Live like a local with Air BnB.
Travelling is a rewarding, but expensive, experience. Utilising Air BnB could be just what you need to not only save cash, but give you a chance to see something you wouldn’t if you stayed in a hotel.
What is it?
A website and smartphone app that allows you to rent space from local folks all over the world. You can find listings in the heart of cities, and at the end of dusty roads. The variety is astonishing; you can stay in the spare room of a kind old couple in Seoul, or rent an entire beach front home in St. Lucia, the world really is your oyster.
How does it work?
Simple really. Head to the website (www.airbnb.com), or download the app, and browse the way you would for a hotel. You can enter location (for example Okinawa), dates, and number of guests, as well as preferences on type of accommodation (a room, a home, a shared space), and a handy slider feature allows you to narrow it down to property in your price range. The website also has a map feature, so you can see where the place is located, very handy if you want to be close (or far) from the hub. There’s two ways to book; instant (denoted by a little lightning logo), which means you can click and pay and the place is instantly yours, or by contacting the host. This second option is used by the owners to vet potential customers a little, and make sure you’re a good fit. Remember, this is someones home, they get the final say on if you go. For example, if you’re looking for a romantic getaway, staying in a home with a large family may not suit you or them!
Pros and cons.
As with anything, there’s good and bad to it. Let’s start off with the good. Firstly, it’s a fantastic way to meet new people from different cultures, and learn something about the locality you likely wouldn’t if you stayed in a hotel (for example, local bars and restaurants), secondly, it’s almost always much cheaper than a hotel (depending on the type of property you stay in), and third, it’s interesting to see how other people live. Now for the bad. First, you are staying in someone’s home, so it may feel awkward or have rules attached you aren’t used to (some hosts may have odd check in/ check out times, or even curfews, make sure you read the listing carefully), it may be in a less desirable area than you first hoped (a dark alley, or far from where you wanted to be), and it may not fit the description in the listing (no air con, shared room instead of private).
How to get the most from your experience.
First and foremost, read the listing carefully. Check it has all the facilities you desire, and is in a location you want to be in. Also, make sure you read the guest ratings. Each guest is asked to rate their stay at the end, a lot of these will be brutally honest and give you a good insight into how it actually is on the ground. Be aware too that hosts rate guests, so if you are badly behaved, they can write about it and you can’t remove it from your profile. Use the filters to narrow properties down to exactly what you want. So, if you’re looking for an entire home with three bedrooms for ¥8,000 a night or under, enter it so you can only see what you really want. This will make the process quicker and less tedious, as scrolling through pages and pages of accommodation gets tiresome in the end! Make a wish list. The site gives you the option to “heart” properties, and add them to wish lists of your making. I do this by adding properties I like to destinations I plan to visit. Finally, utilise your host. Most do it not just for the extra money, but to provide a wonderful experience for their guests. If you have questions, ask. Once your booking is confirmed, the host will contact you with details about getting there and checking in, as well as any other information like house rules and tips for the local area. A recent stay in Osaka saw my host be most forthcoming with information on trains, buses, restaurants, and culture way beyond my expectations. It was an excellent experience.
Intrigued? Check out the website for listings, and learn how you too can become an Air BnB host: www.airbnb.com