Airbnb – The Good, The Bad & The Ugly
All the reviews of Airbnb, like any other travel service, are subjective. While I have the link listed in my travel section as a great hotel alternative, I had never tried the service myself until a recent three week trip to Europe. My requirements were simple – a private room, centrally located near public transport, and relatively cheap – and that’s what I got – along with some other interesting and not so interesting experiences. But that’s to be expected, isn’t it, whatever you do? I was traveling alone and felt I really needed something between a hostel price and hotel privacy. So here’s the good part – most Airbnb rentals do resemble the pictures posted, prices vary widely so you can always find something that’s in your price range, and you get the benefit of staying in a real neighborhood with people who actually live there and can tell you a lot about the area. Here’s the bad part – it’s difficult to tell even from reviews of the place what it will really be like to stay there (more about that in the ugly part) and even though you’re staying at someone’s house, you never quite forget that you’re not really a guest but are paying them to stay there. Sometimes I felt as welcome as you would in the private home of a friend, and then at random moments I would be reminded that I was not really a friend of the host but a paying guest. Unlike a hotel where you do whatever you wish in your room and come and go as you please – there’s a certain protocol that you have to abide by in someone’s house. If you’re going to come in late and unlock their front door and go to your room, manners dictate that you don’t turn on the TV in the living room and make a meal in the kitchen while the rest of the house is asleep. However, in a hotel, you would feel free to do just that. Now for the ugly – my last four night stay was in an apartment that was in a great part of the city, spotlessly clean, and close to transport – and all at a reasonable price for one of the biggest tourist destinations in the world. Not so bad, I’m sure you’re thinking – but the house had no heat and the blankets on my bed were summer weight – and even this may have been bearable – had the host not been so unfriendly and downright nasty. There was little I could do. While Airbnb offers your money back if the apartment is not what was advertised, there is no clause for a nasty host, unless that host does something that puts you in danger, and so I stayed for four miserably cold nights. What gives me pause about recommending the service now, however, even though I had two fairly great experiences and only one bad one, is that my truthful review of my host garnered me a very bad review of me from her. But I felt I had to be honest to forewarn other possible renters, even though I knew it would probably cost me something. This has made me wonder just how many people never give hosts a fair review because they’re too scared of the consequences. So I give Airbnb a cautious recommendation as a great hotel alternative…just be aware you may have some surprises now and again.
Comments, questions? – now it’s your turn