Airbnb.com is a great venue for finding economical and interesting lodging with generous and hospitable locals around the world. Here’s a few tips. Don’t go into it with sugarplum dreams of hotel-like perfection. These are good people offering up a room in their house, allowing you to use their sheets and pillows, their bathroom, and in most cases, their kitchen for mere pennies on the dollar. Beware that occasionally you will bite off more then you bargained for – incense, a bathroom outside, a sick cat, barking dogs, fighting housemates. No matter, hunker down, dig in, enjoy the experience, and chalk it up as another story to tell your grand-kids.
Use the filters when searching and click the “super-host” tab to bring up only hosts with 5 star ratings, although this may limit your options too much in some locales. Read reviews carefully and learn to read between the lines – most guests will not write a bad review of someone who has allowed them to stay in their home. Read “very small” or “cramped” for “cozy” and “not the cleanest” for “great place if you don’t mind cats,” for example. Look at the pictures carefully although in my experience that can go both ways – often the place is better than the pictures depict, occasionally they are somewhat misleading.
Send a message to hosts with a question or two before booking. Often you can get a little feel of the “atmosphere” by corresponding first.
Read the prices carefully. The price that comes up with a search is a base price per night based on double occupancy, usually. From there go to “prices” and check for the cleaning and service fees. Usually these are minimal – I usually pay around $30 for a room plus a one-time $5-10 cleaning fee and a small service fee. However, in one case I found a great place for $45 per night; a closer look showed the host was asking for a deposit of $200 and a cleaning fee of over $100! This is highly unusual but it can happen.
For the record I should say that 90% of my Airbnb stays have been excellent and I have met many wonderful host and hostesses. Many places have been better than hotels, perhaps more reminiscent of a boutique inn with only one bed. Many hostesses appear to find great joy in playing “hotelier” and you’ll find rooms with fridges, bottled water, and area maps, among other amenities.
Airbnb hosts are around the world and you can find economical places to hang your hat for a night anywhere from Limon, Costa Rica to Bangkok, Thailand. Urumqi, a town in Upper Mongolia, China, for example, offers 66 homes for June. Next time you travel Europe, try it – not only do you get a great personalized experience with the locals, you save money.
BF – 2018