Airbnb Guide – The Good, The Bad And The Ugly!

It's important to know what you're getting yourself into with Airbnb, do your research and/or contact the owners with any questions you may have before you decide to book

The Airbnb Low Down

Airbnb is our accommodation ‘go to’ when we book any holiday – there are some fantastic, and very quirky places on offer and it satiates my slight obsession with nosing around other people’s homes! But if you’ve never booked with them before what can you expect and how do you make the best choices? Do you have to share toothbrush holders and underwear drawers? Will you need to feed their budgie?  We have had many strange and wonderful experiences with Airbnb so if you’re after some tips, keep reading…

Back in 2011 we met up with some very good friends in New York and found ourselves at the bottom of some brownstone steps in Williamsburg, Brooklyn – just like the Cosby Show house. I’d left all the travel plans up to Rachel, our friend, so I was quite taken aback when she said ‘This is us’! I don’t know what I’d been expecting but this was a normal house in a normal neighbourhood and it turns out this was our home for the next 4 nights! A guy in his 30’s showed us in and gave us the grand tour, left us with a ring-binder of info and strict instructions to not enter the 3rd floor spare room OR let the fire brigade in to the house under any circumstances. Then he fled! Turns out he was an artist who let out his beautiful home to people like us for a bit of extra cash and he bunked up with his pal for a few nights. A few years later I saw this particular house on TV next door to a home that was being sold for $3 million and the penny dropped how awesome Airbnb is – you have the opportunity to stay in some amazing homes that are otherwise unaffordable and inaccessible for very little money comparatively! That was our first experience and we still to this day don’t know why the embargo on NYFD and what was in that spare room!? Regardless, it was the best location, he gave us access to his food cupboards if we wanted them and left us a bottle of fizz in the fridge. He had a garden patio (in New York!!!!) and a roof terrace with amazing views, great taste in decor  (albeit a few too many wooden god heads which we promptly turned to face the walls like naughty school boys) and a folder full of local knowledge and the best food and drink in town. My husband still goes on about Driggs Pizza!

Airbnb has some great options for accommodation, unique homes in the greatest locations and fantastic hosts

Airbnb Best Bits

Admittedly our introduction to Airbnb was a great one, but it just kept happening! The best views of Lake Como from an apartment in Bellagio (again – way too many african gods hanging around, and it’s really hard to remember their exact spots when you’re retrieving them from the wardrobe on your last day!) and again – the best pizza restaurant that only locals knew about because it was a residential area.

The best location for a large family trip to Denmark’s Riviera, with a giant BBQ, bikes and games room, just across the road from the beach.

The cutest Parisian apartment in Montmartre where the owners had left us a bottle of champagne and rose petals on the bed because we’d mentioned we were there for our anniversary.

Free transportation from Bergerac airport (which is no bigger than my shed btw) with our accommodation in said gorgeous town, just because they wanted to!

An amazing top floor apartment in an English Art School in Rome, with paintings all over the walls and access to the owners next door better terrace because she was away for the weekend! (Film crews paid her to use it occasionally because it is the highest point in Rome with great views over to the Vatican)

The most modern stylish apartment in Venice, a city which doesn’t usually do modern and their baroque tastes can sometimes make you ponder the cleanliness of a place – not our digs, clean lines and crisp sheets to the maximum with a hefty portion of class thrown in.

Oh, and the only balcony in Madrid big enough for a table of 8, which meant we could put the kids to bed on time and us adults could throw water bombs watch the world go by from the best vantage point in this wonderful Spanish city. Plus, the beer was free!

Have I sold you on it yet?

Views like this don't usually come cheap but Airbnb affords you the luxury of being able to stop in some amazing homes with great views for a fraction of hotel costs.
How much would this view of Lake Como set you back from a hotel? Airbnb – €70 a night!

So, How Does Airbnb Work?

First : Log on to their website and type in your destination, narrow down your search with party size and dates and scour the map for your perfect stay. Some people offer rooms in their homes and this can be a wonderful opportunity to learn how the locals live – you have insider knowledge on tap and often a bit of companionship if you’re a solo traveller, plus its often at a very low cost compared to a hotel room.

Or find a whole apartment, home, boat or tree-house to rent! I’m serious – there are some fantastic unique homes on offer. I have my eye on a boat in Bilbao for our France/Spain roadtrip next summer, a whole boat that you can actually sail too. And, last year I ear marked a gorgeous wooden challet in the trees on the West coast of Portugal, we will stay there one day – the location looks amazing!

there are some pretty cool places to stay on airbnb, click search and choose your spot! You can find the best accommodation that can often be better than the best hotels in the area.

Next : Read the reviews and check the amenities, for instance, some places don’t have wi-fi or parking, some do. Some you need to provide your own bedding, some provide it for free. Read the fine print – because you are dealing with individual home owners here and not hotel concierge, there are occasionally some peculiar things in the details.

Then : Contact the owners via Airbnb and make your arrangements. You can use instant book if you’ve read the reviews and are happy with your choice, or you can send the owners an email (‘Request To Book’) with any questions you might have and this will set the ball rolling for the end booking.

You would pay a lot of money for a hotel with this view, but Airbnb has the best places to stay for a fraction of the cost in some great locations.
The view from our Paris apartment

It’s really quite that simple and most host’s will meet you at the premises to let you in and show you around. Plus, they’re usually a wealth of knowledge on the best places to eat locally and contacts for tours etc. Occasionally we’ve met a few strange hosts but you need to remember these are just normal people with normal quirks – the world will always throw the odd crackpot your way from time to time! I reckon half of the places we’ve stayed have been homes where the owners just move out for a bit (so make sure you know exactly which toothbrush is yours!) and expect the cupboards to have their food in it, family photo’s on the walls, to-do lists on the fridge. But, the other half of our stays have been in accommodation that is solely for guests, no personal items and a more definite hotel-feel to the place. So do your research!

There really are some bargains out there, on average you will pay approximately 20-30% less for homes in central areas than similarly located hotels, and up to 50% less for homes in places a little further out.

So, there you have it, Airbnb is definitely worth checking when you’re booking your next holiday – you could save a lot of money, stay in the most unique places and have access to fantastic local knowledge! Book away! (And, no, you won’t need to feed their budgie!)

Follow this link and you will receive $31 in travel credit for your first booking (and I receive a little something off my next trip too!)…

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A quick guide on how to get the best out of Airbnb - get the best views, cheaper rates and local intel, plus $30 off your first booking!



Life in Wanderlust

14 Comments Add yours

  1. This was really helpful! I’m new to Airbnb so I have no idea how it works! Thanks for the little guide!

    1. Alex says:

      Glad it was helpful!!

  2. Chloe says:

    Damn, ya I’m not surprised that that home in Williamsburg is going to 3million (it’s crazy huh?) My husband and I were just in NYC last week and we’re looking to move there in a couple years and real estate is just INSANE! But any who, I love staying in Air B nB! Some of our best experiences were due to it, we stayed in a sweet apartment in Paris with views of the Eiffel and the cutest apartment in Dubrovnik right in old town! It really is a great way to see the city and really feel “apart of it”.

    1. Alex says:

      Wow ! New York here you come! Good luck with the relocation when it’s time!

  3. We’ve had one AirBnB experience so far and it was fine. Just outside blackheath London so there was a lovely long walk across the Heath to Greenwich and the O2. Not the most luxurious accomodation but it was last minute and cheap as we had to change our plans. Host was lovely though. V excited for our next visit to London for the same event. We have a luxury apartment in a great location, a few tube stops from O2 which is cheaper than a hotel! Just be and Mr T this time too!!

    1. Alex says:

      Hope it’s a goodun’! There are some cool places in London.

  4. This is a great article and has inspired me to look further into this for my next trip. It’s great to think outside the box and I love the idea of staying in a home rather than a sterile hotel.

    1. Alex says:

      And if the idea of it being too ‘homey’ freaks you out, there are plenty where the property is a constant holiday let, so no personal stuff about. Thanks for commenting!

  5. Carmy says:

    I’ve had pretty good luck with my AirBnBs so far (minus one without AC in the summer!) So far all the recommendations that AirBnB hosts have given me in the past has been a HIT! Definitely a great way to check out cool local places that aren’t usually mentioned online 🙂 #CityTripping

  6. You have had some great experiences Alex! We have tried it once and it was a complete disaster and we ended up losing £500 as we had to find alternative accommodation in a hurry (and we didn’t get the £500 we had paid back.) However my friend recently stayed in Air bnb places in Sri Lanka and like you had great experiences. Soooooo we are going to give it another go! Probably in Sri Lanka.

    1. Alex says:

      Yes, I think you have to really read between the lines on the descriptions and reviews. Some countries are definitely better than others at hosting!

  7. melbtravel says:

    I love this post, you are lucky to have stayed in some amazing places. I had my first BnB experience last year and loved it. We had a huge apartment with great wifi in Plitvice Lakes Croatia and the best bit was it cost nothing to stay there.

  8. Jurga says:

    We once (only once!) stayed at a private apartment and while it was lovely, the owner then tried to charge us for all kind of things at the end, so we swore to never stay at a private accommodation after that. But you almost got me convinced, Alex. Love the sound and the look of some unique accommodations, but can’t imagine staying in a house where somebody else actually lives. Do you know, is there an option to tick the box at Air bnb to say you are looking for places that are always for rent vs. the ones where people actually live? Oh, and please, could you share a link to that place in Western Portugal – we just booked the flights for next spring and I’m just starting to look for hotels there. Thanks!

    1. Alex says:

      I’ll look it up for you!

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