We recently took a holiday in the south of Spain, and decided to try something new.
New to us that is – Airbnb.com launched in 2007, when a few guys in San Francisco (where else) noticed a chance to make a few dollars, when a prominent design conference in their local area meant that all hotel accommodation was booked solid. By knocking up a quick website and offering up their apartment, they quickly identified a market gap not just for cost effective accommodation, but also for people wanting to stay in more authentic places – rather than identikit hotel rooms. Airbnb connects travellers with hosts who know and love their homes and localities and want to share that with paying guests.
Nowadays the site has listings from 192 countries, ranging in scope from sofa beds in shared digs to a private island! Just browsing the site is a fun experience, you can search by area and filter by budget, availability, accommodation type – for example when we travelled as a family last month we were only interested in whole dwellings rather than shared places.
Every owner sets their own price, and just like eBay and other sites that are essentially social in nature everything is based on peer review. When I looked at listings I was able to see what other people had written about their stays and what they thought of the accommodation and the host, and view aggregated scores for aspects like cleanliness, accuracy of description, and so on – everything you need to make an informed choice. By connecting my Facebook account, I was able to see in some cases that one of my friends knew this host – adding a new social layer of accountability in addition to the references and feedback reports
For us it was the diversity and authenticity of the accommodation on offer that was most attractive, the chance to stay in some amazing places at a great price. For example we wanted to visit Granada for a few days on our travels, and whilst of course there were plenty of city apartments on offer and that was what we initially looked at, we eventually found ourselves booking a cave house in a nearby village. It was such a different way to live, completely authentic, a world away from our villa, and the children were thrilled with the idea and the reality of staying in an actual cave
Experiencing different ways of living added such depth to our explorations, and we also spent a good deal less than we would have done staying in hotels. In one Andalucian village we stayed in a traditional courtyard house, parts of which were over a thousand years old, there is no holiday apartment complex that compares to this! Particularly when augmented by the input of hosts passionate and knowledgeable about their local area, keen to introduce you to their friends and neighbours and great places to visit and eat to get the most out of your stay – we didn’t actually meet our host in Vejer, but the information he sent us felt like he was leading us by hand around the village he loved.
Of course you don’t expect hotel facilities or standard B+B fittings in a place like that, where the kitchen sink was made from an ancient olive press stone, but it was such a wonderful opportunity to experience a completely new way of living, in a the heart of a tiny pueblo in the middle of the semana santa fiestas.
We also did the city centre apartment experience too, in the middle of Málaga, which was great – central, immaculate and beautifully equipped. Amazing to experience three such different ways of living over one short break, all equally different to our costal home villa and a chance to explore how other people live their lives in Spain.
For the hosts/owners of course it’s a great way to make a little money, and clearly a lot of people enjoy the chance to make new friends and welcome guests from around the world. Some are more ‘professional’ than others – the city apartment also advertised on lots of other sites, and were the only ones who took a deposit against damage (Airbnb holds this in escrow). Some people list multiple properties, or a holiday home when they’re not using it. Other places, it’s clearly just someone with a spare room who needs to raise a little cash. The site continually encourages me to list our place as well, even for the weeks we were going to be away, which I have not yet investigated but feel fairly open to as an idea in future.
Interestingly, socially, it’s not just a case of ‘right I am booking that one’ – if you like the look of the place you need to contact the owner (through the site), and start a dialogue with them regarding availability etc, and you are encouraged to tell them a bit about yourselves and basically sell yourselves as the ideal guest. This felt a bit weird at first but actually, it’s their home you will be staying in and they have as much right to make an informed opinion as you do, at least now my profile has two positive reviews on it, that we were reliable friendly and clean tenants!
So, if you feel like something a bit different for your next holiday, I highly recommend checking out Airbnb. This is my ‘tell a friend’ link if you would care to use it https://www.airbnb.com/tell-a-friend?airef=3g7l7zecb88zz5
Have a great trip!