Airbnb. You’ve heard of it, you’ve probably even stayed in one by now. In New York alone there are 22,876 active rooms.
But should you stay in one?
I’m fond of Airbnb. It allows us to get a flavour of the local area for an affordable price. We’ve had some weird experiences, sure; like an awful host in Bratislava we still titter about. We’re also the target audience and it’s worked out well for us.
But is Airbnb right for everyone?
- Cost. Airbnb rooms are likely more affordable than local hotels. And often the money goes to the host. But you should still check your choices. Especially in a cheaper place, like Tallinn, Estonia, where there are deals to be had that may offer more luxury.
- Flexibility. Generally, hotels congregate around the main sights – why would they not? If you want to stay in a genuine river house in a tranquil location, it may be trickier to find a hotel there. Airbnb rooms fill these gaps. Also, hosts are usually very flexible. Many will work with you on everything from check-in to check-out.
- Local Experts. Most of the time Airbnb puts you in direct contact with a local expert. I remember we once had a gentleman in Madrid draw us a map complete with stars highlighting local speciality restaurants. What a guy! Most hosts want you to have a great time seeing their city. But, you may run into some hosts that treat you like another dollar.
- Safety. There are safety risks with Airbnb. Every few weeks some horror story comes out about someones stay at an Airbnb. Travelling does come with these risks. Do keep in mind there still is a fear of the sharing economy. Awful things that happen at hotels are underreported in comparison. If you’re frightened, a hotel with a solid reputation and lockable doors might be a better choice for you.
- Local economy woes. The gig and sharing economy is affecting industries and local economies in ways we don’t fully understand. Lawyers and city councils haven’t yet been able to assess the data and make decisions on what is right for their city. Do a quick google on google news and get a feel for the local mood. For example, here’s a search on Tokyo.
- Consistency. Our best and worst stays have been at an Airbnb. One host might treat you like an honoured guest, while another may scoff at you. People are people and it can be hard to gauge what to expect – even with photos and reviews. If you don’t like surprises, Airbnb may not be exactly what you’re looking for, and that’s OK.
It all comes down to doing a bit of research. You probably already look at reviews for potential stays, but if you don’t, do that.
Take a look at how the gig economy affects the local economy, too. For example, Barcelona has been having massive protests against Airbnb. They argue it’s ruining housing for people that actually live there. It’s complicated.
While I still stay at Airbnb, from my time living in London I understand the pain of foreign investors buying up property. If you’re aiming to be a more conscious traveller, it’s worth looking into. I get it though, that’s a privilege afforded to those with more financial choice.
Try and glean info about your host from reviews to make sure you won’t feel uncomfortable around them. Especially if you’re travelling alone. When in doubt, find somewhere else. Period. No deal is worth your safety and well being.
It’s all about how you travel and what you expect. Making sure you are comfortable is key. If the newest coolest trend isn’t for you, that’s completely okay! Remember, it’s your travels.