Sunday, 8 January 2017

To (airbn)B, or not to Airbnb?

Okay, that pun didn't quite work, sorry. But give me some credit, Airbnb doesn't really rhyme with anything... Anyway, back to the point.

Ryanair has a sale on and you've realised you can bag a return flight to Krakow for £10. There's one problem though, the only hotel you can afford is a million miles out of the city centre. You give up, resigned to the fact it will all be too expensive and there are no other options right? Wrong. Give airbnb a try.

The first time I ever used Airbnb was back in September 2015 in Orlando, Florida. I aid $20 to sleep on somebodies couch... Ouch! But it was a far better alternative than the $200 minimum hotel bill I would have otherwise footed. Since then, I have used in Florence and Rome, as well as on my most recent trip to Poland. Let us get started, the pros, and the cons:

  • Price: Not only are Airbnbs cheaper than hotels in general, they have the potential to make your whole experience cheaper. As houses/ flats, most come with a kitchen of some description. I will note though that in Europe this tends to often be limited to a hob and microwave, I have only come across a few with full ovens. This means you can buy food from a nearby supermarket and cook some nights if you want to reduce your costs even more. In addition to this, unlike lots of hotels, all of the airbnbs I have used have free wifi too.
  • Privacy:  Ok, so this one is a bit questionable, but I'll explain that in the con section. On the whole, being able to rent the whole house gives you more privacy than in a hotel because you can come and go without worrying about maids coming in or the front desk watching your every move!
  • Friendly hosts: I have never had a bad experience with a host. The level of contact really varies depending on each host. Some hosts I haven't even had to meet as they have a lock box organised, whereas others have shown me around, how to work the heating and even given me advice on things I can do in the area and the best places to eat/ drink. Most recently my fantastic host in Krakow even gave us a bottle of wine as a present as Harley had mentioned that it was a belated birthday trip! Charming!
  • Prices/ Extra-fees: Okay, so while I mentioned how cheap they are, I must say that for a solo traveller they are not always the most cost-effective method. Yes, if you insist on total privacy/ your own room then it is likely Airbnb will be your best bet. Otherwise, I find hostels are still cheaper. Not only this, if you are travelling in a large group, be careful because sometimes when you go to check-out you will see though the house can hold 10 people, there is an extra charge per person per night over 5 people for example. Or, they may have crazy fees in case of damage to the house. I looked at renting a place to go surfing in Torquay and if we had any noise complaints we would have been fined £800. 
  • Accessibility: Arranging to meet your host can be a pain in the butt - especially if you do not have internet on your phone in the country you are visiting. If your plane is delayed, how are you going to get in contact with them to ensure they are not waiting around for you? In that respect, having a 24h hotel reception takes a load off your mind. I would definitely hesitate to book a month long interrailing trip using airbnb for example if I only planned on staying in each city a few nights each. It takes effort to message your host/ be organised like that! I hate sticking to a schedule oops. But if you were booking it to use as a villa for a week, for example, it would be perfect. 
  • Privacy: A few months ago a PostSecret card went viral. It stated 'I swap hidden camera sex videos with other Airbnb hosts.' It understandably caused quite a ruckus in the online community and raised all kinds of questions over Airbnb's privacy. While I think it would be easier to pull this off in an Airbnb, I think it should be remembered that there have been endless stories of this happening in hotels too, especially given even more people have access to those rooms. In all likelihood, I'm sure this is a tiny minority of hosts! I do though think there is more chance of encountering a camera in Airbnb properties for security purposes. At the end of the day, this is somebodies home, of course they are going to be concerned about it just as a hotel has CCTV in their lobby. All I can say is exercise caution I suppose! 
  • Social side: Personally I love hostels and Couchsurfing for the social side of it. Airbnb lets me down in this respect. Of course, it's impossible to meet people when you are stuck in a house alone! Even a hotel you stand a chance of meeting others at breakfast for example, but this is removed with Airbnb. It really depends on the type of holiday you are looking 
Overall, I must say, it all depends on the type of holiday you are looking for! For my trip to Poland with my boyfriend it was the perfect option for us. It was cheaper than alternatives, let us book last minute, and gave us the privacy we wanted. However, as a solo traveller, I would not recommend it unless you are desperate as I find it removes my favourite part of travel - other travellers! If you're lucky though and you decided to go for a room in a shared house you may getting a cracking host and have a wild time, but I am yet to experience this personally.

If you do decide to use Airbnb, please sign up through my link below. I have not been paid to write this article but since I've gone to all this effort to write a review of the website (woe is me) then use this link and it'll help me get money off in my travels next time! (As well as money off for you).


Here's some examples of Airbnb's from my recent trip to Poland:
We had some real gems on this trip. Of particular note was our accommodation in Gdansk. While we had a few issues with construction works, the place itself was such a cute and warm abode we felt right at home.

In Warsaw the place we rented was precisely the opposite of our Gdansk choice. Yes, it was clean and cheap, but it was very sterile and clearly never actually lived in. It seemed like a businessman's quick retreat instead. Certainly not as nice or quirky as the others but practical in that we didn't have to meet the owner to pick up or drop off the keys.
Photo taken from Airbnb.
In Krakow the flat was great too. Perfect location, good-sized kitchen/ dining room, a pull-out sofa bed etc. And honestly, I've never used a better shower in my life. It just had so many options and even an inbuilt radio, is it weird that it was my favourite thing about the flat? Haha. As I mentioned earlier, the host also left us a bottle of wine!

Photos taken from Airbnb.

Finally, the last location we stayed was in Wroclaw. It turns out it was actually an apartment bloc. From the looks of it, nobody ever lives in the apartment we stayed in, rather several of the apartments in the block are rented out on airbnb through an agency as we could use the reception desk 24/7.