It means no more cheap and nasty hotel rooms
Compromising on accommodation in order to make the travel budget last longer can be a good strategy, especially when you are young. But once you’re past the hostel age, nasty budget hotel rooms can be a real downer, particularly for the solo traveler.
Why? Think about it. You’ve just spent the day traipsing all over Venice, or Paris, or anywhere that’s new and exciting. You are in love with the place. You’ve finished the day with the best meal of your life in a local neighborhood. You’ve had a glimpse of how the locals really live. Suddenly you are in a loveless hotel room. All alone. Those stained carpets and garish furnishings really hurt your soul, because you are tired, you crave a little tlc and you so want to feel like you belong here.
At least that’s how I feel in a new place. As I get older, friendly accommodation is high on my list. It comforts me and gives me that feeling of home, even if it’s just for a night. A dingy hotel room? Makes me want to sob into my pillow.
Thanks to Airbnb, I no longer have to do loveless hotels. “Belong everywhere” is their motto and it fits my way of traveling!
How Airbnb works
Airbnb is a worldwide accommodation service and part of the shared economy. It means you can rent someone’s spare room, or the entire home or apartment, the granny flat, even the treehouse. It’s up to you. You can search the Airbnb website to find the type of accommodation that fits your budget, taste, and style of traveling. Essentially Airbnb offers you unique stays in peoples’ homes. It’s always cheaper than a hotel room and it always comes with a whole lot more flair and character than a hotel room.
A host will build their reputation through guest reviews. That means you, the guest, can determine their ratings through your feedback.
Your honest review will help others decide whether a place is for them. But please don’t be unkind. If a host didn’t promise essentials like tea and coffee, then don’t complain if you don’t find them.
And it works the other way round. A host will assess you as a guest. If you’ve been tidy and respectful of their place, or if you broke the rules and threw a loud party, your hosts will be able to let other hosts know through their reviews of you. Both host and guest reviews will only be made public once both parties have completed their reviews. It’s a great system that keeps everybody accountable.
You will quickly learn how to read descriptions and reviews to find the place that suits your needs. Be careful and read the fine print and guest rules. I recently booked an apartment in Berlin owned by a working family with young kids. In order to fit guest arrivals in with their busy lives, they wanted to know my exact arrival time 3 weeks in advance and only accepted check-ins between 6pm and 10pm. That didn’t suit me at all, because I wanted to feel free to jump on a train whenever I felt like it. But it was all there in the fine print which I neglected to read. My mistake.
And just as hotel photos can be deceiving, Airbnb photos can be deceiving. But many places are actually photographed by an Airbnb team member, and you will be able to see on the website whether or not photos have been verified by Airbnb. And other users will say so also in their feedback if a place pretends to be what it’s not. So, make sure you read those reviews.
What I love about Airbnb
I had my first experience with Airbnb when I ventured solo into honeymoon land on Kauai island, Hawaii. I had just turned 50, I was single and the mere thought of happy couples strolling into the sunset made me feel uneasy about traveling solo.
I jumped on the Airbnb website and found myself an affordable charming, self-contained cottage in a quiet surbuban street in Kapaa’. As I parked my rented car on the lawn, the next door neighbor hollered a friendly aloha, and bingo, I felt instantly at home. My hosts asked me to come over to the main house for a glass of wine and and a chat. I ended up being so busy each day taking mini road trips around the island, I never got to have another glass of wine with my hosts. But I never for a moment felt lonely, because I knew I had instant company right next door.
Is Airbnb safe
Airbnb is build on trust. Users build up their credible online profiles through reviews and recommendations. As of this year, Airbnb also requires all users to become verified by submitting photo Id such as your scanned passport or drivers license. Airbnb does not actually do safety checks, but it holds the scanned Id in its files.
You do get to communicate with your host through private messages and that will also tell you a lot about your host.
I make sure I read the reviews really carefully. They usually give reliable clues on how guests and hosts have interacted and communicated. If you search the net, sure you will find some horror stories. I personally have only had good experiences.
How I use Airbnb
I find Airbnb works just about anywhere, whether you looking for a city pad in a cool neighborhood, a quaint beachside shack or an entire castle, though I haven’t tried that one yet.
Take my example in Kyoto. I booked a room in an apartment that was shared with other guests. The owner gave precise indications on how to get there from the station, she picked me up at the bus stop and provided lovely welcome snacks and tea.
The real bonus was the fact that she spoke very good English and was able to assist me with finding my way around Kyoto, suggesting places to go and writing out addresses and places in kanji for the taxi driver to find. The other guests turned out to be great company, a couple of US based postgraduate students, fluent in Japanese and English. We shared academic interests, had some lovely conversations and I benefited from their knowledge about Kyoto. And I never felt lonely. In fact, after a few days, I felt like living in a share house back in my Uni days.
But sharing a home, especially the bathroom, might not be everybody’s cup of tea. I find that after many days on the road, it helps me recharge my batteries if I can retreat into my own domain and be king of the castle for a day or a week. There are so many great apartments or cute granny flats in all price ranges on Airbnb, it’ll make you come up with wild travel plans. Why not go and live like a local in Reykjavík for a week? Or Havana? New York anyone?
Airbnb is also great if you are traveling in a group
Sometimes it’s great to hook up with your besties or family somewhere and get a big old house and feel like you’re home. In December I visited the beautiful city of Luxor in Egypt. Because of the current political situation, hotel rooms were actually quite affordable. But they looked either dingy or garish or both. And given that we were traveling as a group of three, an apartment made a whole lot more sense.
On that occasion I took a bit of a gamble, but it paid off. I fell in love with the photos of a beautifully furnished apartment, on the other side of the Nile amidst fields of sugar cane in a rural village. The only available review sounded fake, but I went with my gut instinct and was rewarded with a real gem.
We had access to a three story house, rooftop terrace and large and beautifully decorated backyard. There were enough separate seating areas for each of us and we had to drag ourselves away to go into town each day. In fact it didn’t take long before the local villagers invited us for tea in their homes and to attend a three day wedding in our street. We would never had that kind of experience had we chosen to stay in one of the hotels in the city centre where every second Egyptian will beg you to visit their shop or come on a sightseeing tour.
Our host, well, he was very Egyptian. He rang me frequently to see if we were ok or needed his help. It was his way of making sure he’d get some baksheesh. Of course you don’t usually have to tip your host, but this was Egypt and we took it in our stride. We sat him down one evening and explained about cultural differences. He got the hint and we had a great time.
Why Airbnb Is ALWAYS MY FIRST CHOICE:
- It’s usually cheaper
- It has more character than a soulless hotel room
- You won’t have to worry about feeling lonely; just rent a room and share the kitchen and lounge with your host and/or other travelers
- You’ll be able to live in a local neighborhood, go to the local markets, make your own breakfast, even do your own cooking
- Often you’ll be able to get great local tips from your host, things you wouldn’t find in a guidebook
- You’ll be able to meet locals and feel at right at home
- It makes for better memories. Do you really want to remember that cheap and nasty hotel room with the smelly toilet? Hell no! But you’ll remember that quaint attic in Paris with the purple cushions for a lifetime!
Things to do to as a solo female traveler
- Read the reviews very carefully to find a place that suits your specific needs.
- Book a place that has had many recent positive reviews. Choose your host well. As a precaution, you might like to opt for a female, a family or a couple.
- Communicate with your host. Don’t be shy and ask questions to get the answers you need.
When I will rather book a hotel
When I am only visiting a place for a night or on my way to the airport, it’s sometimes easier and even cheaper to book into a hotel. Because they will hold your luggage until you depart, or if you need to check in early. It can be a real bother if you have little time, to have to worry about working in with your host’s schedule to check you in.
If you haven’t used Airbnb before, sign up through this link and I’ll give you $ 32 off your first booking!
Tempted? If you book, I also get AUD 32 in travel credit. That’s how Airbnb works. Sharing all the way. And that’s what I love about it!
Make sure you share your Airbnb experiences with me. Would love to hear from you
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