Before studying abroad in Manchester, England in the Spring of 2013, I had never even heard of Airbnb. But once I did, oh, I did.
Airbnb is a website where customers can rent out different people’s abodes – actual houses, guest houses, apartments, or single/multiple rooms within. I’ve even seen an “American style” van in someone’s backyard up for grabs. Options people, options!
With 300,000 current listings in over 34,000 cities in 192 countries, and 4 millions guests having already booked, Airbnb, and other sites like it – Flipkey, Roomorama, Wimdu, etc – seems to have somewhat revolutionized how people do vacationing.
And with good reason, too. As Heike Kauffhold writes on her blog, “Um es vorweg zu nehmen: meine Airbnb Unterkunft entpuppte sich am Ende als absolut perfekt. Die Lage war super, es war sauber, gemütlich und mein Host total unkompliziert und flexibel. UND meine Übernachtungen waren wirklich günstig.” Translation: ” To make it short : my Airbnb accommodation turned out to end up being absolutely perfect. The location was great , it was clean , cozy and my host totally uncomplicated and flexible. AND my nights were really cheap.”
I myself have stayed in three different European cities – Berlin, Paris, and Amsterdam – using Airbnb, and I will personally contest that each time was absolutely fantastic. Not only do you get to stay in someone’s actual home, with an actual kitchen (and sometimes even a washing machine!), you get to see the city you’re visiting in a way you never would be able to if staying at a hotel: through someone else’s eyes. You walk the streets that they walk, see the sights that they see, and all of the sounds, smells and other sensory items that come along with.
What’s more, if the people hosting you are around, they are more likely than not going to be willing to, if not physically take you to some of their favorite places, at least jot a few places down for you. When I visited Amsterdam, I ended up arriving a good 18 hours before my travel buddy, thanks to the many, many delays of the small, local trains he was taking, and was slightly panicked over what exactly I was supposed to do for an entire day and night all by my lonesome. I had nothing to worry about, however, once I met up with my host, Bo. Upon hearing of my less than desirable situation, she attached me to herself like her new best friend and showed me all around the town, even offering to somehow wrangle me tickets to some crazy concert she was going to the next day if my companion’s many train delays put him even further behind schedule. Although this didn’t end up being necessary – his train arrived at around 10 AM the next morning – it was so cornily heart-warming to know that this random girl I had met by some chance apartment renting was so ready to make sure that I had a good time whilst visiting the city she called home. It was great.
Along with the nice personal touch you get, the logistics of it fair pretty well, too. The website is extremely easy to use, detailed with lots of pictures and drop-down filter lists for just about anything you could want to filter: how many bedrooms, bathrooms, beds, which neighborhoods, what amenities, what type of property, what language the host speaks. And if anything doesn’t fit within these categories, there’s a search bar at the bottom where you can type in anything that fits your fancy – oceanside, relaxing, near public transportation, etc. You can get as minimalistic or as lavish as you want, the price varying from $10 a night to $1,000 a night – you know, just so no one feels left out.When I rented out someone’s entire apartment in Mitte in Berlin for 3 nights the total only came out to be $87 (and yes, I do mean dollars), which is ridiculously cheap when compared to the prices of even a single hotel room in a not so great hotel.
One thing that some of the many people I have ranted and raved about Airbnb to have been concerned with is safety. Oddly enough, it was not necessarily the customer’s safety (although this did cross at least one person’s mind: “What if they come in and kidnap you in the middle of the night? They do have a key, it is their house you know.” …Yea, maybe Airbnb isn’t really right for you all who have these same thoughts…) that people were concerned about, but rather, the hosts’.
Questions involving the stealing or breaking of personal items, and general disrespect of the home are valid enough, but thanks to Airbnb’s review system, this isn’t really an issue. To use Airbnb, you must create an account, and on that account, you can review the people that you stay with, and they you. That way, if you show up to the described accommodation you paid for and it is actually just a cot under a bridge, not only will Airbnb hear about it, and hopefully help you get the hell out of there, the other customer’s will hear about it as well. The same thing goes for if you are an obnoxiously loud or otherwise disrespectful guest: the host will write a review and your chances of renting from other people that have read the reviews on you go way down. Obviously, if you are a perfect angel of a guest, hosts will hear of this as well, and will be more willing to take you into their home. It’s a give and take relationship, one built on mutual trust, and one that tends to bring out the goodness in people, as opposed to the other way around.
So, if you’re ever travelling (in one of the 192 countries that its offered), and looking for a unique way to stay, give Airbnb a try, and discover what makes it such a great idea for yourself.