IMAGINE having your coffee with the breakfast you cooked yourself just minutes ago on a balcony of a lovely flat in Hong Kong, overlooking the busy goings-on below; just you and your loved ones in a comfortable, personable setting feeling very much at home.
No buffet lines, no jostling for the omelette, no sub-par juices. If only all accommodation could be as homely as this. Well, it can be. You get all this and more when you ditch the regular hotels and go for the short-term rental concept of Airbnb.
Through this popular website, you are able to rent a room or an entire home for you and your family. Depending on your budget, you’ll be able to live comfortably (or fashionably) in your own space with the amenities needed.
Earlier this year, a delightful story (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/26/garden/retirement-plan-an-airbnb-travel-adventure.html) made its rounds on the Internet concerning a senior couple who retired and decided to travel the world using Airbnb as their “home” of choice.
They sold some of their possessions, rented out their home, moved everything else into storage and have been traipsing about Europe, living in wonderful homes for the last year and a half. And it’s all thanks to the wonderful world of short-term rentals.
Some of us may have heard of Airbnb, but may not be too sure how it works or if it’s even worth the effort. It may seem easier to get a hotel and have them sort out all your transfers and whatnot. But, with a bit of preparation, it can be just as easy to do the same with your rental.
Where do I begin?
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to sign up on Airbnb and take your first step to renting your own place the next time you travel.
1. Sign up at https://www.airbnb.com/ with your email, Facebook or Google+ ID. Go with the email sign-up if that’s more convenient.
2. Create a profile, preferably with a nice photo of you (a smile goes a long way!) and a short description of yourself. A good profile is essential in building a sense of trust with your future hosts.
3. Key in location, travel dates and search.
4. Once you’ve found something you like, click “Request To Book” and fill in your payment details. Airbnb will also save your credit card details for you for future bookings (only if you’re comfortable with it).
5. Wait for the confirmation from your host and you’re done!
6. Inform your host about your time of arrival (preferably a few days before you arrive) for easier co-ordination.
That’s it really.
The key things to remember when searching is to read the description of the accommodation (ease of access, amenities, etc.) and reviews left by other Airbnb users for the host. Reviews are key and it helps filter your choices to something you are comfortable with.
Speaking of filters …. Now, this is where it gets a little technical. Search results can be overwhelming especially when there are 1,247 rentals to select from. Use a price range to help narrow down your search. There are also more filters based on amenities, neighbourhoods and property type.
These may all seem rather overwhelming initially, but it will get easier the more you use it. And when that happens, your only problem will be choosing between all those amazing places – a cabin by the river or a cottage by the hills or a cosy flat in the city. Choices, choices!
How safe is safe?
Safety of self and belongings are important when travelling. Everybody wants to feel safe, especially in a stranger’s home.
The best way to know if you can trust your Airbnb host is to comb through the reviews left by other users. Also, read the description of the rental space to see what’s offered.
Airbnb hosts generally do not enter your room without you being there. They understand the need for privacy and won’t risk upsetting their guests that way.
If you have any questions about the safety of the neighbourhood and such, you can even message the host prior to booking with them.
What are the benefits?
Hotels have everything sorted out for you, no doubt. But the charm in Airbnb rentals is that you will experience what it’s like to live in another country. By talking to your hosts, you get their perspective on their lives there and, who knows, they may also invite you to a nice dinner with them. It’s all about a sharing of experiences and a meeting of cultures.
Your hosts would generally give or lend you some maps, help you out with directions on how to get to places and are the best ambassadors for their cities. I’ve had some wonderful experiences that I may not have known about thanks to their local know-how.
Most importantly, you can save quite a bit of money with your rentals – low rent prices, self-catering, no tipping. Most places would allow you to keep food in their fridge and cook in the kitchen. So, if you’re not too keen on heading out for certain meal times or have certain dietary requirements, just whip up something simple in the kitchen from produce you can buy from the local markets or grocery shops.
This way of travelling may seem daunting to you at first. Be patient and take your time. It’s important that you allow yourself the time to learn how the whole process works. Rest assured, you’ll be hooked after your first Airbnb experience. Not only will you get to interact with the locals and have a wonderful adventure, you will also be able to share stories of our own country and culture with them.
Now, isn’t that what travel is all about?