Every time I speak to work colleagues or friends about future holiday plans, accommodation is always the one thing that people seem to struggle with. And I always ask, “have you checked AirBnB?”. And I always get people that have never heard of AirBNB, or if they have, still think it’s some kind of weird 90s dorm-room-shared-bathroom-probably-gonna-get-AIDS-or-stabbed situation. Cue the pitiful sigh from me, as I whip out my iPhone and scroll through my VSCO feed to brandish photos of beautiful listings I’ve stayed in in their confused faces.
I remember not too long ago seeing a tweet retweeted onto my timeline that said “AirBnB… Some people must have death wishes…” and feeling personally offended by this. Excessive, I know. But the point was that I understood that so many people are still afraid to use what is probably one of the best ideas of our generation for fear of being robbed, or murdered in their sleep. Well, I’m no AirBnB veteran but between us Noel and I have stayed in, or been to, listings in Amsterdam, Bath, Birmingham, London, Bali, Dublin, Los Angeles, Paris, New York, the French Alps, the Cotswolds and the Philippines. So I feel like I’ve got quite a good understanding of how the app works now, how to get the most out of it and why it’s always my first port of call when I’m booking a holiday. With that in mind I thought I’d spend a little bit of Sunday afternoon debunking some myths and showing off some of the stunning places we’ve stayed in over the past few years.
How It Works
AirBnB is so great because it’s so flexible. There is honestly something for everyone, from a bed in a dormitory in Thailand to huge, sprawling countryside manor houses in rural France. You can apply a great many filters to your search, from the standard wifi/wheelchair accessible to some more unique to AirBnB, including whether you want the ‘Entire Home’ ‘Private Room’ or ‘Shared Room’, to suit your budget. This is my number one myth debunker: yes, there are obviously some more low-budget, gap-year type homes up for rent. But if you select ‘Entire Home’ then you get the… Entire Home. So you won’t be sharing with anyone. In fact, on a number of occasions we’ve ended up with more room than we could fill. The apartment we stayed in in Bath, for example, was a beautiful rabbit-hole of a home, below street level, full of twists and turns and great surprises.
In terms of booking, different hosts prefer different methods but you always book through AirBnB, so there’s no dodgy payment systems going on. In fact, if ever any of the listing’s pictures ask you to call a private number or email outside of the website, move swiftly on! Some hosts allow you to book instantly, while others ask you to get in touch so they can get to know you a bit before accepting your booking.
What’s On Offer
The AirBnB app/website has recently changed, and now promotes ‘Experiences’ as well as ‘Homes’. I absolutely love this idea. Basically, it’s now split into two services: you can stay in a home more or less anywhere in the world, but you can also book an authentic, curated, experience with a local as your guide, or tutor, depending on what kind of experience you book. There is a vast range of Experiences available now, but as I understand it they are all ‘vetted’ by AirBnB to make sure it’s not just some scam artist showing you around tourist traps for £100 an hour. I’m a huge fan of this for a number of reasons, but mainly this: not only does it directly support small, local businesses and entrepreneurs, but it also allows guests to really immerse themselves in the authentic vibe of a town, or city, or even a beach. For me, there are few things more fulfilling than travelling to a beautiful place and feeling like you’re having an experience that’s unique to you, as opposed to just traipsing around the same tourist spots that every man and his dog have already seen. I actively seek out the lesser-known, quieter spots, and revel in the authentic adventure.
When it comes to the original feature – the ‘Homes’ – I’m pretty sure you could now put in any town in any corner of the globe and there would be something there. As mentioned above there is something for every taste and budget, but the running theme throughout all of AirBnB is definitely the homely feel. Some hosts are live-in hosts that just stay at a friend’s or family member’s place when their listing is booked up for a weekend; others just offer up a room in their house, and others offer the entire place, and operate their listing more like a mini-hotel. I think this is what puts people off initially – the fact that some listings offer a room only, meaning you’re in a complete stranger’s house. But I think this is a crucial feature – not only does it mean there’s something for smaller budgets, but it promotes human contact and conversation, something so lacking in modern life.
Our AirBnB Experiences
Here’s a small selection of my favourite AirBnB listings to date:
This is a real place. It cost £70 a night. And it was heavenly.
This is David and Fiona’s place on Panglao Island, Bohol, Philippines. We stayed there in February 2017 for five nights. This was my first experience of a real ‘bed and breakfast’, because usually interaction with our host is relatively minimal. This meant a cooked breakfast and fresh coffee every morning, and unreal home cooking of an evening if you wanted it. The picture above is fresh out of my phone – no really – the sunsets were the best I’ve ever seen in my life! I urge you to have a look at the booking details as no words will do their place justice…
Bali quickly stole my heart when we visited last year (you can check out my posts on our trip here and here), and that was in no small part down to Carlos’ home and hospitality in the natural beauty of Uluwatu. Again, checking out the listing will probably be the best way to get a feel for what the place looks like, but it won’t speak on how amazing Carlos is as a host. A Spaniard by birth, this painter moved to Uluwatu some years ago and set up a home which he now rents out in small ‘apartments’ to AirBnB-ers, save for the area he keeps as his studio. We actually came home with one of his paintings! This is definitely a place we will be returning to before too long.
A little less exotic than the previous two, I’ll grant you that, but this listing definitely stands out as one of my favourites. We stayed at the August Farmhouse last November, the first time we went to the Cotswolds. A perfect little garden cabin sits in the stunning gardens of the main farmhouse, complete with a log fire, TV, tea and breakfast-making facilities and, for the social media addicts amongst us, wifi. What more do we need for a cosy winter weekend away with your better half?
Don’t get me wrong – we still stay in hotels all over the world, whether that’s due to work commitments, availability or otherwise. But I truly believe that AirBnB is a safe environment that benefits supplier and consumer in that it supports local and opens the door to so many authentic experiences. You’re likely to meet some amazing people from all over the world, have some deep conversations, eat some proper grub and catch some jaw-dropping sunsets. And, you’re probably* not going to get murdered.
That’s all from me on this, but please do leave a comment if you have any questions!
* Like, 99% certain.