Wednesday, 10 September 2014

The airbnb experience: quality, affordable accommodation

I recently spent a week in the South of France and the Italian Riviera. Sounds expensive, yes it is, for me, but it's not so much as you think. I couldn't afford package tours or hotel rooms during the trip. I don't like camping and I couldn't afford a rental car. How to put the trip together in terms of accommodation that was central?

I could have tried to use couchsurfing.com. I'm a member and have had some good experiences in the past as a surfer and a host but have become a bit disillusioned with how the site has changed for the worse in recent years and how annoying some guests can be.

Airbnb is a site where individuals post rooms, apartments or entire houses for rent. They are fully furnished, linen is usually supplied, as is free wifi. Sometimes there are minimum nights' stays or additional cleaning charges but generally I find this an excellent way to access accommodation on my limited budget. You can choose your location, price, type of accommodation. It's a home away from home experience and often the hosts throws in additional benefits like breakfast. Booking is easy, efficient and secure. Your account is only debited after you check into your accommodation and no money is held by hosts. The site takes a commission, which is reasonable.

I booked an appartment for my daughter and me in central Aix en Provence. We could walk everywhere from there. It was easy to find our way to the main thoroughfare, tourist info centre and do supermarket shopping. Day trip tour guides could easily do pickup and drop-off.

Then we stayed in a bedroom in Ventimiglia, Italy. Admittedly this was the least value for money. We had only one room and so we had to share everything else with the family we were living with but they gave us privacy and the apartment was very central, we could walk everywhere. I did feel a bit awkward being in someone else's home, especially where the bathroom and kitchen were concerned. I never did find any sugar in the place and some of the profile information on our hosts was clearly out of date. I think renting an entire apartment or house is better for me.
 In Nice we rented an apartment for three nights. Our host was charming and supplied welcome goodies like fresh bread, things for breakfast, fruit and yoghurt, candles for dining, everything you need in the bathroom (except she forgot the soap). She even went out and bought two new beach towels for us to use when we said we'd like to dip in the Mediterranean but had no towels for that. Instant service.

Everywhere we stayed was clean. Some hosts were friendlier than others but they all gave us our privacy and generally reacted well to requests. Often hosts will provide maps and info on restaurants nearby.
You don't always get a positive response to a request for accommodation. Some hosts don't respond, others can't make up their minds if they want to rent on particular dates. Some dither about the price for certain periods but generally it's a very positive experience which gives you contact with a local, an easy time settling in to live like a resident and less like a tourist. You can cook and shop at markets if you wish or just eat out.

You can save money travelling like this. I used airbnb to keep accommodation affordable so I could spend money on doing activities. You can come and go as you want since you have the key to the accommodation. make sure you leave everything spotless and you'll get a good review from the host. You can review your experience on line for others to read.

Make sure you confirm, confirm, confirm hosts' current mobile phone numbers as some aren't always kept up to date on accommodation profiles. Not being able to contact your host to check in can be very unsettling. Beware, many apartments have stairs and no lifts in Europe, tiring but normal.

Check out airbnb.com. I'd be happy to do it again. The pictures show our accommodation in all three locations. Much better than a hotel room. True freedom.


2 comments:

twilightdancer said...

HI,
Glad you enjoyed the airbnb experience. You made one little mistake which I thought I would correct for your readers.
You wrote that, "Your account is only debited after you check into your accommodation".
That isn't correct. You are charge the minute you make the reservation - even if you make it several months before your arrival date.
Airbnb holds the money in escrow and releases it to the host 24 hours after you arrive.
The "24hrs after" is to allow the guest time to make sure it is as described and no problems. If there are problems the guest should contact airbnb they won't release the money to the host until problem is resolved.
We host in LA and really enjoy it.

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You can save money travelling like this. I used airbnb to keep accommodation affordable so I could spend money on doing activities. You can come and go as you want since you have the key to the accommodation. make sure you leave everything spotless and you'll get a good review from the host...........

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