You'll all know by now that I've recently got back from a trip around Spain and the Basque Country. Lots of people have asked whether we stayed in hostels but actually what we did was book accommodation through Airbnb. Not enough people knew what we were talking about so I thought I'd put together this little guide to travelling with Airbnb to show you how brilliant an experience it can be...
What is this Airbnb you speak of? Is it like booking a hostel?
Airbnb is a website where people who have a spare room in their home can advertise it as a place to stay for visitors. In exchange for a nightly rate (which is very often cheaper than a hostel), your trip becomes a great deal more authentic as you get to stay in a local's home, naturally learning more about the culture of your holiday destination and picking up some excellent recommendations for eating, drinking and exploring. For us, it was a brilliant alternative to hostels. During our last European adventure, we inter-railed and stayed at hostels the whole trip, which was a great experience for meeting other travellers, but what we loved about the Airbnb experience was that we had more space and freedom as well as being able to get to know our hosts and any other guests they also had with them.
Somebody's home? As in, going to stay with a STRANGER? Isn't that a bit unsafe?
Airbnb is pretty good at the security side of things. They get hosts and guests to verify their identification online, for example. Sure it was a bit weird the first time we did it as, yes, you are effectively going to stay with a stranger, but the way the website works allows you to see photographs of the hosts and their homes on their profile. Plus you get to see what their interests and hobbies are, what they do for work, and they get to see the same for you, so you never know you may end up making some friends!
The other great thing is that after a stay, each party is encouraged to leave a review of the other which is then visible to anybody looking at the host or traveller's profiles. So you can generally get a feel for the type of person the host is and whether you would be a good match.
You can also see which area the home is in - plug the address into Google Maps and take a peek on street view to figure out if it's the type of place you would like to stay in.
Sounds pretty good. How much time did you spend with the hosts though? Doesn't it get a bit invasive and awkward?
In some instances you will be sharing the property with the host and in others you may have an entire apartment to yourself. All of ours were live-in hosts.
Some hosts are more hands-on than others, but the majority of ours spent time chatting to us each day, suggesting places to eat and sights to see. On the night of the football World Cup final, we had just arrived in Mallorca and our hosts showed us a non-touristy spot for some tapas and beer, and in the end stayed and watched the game with us. It was a fantastic way to get to know the place from the viewpoint of a local (needless to say that Mallorca's party/Magaluf reputation overseas was very saddening for them) and to visit restaurants, cafes and bars that we perhaps wouldn't have had the confidence to stride into.
At another Airbnb stay in Mallorca, we were lucky enough to play with the hosts' naughty little puppy whenever we had the chance, and the hosts shared such interesting insights into their way of life. It was such an eye-opening experience getting to understand how the locals live.
In terms of privacy, all of our hosts respected our space and made us feel as though we could use their home as our own. Naturally, it did feel like we were staying as guests in someone's home so we were on our best behaviour but like I say, they were all kind and encouraged us to make ourselves at home.
Ultimately, like most social exchanges, people will generally reciprocate your behaviour so if you wanted complete privacy then I'm sure that would be respected, but to me that is a wasted experience.
Do you only get access to a bedroom and bathroom?
Not necessarily. Some stays include use of a kitchen and/or communal area. Just check on the property's profile.
When do you pay? Is it expensive?
You pay at the moment you book but the host doesn't receive the payment until after the stay. It is generally cheaper than a hotel and mostly even cheaper than a hostel (especially in Western Europe) but obviously prices fluctuate depending on season/local events.
All in all, I couldn't recommend travelling with Airbnb more. It was an awesome way to meet people and stay in some really beautiful accommodation. I loved that we stayed in streets that were more residential, but only a stone's throw away from the touristy stuff if we wanted it.
Oh and by the way, I have written this off my own back - no affiliation with Airbnb whatsoever - just really enjoyed the experience!
If you've stayed in Airbnb accommodation, what did you like about it? And if not, do you think it is something you might try?