I’m sure most of you already know about Airbnb, and that many have used the service in the past. Today, I explore the rise of Airbnb and discuss my first experiences using the site and staying in an Airbnb apartment.
Many of you might be thinking that the choice of photo for this article is relatively unrelated to today’s subject matter. Well, not so. What you can see is the view this morning from my Airbnb apartment in Montpellier. You see, I’ve recently taken the dive and joined millions of others in the Airbnb revolution.
What is Airbnb?
Quite simply, Airbnb is a website which allows ordinary people to rent out a room or part of their residence, or even an entire house/apartment/villa etc. Then, other Airbnb users will decide they wish to stay in this accommodation, they agree on dates and a price, and then you’re done.
The growth of Airbnb has been remarkable. By October 2013, Airbnb had served nine million guests since its founding in August 2008. In December 2013, the company reported it had over six million new guests in 2013, and nearly 250,000 properties were added in 2013. We are still awaiting update figures for 2014, but all indicators seem to show that it’s growing even more rapidly.
What are the benefits of Airbnb?
- Price – as I’ll show below in my current situation, you can often find a large entire apartment for much cheaper than poorly equipped budget hotels nearby.
- Hospitality – Airbnb hosts’ reputations and therefore their future incomes are based on users leaving positive feedback and so the service and friendliness usually trumps the hotel equivalents
- Social benefits – it’s always good to meet new people and your host will often be able to provide you with local knowledge and information which will make your stay even more pleasant
- Flexibility – you can search on airbnb for appartments which meet your needs, where a hotel may not. For example, my current apartment has internet and a washing machine whereas many hotels will not.
Is Airbnb safe?
From the perspective of the traveller, Airbnb is designed with safety in mind. It is necessary for all “landlords” – those who are renting their spaces – to provide evidence that they are who they say they are. You need to submit a passport, proof that you live/own that property, links to your social media profiles, etc etc.
This ensures that, even if you cannot GUARENTEE that the host is not a psychopath, then they are at least who they say they are. This may still worry you, but it’s just as concerning that the hotel porter or staff member is a complete crazy and so there is not too much difference here!
However, there are certain steps you can take to ensure your safety:
- Ensure that family and friends know where you are
- Keep your communication devices close to hand
- Read reviews on Airbnb regarding previous experiences with the host
- Read reviews on Airbnb regarding the security of the apartment
- Read reviews on google concerning the safety of the surrounding area
- If you have any concerns, you can message the host and/or previous guests on Airbnb
My own personal experience
This article is mainly being written so that I can share my own experience of Airbnb and so that you can see first-hand why I’m so enamoured by this idea.
For the next month (or so), I will be working in the fabulous city of Montpellier, France. My contract is designed in such a way that I am financially responsible for my own business expenses during the duration of my stay.
In the past I have worked in the same location, and I previously stayed in the “Lagrange City Residences” which is very close to my place of work. The other benefit of this place is that it’s very cheap. Or at least it’s very cheap for a hotel in the South of France.
28 nights stay at this time would have cost £1,228, around £44 per night.
Having stayed there before, I know that for this price, I would have a single room with a double bed, a very small “kitchenette” – comprising of a sink, microwave, two hobs and small surface.
So, faced with a fairly miserable existence for a month, I decided to have a look at Airbnb to see if I could find a slightly larger apartment at a similar price.
What I found was “The Diamant Vert”:
“In the beautiful surroundings of a park, on a high terrace Montpellier skyline at sunset. This apartment of 91 m² offers a large living very clear in the exotic style zen, 1 double suite (queen size bed) with shower, 1 twin bedroom, 1 bathroom, 1 dressing, 1 large very well equipped kitchen that will allow you to enjoy this magnificent region and its cultural and tourist activities.”
Wow – this sounds better. It’s just around the corner from the hotel, which was probably about 10m2, and is clearly much more generously equipped. I assumed that it must therefore be a LOT more expensive.
The apartment was listed at £1,184 per month, including all Airbnb service fees.
However, being the Moneystepper, I thought that I could get this apartment for slightly less. I hadn’t booked by late December for a month starting from 12th January and I could see on Airbnb that the apartment was still available. Therefore, I assumed that the owner would be happy to reduce their fees if this was rented for the entire month over January/February (certainly not peak holiday season). Therefore, I sent the owner a message with a revised offer and we were able to agree on a total price (which included Airbnb fees) of under £1,000 for 30 nights. So, what am I getting for this £33 a night?
Well, starting with the apartment, the description above seems to be pretty accurate, and now that I’ve arrived, it seems a little modest. The one thing that it doesn’t explain is the main living area is huge, great TV and sofas and a good table which I’m currently working from:
Even better is the huge 5th floor balcony with views over the city, on which I’m about to enjoy my breakfast:
There is also everything that someone would need here, which the more expensive hotels would not provide. For example, there is an iron and ironing board, facilities for washing clothes, a dishwasher, etc.
However, what has impressed me most so far, and what differentiates Airbnb from the hotels is the host.
The day before I arrived, I sent a text to the host, Michel, to ask him for details of how I can “check-in” to the apartment. I detailed that my flight was landing at 4pm, so I would take the bus to the centre and hop on the tram to his residence and if I could therefore meet him there by 6pm.
Two minutes later, Michel had responded telling me that he would be at the airport at 4pm ready to pick me up and take me to the apartment. You don’t get this service with hotels.
On the ride in, he explained a little about himself, gave me a tour of the local area, explained the apartment and why he uses Airbnb and was just generally extremely pleasant.
Upon arrival, he showed me around the apartment, how everything works and even showed me that he bought some supplies in, including some breakfast items, washing powder, etc for my stay.
These acts of generosity and social interaction is what is sorely missing from the regular hotel experience and is why Airbnb will now be my first point of search when I’m looking for somewhere to stay in the future!
If you haven’t used Airbnb before, you can sign-up today via the following link and Moneystepper readers will get a special offer:
It would be great to hear your experiences with Airbnb and what you think about it if you’ve never used it. Let me know via the comments below.