My preference for staying at an Airbnb when I travel came about more accidentally than deliberately. I had just arrived in Kuta, a rather grungy part of Bali in November of 2015. I had just gotten off a long plane ride and was meeting my friend in Seminyak the next day and decided to settle down in Kuta for the night. Given it was just a place to sleep for a few hours, I had booked myself into a hostel for one night in the heart of Kuta. When the taxi driver dropped me off in front of it, I looked around me gasping at the garish lights and thumping music emerging out of kitschy clubs filling the late evening air. Not the first impression I expected in Bali.
I was no stranger to staying at hostels; I had spent a fair share of my time backpacking in Europe staying in hostels that ranged from dicey to fancy. But when I stepped into my communal bathroom at this hostel in downtown Kuta, I walked right out. I couldn’t stomach it anymore. I don’t know if it was a product of how tired I was, how much older I was or how much less willing I was to have to deal with snoring roommates, but I realized I just couldn’t do it anymore. Ten minutes later, I was carting my luggage down that horrendous street in Kuta in search of the first hotel I could find where I didn’t have to share a bathroom. The next day, my friend and I found a cozy room in Seminyak on Airbnb. Our room was overlooking a pool with the kindest people servicing us. I was hooked. That was in October of 2015 and since then, I have stayed at homes booked on Airbnb all over the world:
New Orleans, USA
Having had incredible experiences all over the world, I can genuinely say that my stays at homes found on Airbnb have been as much a part of my travel experiences as the sights I see or the food I taste.
Here are 3 reasons why I think using Airbnb when traveling is the way to go:
1. You can combine privacy with local interaction
Having done a lot of travel for my corporate job, I have spent a fair share of my travels holed up in hotel rooms. Sure, they come with their own bathrooms, amenities and a concierge desk, but, usually offer a sterile experience. Chain hotels are especially notorious for lacking in personality and local flavor; I can tell you from personal experience that a Marriott or Sheraton in Milan or Tokyo is no different from one in the United States. Even if you are someone who doesn’t spend too much time in your hotel room, spending those few hours somewhere you have the opportunity for some local interaction can be a nice addition to your experience.
So maybe you like to travel solo and are thinking that hostels afford you a better opportunity to meet others when you are traveling. That is true; I have certainly made my share of friends in the common room or on pub crawls staying in hostels. However, I have found that sharing an Airbnb with locals is an authentic way to meet people as well. The advantage is that you are meeting locals who can give you a better understanding of the local life and culture rather than travelers who are as new to the place as you are. And the great thing about staying at an Airbnb is that you can interact with your hosts as much as you want and then retreat into your private space when you want to, no questions asked.
Staying in Airbnbs offer a great alternative to both hostel and hotels, allowing you the opportunity to stay somewhere relatively reasonably priced with privacy, while also having the opportunity to interact with people if you choose to.
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2. You get a taste for local life
I have shared many meals and stories with families as close as my home state of California and as far away as Armenia during my stays at Airbnb homes. Sharing a bowl of soup with a family in Yerevan, Armenia, hearing about their lives, was the highlight of my life there. Maybe you will be invited to a happening New Year’s Eve party in London being hosted by your Airbnb hosts with all their friends and a live jazz band as I did. Or maybe you can marvel at the incredible New Orleans architecture with all of its European influences at this New Orleans apartment complete with a luxurious jacuzzi and the biggest shower I have ever used. Or maybe you will get invited by your Airbnb hosts in Bogota to a hot new restaurant just opened by their chef friend and discuss the political situation in Colombia over a great meal. I have gotten a glimpse into how a young Japanese woman might style her apartment in Kyoto or a how a couple might decorate their hip apartment in Mexico City. Local flair and flavor are often on display in people’s homes in a way you won’t find even at boutique hotels.
3. You can have one of a kind experiences
We have all seen pictures of the mushroom dome or igloos on Airbnb that need to be reserved months in advance, but even if you don’t like planning that far out, you can have one-of-a-kind experiences staying at an Airbnb. Maybe you can stay in a cozy camper van right on the beach in Northern California and sneak over to gaze up at the stars at night. Or perhaps stay in this well-appointed yurt marooned on a remote cove only accessible by boat, surrounded by nothing by vast expanses of the Pacific in Seward, Alaska. Maybe you can ring your 30th birthday in at this spacious and funky loft in Denver, Colorado as I did. Perhaps you will get to stay at this breathtaking 5-bedroom masterpiece of an apartment in Havana with a private rooftop. Incidentally, my then-boyfriend surprised and proposed to me on this very rooftop. Yes, I get
engaged on the rooftop of an Airbnb!! 😀
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So, now that I have told you all the reasons you should use Airbnb when traveling, let’s cover some of the basic questions that I get asked a lot.
How do you choose an Airbnb?
For me, it always starts with location, location, location. I make sure to first decide what part of the city/town/mountain I want to stay in. Then I search for an Airbnb in that area. When I first started using Airbnb, I would generally only go for ones that had a lot of ratings but more recently I have also stayed at newer ones; especially if you travel to places that aren’t that popular, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to find homes that haven’t seen a lot of visitors and reviews. In these cases, ensure you look very closely at all the pictures and message the host to find out more about the place and them before you sign up for it.
The superhost designation is also a good one to look for; Airbnb designates those hosts who go above and beyond to provide a great experience for their guests and tracks that with metrics like their responsiveness and rating scores.
Is Airbnb safe for women traveling solo?
I have never felt unsafe staying at an Airbnb even when traveling solo. If I do plan to travel solo, I generally prefer places that have lots of reviews and are hosted by a woman. I have stayed solo in homes in Bali, Armenia, and Japan and never had a single issue. Of course, all the same precautions always apply; don’t let strangers know where you are staying and keep all your valuables locked up or with you. But all in all, I have always found my Airbnb stays to be safe.
Is Airbnb cheaper?
Not always. Especially these days, when there are all kinds of unique Airbnb stays that are super popular, finding reasonably priced ones can be more challenging. However, I have usually found that when I am going to popular tourist spots or bigger cities, Airbnb rates are generally lower than hotel rates. And again, while you will find hostels for cheaper, I think having more privacy is worth a bit more money. Booking more in advance, finding places that are shared homes and homes that are newer are good ways to find cheaper places to stay. Ultimately, even when I pay a bit more for an Airbnb, I like knowing that the money is going to locals who are ensuring I have a great experience versus a big hotel chain.
Read to book your first Airbnb stay?! Use this link to save $40 on your first booking.
Have other questions about staying at an Airbnb? Send me a message and I will answer them!