Welcome to my first post on my travel blog, Holiday From Real. If you would like to know a little more about the site, or on me, check out my About page here. To co-incide with my first blog post, I thought I would write about another one of my ‘firsts’: Airbnb.
What is Airbnb?
Airbnb lets you to rent a room in somebody’s (the ‘host’s’) flat/house or book their entire property.
I KNOW, I KNOW… it sounds kind of dodgy. Are the hosts murderers or sexpests? Is it in a safe area? Is it actually anything like the pictures?
The site concept is similar to an ebay mixed with Tripadvisor. Guests are encouraged to rate their stay and can rank the Airbnb host/their accommodation on things like price, cleanliness, location etc. As a result, you end up with high or low rated hosts, shown via a star rating system. Those classified as ‘the best’ are given the title ‘Superhosts’ . To earn this accolade, hosts must meet a number of benchmarks, including at least 80% of reviews gaining 5 stars. Airbnb users can filter their accommodation search based on various criteria, such as amenities, neighbourhood ,size and the aforementioned Superhost badge.
How do I book on Airbnb?
Let me start by saying that Airbnb is not as straight forward as booking a hotel room.
There is a detailed process to join up; it’s not just a simple ‘here’s my email address and password’. On initial joining of Airbnb, you need to verify yourself through multiple stages. This includes confirmation of your online identity, as well as verification of offline documentation : connecting to your Facebook/Linkedin, scanning your passport and driving licence, amongst other things.
It is also recommended that you add a reference to your account in order to build ‘trustworthiness’ ,bolster your Airbnb reputation and avoid heart-breaking rejection (discussed below). Users can send character reference requests to friends and family, which, once completed, are displayed on your profile.
Compared to a hotel booking, it is not just as simple as checking the availability and entering your credit card details. You have to submit dates you want to stay, and then sell yourself to the host in a mini questionnaire (the host can also see your profile). The host can then accept OR decline the request if they don’t like the vibe of you.
Despite the extra effort, it was more than worth it. The unique accommodation and attentiveness from our host really added to the holiday. I’ll go in to more detail on our stay below.
My First Airbnb Experience
As my girlfriend (Eilidh) and I were late to booking the holiday (to Amsterdam), the majority of the reasonably priced AND well rated hotels were no longer available. We just decided: “F*** it, let’s try Airbnb”. At the time we saw it as a gamble, but going forwards, I can see us using this for most of our holidays, especially city breaks.
When joining the site, I went through all the verification steps mentioned above and thought that was the hard part done. WRONG.
Dealing With Rejection
We found that the trickiest part was getting hosts to accept our booking. Despite going through the verification process, it would appear that because we hadn’t used the site previously and didn’t have an internal review from another host, it turned the ‘Superhosts’ off. We got knocked back twice; once because they had just accepted another booking (so they say…), and another who didn’t even respond… JUST COLD HEARTEDLY REJECTED US!
The sad part of it is, you start to take it personally! “Why don’t they like me?!?”. I remember sitting with Eilidh saying, which on reflection, was perhaps a bit big-headed – “What screams ‘I’m not going to trash your house’ more than a 25 year old accountant, and his girlfriend!?”.
We decided, after some soul searching, to re-evaluate our searching strategy and try high ranked users, instead of ticking the “Superhosts” box. We submitted a request to “La Roche Trois“. Finally, someone accepted us! Hallelujah ! The host was a nice chap called Fenno. He messaged us with the details of the flat, and we arranged when we would meet to hand over keys.
Our Amsterdam Flat
When we touched down at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, I turned my phone on and had a message from the host to say that he was running late and asked if we could meet 2 hours later than expected. Looking back at this point, I can’t believe I wasn’t freaking out. I actually trusted the guy and thought nothing of it. I think this was all down to the communication before, being able to message the host back and forth, which re-assured me. It was just like a mate had said he was running late.
The flat was in an area called Westerpark, a ten minute bus ride from central Amsterdam. Fenno met us at the bus stop, and took us to the flat, which was a 2 minute walk from the main road. He left us beers in the fridge to make up for the delay (not sure my mates would do this though – sorry if you are reading).
When we arrived at the flat, we sat out in the back garden whilst Fenno explained the ‘house rules’ to us. Treat the place like it’s your own and don’t do anything you wouldn’t do in a ‘traditional’ hotel. He gave us a selection of leaflets and coupons for touristy things, some Amsterdam guidebooks, and a map of his favourite places, both in the local area near to the flat and off the beaten path in central Amsterdam. He also said that we could text him if we had any questions , on the flat or on Amsterdam. We thought this was a nice personal touch.
We decided a ‘classy move’ would be to bring some Scottish ‘delicacies’ to give to him. We opted for some famous , albeit squashed in transit, Scottish confectionery : Tunnock’s Teacakes and Caramel Wafers. I bet the ‘superhosts’ who rejected us are regretting their decision now!
Tour of Flat
The flat consisted of three rooms. The living room had a large flat screen TV, with Netflix and an Xbox. There was also a comfy L shaped couch, which we enjoyed relaxing on after a busy day taking in the sights and sounds of the city. It is described in the listing as “real cool and romantic living in Amsterdam”. That was accurate. It looked great at night. It didn’t have a main light to fully lighten up the room, but rather small lamps to give the ‘romantic’ atmosphere.
The bedroom had a nice double bed and an en-suite shower with toiletries we could use. Fenno also gave us towels to use for our stay. The kitchen was fully equipped with a cooker, fridge, kettle, dishwasher etc.
It had a very small back garden with tables and chairs, but it was perfect for catching the early morning sun- ideal for eating breakfast.
The highlight was the monkey wall art in the living room – an excellent photo backdrop!
How Do You Check Out?
I think in most cases when renting on Airbnb, you would meet the host at an agreed time and hand back the keys. The crazy (and great!) part for us was when our host said we could leave whenever we wanted on check out day. The only caveat was that we made sure the flat was all locked, and the keys were posted through the letterbox. We’re used to checking out hotels at 12pm and having to lug our bags round until it’s time to head to the airport, so this allowed us to make the most of our last day.
Would I Use Airbnb Again?
I would 100% use it again. I think it would be my first port of call when booking for a city break. Having somewhere you could call ‘ a home away from home’ was excellent. If you are interested, go for it! Hopefully you have as good a time as I did.
If you decide to try it, please sign up under my ‘invite friends’ link here. If you have read my ‘About’ page, you will know I’m an accountant, and by extension, love any way to get a discount somewhere!
If you have any questions you would like me to answer: leave a comment below or email me via the contact page. I am more than happy to try and help!