I may be late to the party but I recently used airbnb.com for the first time and I thought I’d share my thoughts.

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Airbnb sells itself on the idea that you rent off a local and therefore get to live like a local. This can be appealing to those looking for an authentic cultural experience but airbnb is also useful for those looking for a place to stay if you’re planning on just sightseeing. Here I lay out the pros and cons of staying at an airbnb – an alternative way to stay – before offering some tips.

Pros

  • The search tools are easy to use and there are many filtering options including price, the specific area you want to stay in, how many rooms you want, and the amenities you want.
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  • Results are shown on a map with the price. I think this is useful as you can see the more expensive or cheaper areas.
  • Properties are reviewed so you can weigh up your options with honest reviews.
  • Booking last minute, we found many more options on airbnb than on hotel websites, especially when we didn’t want to pay highly for our stays.
  • Price of property varies a lot so you can choose a rental depending on your budget. If you’re on a low budget there is even an option to just rent a bed in a shared room in a house whereas if you’re looking for more privacy there are options to rent whole houses with  all the features of your dream house in idyllic locations.
  • The hosts can be really helpful. Descriptions tend to give details about local transport or amenities close to the property. You may even get lucky with a host who is willing to pick you up from a station or lend a hand with the local language.
  • I’ve been told airbnb can work our much cheaper if you are booking for a larger group or family and don’t want to end up paying for 2 or 3 hotel rooms.
  • It can be nice to live a bit more like a local and see the more residential side of a city.
  • You can rent short term or long term – with discounts sometimes offered for longer stays.
  • Free to use but you pay an admin charge when you rent.
  • There is a guidebook section on the website that offers recommendations of things to do in the city.
  • You can create wishlists to save properties you are interested in.

Cons

  • As you are living as a local, you can still experience the nuisances of living in a residential area. This can include noisy neighbors (we experienced a particularly annoying one), small apartments (if that’s a norm for that city), and noisy streets. In a hotel you can at least ask for the front desk to deal with a noisy neighbor, and the walls and windows are a bit thicker in order to ensure customer satisfaction.
  • Depending on your budget, you may find yourself out of the area that you want to do most of your sightseeing. Not a problem if you’re willing to travel every day, just take into account the time you will lose from your sightseeing.
  • Standards may be a little lower for things such as cleanliness or quality of amenities.
  • There is a lack of immediate face to face contact if you need help. Some hosts are very quick to respond but at least with a hotel you can ask the front desk immediately for anything.
  • There are different rules on cancellations. However, with all cancellations you are still charged the admin fee.
  • Some places have a minimum stay requirement.
  • Sometimes you need to wait for your rental request to be approved – something you would never experience with a hotel.
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An example breakdown of costs.

Tips & Info

  • Prices for rentals includes not only the price for the property but also a cleaning fee and an admin fee for using airbnb.com.
  • Check what you actually get for the rental – some rentals are just a bed in a shared room. Is a cleaning fee included? Otherwise you may find that you are expected to clean the rental thoroughly before leaving, including laundry!
  • Check the rules of the property. I found a property where the rules outlined that you were only allowed to be in the rented room when the owner was at home which seemed a huge inconvenience.
  • Find out how you would check in. Are you sent instructions and able to get in without the help of a host or do you need to arrange a time to meet the host to check in?

As I said, I’m quite new to airbnb and have only stayed in two rentals with this website. One property we stayed in had a helpful host; a clean decent sized room; a pocket wi-fi that we could take around the city; a location close to a station that was one stop from the city; and a fantastic low price. Even with a noisy neighbour, it was worth it – especially when the host apologised after and said that had he known, he would have come to ask the neighbour to be quiet.

I would definitely recommend this site – you might check it out and decide that you like the more stable choice of a hotel OR you might find a great deal on a property just right for you.

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