AirBnB has grown into a huge company for a reason, it’s a brilliant service. The advantages of AirBnB are numerous, which is why it is used by hundreds of thousands of people all around the world. The purpose of this aticle is not to list the advantages and disadvantages of AirBnB, I’m sure you can find the advantages on their website. In this article I will simply be looking at the disadvantages of AirBnB after my first experience.
For those that have not used AirBnB or don’t know much about it, here is a short explanation. AirBnB is a website / app that allows you to rent accommodation from someone. It could be a whole apartment / house or it could be a room in the apartment or it could even just be a couch. This provides a cheaper accommodation option for travellers that might find traditional accommodation options, such as hotels, too expensive. It also allows people to make some extra money by renting out their apartment or room.
I used AirBnB to book some accommodation for a recent overseas trip. It was not difficult to sign up and find a place to stay and AirBnB handles the payment and will facilitate a refund if you’re not happy, etc. But I did realise that there are definitely some downsides.
One of the benefits of AirBnB is that is can be much cheaper than hotels. But it’s still not cheap. My 3 night stay was nearly R700 per night and that was one of the cheaper options. At that price I don’t think it’s unreasonable to have some expectations regarding the standard of the accommodation.
I spent some time looking through the options available for where I wanted to stay then I started contacting them to make a booking. The first one did not bother to respond. It was a guy and I noticed that all the reviews were only from women. So I guess I didn’t fit the profile he was looking for. The second option responded, to tell me that the place was not available despite it being marked as available. I started to realise that people are quite selective about who they would like stay. If I experienced discrimination as a middle aged white male, I can imagine there are others who would find it even more difficult.
At least with a hotel you book, you pay, you stay. No matter who you are.
When I arrived at the place I had booked, it was nothing like the photos suggested. The actual room looked similar, but the photo didn’t show the paint peeling off the walls and there was no indication that the room was as hot as an oven. What was also not evident was that the house was a dump. I literally walked past it because I thought that it was a derelict house. A messy house may not bother some people, but when I’m forking out hard-earned cash, I want at least a hint of cleanliness and tidiness.
When I went back and looked at the reviews of the place I stayed at, I noticed that they all focused on the friendly and helpful the host was. Nobody mentioned that the place was a dump. The reason for this is that they need the host to give them a good review as guests so that it’s easier to find a place to stay next time.
Because I’m new to AirBnB, I can’t afford to have the only review of me as a guest be negative so I will also have to leave some sort of positive review for a place about which I don’t have much positive to say. This means the reviews are a lot less helpful than one might initially imagine.
When you stay at a hotel you can generally expect a level of service and standard of offering which is in line with generally accepted norms for the star rating of the establishment. With AirBnB your at the mercy of the host and their experience or interest. Nor do I want to be woken up early because the curtains are too thin to keep out the light. I also don’t want to arrive to find that even though it was not mentioned in the advert, there is a cat. I’m allergic to cats.
The thing with AirBnB is that you can have a great experience. For a reasonable price you could have an amazing apartment in a good location all to yourself. But you just don’t know, because you could also have the opposite. One person goes to the trouble of supplying linen that is new and has a high thread count, the next provides the cheapest linen that has been used over and over. In fact I read one review where the guest complained that the linen was not even clean! Single ply toilet paper at one, double ply at another. Fast internet at one, useless internet at another. You just never know what you’ll get.
Hotels are generally conveniently located, you’ll seldom find hotels in the middle of some random residential suburb. A 5 minute walk to the bus stop / train stop plus waiting for the correct bus or train plus the trip to your destination can all take up quite a bit of your time. When selecting an AirBnB, proximity to town and public transport is an important consideration and they will tell you how long it takes to get to the station but not how long you will need to wait or how long the trip will be. Also, how much public transport will cost you as you need to add this to the cost of your accommodation compared to a centrally located hotel.
Those are the negatives of using AirBnB. If you arrive and you’re not happy with the accommodation, then you have a serious problem because you have to find an alternative at the last minute. The alternative will always cost a lot more. It doesn’t mean I won’t use AirBnB again but I will certainly weigh up my options and if a decent hotel that is centrally located is only a couple of hundred Rand extra a night, I might opt for that instead. How has your experience with AirBnB been? Only positive? Share in the comments below.
Both positive and negative. One place in Italy was amazing for €25 a night, similarly in Paris. Clean and confortable in nice areas. Florence, not so much. A futon (read mattress on the floor) in a crumbling apartment next to a highway. No hot water.
No hot water is really bad! That experience can ruin a holiday!
Really interesting review here. I have booked a place in Philadelphia for April and in Durban for May. I’m hoping that they are accurate and hope to put on a good review. The Trip Advisor app for hotels is I guess a little more honest then?
I would imagine, seeing as their is no risk to putting in an honest review…
Great points Dax. One thing you might not know is that AirBnb reviews are blind. I’m an AirBnb host, and while I’m notified that a guest has reviewed me, I cannot see the content of their review until I review them (nor they mine). Then both are made public once both people have posted a review or after 14 days (at which point you lose the option to review them if you haven’t already). I agree that reviews on AirBnb are less critical in nature than on TripAdvisor. I think this is because people develop a relationship with their host and tend to focus on the positives whereas it’s easier to be overly blunt and critical when reviewing an impersonal hotel. This system does not always help future hosts or guests except to avoid truly bad experiences such as rowdy, disrespectful guests or extremely sub-par accommodation.
Thanks Kristin, that’s good that one has to review without seeing the other person’s review first. But as you say, they are still not quite as helpful as they could or should be.
We toured Italy and albania using only airbnb and we had a wonderful experience with all of them. We were very careful and only chose places with a minimum of 3 reviews which we perused carefully. We definitely had a much better experience for less cost than we would have at a hotel. There was quite a bit of variation in what was provided but as a couple traveling with a 1 year old it was so much better to have settled catering accommodation to ourselves. I wouldn’t travel any other way.
A very balanced review. I am not too familiar with air bnb so your article was very helpful
Thanks, I’m glad you found the article helpful. I wouldn’t call it balanced though, as I only really looked at the negatives…
Discrimination was my number 1 disadvantage, now #AirBnBwhileBlack has become a thing. Read more about it here > http://www.huffingtonpost.com/victoria-yore/an-interracial-couple-airbnbwhileblack_b_9858468.html
AirBnB has apparently been taking this discrimination thing very seriously. Appended below is an email they sent out in this regard. I suppose it’s a start but do they really expect people to check their own prejudices?
The Airbnb Community Commitment
Earlier this year, we launched a comprehensive effort to fight bias and discrimination in the Airbnb community. As a result of this effort, we’re asking everyone to agree to a Community Commitment beginning November 1, 2016. Agreeing to this commitment will affect your use of Airbnb, so we wanted to give you a heads up about it.
–What is the Community Commitment?
You commit to treat everyone—regardless of race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation or age—with respect, and without judgment or bias.
–How do I accept the commitment?
On or after November 1, we’ll show you the commitment when you log in to or open the Airbnb website, mobile or tablet app and we’ll automatically ask you to accept.
–What if I decline the commitment?
If you decline the commitment, you won’t be able to host or book using Airbnb, and you have the option to cancel your account. Once your account is canceled, future booked trips will be canceled. You will still be able to browse Airbnb but you won’t be able to book any reservations or host any guests.