[two pro travel journalists turn amateur bloggers]
[words by Narina Exelby]
People can’t help but recommend things. It’s just human nature, the need to share something you love / believe in / find useful / funny / delicious… A book. A movie. Photographs. A recipe. A blog. The best way to get from A to B…. Digital empires have been built around this quirk of human nature.
Me? I love to share travel information. What to pack, what to read, what music will get your feet itching and, lately, the best way to find accommodation that suits your budget. I don’t remember how or where I first heard about Airbnb, but I’ve been talking it up ever since I booked my first apartment through the app. Here’s why (warning: this could change the way you travel):
As you might guess from its name, Airbnb is all about accommodation; the site calls itself “a social website that connects people who have space to spare with those who are looking for a place to stay”. And if you’re looking for a place to stay, it doesn’t get much easier than using this site (or the app). There are so many filters – from dates available to price, number of people, room type, neighbourhood and the option to search by map – that you can find exactly what you’re after without wading through irrelevant listings. Looking for a two-bedroom, 1.5 bathroom private apartment in Ciutat Vella, Barcelona, for the nights of April 12, 13 and 14, with a total cost of less than $200? No sweat.
The owners write a description of their room/apartment/villa/caravan/treehouse, and also check off against a list of available amenities (from whether pets are allowed to if smoking is permitted, if there’s a doorman, Internet access or gym facilities). The accommodation is also pinpointed on a map; there’s street view and a calendar showing available dates. Again, you’re able to find something that suits your needs exactly.
Nothing unusual about this feature, but it’s always good to hear what other people had to say about the place.
And so do you. When you leave the accommodation, you’re invited to rate and comment on your host, and they on you. You can also see when their calendar was last updated, how quick their response time is and what their response rate is. All good to know if you’re booking something for, like, tonight.
Most of the accommodation listed on Airbnb is private homes, apartments and rooms. This often means good value, great service, good advice and quirky offerings. (I’m not sure what the deal is with allowing hotels to be listed, but I have seen a few – they seem to disguise that they’re hotels, though).
First time I used Airbnb I wasn’t sure my booking had gone through. I couldn’t find anywhere on the website to check, so I mentioned it on Twitter. Within an hour I’d had a response via Twitter, then a friendly, approachable email from Tony at the helpdesk who addressed my query with minimal fuss and in record time.
So, that’s my recommendation. What’s yours?