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Airbnb

Are people having good luck with Airbnb's? Is this a good option for a woman traveling with her 18 year old niece?

Posted by
317 posts

Hi Tammy

When Im off on the road tour-guiding for Rick Steves I rent my apartment in Northern Ireland out on Airbnb and I have to say they are a wonderful company, very focused on quality and high standards.
I think you will find some real accommodation gems in whichever cities you are going to in EVERY city in Europe. I attended their world conference in Paris in November (sadly on the weekend of the ISIS shootings) and they really are full-steam-ahead in making sue they have friendly hosts with clean and safe accommodation in every destination in Europe!
Id highly recommend them, I've stayed in Airbnbs all over Europe, so has my friend Andy Steves (Ricks son) and we both highly recommend that site to our own circles, so Airbnb would be a good option for you and your niece.
Good luck with it!

Stephen McPhilemy
Tour-Guide

Posted by
3899 posts

I've been using airbnb since 2011 and it's mostly my go to now - unless we have a late flight arriving or early flight out, in which case I usually stay at an airport hotel. We've used it in London, Paris, all over California, Rome, Florence...and many other places.

A few examples - we had an awesome apartment in Rome literally steps from the Colosseum for $150 Canadian a night. I checked hotels in that area and they were running around $200. Plus we had the added benefit of a kitchen (saving money on breakfasts and cooked a few evening meals, saving on eating out) and chilling out space.

I had an amazing stay in a beautiful private room in Weehawken, NJ for about $80 a night - and this place was a two minute walk to the last bus stop to Port Authority in NYC so most days we were in NYC in less than 15 minutes. Plus a 10 min walk to amazing views of the city. The Sheraton nearby was about $150-200 a night. And we had use of the kitchen and the backyard/BBQ if we had wanted to do that.

I'm currently looking for places in Toronto for May and have found a few places that interest me - one is $50 (studio flat) and one is $80 ('petite' suite) a night. I'd never find a nice hotel for that price with free parking.

My tips - my #1 - is make sure you read the reviews - all of them. If I see one complaint about something (like dirt) I may pass it off as someone being grumpy, but if I see 4-5 complaints about the same thing - dirt, noise - I'll keep looking.

If you can use google earth/maps, try to check out the neighbourhood (usually at the bottom of the listing it shows you the general area and you should be able to click the map) and see if it looks rundown/graffiti/scary. (But people will generally note in the comments if it's a bad neighbourhood).

Make sure it has the amenities you want - also, do you need to be close to public transport? How far a walk to the bus/train/metro?

Make sure to check the cancellation policy - some offer NO refund if you cancel, some offer 50% usually up to a certain number of days beforehand, some are very flexible. You have to make sure you check - don't book someone with an inflexible cancel policy then cry if you need to cancel and can't get a refund.

I know some cities are struggling with outsiders buying up apartments and airbnb'ing them, pushing out locals and annoying neighbours (Paris, San Fran, NYC)...I will generally try to book a private room where the person is present as opposed to an apartment in places like that - I do understand the struggle.

Posted by
377 posts

I had great experiences with airbnb, in the US and abroad. After browsing and having a few properties in mind, I follow these steps before contacting a host.

  1. The host has very few properties listed (preferably only one). A good hint that the host is an owner, and not an agent. Cuts out the middle person.

  2. Clear description of the property and rules, with good photos. Those with huge security deposits, unreasonable cleaning fees, etc. are eliminated.

  3. Good number of great and recent reviews, by renters similar to myself.

  4. The price is at the upper percentile of similar neighboring properties. Suggesting the host knows his/her property is good enough to charge more.

Then I contact the host with questions. Those who don't respond or have problem communicating are eliminated.

Yes, it takes some work. But better safe than sorry.

My biggest gripe with airbnb is their lack of a forum for the renters.

Posted by
1132 posts

I like that I can use a credit card to pay for my stay and it is charged immediately, unlike other services like private agency or VRBO which may require a deposit then the balance in a cash payment to the landlord upon check-in. Having to stop at an ATM after a long day of travel or getting Euros before you head out of country and then having to haul all that cash is just one more worry for me. I love that with Air BNB you are all paid for, just check in and have a good time. I LOVED our host in Florence Italy, so super friendly, the flat was amazing and clean and had plenty of outlets and just super homey, we still talk about that flat as our favorite in our entire Europe trip.

I think I will do Air-BNB over a private agency or VRBO in the future.

Posted by
12548 posts

As long as you understand that Airbnb is only a listing service with some purchase safe guards built in. There are no Airbnb apartments, they are all privately owned and will vary in quality to the extent that their ratings reflect if not greater. You could end up in a professional managed apartment or the apartment of some guy's dead aunt. Or apparently one being rented counter to local laws or contract. To imagine any consistency is not totally unreasonable given the safeguards of the Airbnb contract, but also don't expect the uniformity that you might find in a major hotel chain.

Posted by
6 posts

I love Air B&B. I was in Geneva, Switzerland last summer and ended up in the hospital for 38 days. My son had to some over to care for my husband and I as he ended up in the same hospital for 4 days too?
They used a hotel first at $250 a night with a hospital referral but quickly found a nice Air B&B reasonably nearby for $70 per night with full laundry facilities, kitchen, and covered 3 people so I could stay for awhile when I left the hospital. Best of all the host allowed us to extend time as we needed every few days since we didn't have a definite discharge day. We also used it in Paris and other parts of France and are planning to use it in Croatia this summer.

Posted by
400 posts

I'm waiting to reserve judgement until our trip in May, but right now I have some concerns regarding AirBnb. The plan was to go 100%, no hotels. Booked a place in London, great reviews, location thru the "instant book" feature. A couple of days later I get an email saying that the room should never have been available for my dates and that they had to cancel my booking. After much time, found another one. Then I booked one in Seville, Granada, Arles and Colmar. About 3 weeks later I get an email saying that my Arles was cancelled by the host, no reason. About a month ago, the London one gets cancelled by the host, again no explanation. I am now worried that I'll get another email shortly before my booking date. I guess one needs to understand there are absolutely no guarantees.

Posted by
2246 posts

Re Warren's comment, I have heard of this happening from time to time, and not just with AirBnB. The assumption is that they got a better deal on another listing site, perhaps where they don't price as competitively, or some such thing. That must be a real bummer, and is the best reason to select rentals with lots of good reviews-though as Warren says, no guarantees.

Posted by
3899 posts

Wow Warren - in 18 bookings the only time I had a cancellation was when our host in San Diego double booked one of our three nights. She offered to cancel the whole thing, or we could have the other two nights at a discount. We took the discount and found a hotel for one night. You are not having the best of luck. I hope things go OK for you!

Posted by
234 posts

I was apprehensive about using Airbnb for the first time but, after reassurances from friends who had used the site, we booked accommodations in four different towns in Ireland this past September and were thrilled with the results! All four cottages/apartments were clean, comfortable and just as advertised. I paid close attention to all the pictures (if there were too few I was suspicious that things were not as described) and to the reviews. I eliminated anything that didn't have multiple reviews as too new to take a chance on. The great thing about the Airbnb site is that you can use filters to ensure that the property has the amenities that are most important to you--wifi, TV, laundry facilities etc. I think that if you do your homework you can find some great accommodations that will suit your needs perfectly.

Posted by
117 posts

As has already been mentioned, reading through the reviews is vital. And, then communicating with the host. I always send a message or two. The promptness and courtesy of the response is a major factor for me.

We have bookings lined up for Brussels, Amsterdam, and Berlin for early next month. Looking forward to it.

Posted by
12548 posts

canuckatlarge, I do that with every service provider, from apartments to guides. I think it helps me to know what to expect. After all, when push comes to shove you aren't just doing business with Airbnb, you are doing business with a random apartment owner. Helps to know if it's a hobby or a real business, new or the dead aunts old place.

Posted by
101 posts

I've had great experiences with airBNB. On my last trip, to Israel, I felt that the accommodations let me have much more personalized experiences than a hotel would have, and it was a lot of fun too. I've never had a reservation cancelled, though. That would be really annoying! I do read the reviews very carefully before booking.

I hope that my upcoming trip to Germany, also planned with airBNB accommodations, will be as positive.

Posted by
3899 posts

Airbnb is like flying - hundreds of thousands of people use airbnb every week and have amazing experiences (like me) but you only hear about the very tiny percentage that go horribly wrong. Millions of people fly everyday, yet I have a friend who won't fly because she's afraid - even tho you only ever hear about the plane crashes (which are rare, thank goodness) and not the hundreds of thousands of flights that are fine.

If I was travelling solo, I'd probably look for a room in a home with a family, or with a female only host.

Posted by
25 posts

I've stayed at AIRBNB over the last few years and been happy. Its a good idea to read the reviews very carefully. I stayed once in Denver and I found it could have been much cleaner and was not is a really good area, however, this was my fault. It was my first AIRBNB stay and I was going to a convention so the $50/night sounded great compared to $300+ down town. In the end I wasn't there much and it turned out ok. Next I stayed in Seattle with my kids and that apartment was awesome! I've booked a trip to Europe this summer with my children and have used AIRBNB exclusively. I look carefully at reviews, don't stay at places with high "deposits" or "cleaning fees." This time we are staying at several BNBs in France. I looked up the one we are staying at in the Loire Valley in Amboise (I paid $332 for two nights breakfast included) on Trip Adviser and it was very highly rated with the only bad review with some grumpy person complaining about her friendly great dane and her cats. I had to giggle because I picked her BNB because of the great dane, I knew my 8 year old daughter would make instant friends!
It's a great way to connect with locals and go through the back door (as Rick would say)!!!

Posted by
12548 posts

As long as what you guys are saying is that you would never rent an accommodation from an individual then I guess it makes sense, but if you are saying that AirBnb is the culprit then you are missing the point; and that is that AirBnb doesn’t rent anything to anyone. It’s like saying that you would never stay in a hotel that advertised in the NY Times Travel Section.

To prove the point, I went to AirBnb and just said “Dallas”, then I spent 10 seconds looking for a place with a unique tag line, then I googled that tag line and got these 5 links (and there was a dozen more) for the same rental home at Hotels.com, VRBO, Tripadvisor, Venere, Travelocity. The question is who are you really renting from. I don’t worry too much but if you want an additional layer of confidence I would suggest finding a fully managed place instead of Ben renting his late aunts attic space. Like Ben’s place the fully managed accommodations will be found on AirBnb and most every other site.

https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/1352720
http://www.hotels.com/hotel/details.html?pa=2&tab=description&hotel-id=581113&q-room-0-adults=2&ZSX=0&SYE=3&q-room-0-children=0
https://www.vrbo.com/589735
https://www.tripadvisor.com/VacationRentalReview-g30183-d4748581-Three_Blocks_from_Cowboy_Stadium_Arlington_Texas-Arlington_Texas.html
http://us.venere.com/ho581113/texas/arlington/three-blocks-from-cowboys-stadium/
https://www.travelocity.com/Dallas-Hotels-Three-Blocks-From-Cowboys-Stadium.h14821966.Hotel-Information

Now this particular site for the apartment did list a name of the owner and an email address. If it were me I might be inclined to contact the owner and ask for the name of the management company. If she has one then I would expect the place to be run as a business and not a hobby. Of course I might be inclined to check out the company and the reviews of their other apartments. https://www.vacationhomerentals.com/owner/54901

And no, I have no connection with this property. Pretty much drawn at random.

Posted by
25 posts

I was looking at renting an Airbnb in Rome, but when registering on the Airbnb website, I was asked to input date of birth, etc, plus email a photo of my passport! I did not go through with the process and booked hotels instead.

Posted by
2246 posts

^^^ The goal is security and accountability, and owners have similar requirements. I do understand your apprehension though.

Posted by
12548 posts

tandems2, with a little research you could have rented the apartment from another listing agency or directly from the management company or the owner. Possibly at a lower cost and possibly without sacrificing your privacy.

Posted by
3899 posts

Tandem2...the Airbnb folks have to vet you as well as the people renting. They don't want to rent to just anyone. That's why Airbnb wants to verify who you are. Hotels don't worry about it that much, but if I was airbnbing my guest room (which I am hoping to do in the future), I want to know Airbnb did their due diligence.

Posted by
10 posts

I have had nothing but really wonderful experiences with AirBnB. We have used it in Dublin, Belfast, Central England, Scotland, Portland, Oregon, San Diego North County, etc...
One place had sketchy internet so the host refunded most of our money (we had already stayed there for most of our time) and we found a replacement that was amazing.
The place in Central England had a uck neighborhood but that was my fault for not researching the neighborhood. The lodging was actually really nice and the hosts were super sweet.
TIPS:
1. check neighborhood comments on Tripadvisor, etc.
2. Consider location along with budget because if you have to always take a taxi or subway everywhere and that's like $20 a day, it may be better to find a place that is closer, nicer, and convenient even if it is $20 more a night.
3. READ THE REVIEWS...if it has less than 5 reviews, maybe find a place that has more reviews to make sure it is what you want
4. Contact the host if you have any special needs
5. READ THE HOUSE RULES AND AMENITIES
6. Have an adventure...hotels are so blah and what is wonderful about AirBnB is that it is always a journey

Posted by
12548 posts

Momsterluv, give yourself more credit. You had great experiences because of all of your research and excellent attitude; AirBnb had little to to with it. You do it correctly and it pays off.