Hey kids, how was your week? It’s been cold and wet for us, but what was I expecting out of London, tropical and sunny? We’ve been in Europe for the last 3 weeks or so and it has been wonderful! Planning for the trip was rather dreadful, as we had to seek for 5 different accommodations for our mini trips. Since hotels are pretty much the same everywhere, we resorted to the latest online accommodation service called the airbnb (hip and budget friendly! Yay!).
Airbnb is basically this; you pay to stay in someone’s home. Simple as that! I know the idea of staying and sleeping in a stranger’s home sounds icky and a tad scary, but with rightly managed properties, they’re wayyyy better than any hotel.
The first time we tried airbnb was during our 1-week visit to Shanghai last year (photo shown) and we were immensely happy with the experience. We were worried about the security and potential frauds but the service provided by airbnb is pretty much straightforward and iron clad. If you must know, no cash or card transaction is allowed between the host and guests. All payments are made at airbnb’s website and they retain all personal details of the hosts. Their safety measure is so foolproof that a host was immediately blocked and blacklisted when he tried to contact us directly outside of airbnb once. That’s how we knew that we’re safe and the chances of the host running away with our money or you showing up at a fake address with a property that doesn’t exist (EEK!) are pretty much impossible. You may read on their safety policy and how to protect yourself on the airbnb website.
Now that the security issues are out of the way, here comes the fun part – choosing your temporary home! Here’s how I go about it:
1. Visual display – I would look for the best-looking property display that fits my taste. The good thing about most airbnb hosts is that the photos they uploaded are well curated, so they look quite editorial. I’m sorry but I do judge a book by its cover, guilty as charged! However, I’m not sorry for the results I get for getting that nice looking apartment… Any instagram photos would look uhmayzing AND any opportunity to squeeze in a little harmless selfie here and there is a plus point , who wouldn’t like that?! 😀
2. Location – I’d consider the closest subway stop, public transportations, and amenities. They don’t necessarily have to be right smack in the city. If you want to have a taste of the local culture, find a location that would help you achieve just that. If it’s a work trip for the husband and myself, we don’t mind staying anywhere even if we have to climb 4-5 flights of stairs (I mean c’mon…we could all use a little workout here and there). But if the kid comes along, in addition to the public amenities, we’d go for a family-friendly neighbourhood that has a park nearby, grocery stores and good eateries in case we fall short of time to whip up something to eat.
3. Aesthetics – Looking good in photos is one, having character is another. Personally, I would want to stay in a place that reflects the local culture. You don’t wanna go to India and stay in an oriental influenced house or go to Paris and stay in a Mediterranean influenced house. Immersing yourself in local culture somehow makes you understand and appreciate your culture better, doncha think?
4. Budget – Many people could afford to splurge on accommodation, but for us with limited budget, we do the best with what we have. Just filter the rates that you’re comfortable with and you’d find a list of available properties. You’ll be amazed to see what you could find with a fraction of the amount you spend on hotels! And you’ll be pleased to know that most hosts are more than willing to offer discounted rates for longer stays.
5. Reviews – The last but not least important factor in choosing a place is reviews. Reviews by previous guests say a lot about the hosts and properties. Always, always check the reviews to insure a wonderful stay. It’s sort of like doing background check before going on that first date 😉 We were lucky to have such gracious hosts in the past. They provided an extremely insightful guide to everything you’d need (throw that lonely planet guide, just ask your host! who better to ask than the locals?). They go the extra mile to make sure you’re comfortably at home. One host even picked us up at the subway stop and helped us with our luggage, stocked up the kitchen with basic food like eggs, butter, juice, milk, tea, coffee and basic cooking ingredients. AND if you’re lucky enough you might even stay in a local TV star’s home! I kid you not coz that’s what happened to us! Not like we knew who he was since it was never mentioned and it didn’t help that he was French, so we IMDB-ed him and turns out he’s quite an actor. Haha!
So kids, give airbnb a try on your next trip will ya? We’re having so much fun playing house that we’re already planning for future trips. Now where to go next, ahhhh Paghee and Bruc’sell 🙂