I’ve now been using Airbnb for most of my accommodation for more than a year
Here’s what I’ve found:
Check locations carefully, print a map before you go
With many buildings tucked away, it can be difficult, even with Google maps. to find the place. I spent more than hour looking for rentals, before realizing I had been in the right place all along.
Lesson: most rentals have no markings on them, which means you need to go to extra care to get the exact location.
Ask about facilities
May seem obvious, but if something isn’t listed, it won’t be provided. For example, I usually like to cook, but in Japan, many home don’t have kitchens. Ditto a TV. I found myself staying in places which didn’t have these , which made this very unsatisying.
Extra costs vary
Most places come with an airbnb service charge added on. And it’s typical for users to add a cleaning fee, whether you stay for a day or three weeks, You might think that you are spending unnecessary money. After all, they clean the room when you leave, which means you’re not getting any benefit from it.
Hosts are there to make money
It seems obvious, but because Airbnb has some similarities to Couchsurfing, it can be hard to see it as a business. Many hosts will not really provide anything extra, besides the room you stay in. Plus, you might not save any money when you allow for the extra costs you get lumped in with (extra person charges, weekend rates). Although you might find its very different if you are living with a host. In this case, you start to benefit from the arrangement. Case in point: the host in Kamigusa who washed my clothes, cooked me snacks and allowed me use of the fridge, which was stocked with some fantastic ingredients. I didn’t pay a cent for any of this, which made my stay even better value.
Hosts aren’t always bothered about your comfort
Sadly, its all to easy for hosts to take your money and then do a completely half-assed job of accommodating your needs. That means rock hard mattresses, torn and faded bedding that should have been thrown out years ago. At the very least, hosts should provide high quality bedding, showere gels and tea and coffee.
Reviews are innacurate and unreliable
Frankly, I’m dismayed when reading some of the reviews. If you stay in a place where the beds are hard, there isn’t any communication from the host, you wouldn’t leave a good review? Yet, because of the interaction that most guests have before they take the place, its hard for people to give negative feedback. The endless complaints made by visitors to hotels and restaurants is not found on airbnb. It’s almost as if people are afraid to risk a backlash against them if they give negative feedback.
Hotels can offer a better overall package
Even if hotels are on the face of it more expensive, think of all the they can offer: a range of extra benefits (free breakfast, newspapers. swimming pools, gyms. 24hr concierge.)
They also employ people, whose jobs airbnb is making less and less secure.
Overall, I have a difficult relationship with this site. Because its fairly recent, it’s exciting to be able to use it when travelling. On the other hand, there are some downsides (fake listings are an extreme example, but more common problems might be innacurate photos, hosts who are indifferent problems.