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
I just read your article- from a link on Conde Nast Traveler about airbnb. Sounds like you wrote this in winter and by now you may know that airbnb has changed its rules about leaving reviews (precisely because of what you mentioned.) Now the host and the guest have 14 days to write their reviews and neither one gets to see them until both have written or the 14 days are up. We have been hosts for over two years and have had a great experience (except for one family that was kind of messy) so hopefully we will be getting more truthful reviews without repercussions. Do try again!
Hi Olivia – thanks for the comment! Yes, I had read that Airbnb changed their policy recently and while I think it’s great and helpful – I know several people that used the service and weren’t happy with a stay but would never write anything bad either privately or publicly about a stay. They just don’t want to be bothered or experience the conflict that may arise. All that being said – I recently booked another Airbnb stay for this September after finding almost all the hotels in a city full for the weekend due to a big event. I’ll continue to use Airbnb as I do believe it’s a great alternative and can even be an amazing experience as it was for me in France. Happy and safe travels!
Ingrid, thanks for sharing your experiences. Airbnb has also added an option for guests (and hosts) to give private suggestions for ways that their experience could have been improved to each other as well as to Airbnb. As you said, Airbnb is a great alternative to hotels and hostels but you do have to go into it knowing that you may have very different experiences every time, depending on your host. Now that Airbnb has changed their review protocol, reviews should more accurately reflect what staying with a host will be like.
For anyone looking for tips on being a great Airbnb host, visit our forum: http://airhostsforum.com/. We’ve also got other great resources on property management and cleaning services for Airbnb, cool tools to make your life as a host easier and much more!