It was on 2009, when I first heard about Airbnb. The new startup invented by 2 guys who practically wanted to make a few bucks. San Francisco is one of the highest most expensive city to live in. The 2 guys came up with the idea of putting an air mattress in their living room and put that in the listing for people to crash in. When the original site, airbedandbreakfast dot com was launched on 2008, they immediately got a hit for people who looking for the more affordable place to stay in the city. After the invitation to attend training and got the fundings from startup incubator to promote the site, after only 1 year of working hard they returned to SF with a profitable business model to grow even bigger. It starts from one idea to maximize their living room to make a few bucks. The company then changed to airbnb.com, from the air beds to various different kinds of property including private rooms, castles, tree houses, manors, boats, etc. We have experienced both sides of the spectrum, as a host and as a guest through Airbnb.
When we were living in San Francisco, we started as a host for out-town travelers. We were living in outer sunset area, next to the Ocean Beach in the 3 bedroom flats. We have rented 1 bedroom to a permanent tenant and thinking to keep the other bedroom as our guest room for our friends and family when they visit us in SF. Since we don’t always have our guests, I was thinking to rent it to a short term guest. Airbnb was perfect platform for that.
As a host, we were experiencing a lot of various personality and characters of guests coming into our apartment. Though the rules and the fee are clear, there were some guests that abused the property and rules. I would say 80% was nice, 20% was not so good experience. The good thing about airbnb, you can review 2 ways, as a tenant and as a host. A good constructive criticism plays a big role for us to accept a guest. Some guests who don’t have a review may raise a flag for us to accept them unless they put down a deposit (you may request it, as a host). When I was telling my family that I let strangers crash in, they were all shocked. But it brought us an experience that we will never forget. Some story includes police, mobster, cracked head, nudists and a missing person. Some teach us a life lesson experiences to be handling that sort from happening again.
My first airbnb experience as a guest was when we back to SF, after living in Indonesia. We rented a master bedroom in tradition victorian house, I remember I was excited to be able to experience to sleep in victorian style (think of Full house). Since then every time we plan a trip, we would consider having airbnb as an option to staying in the hotel. One of many plus sides of Airbnb rentals is they have kitchens so you can prepare your own meals, which can save you money. And speaking of saving money, Airbnb are typically cheaper than staying at the hotel.
When choosing airbnb, I wanted to be within walking distance to most of the attractions, restaurant, groceries and train stations. I usually travel with public transportations and do prefer to not rent a car, unless for necessity. I always prefer to book an entire home or bedroom with ensuite bathroom. I want to be able to relax and sleep well after my outings, therefore I always required a fast Wifi and comfortable bed. I would email the host and ask the firmness of the bed. Typically, the host more than happy to answer them for you. The ratings and positive reviews also need to be considered. Some listings may be new, in that case, I would recommend you to contact the host and ask all the necessary questions. After booking then naturally within a day, I would receive the instructions on how to check-in and check-out, as well as the address. I don’t find it necessary to meet the owner, but everyone has different preferences. If you never received the response email after your booking, I suggest you contact them again to make sure that they acknowledged your booking.
My experiences as a host was a little tricky, hence being new and perfectionist. However, as a guest, airbnb has offered us an amazing experience and it has really changed the way we travel. I feel that by renting an apartment or a home, I can have the flexibility to choose based on our own criteria and individual needs. I have heard that some of the user being canceled last minute, didn’t meet their expectations, being unlucky meeting a horrible owners or house-mate. One thing that I cannot stress most is, do not expect cheap price comes with the big expectations. Be reasonable when deciding the place according to the locations and the amenities. And ask a lot of questions to the owner about your preferences before you book the place. I would not be hesitant to ask the owner to vacuum the place (if carpeted) due to my allergen or even ask them if they are ok if your arrival time is late at night or really early in the morning.
So far we have used airbnb platform on our traveling to Bali, San Francisco, New York, Japan, Korea, London, Italy, Netherlands, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Spain, Canada. We managed to have minimal complaints with the rentals unless they are unbearable and totally unreasonable beyond words. If you happened to come across that, I would suggest you contact your host right away, since they practically ‘responsible’ for you, since you stay at their premises. Airbnb also has a great customer service that you can contact, but they would always suggest you to try to sit down with the host to resolved any altercations before they step in.
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