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AirB&B?

Certainly this topic has come up before, but I can't seem to find it. We've traveled pretty extensively in Europe using mainly hotels, occasionally B&Bs, and twice terrific hostels in Switzerland with our own rooms. We've heard some really positive remarks about AirB&Bs from younger folks who use them. I must say some of the listings look wonderful. But, I'm not sure I'm brave enough to do it! Clue me in please if you have experience. We're off to the Netherland and Ireland in May and reviewing our lodging options. Thanks

Posted by
2246 posts

Having used Air BnB here in the states many times-but never abroad-I would say that one of the key factors in a rental prospect is having several (many) credible, positive, and unqualified reviews. One of the strengths of Air is that one must stay in a rental in order to be able to review it. Read all reviews, and read them carefully. Where there's smoke, there's fire, if a reviewer makes a negative comment, no matter how mildly they say it, take it to heart and know that it's human nature, for some of us anyway, to minimize harsh criticism, especially when it comes to talking about the place you rented from that otherwise delightful couple. A great looking unit in a great neighborhood at a great price doesn't get for me if it has only a couple of glowing reviews.

Posted by
1425 posts

I've used airbnb frequently in the USA and in two European cities (Copenhagen and Stockholm). My experience has been uniformly positive, so much so that on my upcoming 3-week trip to Belgium, Netherlands, and Norway, I'm staying in airbnbs for all but two nights.

I concur with Dave that you need to be smart and selective and read the reviews carefully, but my worst airbnb experience was 100 times better than my worst hotel experience.

Depending on the type of lodging, you can have the advantage of having local hosts to get to know (when you stay in a room as their guest in their house or apartment), or you can have the real feeling of living like a temporary local (when you get an apartment all to yourself). You also have the advantage in most cases of a kitchen, which means you can go out and buy groceries (like a local) and cook at home if you want to save money or if you're too exhausted after a long day's sightseeing to go out to dinner. I like going out to breakfast sometimes, but it's great to have the option of having breakfast in.

You can also contact the host before you commit to booking, so chat with them and see how they respond. I've often established a rapport with my hosts before arriving, and I'm still Facebook friends with my hosts from Copenhagen.

And I'm not one of the younger folks. I'm 60.

I'd suggest giving it a try, at least for one or two locations.

Posted by
43 posts

Thank you both for your prompt replies! So appreciate your thoughts. I needed some "hand holding" to pull the first trigger, but I just did it! Ah, I feel so much younger and "with-it," but I'm still.....rather terrified. Ah, it's part of the adventure, right? In our retirement years, we have had a lot of new experiences. This will just be another one. Elle

Posted by
3899 posts

Glad you took the plunge - since our first airbnb stay in Boston in 2011, I've used airbnb 19 times all over Europe and the US - and have already booked two more for stays in Toronto in May, and most likely will be booking Niagara Falls and our other one night stays via airbnb. Before we tended to couchsurfing and regular B&B's with the odd airport hotel thrown in when we needed to be at an airport for an early morning flight (and some chain hotels/motels as well). And we aren't exactly youngsters (42 and 50).

I'm def a convert. We've had some really lovely stays at amazing prices - one stay in an old villa just on the outskirts of Florence for $40. A beautiful whole apartment in Rome just meters from the Colosseum for $150 a night (my mom was with us and we needed more space...and nearby hotels for 3 were a lot more expensive). An amazing spot in Weehawken, NJ that was about $80 a night and was a 5 min bus drive away from Port Authority in NYC, with free parking. (And this is Canadian $ too, so even cheaper in US$).

We've had hosts that run the gamut from...'here's your key, have fun' to a lovely host in Villefranche sur Mer in the south of France who cooked us supper and took us for a drive to Eze to a wonderful host near Yosemite who we sat and chatted with for 2-3 hours about anything and everything. We generally stay in rooms as opposed to whole apartments (except the time my mom came with us and we needed separate sleeping rooms).

As the others have said, I always read carefully the reviews. If I see a few complaints about 'too small' or 'no storage space' or 'dirty' I'll keep looking. And I make sure it has the amenities I want - washer/dryer, air con if hot time of year, parking if we are driving, non-smoking, close to public transport if not driving. I also check out the photos and the location - if there are only a few photos I tend to pass. And I love to find accoms, so I'll actually 'heart' all the ones I like on my wish list, then winnow it down to a top 15, then top 10, then top 3!

I hope you enjoy your stays!

Posted by
4950 posts

As a native of Manhattan, I refuse to use AirBnB. Just because a market is subject to "entrepreneurial disruption" does not mean it is "right" to disrupt it. Apartment dwellers are subject to people clumping roller-bags up and down stairs, depositing trash in the wrong place, and making noise like wedding guests do in hotels. It's a pleasant illusion to believe that you are having a "Rick Steves" experience of "local life." But many apartments have been taken off the local rental market (generally, illegally ... ) by investors who can make more money with short-term rentals.

This post is an opinion, not a "fact". But so is the idea that an apartment renter has an inherent (or for that matter, contractual ...) right to sublet their apartment to transients.

Edit: typo only

Posted by
3899 posts

This is why we generally tend to stay with people who are renting rooms as opposed to whole apartments. I'm not immune to the stories about companies and individuals scooping up apartments and using them for airbnb, therefore giving renters a much harder time finding affordable places to live. I find rooms to be cheaper anyways, and more chose apartments when I did because my mom was with us.

I like to think when I stay in an otherwise unused room in a house (or an apartment) I am helping that person be able to afford to keep living where they are living. Some of these areas aren't cheap, and maybe these folks have gone the roommate route and it didn't work out, and the only way they can afford to keep living where they are living is to rent their extra room. This is why when we stayed in San Fran and Paris and London and used airbnb we stayed in a room. I know about the NY issues, which is why we decided to stay in Weehawken in a room in a - I guess it was a townhouse kinda thing - with three floors and only neighbours on either side. I think people do need to be aware of the issues, and try to be respectful (and quiet) if staying in a building with lots of other tenants.

Posted by
43 posts

Thank you all for your perspectives! I'm not even sure what the difference is between an AirB&B and a regular B&B. Is it regulations, flexibility, for sure taxes, no doubt. We have stayed in B&Bs in the past in Belfast and Dun Laoghaire and had incredibly, wonderful conversations with the host/hostess. Learned so much. This time, it seems lots of things are booked up and so we looked at alternative lodging, a room in a person's home. Basically, we love the connections that a hotel doesn't always provide. The front desk can only be so honest and frequently haven't lived in the area for long. So, we will try this one time and see how it goes. My grandchildren will smile at their adventuresome grandparents!

Posted by
8293 posts

There has just been a news report about a Montreal man who has made $200,000 renting out his premises through AirB&B in the last couple of years, and has now received a sales and hotel tax bill from the city for $62,000. More and more municipalities will be doing this, (and why not?) and the rentals will be more expensive to compensate. I prefer a hotel, in any case .... I love coming back to a made-up room and clean and tidy bathroom. We did stay once in a borrowed very luxurious apartment in a posh arrondissement in Paris, which was grand, and what made it grander was a nice Filipino woman who came in every day to clean up after us.

Posted by
638 posts

Elle the main difference is the level of service and/or interaction with the owner. As you know with a standard B&B you will be met by the owner and most importantly have breakfast prepared for you, and if you're staying more than one night you will probably come back to a clean room and bathroom. However with an AirBNB rental you may not even meet the owner if you rent the entire apartment. They will normally leave printed out instructions on everything from how to turn on the television to how and where to do laundry, just about anything you might need to do if it was your apartment, and they might not be readily available if you have a question or a problem. If you are renting just a room in an apartment and the owner is there they may supply breakfast for you but may not prepare it which I think is more the norm, so you're on your own, or they might not even supply anything. And as Norma touched on in regards to the bathroom, with an AirBNB the place is going to remain the same as when you left for the day, that is no one is going to come in and clean the place, that's up to you, which is something to consider if you're there for more than just a day or two. There may be a cleaning deposit or payment attached to the place so they can come in and clean it after you leave. Someone that rents you a room might interact with you and then there might be an owner that is away at work or just living their life and may not interact with you at all, that's why as others have said be sure to read the write up and reviews on any place you are considering.

Posted by
2780 posts

Air BnB is simply a listing site for by-owner rentals. They can be a whole home or apartment, or simply a room in the owner's home. In Ireland, the big difference between the Air BnB room and a "regular" Bed and Breakfast B&B is that the latter is licensed to operate a lodging facility and subject to regulation. And may belong to an association with its own standards and policies.

Posted by
3899 posts

I have generally found that we supply our own breakfast. Our host in Salon en Provence last year was more than happy to give us fruit and juice and cereal (we had bought our own), fresh bread, coffee/tea, cheese...but mostly it's DIY. I did notice some of our hosts would offer breakfast for an additional fee.

You can get an idea of host interaction from the reviews and of course from the listing. Some will say that they'd love to sit and chat. With others, a friend of theirs may meet you to let you in. The few times we had apartments, the hosts were easily reachable by email and responded quickly, tho no huge issues arose. In Rome, the owners of the apartment (who also collected the city tourist taxes and had you fill out a short term lease form or whatever to keep it on the up and up) were in the same building. And pretty much every one I have stayed in has a great selection of guide books (the ones in Paris and Rome especially), maps, brochures...or perhaps a binder listing sites and restaurants...or of course the recommendations of the host - I've gotten a lot more info from our hosts than I've ever gotten from a front desk. We stayed with some folks near Nice and talked about visiting Grasse, which they said was overrated and not much there, and they suggested other, more interesting places to visit - we took their advice and really enjoyed the spots we got to.

A lot of times we'd have to make our way (another reason to be close to public transport) but in Bath and Florence, for example, the hosts came and picked us up at the train station and bus stop respectively. I would think if you were going to be somewhere more than 3-4 days and you were worried about clean towels, you could arrange to have some brought in. As for a clean bathroom or having my bed made/sheets changed - well, I've never been one to clean my bathroom every day, and it takes only a few seconds to throw the covers over the bed - and having new sheets/towels every day is a horrible waste of water. I'll take the savings of an airbnb over worrying about having my bed made or fresh towels every day. But that's me. :)

Posted by
43 posts

Well, I think you all have taught me a lot! My husband would always prefer hotels, and for 29/31 days on our spring trip to the Netherlands and Ireland we will be doing just that. The AirB&B is only for our last two nights in Europe. I will report back!
Thanks so much for providing me such helpful information! Elle

Posted by
518 posts

Whether AirBnB, hotels, B&B's, etc., and whether booking direct with the proprietor, through the web, over the phone, through an online travel website, etc., always be sure you know what your options for recourse are should things not work out. For example, if the power in that apartment goes out, or there's no hot water, who do you call? If it's an apartment building of which you are renting one out of many units, is it the building owner? unit owner? property manager? AirBnB? At a hotel this is usually an simple answer: the front desk. Granted, that's no guarantee of good service or even service at all, but at least with a hotel there is a standard form of recourse that you know going in.

Posted by
796 posts

Just be forewarned that in some European cities the governments are looking into shutting down them down as it competes with licensed hotels, inns and registered bed and breakfasts. I would advise staying in a registered bed and breakfast, hostel or hotel.

Posted by
2246 posts

^ ^ ^ While Paris and Barcelona, among others, have had fierce battles over AirBnB and the like, I have not heard of it being an issue in Ireland at all. Not sure it needs a warning...

Ireland AirBnB hosts are liable for tax on income received.

Have a great trip.

Posted by
5703 posts

Use Airbnb frequently when traveling here in the US and abroad. Never encountered a problem. That said their are unscrupulous folks are out to make a buck and not pay taxes. My rule if thumb is a picture of the proprietor, not their pet, or city icon appears on their listing. That there are a minimum of 12 positive reviews, I get a response within 24 hours and The owner only lists one property. I then begin a back and forth via email establishing a dialogue so I have a sense of the person. My usual reservation is an ensuite private room in a house so I do get to meet the owners. Personally I find it an excellent way to interact with people who enjoy sharing insight about where they live. Enjoy your first AirBnB bookings but more importantly have fun in Ireland. Lastly, Truman was in office when I was born so not only millennials use AirBnB.

Posted by
2246 posts

"Truman was in office when I was born so not only millennials use AirBnB."

We love it, and I'm an Eisenhower guy.

Posted by
3899 posts

Just wanted to mention a few other things (for anyone else who may check this out)...if I notice someone has a lot of cancellations in their reviews, I'll pass (airbnb will do an auto posting if there is a cancellation saying 'booking was cancelled how ever many days before stay'). I don't want to take the chance - after all my hard work - that my booking will be cancelled.

And this is a big reason why I also will contact the host first before booking - even with instant book. I like to 'get a feel' for them and also you can see if they reply fast and read your note. I will say, pretty much all I have contacted usually get back to me within a few hours (so you know they keep checking or reply to their alerts) - the only time I recall someone taking more than 6 hours to reply - they lived in NYC but worked as a flight attendant and they were in Asia somewhere, so time difference was a big factor.

Posted by
5703 posts

Agree with Nicole I find it extremely important to "get a feel" for my hosts and do so by engaging them in an email correspondence. I'm pleased to say that owners of some of the places I've stayed with in the past have become friends. The type of friends who come visit you. Do not hesitate to use AirBnB but respect the advice given here. Have a wonderful trip.

Posted by
697 posts

Lots of good posts here with excellent due diligence advice. I wholeheartedly concur. I've used AirB&B in Rome (wonderful, spacious apartment with a fun host who took excellent care of us 'old-timers' while we were there too, sadly he no longer rents it) and in Paris (very small, but excellently located apartment in the Marias, near St Paul). So I would definitely do it again but that being said, I take FOREVER to pull the trigger, making sure I feel comfortable with the host & their responses to all my questions and that the reviews are all favorable. I also Google Earth the neighborhood. Enjoy your trip!

Posted by
518 posts

I've personally never used AirBnB, in fact, I've never even visited the website so I have know idea how it even works. However, a couple of years back we went to Cinque Terre and most of the accommodations there are apartment or room rentals where you book via phone/email directly with the proprietor/owner of the property (no website, no booking engine, etc.). I had sent out many e-mails to various proprietors to get quotes and so on and a few things I used to gauge my comfort with and confidence level in the proprietors were:

  1. How quickly did they respond to my e-mail (if after 48 hours I don't hear back, that's not a good sign)
  2. Did they answer all my questions asked or was it just a cursory "..yes, we have rooms!"
  3. Are they clear with their booking and payment directions?
  4. Do they provide multiple means of contact (email, phone, etc.)

You may have your own criteria...

Posted by
197 posts

Here's my take on my first experience with AirBnB in Europe.

We used AirBnB in Madrid, Sevilla and Barcelona. In the first 2 cities, we were renting entire apartments from owners. They were both lovely experiences: great locations, really helpful owners, great wi-fi. We really enjoyed having the extra space and use of a kitchen. In Barcelona, we again had a great location and a very spacious apartment, but we rented from a management company as opposed to the owner. Also, Barcelona has some additional laws, so it was a colder experience than the first 2.

The biggest mistake I made was not having a phone in Europe. I relied on wi-fi required texting and e-mail, but trying to communicate our arrival times/luggage drop-offs, etc., was made more difficult by not having a phone. And in Barcelona we were required to call (not text) before arrival, so we had to use the pay phone at the airport.

Other little issues: make sure YOU can open the doors with the keys provided. Sometimes they are hinky and the host will be used to the quirks. You're not, and you don't want to be locked out (with no phone)!

Also, cabbies know the location of most hotels in their city. Random apartments? Maybe not so much. In Sevilla, the cabbie was clearly lost, and ended up leaving us "near" the apartment. We got help and used HERE maps, but it was still a hassle in the rain.

Plus side -- very affordable. But it was nice to intersperse the AirBnB experience with 2 hotels during our trip.

Posted by
43 posts

Thank you all for responding. We are back in the USA and we did spend two nights in a wonderful B&B in Santry, outside of Dublin. The hosts were fabulous, two well traveled, warm, Irish people who love hostessing people from all over the world. That said, I would especially thank Pam, the last to reply, regarding her comments. The lock on the door was a problem, at least temporarily. Also, while the lack of a phone was not an issue in our case, we can well see that it could be in others. Pam's tips are important to ponder should you venture down the AirB&B path. We think having a phone could be essential, particularly if the landlord doesn't live on site. In our case, they did. Also, screening for "super hosts" might be important; then, remember it is someone's home not a five star hotel. All in all, we had a thoroughly good experience....once we figured out the quirky key situation for the front door.