times the host accepts the booking after the payment has been made which they must do within 32 hours). Don’t forget, the host is trusting the traveller with their home and possessions and also, if the traveller is staying a considerable amount of time, it would be nice to know you will both get on! (applies to a shared apartment booking rather than an ‘entire apartment’ booking). Therefor, make an effort with your own profile. Upload a picture, tell the host why you are travelling to their city, explain your interests, link to your Facebook account etc.
Similar to why the Ebay feedback system works so well, the Airbnb.com review system is the key feature to making it work so well.