Airbnb had been on my radar about a year before I decided to be brave and book. For those not in the know, it’s a site which essentially acts as a middleman between hosts who want to share their home, and guests who want to stay in something other than a hotel. It works because travellers get to see a different area to cities they want to visit. While most hotels are in tourist areas and are pretty much set the a standard template of bed, loo, desk and telly, an Airbnb place could be a couch in a flat in Camden, a treehouse in Costa Rica or a beach bungalow on Bora Bora.
Basically, wherever there’s someone willing to share their house, there’s a place to stay.
So, David and I had free first class tickets to anywhere on Virgin’s rail network. Given as how we didn’t get the chance to actually spend any time in Edinburgh last time, because rail delays, we chose to go back and have a little Edinburgh Adventure.
After days scouring Airbnb for a suitable place, we stumbled upon Liz’s apartment. Although listed as a private room, the flat is actually self contained. After to-ing and fro-ing about it, we decided to book.
How we booked our first Airbnb stay
We liked the amenities on offer. Liz seemed like an experienced hosts, and with reviews from dozens of other guests stating how lovely she was, how there were little touches added to make the stay complete, we had full confidence in her. We also checked it was in a good area – remembering we’re staying in someone’s neighbourhood, not on a high street. It seemed safe, and really convenient, literally just opposite the Glasshouse, so before booking we messaged Liz with a few questions.
Hosts are just as picky about their guests, and can refuse an offer of a stay if you’re not verified, or if your reviews are lacking. Fortunately, Liz was quick to reply and helped us out with a few questions, so we booked.
We paid, including Airbnb’s service charge (it’s like their finder’s fee) and waited the few months for the weekend to arrive.
On the day, we had a few issues with trains, as usual, but with Liz being such a good host she was totally relaxed about the entire ordeal. We arrived just about on time, and as we had Liz’s number we gave her a call to arrange key collection. It was odd thinking we had to book in a time to get our key – there ain’t no 24 reception with these guys – but after collecting hte key and being shown around, she left us to it.
We had a great stay, the apartment had everything we needed, even a hot water bottle and paracetamol in case we’d had one too many hot apple toddies.
When we left, we just gave Liz a text to ask when check out would be good for her. As she was at work and there was no one booked in to stay after, we could stay as long as we wanted. This was great news as we had a few things we wanted to do during the day, so it meant a leisurely morning, and leaving luggage back at the flat while we spent our last day jogging around the city.
Check out was as simple as posting our key through the letterbox. It was great, and will be how we travel from now on.
Dinner with Airbnb in Shoreditch
Coincidentally, a week before our trip I was invited to an Airbnb blogger’s evening in Shoreditch to meet a few hosts and a few guests – perfect timing! The space the event was held is actually an Airbnb listing (of course) and stays start at a cool £290 per night.
Oh how I could only dream of living in such an amazing place, but that wasn’t the point of the evening. We had a gorgeous meal created by an Airbnb host who’s managed to start her own catering business thanks to the income she makes by renting out her room.
One super host, Tessa, has been renting her front room in Camden for around a year. Before the evening started we were chatting about the concept and why she started. After a colourful life in the circus as a trapeze artist (!) she was diagnosed with ME. Of course, the illness was debilitating, however she found being a burden on society worse. Used to earning her own way in life, she was now forced to rely on others.
So, on a whim, she decided to offer her couch for people who needed a place to stay. Now, she’s earning enough money to support herself, and has amassed a wealth of friends from other countries, some of whom she thinks of as her extended family.
Clement, who was sat on my table, now works for Airbnb after being a host for a few years. Originally from France, he now lives in Dublin. I asked what he thought, being one of the first people to allow, quite literally, strangers into his own home. He said he trusted Airbnb and his visitors from the off as he’d been travelling his whole life. He was used to meeting people from different countries and cultures, and enjoyed that over the destination in some cases.
Once he started hosting, he never looked back. He talked about the diverse group of people, each with a different story to tell he’s managed to meet, from well-known fashion bloggers to his parents’ friends. Like Tessa, he loves making connections with people and building friendships.
But while that’s all good, I wanted to know about the security aspect. Airbnb has a rating system for both guests and hosts, as I said above. The thing that works, he thinks, is the community. Hosts have each other to ask for advice on the best bedding, iron-free sheets, what cereals to leave, and things guests take for granted. They also vet who stays with them, just as the 26 million guests do.
So, it looks like it’s just as an experience for us, as it would be for someone like Liz. I’ve loved seeing first-hand how it all works behind the scenes, and I’ve loved the fact it was such perfect timing to speak to hosts before our stay. And if Airbnb means I can possibly stay in places with this as a view, I’m sure there will be loads more to come.