The Pros and Cons of Using Airbnb as a Traveler (Guest)
For those who are unaware, Airbnb is a web-based company that brings together people who are looking to rent out lodgings with people who are looking for somewhere to stay. The lodgings can be anything from a room in a house to an entire property or even something as exotic as a boathouse.
My wife and I have been Airbnb hosts since 2015 and have been awarded "superhost" status by the site, but we also like to stay in Airbnb rentals when we go traveling around the USA and abroad.
I've used our experience of Airbnb to list what I believe to be the pros and cons of using the service as travelers (called "guests" by the site), which you will find below.
The Pros of Using Airbnb as a Guest
- Obviously, price is a big factor. You can get some excellent deals that beat the costs of more conventional alternatives such as hotels for value. Overall, you will generally get more bang for your buck with Airbnb, especially if your stay is medium length, say one or two weeks.
- The Airbnb website is generally very easy to use and interact with, in my experience, whether using a computer or a phone app.
- Unlike a hotel, where you often just speak with customer service when you book, you usually get to communicate directly with the host of your Airbnb. This can be very useful if have any specific questions.
- Airbnb hosts can be more flexible than traditional hospitality businesses. We've had them buy things like corkscrews for us, as well as check in outside usual times.
- Many Airbnb properties can offer unique and authentic experiences that you just don't get by staying in a hotel. Some of them are exotic, such as boat houses, tree houses and even castles that are available for short term stays.
- A full house experience can be great for families and groups, or even just an individual or couple who require fully stocked kitchen facilities, laundry room, office, fenced yard, maybe even a swimming pool, or just more space. It goes without saying that a kitchen can help save money because you don't have to eat out all the time.
- More pet and child friendly options can generally be found than with conventional alternatives.
- Hotels offer basic services, Airbnb properties often give guests access to things like cooking facilities, washing and drying facilities, and refrigeration for drinks and food. Hotels usually either don't offer this type of thing, or can charge for a service such as laundry.
- When traveling in another country, Airbnb offers an opportunity to stay with a local family and experience local customs, food, and culture.
- Hotels tend to be clustered together in the main tourist areas of towns and cities. If you like to explore local neighborhoods, Airbnb is way better! You can live and eat with the locals, which is a more authentic experience and usually cheaper.
- Hosts and their properties are rated by previous guests. This gives you a lot of extra personalized information when making your decision about where to book. Because of the way that the Airbnb system works, you can be pretty confident that the guests, ratings, and reviews are genuine.
- Your belongings and personal safety is usually greater with Airbnb. If you are staying in the host's home there aren't generally strangers coming and going, or low paid workers coming into your room to clean when you are out.
- Some stays are set up so that the guest never has to deal in person with the host when checking in, staying, or checking out. That suits the people who don't like dealing with receptionists, or room service.
The Cons of Using Airbnb as a Guest
- If you stay in one of the big brands of hotel, you know pretty much what you are going to get. With Airbnb there is always a risk that the property might not be as described, or there is some quirky thing not mentioned that spoils your stay. For that reason, we prefer to stay at a place that has at least five good reviews.
- Some hosts are more responsive than others in our experience. We've never had a truly bad one, but it's always a possibility. They can also vary a lot in terms of generosity and sociability. If you are looking for a host who is going to show you the local sites and help you explore the local culture, you may be disappointed.
- Your hosts may have different standards of cleanliness and orderliness to your own. You may book somewhere expecting to have a quiet weekend, only to find that the hosts are noisy.
- The best places book up quickly. You have to plan ahead if you want maximum value, in my experience.
- Often there are extra charges on top of the nightly rate. Firstly, Airbnb charges the guest a service fee, which is how they make their money. Secondly, the host can charge a cleaning fee, the amount of which they determine, which can vary considerably. Thirdly, many locations require guests to pay a hospitality tax, just like a hotel.
- If you enjoy all the perks you get at a big hotel, such as a food service, gym, spa, pool, daily cleaning, and a front desk receptionist, then Airbnb might not be the right fit for you. You may find a property with some of these, of course, but there's no guarantee.
- The host can cancel on you. It is relatively rare, as the host gets a fine, plus they don't want to get bad reviews which will deter future potential guests from booking. It has never happened to us, but it is always a possibility, however remote.
- Minimum stay periods can be annoying, some hosts can insist that you book two days or more, which might not fit with your travel plans.
- Your privacy may be limited if you are staying in a private room within the host's home.
- When you are new to Airbnb, some hosts will turn down your booking requests because you have no ratings and reviews from previous hosts. They also have 24 hours to respond to your request and some can be slow to respond. If they don't respond within 24 hours then the booking request expires and the process starts again (assuming that you still want to stay there).
Events and Actions
October 2007 – January 2009
Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia come up with the idea for Airbnb. They create and launch the website. Money is raised through the sale of cereal boxes for Barack Obama and John McCain, the main candidates in the 2008 US presidential election.
January 2009 – December 2010
Airbnb joins the Y Combinator, receiving receive seed money, advice, and connections in exchange for 7% equity. The business steadily expands. Brian Chesky leaves his apartment and lives in Airbnb properties for three months. Airbnb raises $7.2 million in venture funding in November 2010.
January 2011 – April 2014
Airbnb expands its operations to cities around the world. The number of Airbnb users continues to rise.
January 2014 – present
The company redesigns its logo. New apps are launched, part of a wider plan to provide an improved user experience. Deals are struck with with many cities, including San Francisco, giving Airbnb legal recognition in return for a rental tax. Airbnb starts its $1 million insurance, offering it to both hosts and guests. By Summer of 2015, the total money raised by the company is $2.3 billion. Business partnerships are formed with Concur, Handy, and Deutsche Telekom.