I recall a conversation from my undergrad years. My roommates and I were summing up our future. Being 20 something in the 1990s our future was all about money. Two of us wanted to travel internationally which included fabulous wealth and houses in Rome, Paris, Bangkok, Shanghai, Mazatlan . . .
So, now I’m in the future. Somehow the fabulous wealth did not materialize. But, traveling the world and having houses in cities all around the world did happen. And that was really the goal.
Airbnb to the rescue
We are able to have a home in every city thanks to Airbnb. And I’ve got to say, I’m impressed with the consistency of quality and service Airbnb provides especially considering the many countries in which we have used Airbnb.
Think of the variables involved in different houses or apartments and then compound that with different cultures, laws, and regulations across the world. Somehow Airbnb pulls it off.
We have stayed in 44 cities in 18 countries using Airbnb. In some cities, we’ve stayed in more than one Airbnb. I can confidently say we’ve had at least 50 Airbnb experiences – and they have all been good. Most have been excellent.
What is Airbnb
Airbnb is the middle man. And a great one. It provides a connection between you and a place to stay. According to Airbnb,
On any given night, 2 million people stay in homes on Airbnb in 100,000 cities all over the world. There are more than 6 million listings in 191 countries to choose from —that’s more than the top five hotel chains combined.
We have found it possible to find a place to stay within our budget at our standard in every city we’ve visited. In fact, we no longer own a home, we live 365 days a year in an Airbnb.
Airbnb offers different types of accommodations
- An entire house/apartment (always our choice)
- Private room and shared common space
- Hotel rooms and hostels
- Shared rooms
What we love about Airbnb
As just mentioned, we can find an Airbnb anywhere, within our budget, at our standard.
- The site is easy to use and you will find,
- profiles of the person or company renting
- pictures of the accommodations inside and out, usually of every room
- a list of amenities
- the general location
- a star rating
- reviews by guests on each property.
- We can choose where in the city we want to stay.
- In Durrës, Albania we wanted to be on the beach near restaurants, bars, coffee houses, and shops – the tourist area. Airbnb had us covered.
- In Marseille, France we were looking for a neighborhood, locals not tourists. Airbnb delivered.
- We like the feeling of home.
- Airbnb is a home rather than a hotel room.
- Our own space that, for that week or two months, is ours alone.
- We can cook or go out.
- We meet locals and can invite them over.
- Most Airbnbs we stay at are run by individuals, so the towels may not match and the cupboard has random coffee mugs. Just like our house, when we had a house.
How we choose a place
We have developed a four-step process to consistently find great places to stay.
- We start by looking at the highest-rated accommodations that meet our budget and standard.
- Then we look at those properties with the most reviews.
- Next, we eliminate places that don’t have the amenities we need:
- washer (dryer is optional)
- a desk to work at
- modern bathroom
- king bed
- Finally, we read the reviews. Reviews are the deal makers and breakers.
We also look for Super-hosts. Super-hosts are hosts who have had consistently high ratings and good reviews.
Two rules for reviews
- The more reviews the better.
- Detailed reviews are the only ones that count.
“It was great”, “We liked it a lot”, “We would stay here again” are all meaningless. You need to know why it was great, why it was liked a lot, and why they would stay there again.
One of the things to remember when reading reviews, and when staying, is that every house or apartment will have problems,
- a light bulb that burns out,
- a sink that gets clogged,
- a refrigerator that stops working.
Just like your house.
What to look for in the reviews is how did the host handle it.
- Did the host communicate right away?
- Was the host responsive?
- Did the host solve the problem quickly?
That’s what really matters because you are staying in a house or apartment. Stuff happens.
We have had a refrigerator go out. We had a new one that day. We have had the air conditioning stopped working. We were in a new house within hours. Top reviews for these hosts, they took care of the problem immediately.
What to expect
- soap/shampoo/toilet paper/etc.
- kitchen utensils
But this varies.
Some places have two towels. Some places have 12. We’ve restocked toilet paper ourselves and encountered a closet stacked with it. One place did not have a can opener among other random items, the next was set up for gourmet cooking. You get the idea.
Often, we find a nice welcome gift. A bottle of wine or local beers in the fridge. Most places will have a folder with things to do, emergency phone numbers, restaurants they recommend, and quirks about the house.
Most places have random items left from previous guests. Maybe a bag of rice they did not use, some spices, or a couple of beers they couldn’t bring on the plane. We always try and leave something for the next person.
Host vary also.
- A host is Guatemala City wanted to charge us extra for a dirty sink. We did not recall leaving it dirty and we had already paid for cleaning.
- Our host in Istanbul would not allow us to replace or pay for a coffee maker I had dropped and broken.
Usually, we never meet the host in person. Sometimes the host brings over a bottle of raki and we drink together.
Only one person has been dishonest and Airbnb handled it fairly.
Always communicate with the host through Airbnb
One thing we have learned is to always communicate through the Airbnb site. If a problem arises and everything has been communicated and paid for through Airbnb then you have Airbnb to help you – and they will.
We have been in the uncomfortable position of asking the host directly if the week after our stay was available with a reply of, “Yes, and you can save some money by booking with me directly.” That’s not right.
Airbnb is the other half of inexpensive airfare that makes travel affordable and easy. Using their service to save money and asking them to help when you need assistance and then going behind their back when it’s convenient for you is not ok.
How to be successful with Airbnb
Some people have not had great experiences with Airbnb just as many people have not had great experiences with hotels. Our experiences have been overwhelmingly positive. I think this is because we do two things to put the odds in our favor,
- We spend a lot of time reading reviews, carefully looking at the pictures, and researching the location.
- We communicate with the host as soon as possible. We do this so there is no doubt we are coming and to see how quickly they respond. We ask questions to make sure we are getting what is advertised. If the host takes too long to respond we look for another place. And we communicate often to build a relationship. You can tell a lot by how the host talks with you.
We recommend Airbnb
Few people have had as much consistent experience with Airbnb as we have.
We love Airbnb, we recommend Airbnb, and we will be living in Airbnb’s for the foreseeable future as we traverse the globe.