To start off, I am not an Airbnb expert. But I am an Airbnb believer. How so? Here are my reasons for believing in Airbnb, and using it.
1. The Price
This is the most obvious one. B&Bs are most often much cheaper than hotels (though not always so, as we will discuss later). This is especially important for the budget traveler, who is really not that keen on using hostels. B&Bs gives the budget traveler a mid-way option – it’s much cheaper (usually!) than a regular hotel, though of course, more expensive than a dormitory. Let me give a few examples. In Budapest, I stayed in this apartment, which was right next to St Stephen’s cathedral, and 5 minutes away from the Chain bridge. As one of the most happening areas in the city, most of the prominent hotel chains like Le Meriden, Marriott etc had hotels in the area; similarly, a lot of the nicer, small boutique hotels are also positioned in the area. The problem? – The problem is that Old Town is the nicest area in Budapest, and so the prices are nicely horrendous! Now look at this – I stayed in a nice one bedroom apartment right in the middle of Old Town for 40 euros a night! What could be better than that?
2. The Location
As I mentioned before, you often get to stay in the best locations, at a fraction of the price you would pay at regular hotels. Another example – my apartment in Zagreb was at the end of Tkalciceva street, a 5 min walk from the Main square. Tkalciceva street is Zagreb’s party a street – a whole street lined with pubs, bars, and coffee shops of all kinds. Living in an apartment at the end of the street was such an awesome experience. I would roam about all evening, have late dinner in a pub, watch a football match on one of the big screen TVs, and come back home much after midnight without worrying about public transport. Isn’t that great?
3. The Local Experience
Hotels are great, but most often, they offer a standard experience to the traveler. Most B&Bs are places where people have given their house, or part of their house for rent. Obviously, this would be a much more local experience – you are staying in somebody’s house, you are meeting people from the local area, you are told about local areas of interest (and sometimes taken to them!) – It’s perfect, isn’t it?
Point of caution: There are three types of options on Airbnb. Sometimes, a family would rent a small part of the house, for instance, a studio apartment at the top of their house. The studio apartment would be almost private, except for the fact that you would have a common entrance. In the second case, the owner could rent out at an entire apartment, and live somewhere else. In this case, you have very little contact with the owner, though of course you can get in touch over the phone. The third case is where the owner rents out only one room in his/her apartment, and but you have to share the common areas like the living room, kitchen, and in some cases the bathroom too. In this case, you have very little privacy, but of course, you get to make friends, and be really social. I personally like the first option the best where you have a lot of interaction with your hosts, but you still get your privacy at the end of the day.
But based on the level of interaction you would like to have, choose wisely!
4. The ‘Living’ experience
This is the most difficult to explain, but this one is the most compelling reasons to use Airbnb. Most times, these B&Bs are in places where there aren’t other tourists or travelers. You would be living with a family, or in an apartment complex, or a small studio. Away from the crowds, you would feel for a brief period of time that you are living in a different city/country. Living, not visiting. In Budapest, while the apartment was in a touristy area, the apartment complex itself was an old residential building with tenants who had no connection with tourism. Every day in the morning, as I walked down the old stairs, people would walk by, all dressed up for work. We would wish each other good morning, smile, and then rush off, but then I would stop and do a small oooh la la jiggle, because I was thrilled that I was a part of the Budapest life. For a few minutes, yes, but it felt great….As I said, it’s tough to explain 🙂
And why you shouldn’t use Airbnb? I am a big fan of Airbnb for the above reasons, but if you are a very particular kind of traveler, here are a few cons.
Yes, I mention this as a con too. And there’s a reason too. Some people think that Airbnb is really really cheap – it is a lot of times, but not always. There are sometimes places which are as expensive, or in fact more expensive than hotels, but you really need to check out what they offer. Sometimes, you see a really beautiful apartment which is quite expensive, but then – if you are a big family, or a group of friends, it could really work out well for you. But then, it wouldn’t work for a single traveler like me, and as much as I loved the place, I had to let go of such options. So, yeah, price can’t be the only criteria for choosing a B&B.
Yes, it’s called B&B, but a lot of places on Airbnb do not really offer breakfast. The reason? Well, most of these places do not really function as proper B&Bs, where the business model is that room rent is the sole income for the house owner, and he invests all his time for breakfast, room clean up, and a whole set of stuff. Here, most often, the owners have regular jobs/other businesses, and while they offer you space, they really don’t have time to cook and serve food for their guests. So if you are the kind of person who really looks forward to a hot buffet breakfast in the morning, you could be a bit disappointed.
P.S – You could always cook if you want; most places have all the required utensils and cutlery. But I understand if you really don’t feel like it. I know the feeling. But I planned in such a way that I always had some basic stuff in the fridge which I could heat up in the morning.
3. You are on your own! – So hotels and regular B&Bs typically have concierges, or some staff, who could help you with basic things. But if you have your own apartment, you literally are on your own. No room service, no receptionist, no security guard! Once I came back to my apartment past midnight, and I was not able to unlock the door. At 1am, struggling with a lock is quite a scary thing, especially when you know that there’s a no other place you can go to. I didn’t think calling up my house owner at 1am was a good option! But you know what? You manage. After 15 minutes of making enough noise to wake up the Gods, one of the neighbors came and helped me with the door. Thankfully, a lot of residents in Budapest party late, so it was not such a big deal!
I have had a wonderful experience with Airbnb, but I have to admit, it does take getting used to. Maybe, it would be a good idea to combine your B&B experience with standard hotels. So, for example, I stayed in 3 B&Bs and 3 hotels in my recent trip to Europe. That way you don’t get overwhelmed, and you can slowly move on to the complete B&B experience.
Have any of you guys tried Airbnb? Would love to hear your stories.