Airbnb - My First Experience

Wednesday, March 23, 2016 Books And Trips

Finding affordable accommodation is key when traveling on a budget. So far, I used to go straight to when planning a vacation, but on my recent Brussels trip, after weighing in the pros and cons, I chose to try Airbnb for the first time.
First of all: what exactly is Airbnb?
Airbnb is a website where people from all over the world rent their apartments / houses to travelers. It has over 1,500,000 listings in 34,000 cities and 190 countries and it provides vacation rentals ranging from quirky tree houses to full fledged castles.

I was iffy about Airbnb when I first found out about it, having legit questions like: Is it safe? How will I make sure I don't end up in the house of an axe murderer? I pay upfront, so what if the apartment is nothing like the pictures?

After reading a lot about it and talking with friends who went through this before, I decided to put all my fears aside and take the plunge, so here I am to tell the story of my first stay with Airbnb.
The Airbnb booking process
I created an account on Airbnb, typed in my destination, check-in and check-out dates and set my preferences. To be able to rent a place, you have to provide quite a lot of identification tokens, starting with a fully completed profile, a phone number, a copy of your ID and sign in with your Facebook account - these are extra layers on verification, so that they can comb through the scammers. For extra peace of mind, it's good to know that hosts have to follow a similar process.

You need to be aware that you can rent out an entire home / apartment, a private room or a shared room, so be careful what you opt for when seeking accommodation. Depending on your need for privacy, you can choose one of these options, set your price range and start browsing. After reading a little on the neighborhoods of Brussels and knowing that we want to be close to Midi train station and a metro stop, we opted for this one bedroom apartment, in Saint Gilles.

The booking process was short and sweet - we emailed the host, and he gave us a pre-approval (it's an extra safety feature, everyone wants to have a say on who they accept in their rental), then proceeded with completing the transaction. When we reserved the apartment, we paid 241 EUR for 4 nights / 3 persons, bringing the cost to 20.08 EUR per person, per night, which I'd say is a very good deal, cheaper than any hotel I could find! Be mindful though - some units have cleaning fees, that add up to the total balance!

Checking in with Airbnb
Three days before the trip, I emailed the host and he provided me with his telephone number. I told him about our schedule and once we got to the airport, I gave him a call to let him know we will be arriving in the next hour.

He waited for us at the apartment, gave us the tour, showed us where to drop off the keys at the end of our stay and off he went! It took less than 15 minutes!

The apartment was exactly as pictured on the website, everything was functional, we had extra blankets, a fully equipped kitchen, and even some cooking supplies, if we fancied staying in for dinner. The rental was greatly located within 2 minutes of a metro station and about a 20 minutes walk from Grand Place, in an area full of bars and restaurants, yet very quiet and clean.

Why choose Airbnb over a hotel?
It really depends on what you want - if you travel in a group, on a budget and don't fancy any hotel amenities, like free breakfast or a pool, Airbnb is definitely worth considering. Also, a great pro, is that you get to stay in a more residential area and live out like a local for a few days.

Personally, I would choose an Airbnb place if I was traveling in a group, not alone, or for a more extended period of time. For safety reasons, before booking with Airbnb, I would ensure I read ALL the reviews and I would provide the address and the details of the host to someone from home, just in case.

With all that being said, my first Airbnb stay was a great experience overall and I would repeat it all over again, especially in more expensive destinations.

*** If you haven't joined Airbnb yet, you should know that following a referral link, will give both you & the person who refers you 18 EUR travel credit for renting and 89 EUR for hosting. This is not a sponsored post, it was just my honest opinion on my first Airbnb stay. ***

Have you ever used Airbnb?

How was your experience?