So a couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about my experiences with Air BnB in homestay environments. Today I’m writing about the other way you can experience this phenomenon as a guest – renting a whole apartment.
I did this last year in Buenos Aires for the first time. My wife and I rented an apartment in the suburb of Palermo on a street with many restaurants and bars. We had checked out a lot of apartments online and this seemed to suit our needs. It was a pretty spacious place, clean, a decent sized bathroom not too far from a train station. There was a pretty good kitchen too, and a balcony.
A friendly host who spoke good English who met me there on my arrival. He was available by phone if we had any questions. The only downside was the noise which continued most nights on the street below – music, people, partying. And reviews of the place pointed this out as basically the only issue with the joint, and that was fair enough. The noise did go into the wee hours of the morning.
In London earlier this year I booked an apartment on Edgeware Rd. I knew this would be small but its layout made it even smaller. It probably wasn’t desperately small but it felt really small. The host was great, but unable to come to the flat so I was met by a family friend who was a bit late the couple of times I had to meet with him. I have to say I liked the all-blue exterior. There were a group of flats out the back of a shop.
Having said that I did leave the keys behind one day and he came out to let me in which was really kind. There were a few issues — the TV didn’t work. We were up on the roof trying to work it out (the owner and myself) but with no luck. The electricity system was a prepaid system and the credit ran out when I was there and that had to be topped up. Again, a great location though with so many Middle Eastern places to eat on Edgeware Rd, no real noise issues. A very kind gesture from my host – there was bread, fruit, juice and a few other things there for my use when I arrived. A Tescos just down the road helped with the self-catering aspect.
My third apartment was in Paris. My wife arrived before I did, I had four days there she had seven. It was on the sixth floor of a building, again good location close to Metro and public transport. A supermarket a very short walk away. A tiny lift that only just got two people inside.
It seemed bigger than the London flat – but it was more open which made it feel more spacious. No fan or air-conditioning, a common issue in Paris, and it was stiflingly hot in there a couple of nights. The heat never really left the apartment when we had cooler days.
Great facilities for cooking, the communication was not the best with the hosts who I don’t think spoke English. Air BnB must translate messages for people and it’s not always accurate I’d say from the interactions we had. I even tried writing to them in French but that message didn’t receive a reply. Then the Wi-Fi went down over the last few days.
Luckily we were very busy and that didn’t matter so much. Oh the toilet didn’t have a seat. Not sure if that’s a French thing or what.
The pricing was… similar I guess to a mid-range hotel. From around $660 AUD for a week in London to around $940 AUD in Paris (for a week too), with Buenos Aires a bit over $700 AUD (from memory) they were probably decent value for money without really saving us a lot.
To balance the pluses and minuses of an apartment versus a hotel is not so easy. Apartments can be a lot of work. Still, you can save by eating in, you can set your own schedule, have guests, set the place up as you’d like. If there’s an issue it can time to resolve though.
I wouldn’t consider an apartment for less than a week or six days. On Air Bnb you can save a percentage often by staying a full week. Which is nice. There really are so many places on Air BnB that you can find one just where you want to stay.
Reviews prove crucial in deciding because you can’t be sure what you’ll get. I must admit neither London nor Paris were quite what I had been expecting from the photos.
I mean suddenly you appreciate what you get at a hotel. A TV that works, people to help you at reception, local maps, advice on what to see and how to get there. A nice restaurant on the ground floor if you want dinner to be easy. Toilet seats…
I liked the idea of apartment renting perhaps more than the actual experience. I realised that actually I’m quite happy in hotels. I LOVE leaving the room in the morning and returning in the evening to find it magically tidy again! Still, there is more privacy in your own rented flat. And the joy of doing your own laundry is not to be underestimated.
I think for me there would need to be more budget-benefit to staying in apartments to make it worthwhile. However, for a longer-term stay it’s great and for towns where there isn’t a great amount of accommodation choice, well, that’s great. And perhaps the upside is that hotels have more competition which might improve service and price. Who knows?
Homestays though, I think, are great value for money. I didn’t put a price on them last time but I think it was around $28AUD in Salta and $19AUD in Cuenca ($21US / $14US approx.) and with wonderful hosts, there was great value in that. And so for me, homestays are where experience and value combine to be the real stars of the Air BnB experience.
Thanks for reading! Have you used Air BnB and in what capacity? Did it work for you? Did you feel you got value for money? Please comment! And of course – May the Journey Never End!