Is Airbnb any good?

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Freedom_2018
Posts: 438
Joined: Sat Dec 18, 2010 12:10 am

Is Airbnb any good?

Post by Freedom_2018 »

I ask this because in all these years I have never found a reasonable deal on Airbnb, yet I hear Airbnb be mentioned all over the place (blogs, travel articles etc) as though it were a common noun.

- Either the prices are higher than for a hotel/motel that I could find on booking.com or the like (and I thought the idea was to find places less expensive than a hotel/motel)

- Or if they are lower, then it is just a bedroom in someone's house...I prefer to pay a couple more dollars and have a room to myself in a Motel 6, Best Western etc. often with a fridge and microwave and freedom to come and go as you please and privacy especially for a stay of more than a day or two.

- Only plausible use I see is if I wanted an immersive experience at some farm or retreat type place where I intentionally choose to be immersed into someone else's life...like a homestay if you will...and even that seems to come at a robust nightly rate.

Am I missing something? Whynis Airbnn so popular? Almost any city/market I look at...the average rate per night on Airbnb makes it seem like either everyone spends a lot for accommodation.

JCD
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Re: Is Airbnb any good?

Post by JCD »

Having stayed in AirBnb locations for the last year, I can say a couple of general reasons you would choose AirBnb:
- You want a long running place (e.g. 1 week to 1+ month(s)), which will tend to be cheaper than a hotel.
- You want a local who will be helpful to you, telling you about where you are, what to do, etc.
- You want access to a kitchen.
- You want to socialize with someone who loves traveling and travelers (this doesn't always happen, but when it does it can be great).
- You are not in the USA. Geographic arbitrage is useful. (The US has laws that make long term stays more difficult)
- You are looking for other benefits like free wine, free airport pickup, etc.
- You have a specific location you want to stay in that is not the center of a city.
- You want to pick a cheaper location but with access to public transport.
- You want a responsive website that manages all your possible stay locations and a good management team to protect you if something goes wrong.

To give you some idea of cost, here is my 30 day costs for different locations I've stayed at in Europe over the last 9 months:

Italy-Florence: $1,178.82 (Summer)
Italy-Rome: $1,097.56 (Summer/Fall)
Croatia-Split: $796.94 (Fall/Winter)
Hungry-Budapest: $827.27 (Winter)
Greece-Athens: $683.33 (Spring)

When I stayed in Rome and Florence in 2014, I payed ~100 USD a day for a place. Admittedly, they were nicer and I only stayed a few days, but ~3k a month is a lot more than the airbnb rates and neither location included a kitchen.

Regarding the US, speaking only for myself, the usefulness of airbnb was being able to strategically plan my route to head towards cheaper locations. That is much harder to do using a site like orbitz. If you know where you are going, airbnb is just one of many options in my opinion.

saving-10-years
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Location: Warwickshire, UK

Re: Is Airbnb any good?

Post by saving-10-years »

I've stayed in both good and bad airbnb's. I would say that when the owner is trying to run it at arms length like a hotel service it does not generally work that well. Danger signs are automatic acceptance of booking (its used to be more common for you to not automatically get approval) and someone who owns many properties (probably has an agent).

We used them a lot as a family because we have generally taken holidays with teen (now adult) son and needed a kitchen (he has some severe food allergies that make eating out all the time painful). We have met some lovely people and would happily stay with them again - in fact have been invited to dine or visit again 'off the books' as it were.

Best experiences were:
* when its a unique place - e.g. staying in a flat inside the clock tower at Kings Cross station, It was around the same cost as a Travelodge family/triple room when you factor in very central location, and that making your own food saves a lot.
* when its in a family (real) neighbourhood area rather than a tourist area - e.g. Florence oltrarno
* when the owner really cares about the property (lives there or is attentive and connected to it), e.g. Rome we found our neighbours (who shared the terrace) were her nephew and his girlfriend. They started passing us samples of food when they had parties and we sent them samples of UK chocolates and stuff back in exchange (no common language).
* when you are on your own and will need a local, e.g. your sister is terminally ill in a hospital in Lisbon and you may need to ask some rather specific (not easy to find answers on net) questions.

If you get it right its a great experience. We have also had some great experiences renting properties more conventionally and staying in a suite in New York (where Airbnb is a big No No). Like most things research is rewarded.

2Birds1Stone
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Re: Is Airbnb any good?

Post by 2Birds1Stone »

I'm spending 3 months in AirBnB's in downtown Lisbon, Portugal right now, currently in a high end flat with 1.5 bathrooms, kind sized bed, floor to ceiling windows, balcony, full kitchen, washing machine, well kitted out for cooking and paying $770/month. No way you will find a hotel this cheap, and have the privacy you would.

The kicker with AirBnB is often the cleaning/service fee, which on 1-2 night stays might drive up the price higher than a similar hotel. I've always found cheaper AirBnB options in Europe than hotel. Not sure about the USA though.

Jin+Guice
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Re: Is Airbnb any good?

Post by Jin+Guice »

I run an air bnb. I think part of the popularity is due to the recent hype and the newness.

If you want hotel service,* a hotel is your best option, at the motel 6 or luxury price point. I can think of two exceptions. Air bnbs can often operate where hotels count (there are no hotels in the neighborhood I live in, but tons of air bnbs). Air bnbs are often much cheaper for large events where hotels book out and charge insane prices. 10% cheaper than a hotel is a lot more $$ when everything hotel room is $800 than when it's $80 (I live in New Orleans, so this happens several times per year).

*Trust me on this one, grumpy boomers who thinks they're entitled to maid service and breakfast when you're trying to leave for work isn't pleasant for either party.

Air bnbs do offer a different service than hotels. There are some unique houses that you can stay in, but the more unique, generally the more expensive. If you're not staying in a room, you are likely renting a whole house, which is more comparable to a hotel suite than a room. The houses generally sleep tons of people as well.

Some people prefer to rent rooms in peoples houses because they either don't mind sharing a bathroom and an awkward hello in the morning to some save a couple of shekels or because they prefer staying in a house with other people who might want to chat over coffee in the morning and are local with suggestions of things to do. So sort of halfway between a traditional hotel room and a hostel.

As @JCD mentioned, air bnb in popular amongst long-term international travelers. I don't have direct experience here, but I think it's popular because 1) sometimes it's possible to skirt regulations since most operators are effectively small independent contractors and 2) in countries which may not have easily accessible medium stay hotel alternatives for internet savvy travelers, air bnb provides that service.

For years air bnb was much more of a couch surfing crowd than a hotel crowd. In recent years it's gained popularity amongst hosts (multiple holdings was fucking $$$ right up until COVID) and amongst travelers. As popularity went up, cities rewrote laws and started taxing air bnbs similar to how they tax hotels, which caused prices to converge. I'd be surprised if hotel prices haven't been driven down a bit too.

saving-10-years wrote:
Sun Apr 26, 2020 11:29 am
* when its in a family (real) neighbourhood area rather than a tourist area - e.g. Florence oltrarno
* when the owner really cares about the property (lives there or is attentive and connected to it), e.g. Rome we found our neighbours (who shared the terrace) were her nephew and his girlfriend. They started passing us samples of food when they had parties and we sent them samples of UK chocolates and stuff back in exchange (no common language).
This is actually the main benefit from staying in ours and it's criminally underused. Sure, half of people will ask you how long you've lived there and then ask where the same dumb tourist shit is, but so few people actually try to befriend us. If you actually engage me for 30 minutes and aren't insanely annoying, I'll probably cook you dinner and go out with you. Even the creepy but friendly old dude who repeat books so he can oggle my GF gets better service than the 30 something couple here for their cousins wedding who clearly want me to get the fuck out of their room before I can give them instructions for how the door works.

tl;dr: If you like staying in hotels the savings is rarely worth it, but if you want to rent an actual house or chat with someone local, air bnb can be better than a hotel.

2Birds1Stone
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Re: Is Airbnb any good?

Post by 2Birds1Stone »

Interesting points J+G, all of the AirBnB's we looked at were always entire apartments, or shared apartment, where the owner does not live there, but rents out 2 rooms with a shared bathroom for example.

Freedom_2018
Posts: 438
Joined: Sat Dec 18, 2010 12:10 am

Re: Is Airbnb any good?

Post by Freedom_2018 »

@JCD
@ S10Y
@2B1S
@ J+G

Thanks for your responses and sharing those numbers...seems like a good deal on longer term stays. In our recent 9 month UK/Europe stay we weren't at any specific place for more than a month so used booking.com pretty exclusively for both apartments and hotels.

I generally prefer apartments with kitchen and laundry facilities and they are much easier to come by in Europe vs US. In fact in Europe almost exclusively used apartments except a few times while walking the Camino Portugues this year.

I guess one way I make my life a bit more economically inefficient is by not staying in a place longer than a month when we are traveling...since we often make the booking for the first week and then play it by ear.

I have found great apartment deals on booking.com for less than a month and sometimes if we like a place and want to extend beyond original booking...I will chat with the owner to see ...if ahem..I can book directly with them for the next week. For example this year in Split we ended up staying 3 weeks in one place and the last two weeks were cheaper (although I wish I had stayed longer in Zagreb which we liked more than Split).

One key advantage I guess for AirB&b is that booking.com does not allow for longer than a 30 day stay to be booked...so maybe next time around I will try to use Aurbnb for longer stays in a particular city we have previously liked... could see myself in Bucharest for longer than a month in the right season or some smaller towns in Transylvania (we really liked Romania and spent two months seeing the western half of the country...I think I wouldn't mind living there for a bit). Same for some places in Italy and even Malta.

@J+G: I am fairly social and inoffensive and chatting/interacting with a similar minded host would be a wonderful opportunity in my book. We've done lots of housesits and one of the perks has been the overlap days between the hosts and us and I've had some of the best conversations and interactions ...some have turned into friends...also living in someone's house with their pets feels like home and we get our animal fix that way too.

@2B1S: I looked up your travel entries and looks like you are out of the country for a year... wondering if you will continue with travel plans or return to US sooner. We didn't get a chance to see Lisbon since we started the camino from Porto (we stayed there almost a week and really liked the city)..but were planning to go down there are finishing the walk.Even more so, we enjoyed the smaller towns on the camino and would love to return to some of them...there is something about walking some miles everyday from town to town with rest days every now and then.

Oh well, maybe Airb&b will work out for us next time and maybe as a bonus I will get to meet some cool hosts.

JCD
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Re: Is Airbnb any good?

Post by JCD »

@Freedom_2018
could see myself in Bucharest for longer than a month in the right season or some smaller towns in Transylvania (we really liked Romania and spent two months seeing the western half of the country...I think I wouldn't mind living there for a bit).
I didn't include it in my price breakdown because it was only for a week, but I did stay in Oradea, Romania. Unlike all the other stays, this was a studio apartment with little space and no amenities, but it only cost ~$164 for the week. I believe there was a bit more discount for a month, it might have been $650 a month, but that should give you a rough idea of the costs. I could have gotten a hotel for the same price, but with no kitchen and the owner got us from/to the bus station. Oradea was a nice, simple town that I went to for passport timing reasons, not really for touring. Depending on what your goal is, you might or might not like visiting there. I have not made it to Bucharest yet, so I can't compare the places, but I liked Romania enough to want to try to go if I get the chance.

Freedom_2018
Posts: 438
Joined: Sat Dec 18, 2010 12:10 am

Re: Is Airbnb any good?

Post by Freedom_2018 »

JCD wrote:
Sun Apr 26, 2020 5:09 pm
@Freedom_2018

I didn't include it in my price breakdown because it was only for a week, but I did stay in Oradea, Romania.
Interesting...we were in Oradea for the last week of November and looking at my notes paid $267 for a very nice one bedroom apartment..with full kitchen...complimentary wine, chocolates etc in a nice building on the sixth floor with a balcony. Interestingly, Oradea gave me a slightly dark vibe when we got there initially...a couple of days later we visited the Jewish Memorial Museum and learnt that a third of the town was Jewish during WWII and were put into a ghetto by the then mayor and were transported to Auschwitz in multiple rail cars...most never to return. Oradea then was part of Hungary and looking at the exhibits I wondered how the townspeople dealt with the fact that a full third of their neighbors for centuries were rounded up and sent to die. The Jews of Oradea were fairly affluent and their properties etc left behind were taken over by their former neighbors. The ones that survived Auschwitz returned but couldn't bear to live among their former neighbors and most moved to Israel.

Surprisingly the museum had a sense of hope within its walls and it was a sight to see the US, Israeli and Romanian flags displayed close together (a third to half of the money for the museum came from the US).

The Oradea zoo was an interesting visit...I swear I saw cracks in the all glass partitions separating the lions from the general public and the idiot guys who go right up to the glass and taunt the lions to try and charge the glass and strike it with their paw. One of these days soon there is going to be a Darwin Award winner at that zoo... unfortunately the lion is likely to go after some small innocent lkid instead of the jackass who rightfully should be lunch.

Anyways...the towns we stayed in were:

Bucharest
Brasov
Sibiu
Alba Iulia
Cluj Napoca
Oradea
Timisoara

So you can see we really liked Romania - the history (old and recent), the people and the food.

Later in the trip our Uber driver in Malta turned out to be from Romania and hadn't gone back in a while but was visibly emotional when we started talking about our fondness for his country.

Do you have any connection to Romania? What did you like/not like about Oradea?

2Birds1Stone
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Re: Is Airbnb any good?

Post by 2Birds1Stone »

What we have noticed re: longer AirBnB stays is that many apartments will have a ~$35 cleaning fee, regardless of stay length here in Portugal. If you only stay a few nights this increases your cost per night quite a bit, even over a week it's significant if you're doing this long term, but over a month it starts to matter less and less. Additionally, on top of the base nightly rate, many hosts offer a 20-40% weekly discount rate, and 30-60% monthly discount rate. The place we are in now we booked for the first full month through AirBnB and then offered to pay cash for the second month avoiding the $1.50/night per person tourism tax, service fee, etc on top of the discounted monthly rate. This made it much more economical.

To answer your direct question, Freedom....we are not planning on returning to the USA at this time. Our original trip had us starting in Portugal and working through southern Europe till we made it to Poland via the Ukraine, in ~90 days. Instead we had to stay in Portugal for the full 90 days, and will fly to Poland via the UK (have to leave Schengen before stamping back into Poland).

As a side note, I have been following your posts over the years quite closely, and am super impressed with your creativity of house sits! We also want to Visit Romania very much, but right now they are in a complete and utter lockdown due to their poor healthcare system. Maybe will will get our chance to visit in the fall before ultimately heading to SE Asia for the winter.

Really enjoyed your Camino video on Youtube. The long hike we would like to come back to Portugal for is the Fisherman's Trail which starts south of Lisbon and takes you all the way down toward the Algarve, along the coast. Looks beautiful, but this was also thwarted by Covid-19.

JCD
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Re: Is Airbnb any good?

Post by JCD »

Do you have any connection to Romania? What did you like/not like about Oradea?
No connection to Romania other than an enjoyment of bad vampire movies and a general cultural interest in the western world.  The reason for the visit was simple--it was the cheapest western town of some size I could visit by bus which allowed me to remain out of the Schengen for 7 days.  That being the minimum time I needed to reset my passport.  I was in Budapest and needed a few days more out (I was only in Split for 85 days).  I literally choose by economics and interest in trying out traveling Europe by bus, but not a particular interest in the city I arrived in. 

That being said, it was also freakin' cold at the time, so I didn't expect much touring.  I only saw the town in any depth 2 days as the rest of the time was not fun walking around because of the weather.  I thought it was a lovely town and under different circumstances I would have done a lot more walking around.  One man stopped me in Lidl and asked me what I thought of Bernie Sanders/Trump and the crazy electoral college.  Rather unexpected, but an interesting conversation to have in such a far off land.  It started with him asking  where I'm from, which is a bit difficult when I have no home address, which then transformed into politics just as we're checking out.  Friendly people, all in all.  

I thought Oradea had some lovely buildings, clearly influenced by eastern, western and middle eastern architecture.  I really enjoyed the Art Nouveau they had on display, like the Black Eagle Palace.  Oradea had the cheapest food I had found in all of Europe.  For two of us, it was ~11.5 a day, including ordering delivery 3 or 4 days (like I said, it was not ideal conditions to go out).  For a relative comparison, the average daily cost in Europe has been ~13.25.  The food was good and the infrastructure for ordering was better than I can find here in Greece.

Price comparison is a hobby of mine, doubly so when I don't want to be outside. So I walked through their mall, which was near my stay and it was as modern as you can imagine, but in better condition than an average US mall.  It seemed well used, which made me wonder if they have chosen not to embrace Amazon's shipping model.  I also thought it was interesting to see how prices didn't seem to vary much from US prices for a fancy pair of shoes or whatnot.  An interesting factor since they produce footwear per Wikipedia.  Geographic arbitrage my left foot, the difference in prices for people is in transport and housing, not in cost of most goods.  It was funny seeing taxis at the mall's entrance.

Regarding housing, I noticed that many of the buildings looked like they were 40+ years old and had not gotten proper maintenance.  Lots of rotting wood and questionable looking cracks in the cement.  It made me worry for these people, I suspect they simply can't afford to replace their infrastructure.  The bus showed western Hungry to be full of fields of cheap commodities that I suspect the Oradean help support.  That can't be that profitable and I wondered what they will do when their housing finally hits end of life cycle.  Not saying there weren't new buildings, just not as many as I would expect to be in the mix of a thriving economy, with so many building at the end of their lifecycle.  Then again, Oradea has lost something like 15% of its population in 20 years.  It might have been like Greece with lots of mostly empty buildings.

Freedom_2018
Posts: 438
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Re: Is Airbnb any good?

Post by Freedom_2018 »

2Birds1Stone wrote:
Mon Apr 27, 2020 12:53 am

To answer your direct question, Freedom....we are not planning on returning to the USA at this time. Our original trip had us starting in Portugal and working through southern Europe till we made it to Poland via the Ukraine, in ~90 days. Instead we had to stay in Portugal for the full 90 days, and will fly to Poland via the UK (have to leave Schengen before stamping back into Poland).

As a side note, I have been following your posts over the years quite closely, and am super impressed with your creativity of house sits! We also want to Visit Romania very much, but right now they are in a complete and utter lockdown due to their poor healthcare system. Maybe will will get our chance to visit in the fall before ultimately heading to SE Asia for the winter.

Really enjoyed your Camino video on Youtube. The long hike we would like to come back to Portugal for is the Fisherman's Trail which starts south of Lisbon and takes you all the way down toward the Algarve, along the coast. Looks beautiful, but this was also thwarted by Covid-19.
Ah I see you have an ambitious project ahead if you in Poland...good luck with that...probably a very satisfying feeling to work on one's ancestral property. If the schengen zone starts breaking up in the future, I wonder if there will be more opportunities to be in Europe longer term based on bilateral treaties between each country and the US.

Housesitting was a pleasant surprise and we actually find ourselves enjoying it a lot and have even repeated some if we especially like the people, pets and the town. There are parts of the UK that now feel more like home than California (where we spent ~20 yrs).

Thanks for the kind words on the Camino video. I would like to walk another route some day...this time with a very light pack (realized my back doesn't do too well with a backpack). I had not heard about the Fisherman's Trail but I am checking it out as we speak, so to say. Thanks for the tip.

flying_pan
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Re: Is Airbnb any good?

Post by flying_pan »

We travelled a lot in Europe in the past (~2–4 years ago), and we always stayed in AirBnBs. It was vacationing, so we actually wanted to get away from hotels, as they are more "business-suited". Price really depends, long-term it is almost always cheaper (you can find 50% off when staying over a week), and short-term depends mostly on the location and size.

We always stayed in the entire place, so no roommates, and kitchen was only for us. Hosts are hit or miss, some are incredibly helpful with buying you something local as a gift and share some tips what to visit, what to avoid, etc; some don't even show up (they usually leave keys either in the mailbox with code or under a rug). Kitchen was definitely a dealbreaker for us, as we like to cook and eat our own food (also, supermarkets/markets in other countries are fun).

You can get AirBnB in some suburb where there are no hotels, it might be pretty neat. We got several amazing locations, which we remember fondly, so I would say it was definitely worth it.

The downside of AirBnB, from my point of view, is organizing it. It requires time to go through the listings, find good host (it is at least recommended to read reviews), there might be cancellations, and in general, it is not very streamlined compared to hotels. Some places are run truly like business, with apartments strictly for short-term rentals, while some are just cozy places people are away from, it is very easy to spot what is what.

When we roadtripped in the US, we used Motel 6, it is just much easier and less hassle.

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