My first experience with Airbnb

If you travel somewhere you have never been, wouldn’t it be nice to stay with local people as opposed to an isolated and sterile hotel experience? Go where the locals go and see the place with their eyes? And even pay less than staying at a hotel? Meet Airbnb.

In a nutshell, Airbnb gives people the opportunity to either rent out some sort of ‘space’ they have available (from a couch to a villa to a freakin’ castle) for a particular amount of time for a set price a night. Booking and payment is processed through the Airbnb website, where the company keeps a certain percentage of the total amount as revenue. After the stay, both the host as well as the guest are encouraged to leave a review of each others experience during the duration of the stay. Through this ‘credibility’ rating, subsequent hosts and guests can see how the experience with that particular user went for other people.

I had heard about Airbnb a couple of months ago through a NYT article and immediately thought: “Man, this is a great idea”. Not so much because of the fact that it gives me the opportunity to stay somewhere much cheaper compared to staying at a hotel, but also because of it’s social aspect. More than any other service out there, I feel that Airbnb caters towards the idea that people are inherently good and want to offer whatever space they have available to others—and, of course, to meet new people. This is, of course, not true for everyone, some probably see it as ‘just’ another way of renting some sort of property and, in the end, make money. But certainly the people that I decided to stay with for my trip to Houston, Texas are not in it for the money. They are in it for the people.

In the heart of Texas

I had never been to Texas, so I decided that I wanna go some time in spring, just to avoid the unbearable summer heat. I picked Houston as my destination, because I had heard some good things from friends who had recently visited. I booked my flights for an extended weekend at the beginning of April, and the tickets amounted to 480 dollars already.

Since I was not interested in spending too much on my trip, I decided to check out Airbnb. After entering my travel dates, Arturo and Adrianna popped up as the first item in the recommended search results. They had a spare room to offer, with a private bathroom, for 35 dollars a night, as well as a bunch of glamorous reviews from other people who had previously stayed with them. From the description, the seemed like a genuinely nice couple, doing everything to make your stay as pleasant as possible. Exactly what I was looking for.

The booking experience was very smooth and straight forward. Immediately afterwards I got contacted by my hosts, giving me some suggestions as to what there is to do in Houston, which I found really nice and helpful. Airbnb itself provides you with the option to print out a ‘summary’ of your arrangements, together with contact numbers and the address of the host you are staying with. And if something goes horribly wrong, Airbnb has a contact email and phone number you can use as a last resort.

NASA, Astros and local food

Immediately after arrival I felt very welcomed in Arturo and Adrianna’s house, with their room providing more than enough space for one person. Based on their recommendations, I went to take the Level 9 Tour at the Houston Space Center on Friday, they took me out to dinner twice (which was really great) and I even got invited to come along to a game of the Houston Astros. How nice is that? I was overwhelmed by so much kindness and hospitality.

I returned back to California Sunday night and reflecting on my stay, I could not have picked a better place for my first Airbnb experience. In all honesty, I was a little concerned at the beginning and did not really know what to expect, but it turns out that this was unjustified. It will actually be hard to top that experience on any future bookings it might do through this service.

I have done a few trips in the past where I had stayed at hotels (which, in a way are all the same) and (mostly) went to the usual touristy spots. But with Airbnb, you got the unique opportunity to see the place from a truly local perspective, which I find makes the travel experience much richer, more interesting and fulfilling. Especially if you happen to stay with such great people like Arturo and Adrianna.

“Airbnb – travel like a human”. They did not pick that tagline by chance.

15 Comments on “My first experience with Airbnb

  1. I booked a room in LA for a month. It turned out to be really dirty with a very weird host. I decided that I really couldn’t stay and found a hotel. Despite Air Bnb saying that they hold onto your money for 24 hrs after you arrive to ensure everything is okay they told me that the money had been passed on to the host. I informed them of the problem within hours of leaving the place but it seems I’m unlikely to get any of my $1300 refunded. It is no safer using this company than testing your luck with Craig’s list, they do nothing for the percentage that they charge. Check out their terms of use, basically they just provide the website and anything that goes wrong is not their problem.

  2. Nice Grounds and amenities.

    EXCEPT: Showers, Steam Room, Walls, Sauna in the Men’s Locker Room had an unacceptable amount of mold and mildew.
    The apartment host offered 1 set of towels per guest and they were barely off the store rack, smelled like chemicals, and were of poor quality. The shower had a terrible shower head and had a piece of masking tape, all of her personal products were out; all the way down to her razor, and had not been cleaned. Dishwasher was full of dirty dishes, and the refrigerator had so much stuff inside it that we were not able to use it except for storing soda. The Entire unit needed cleaning., and the barbecue grill was not used as our sanitary standards would not allow us to even open the lid. Junk stored on patio, broken fan, etc.
    I cancelled a reservation at a hotel (which was less money including breakfast!) in Irvine and totally regret that I did in favor of this rental.

  3. Avoid AirBnb at all costs. We booked a room with them and had to cancel almost a month before the trip. They refused to refund 50% of our money. They required 100% of the trip cost to be paid at booking. They say the host refused to refund the money, however, AirBnb said they hold onto the money until you actually occupy the unit. They are in complete control of the money and can do as they please.
    Don’t take a chance with such a sleezy company.

  4. @doonberry

    Hm, so did u book this room with a host who advertised it with a “super strict” cancellation policy according to Airbnb’s Cancellation Policies? If that is the case, then I don’t see how it is the companies fault that you only got 50% of your money back.

    With regards to the other comments, I feel that using a little caution and common sense gets you a long way: If a place does not have positive (or even any) reviews, don’t book it (even if it is dirt cheap). You might get the quality you pay for.

    If the cancellation policy is not to your liking, just go with a different place.

    Airbnb got a lot of bad press lately and while I agree that they could have handled that particular incident in SF better, I still believe in their model and system. I have used it twice so far and had great experiences.

  5. AVOID ARBNB! Terrible service, no protection whatsoever for the guest. I had to learn this the hard way after losing 2539 USD having to move out of a horrible property in NY after staying for only 1 night. AIRBNB provided NO protection or answer whatsoever.

  6. I had my first experience with AIRBNB last month in NY and it was a terrible one. Ended up staying only one night (after paying for a full week) at the property with my wife and my 2 year old son. In summary, I lost my 2.500 USD payment, the property was in very bad shape (dirty, run down, falling apart), the host made false promises to return the funds I had payed (that’s why I left the property in the first place) and there was nothing AIRBNB did to help or cover the charges. AIRBNB did not even let me review the place after I had cancelled.
    I would strongly suggest anyone looking to rent an apartment with AIRBNB to look somewhere else or to stay at a Hotel (do not expect to have any security based on reviews). Do not expect any guarantees from this company or from the clients using this service to promote their properties.
    Here is a link to the property I stayed at (notice all the good reviews, no wonder, AIRBNB does not let the bad reviews go through although stated otherwise in their policy’s):

  7. Oh how I wish I could have read all this before booking with Airbnb. We just got robbed of $500 for leaving the place we had booked because it was appalling. I called Airbnb right away explaining the situation and they said sure, you don’t have to stay there, we’ll refund the money. I sent them pictures and an accurate description of what happened and their response was basically “suck it”. They have the last word in every dispute and, from what I have read online, they never refund any money to anyone. And now it looks like I can’t even leave a review to warn other people from having the same problem we had. They are extremely polite in their correspondence just to sweeten the pill but be aware that, no matter how bad your host, or how deceiving the pictures they just do not care and pocket the money without even considering a 50% refund to make things a bit more fair. No matter what, they do not issue refunds, even after you prove that the pictures and the description provided did not match what you actually found when you got there. The place we booked did not look like a 5 star hotel from the pictures but we definitely did not expect to be put in a closet that was barely as big as the twin mattress in it, and all this for 100 euros per night. I looked at a lot of profiles and since almost all were booked for New Year’s we ended up here, at the time of booking there were no negative reviews but, in the 3 months coming up to our stay, a lot of reviews were not so positive. However after dealing with customer service I tried to post mine and could not. I did not have the option to do that. So, from many other reviews I read online, it looks like they intentionally hide negative reviews so people don’t really have the chance to make an informed decision. Also, unlike other sites that have regional managers checking the properties, no one from Airbnb has ever visited or inspected any of the properties advertised, they just “assume and hope” that they are accurate. The other smart thing they do is that they charge you for the full amount upfront, so you really have no chance to recall the transaction if everything goes wrong like it did in our case. We lost $500, and I am sorry for those people who lost a lot more than that. I’m considering filing an official complaint with the Tourism Beaurau in the Netherlands. I might not get my money back but I hope that people can get the whole picture before booking.

  8. Pingback: Why we use Airbnb | Moving.

  9. I’m having an issue too, the host changed the price on me last minute. Airbnb did not send or give me notice in writing for the payment. I talked briefly to the support guy who thought I wanted to go ahead with the payment. I was charged anyway for $6000 and don’t see how I would get it back. I haven’t even stayed in the place. Host went weird even before I stayed. Talking to support, they told me to cancel the transaction, so they can deal with it. Canceling meant that the host would get money for nothing. I had to agree or the ‘system’ would continue to charge me the next month if I didn’t. Now all seems lost. I am thinking of lawyers and attorneys right now.

  10. I just recently I had a nightmare with Airbnb. I booked an apt. for my wedding and after 1 day of my confirmations and payment (still 8 weeks away from the move in) they changed the description. That is breach of contract. They said they would have a certain number of beds and rooms and that was not true. But airbnb acted like they would take action about it. In 2 days they came back and said sorry we are just a third party and there is nothing we can do. The owners have a strict cancellation policy and I have lost $3200. I am filing a law suit and have the email thread showing the changes they made and said after my payment. This should not be allowed!

  11. The host isn’t always the problem! As an Airbnb host, I had two guests who had a 3 day reservation – stayed 1 night, coming and going to my home at least 2 times. Then got lost on the second night (with a GPS and my correct address) but did not have enough common sense to stop and ask for directions. They then tried to make me feel awful for not answering my phone after 9 pm – saying I should have been on call at that time. They do not know my schedule and should not have put their ideals on me. Staying in my home does not make me your 24/7 assistant. Even if I did know they were calling there was nothing I could have done because I am not telepathic and have not clue where they were lost. In short I offered a refund and said they could stay the final night. They refused to stay and left. Then proceeded to text me for the next two days with questions (why didn’t you give us a check or money when we left, how do we get our refund, will we be charged, etc.) Guests need to take responsibilty for their own decisions. Read the Airbnb rules before booking or hosting. After being civil for 2 days I finaly referred them to Airbnb for any additional questions (sorry, Airbnb)! Some people are always a vicitim and do not think outside of their own world. Airbnb is not for this type of person. It is for an adventurous person who is open to exploring the world and being able to laugh at a few obstacles along the way.

  12. NEVER USE AIRBNB!!! They take the WHOLE AMOUNT for your stay off your credit card, just to ‘ask’ if the property is available!! Both of my requests were declined, yet I am still waiting (3-4 days later!!) for my card to be credited!!!

    I WISH I SAW THIS PAGE before I used it! I am kicking myself for not doing online research…. how stupid am I!?

  13. They take the full amount for my stay off my credit card, just to ‘ask’ if the property is available!! Both of my requests were declined as well, yet I am still waiting 8 days for my refund, they screwed my plans. NEVER USE AIRBNB.

  14. Oh how I wish we saw this page before. We booked an apartment in London, UK in June 2014. The pictures looked nice, but boy o boy they were photo-shopped. Other than the location nothing else was true to the ad. The place was tiny, dingy, very poorly lit and dirty. On top of that there was no hot water. We informed the host and AirBnB immediately, and the host did not even get back to us. We left and luckily found a hotel to stay in. We are still trying to get our money back, and it is not looking good.

  15. Hey shar. Cam you give me more details on your incident? Same is happening to me…

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