Posterd on 16 Sep 2010
Airbnb is a new concept in accommodation that allows individual home and apartment owners to rent out their properties as holiday accommodation to tourists and travelers looking for a homey twist. The site’s tag line, “Travel like a human”, conveys the breadth of the company’s purpose, which is to connect real travelers with real homes-on-the-go.
The concept is absolutely wonderful and, in theory, it should be a great alternative to the stodgy and sometimes just plain icky hotel rooms that one encounters when trying to keep to a travel budget. Airbnb goes one further than most other holiday apartment bookers by adding an element of social media to the site, meaning that proprietors are encouraged to be accessible to their tenants, allowing for like-minded people to connect through housing.
I just finished booking my first trip through Airbnb – a weekend away in Paris for my husband and I to celebrate our wedding anniversary. This, I felt, would be an appropo time to invest in a romantic little apartment of our own and live the quaint Parisian life for a few days.
What I discovered through the process is that there are some considerations when booking through Airbnb and that the system is far from perfect. I did settle on what appears to be a lovely apartment in Montmartre for a reasonable price, but boy did it take some work to get there.
Here’s what you should know:
1) Some Airbnb landlords live on the premises that they rent out. This fact, which is not obvious on first glance, is true of quite a number of the apartments I came across, even when doing a specific search for the “entire house/apartment.” In this instance, the landlord will vacate the apartment for the period that you’re there, or you will have the very unhappy privilege of sharing space with a stranger. Luckily, you can message the apartment owners before booking to find out specifics.
2) There are hidden fees. Most of the properties I came across charge hidden fees, and these are in addition to the $31 Airbnb service fee that is a standard tack-on to every booking. The fees range from $20-30 for a post-vacation cleanup fee (shouldn’t that be included in the price??) to a $200-300 refundable damage deposit. Uhhh?
3) The calendar sometimes lies. Since some apartment owners list their properties on several booking sites or use the apartment themselves, the Airbnb calendar is not always up-to-date as regards the availability of the property. You’ll want to book well in advance and don’t assume that, just because Airbnb says it’s available, that it actually is.
4) You pay through Airbnb. Payment is processed through the Airbnb booking system, either using a credit/debit card or via Paypal. However, as I said, some landlords use multiple booking sites and can’t keep track of their properties. Be sure to carry a receipt of payment from your Airbnb booking with you when you arrive to the apartment to prove that you already paid, or you may be asked to front cash when you get there.
5) Linens and towels aren’t always compulsory. What the landlord chooses to outfit the apartment with is up to them, meaning there is no standard for what you will get in the apartment. I saw complaints on several apartments by previous guests who said there were no towels or bed linens awaiting them! Make sure to read the fine print and the user reviews, and don’t book an apartment without confirmation about what’s included.