What Anika discovered when she gave Airbnb a try …..

We have all heard about it, may know someone who has done it and possibly even have thought about doing it ourselves but were wary about what to expect: Airbnb.

Head for Points tends to focus on the major hotel chains – because those are the ones which hand out the loyalty points – but there is a quiet revolution going on.  Based on its last funding round, Airbnb is valued at the same level as Hilton.

The Airbnb idea is great in theory. Someone with a spare room rents it out to travellers who would like to experience a bit more of a place than just hotel rooms and hotel bars.  The best case scenario is that you end up staying with hosts that show you around, give you insider tips and become your Facebook friends.  At least that’s how I pictured it.

santa monica

When I went to Los Angeles my original accommodation fell through and I decided it was time to give Airbnb a try.

I found myself sitting in Starwood’s SLS Beverly Hills, which I reviewed here, not knowing where to spend the following night.  I set up an Airbnb account and worked my way through a long process of giving personal information and verifying my identity – after all I was going to stay in a private home and there needs to be some sort of safety and security.

Signing up:

The first thing I did was search for a place in Santa Monica. I typed it into the search bar and looked at all the places in that area.

airbnb website

I chose a room about 20 minutes from Santa Monica pier, wrote a message and waited for confirmation.

airbnb accepted

Verification:

But before I could get a confirmation, I had to verify my identity and prove that I was a real living person.  I chose to connect Airbnb with my Facebook account but apparently there was not enough going on on my profile (which could have been due to my privacy settings) and I had to use another form of identification.  I took a picture of my drivers licence and uploaded it.

verify ID

When I had finally been verified, a message was sent to the host.

request sent

Confirmation:

I received the confirmation via text message and e-mail with a phone number and address. Thanks to iMessage it was easy getting in touch with my host and arranging my arrival the following day.

From the pictures and comments I knew what to expect – a decent size room with en suite and a dog as a flatmate.

The room was exactly as shown on the site but could have done with a bit of hoovering prior to my arrival.  The bathroom was ok – but definitely not hotel standard.  I was warned about this from the comments on the host’s Airbnb page, but as this place was the only one in Santa Monica available I decided I could live with it for a night or two.  (I haven’t put the pictures here because I want to focus more on the Airbnb process than the specific places I stayed.)

I didn’t get to meet the host until I checked out but that was mainly due to me not spending much time indoors and her not being around when I was checking in.

The Airbnb app:

My second room was booked via the Airbnb app whilst I was sitting in a Starbucks in Venice Beach.  I found the app very easy to use and highly recommend it if you want to be a bit spontaneous with your travel.

You can enter your preferred destination and have a look on the map to find the exact location. It also shows the prices of every room and apartment. As your credit card details are saved on your account, you don’t need to put in any card details when booking.

APP

I loved the second place I stayed at. It was a lovely hostel just off Hollywood Boulevard (Orange Drive Hostel – if you ever need to recommend a hostel in Hollywood to anyone) which I found useful as I could walk down the Walk of Fame on my way to the Metro station,  snapping a few pictures without outing myself too much as a tourist.

One reason I booked it were the 100+ positive reviews. I wasn’t disappointed when I arrived. Everything looked as in the pictures, there were two lovely outdoor spaces, a kitchen with free breakfast, fast free wifi and everything was incredibly clean.

garden orange drive hostel

Afterwards:

After your stay you are being asked to write a review about your stay which will appear on the hosts page and also to give feedback to Airbnb for internal use. The hosts are also asked to write a review and as soon as both parties have written their reviews they are published (if one decides not to write a review the other one will be published after two weeks). The review from the host can affect whether or not you will be accepted by a host when booking in the future.

review hostel

Is Airbnb for you?

I loved using Airbnb. It is not really comparable with a hotel as it is a whole different way of travelling.  If you are travelling alone as I did it’s good to search for a room in a shared apartment where the comments are very positive about the host.

Usually you can also find out through comments if the host will be around to show you around the area. In my case the flatmate (the human flatmate not the dog flatmate) didn’t know much about Airbnb but was happy to tell me about a great bar around the corner and how to get around by public transport.

When travelling in a group or as a family a whole house or apartment is also an option. You are independent, can cook your own meals and won’t be disturbed by anyone. The search option lets you narrow the results down to the price you want to pay and goes up to £500.

You can find whole houses with swimming pools in the higher price category or a sofa in someone’s living room for just a few quid. I paid £44 a night in Santa Monica and £33 a night in Hollywood.  My focus was not to have the biggest and best room with en suite and breakfast, but simply a bed for the night in the area I wanted to explore.

When my parents came to visit me in London last week we spent a night at a friend’s place just outside Windsor which is also listed on Airbnb. Unlike the places I stayed at in Los Angeles, this is a large house which can sleep up to eight people. It just shows how different the options are on Airbnb.  You can book a room, a whole apartment or a whole house almost everywhere in the world.

As this is Head for Points I should mention that Airbnb has no loyalty scheme.  There is a refer a friend scheme, however. When a friend sign up via a referral link they get £25 off when booking their first stay and a £45 bonus when hosting for the first time.  Feel free to use my link if your friends aren’t members and you’d like £25 off your first stay.

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Comments

  1. One thing about Airbnb is that each stay is a memorable experience – for better or worse – and the extent to which a few of our stays have been disappointing (usually just not quite as clean as you’d hope) is far smaller than the extent to which the good ones have been great. A sense of adventure, openness and generosity are part of the Airbnb model and I’ve found these traits are in shorter supply when trying to use it in the UK compared to US or Australia.

  2. BA-Flyer says:

    Are you sure it’s a £24 referral? I just signed up and got £14.

    • I’m pretty sure when I tried the link a week ago it said £24, but just checked and it says £14 now. It might have been $ and I thought it was £.

  3. Great review. We have been using airbnb for years too. Agree with everyone else that compared to a cost of a hotel for us a two bed apartment or house is mostly comparable or a third less than a hotel. We also tend to book whole apartments/houses.
    I am not sure about quiet revolution for some it’s the first accommodation search they do and for others it’s the second search after hotels on momondo etc
    Perhaps run a poll on how many readers use airbnb.
    For newbies send emails to host and gauge from replies if they are prompt and can answer your questions
    For loyalty https://www.housetrip.com/ started before airbnb and think recently got bought by TripAdvisor. They have similar loyalty like Hotels.com so your 10th stay is free.

  4. Federico says:

    Airbnb can be good, but i had to cancel one of my holiday because of the host cancelled the booking. I am that kind of person that I book an hotel and try to check cheaper and better positioned hotel. I cancelled my hotel when I found an Airbnb much cheaper of the hotel and better location. After 2 weeks the host cancelled and tried to book again the same hotel that I cancelled before it was 3 times the price well over my budget.

    If we cancel (as customer) we need to pay some kind of charges, instead if the host cancels it is fine for Airbnb..

    I will carefully book with Airbnb again in the future

    • Thanks for sharing that

    • Relaxo says:

      That’s not true. Hosts have to pay a penalty (I think $50) if they cancel more than once every 6 months. However if hosts turn on the instant – book feature then they are allowed more ‘free’ cancels. Anyways I remember a few yrs back when Raffles ran his first airbnb article, a bunch of whingers here were complaining about having to msg the hosts before booking….it was such a pain for these spoilt brats apparently. Airbnb must have got lots of similar complaints as they introduced instant book feature soon after. Well, you have now been warned that hosts who turn on the ‘instant book’ feature are more likely to cancel than other hosts who opt for the slower ‘msg host’ option.

  5. One of the most horrendous things I’ve found out about AirBnB hosts is that they maybe don’t know what’s happening in their local area, then when you mention it while making an enquiry for a property which is showing available suddenly it becomes unavailable.
    I had this with one commercial buy to let guy in Greenwich who had (at least 3 different properties) no idea the London Marathon was on last weekend when I approached him several months ago. Likewise the same for countless hosts in Stockholm who I was approaching in the end of last year for Eurovision in a fortnight.
    Either it’s that, or hosts just don’t like taking bookings too far in advance. Ultimately it was their loss.

    • Sounds like you made him aware he could get more money as there was an event on lol

      • Mr Dee says:

        Yes so he can bump up the rates to make a quick buck last minute

  6. Lady London says:

    I’ve used AirBnB twice each time needing to know quickly if the host is going to accept me. Trouble is, you have to give your credit card details in order to request the host to accept your booking. So it’s a nervewracking wait until they respond – as your card will presumably be charged if they accept you. One experience, after a lot of reading “between the lines” on feedback (advised!) was absolutely wonderful, exactly the AirBnB experience as described. I am still in touch with my host from that booking! The other experience I got an immediate decline, when I contacted to ask again the landlord wanted to do it as a cash booking only – I agreed and noticed that the host cancelled it off AirBnB but happily welcomed me for cash the following day. Not a bad experience, host was charming and interesting, place was so-so, had negatives but OK for me, just being officially declined then paying cash just felt a bit odd.

    I’ll definitely check out AirBnB in future though, but more likely if a hotel cannot be found that is suitable. Suitable in my world these days = payable by points, or at least accruing useful ones

    • So you can avoid AirBnB fees same as you can avoid Ebay fees? Just deal privately?

      • Mr Dee says:

        Yes but I wouldn’t advise it if you haven’t already stayed with the host as if its a dodgy place you won’t easily get any money back.

  7. flyforfun says:

    Berilin is cracking down and AirBNB and similar sites due to its housing shortage. Rooms ok, commercial whole flat lets, no.

    http://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/europe/airbnb-dumps-berlin-holiday-flats-before-city-crackdown-1.2628000

  8. Scott says:

    I had a night at the Orange Drive hostel last year (went through Hostelworld). Very well placed for the Chinese Theatre etc. and I could park around the back which was a major selling point – think it was $5 or something for the night.
    Not a lot of hotel choices around there but it was more than adequate for the night and as said, the location is well placed for various tourist attractions, the Metro etc – pretty much a couple of hundred metres down the road to Hollywood Boulevard.

  9. Relaxo says:

    I would like to put out a semi-PSA here for those who are not too familiar with Airbnb. Please try not to rent out listings from commercial landlords/buy to let folks. It is easy to spot these folk as they will have guest reviews for other properties (a link to these also appears on the listing page). These ‘hosts’ are chief contributors to rising housing shortages in many cities. As a guest, you are more likely to have a negative experience or get cancelled on as well. Airbnb has shirked off it’s social responsibility in this regard as the added revenue is too lucrative. Ultimately, these upper middle class parasites will ruin a good concept for everyone. My 2 cents – if you are looking for a whole flat/house to rent make sure the host does not have multiple listings. I would say put a threshold of not more than 1property ( not to be confused with multiple room listings for same property). Do try to book spaces with ‘live -in’ hosts. These are the people who are doing what airbnb was intended for, they are part of the local community, and they don’t want neighborhoods that are just full of tourists and homeless people.

  10. Matt W says:

    I wonder just how many people can host AirBnB without being in violation of something? In somewhere like London it may be quite a small minority.

    BTL landlords like James are likely to be in violation of mortgage terms, and may be invalidating their insurance. It would be interesting if one chose to just stay, as it would take months to remove them, and direct attempts to remove would be

    Tenants will nearly universally be in violation of their tenancy agreements, both for “running a business” and “subletting”. The former may also place their LL in violation of mortgage terms.

    People in leasehold properties may be in violation of their lease.

    Do normal residential mortgages restrict this? I do not have one anymore, so I do not know.

    In some places (eg Westminster) there are byelaws which limit total stays to 90 days per year. IMO that is a mistake and if they are concerned about neighbours then it should also be about total number of stays.

    And I suspect that Relaxo needs to relax a little, making assertions for which I know of no evidence, but HFP is not the place for a political debate.

    I don’t see this situation lasting after eg the first guest is killed by an unmaintained boiler in a private house – standard rental safety requirements will be imposed. Enjoy it while it lasts. Regulation is coming.

    • I’m treating mine like a furnished holiday let and checked my mortgage and lease terms before going ahead.

      I have public liability insurance and have had all electrical items PAT tested. Although there’s no gas in the property, Airbnb required me to install a CO alarm. This is in addition to the existing smoke alarms.

      All income will be declared to HMRC and taxed according to their FHL rules.

      I do not condone anyone breaking laws or rules, whether that be safety, tax, lease or mortgage.

      I won’t wade into the wider political debate about affordable housing – it’s a large and complex topic and Rob’s blog isn’t the place for that. But I will comply with whatever regulations are imposed by central or local government.

  11. Matt W says:

    >and direct attempts to remove would be

    should have said … would be “problematic”.

  12. IslandDweller says:

    It’s a great idea, and I have used it (once). But I would always read between the lines about what you are renting.
    An ordinary home in multiple occupation (at least in the UK) would invalidate many home insurance policies. Trip on a damaged carpet or dodgy step….injure yourself so badly you can’t work… Very unlikely but the consequences…. In a hotel, you’d likely be covered by insurance. No guarantee of that coverage with this.