Are AirBnb’s the new hostel?



Not that long ago the only options for somewhere to rest your head whilst travelling was a shared hostel or a hotel. Now the traveller has a range of choices to save money on their trip depending on what they want from their travel experience. Free accommodation is now possible with sites like Couchsurfing- where people offer their couches for absolute no cost or there are many sites available like Workstay for those who want to exchange work like fruit picking for free accommodation and food.

There is a different type of traveller though. One that wants to travel on a budget but prefers a little more privacy than a bunk in a ten bed hostel room or a couch in someone’s living room and this type of traveller doesn’t necessarily want to work hard all day just for a free bed. They don’t want to shell out for a private hotel room, but they do want to be able to get some rest without being kept awake all night by drunken room-mates or a token snorer. This is where Airbnb fills the gap.

Airbnb works on the concept of a host being able to monetise on their extra space. They sign up accommodation they have available and it can be rented for days, weeks or even months. This can be anything from a room in their apartment, a treehouse, boat or even a full castle. It was founded in 2008 in San Francisco and according to their website now offers over sixty thousand listings in over one hundred and ninety two countries around the world. It gives the opportunity for hosts to make some extra money and meet some different people and others to find an alternative place to stay for their trip.

Sure you can find absolute luxury on Airbnb, but if you are looking for a cheaper bed than this is a great option for the budget conscious traveller. You can often find a single a room in an Airbnb for less than a private room in a hostel and with much cleaner and better facilities-without the wait for the bathroom in the morning. You also have the option of renting a full house which can come in handy if you are in a group of people or just like the privacy of having a full place to yourself.

If you are after the social element for your trip you can still share with a couple of others in this type of accommodation- whether that’s the actual host or other travellers staying there. It can feel much more authentic staying in someone’s actual home, rather than a hotel and sub-letting someone’s room in a house with views like the Eiffel Tower will work out much cheaper than a hotel offering the same.

The process of renting an Airbnb is pretty simple. On the website you enter the details of the city you will be staying in, dates and price range and it will show you Airbnb’s that meet your criteria. Each option is very detailed with information of the type of accommodation, who you will be staying with, and the area around you including transport information. There are normally several reviews available and the host offers their details so you can contact them directly before making a decision to stay there. Once you do decide on your lodging you do have to pay up front- but for safety reasons Airbnb doesn’t release your payment to the host until 24 hours after your first night’s stay.

It is then up to you and the host to communicate directly to organise any further information for your upcoming trip. This could be check in times, where you are going to meet them, who will meet you at their apartment for instance.

Airbnb’s do not come without risk. You will be still staying with random people who you don’t know in their home, on the other side of the world. Everything we are taught about stranger danger goes completely out of the window when choosing to stay in an Airbnb. There have been horror stories from anything to do with creepy hosts to facilities that are barely liveable. The most extreme being a Hong Kong national woman who was attacked by her host in Leeds.

Hosts are not exempted from lodging nightmares too. Some guests are just intolerable and there has been reports of apartments being damaged, trashed or even ransacked by some guests. Stories have even made the news about apartments being used for temporary brothels or sex parties. Not the most pleasant thing to come home to.

It’s no secret that the hotel industry hates the whole Airbnb concept, especially the loss of their profit resulting from it. Some cities are equally as unimpressed. In both New York & Amsterdam it is illegal to rent or host an Airbnb due to the lack of regulations, proper licensing or safety checks required.

With so many possible terrible situations that could come about from renting an Airbnb is it really worth the reward?

If you are planning on staying in an Airbnb the most important thing to do is research as much as possible. Read all the reviews available and if you’re still not convinced feel free to contact people personally who have stayed with your host previously. Having no reviews online or your host refusing to get back to you in an appropriate timeframe maybe warning signs- perhaps you should consider staying somewhere else.

Be smart. If it looks too good to be true it probably is. A fully luxurious apartment to be sub-letted for a whole week at less than the price of a hotel for a night probably has a catch. Or doesn’t exist.

Follow your gut instinct. If you are feeling uneasy or something is telling you to get out then listen to it. Don’t feel silly, your safety comes first.

Be realistic about your expectations. You can’t expect five star quality facilities when you are paying for sub-letting a simple room in an apartment. However, if the facilities are completely different to what was advertised or you have any other concerns you should talk to your hosts about it. Most people are reasonable. If that doesn’t work you can contact Airbnb directly.

Airbnb also offers insurance for the host for any damages up to nine hundred thousand dollars. In most cases that would be more than enough to cover anything that could possibly go wrong. For the sixty thousand people who offer their accommodation it seems enough to ease their minds.

The question is, would you stay in an Airbnb?