This is a review of Airbnb.com by an Indian consumer who has travelled beyond India and stayed in Airbnb accommodations. I have had both great experiences and horrible experiences, which have now made me a wary user.
I have used AirBnb 3-4 times over the last couple of years, but never in India. Why not in India, you ask? Well, firstly, there are a lot of discounted deals available in India via Oyorooms.com, etc, that make hotels equally reasonable. Secondly, there is a safety and trust deficit — as a female traveller I’m not too comfortable in a strangers home. And thirdly, there’s an unwritten rule that Indian AirBnb hosts to not accept Indian guests. I’ve heard this from two separate hosts, who claim while they’ll consider Indian guests, they ‘prefer’ foreigners because of various reasons ranging from safety, civility, and so on. Of course, there are exceptions (and very happy Airbnb users from India). However, I have never used Airbnb in India, so I cannot comment on it.
What I like about Airbnb?
- Better deals than hotels: One of my favourite Airbnb experiences was in Osaka, where we got a lovely apartment in the center of town for half the price of similar hotels. The accommodation was immaculately clean and in a very posh apartment block.
- Convenience of an apartment, with amenities of a hotel: Airbnb is great for longer trips because you have amenties of an apartment like a washing machine and dryer, while being clean and well looked after like a hotel. In my experience, hosts of countries like Japan, UK, France, and so on do better in taking care of the apartments (clean linen, shampoo bottles, fresh towels), rather than countries like Turkey, where there is not a formal Airbnb support economy. In Turkey, the linen was horrible and we had several housekeeping issues.
- City center: You can stay in the city center for a reasonable amount. What a lovely situation!
- Giving owners to earn extra: I’m a big supporter of the shared economy. It’s great that a host with an extra room can open it up and earn a little bit extra. Sharing makes the world a better place!
- Unusual apartments and villas: My husband had a great experience in Phuket with a fabulous ocean-view villa.
What I dislike about Airbnb?
- Not always more reasonable than hotels: As Airbnb grows in popularity, more and more hosts are charging as much as hotels (and some are charging even more). This isn’t a good trend, in my opinion, because a lot of hosts do not have any training in hospitality. So the Airbnb user / guest is the one who suffers.
- Hotels joining Airbnb: Smaller hotels and B&Bs are joining Airbnb — riding on their popularity wave to get more clients. This is incorrect, in my opinion. My horrible Airbnb experience in Turkey (read here) occurred in a 8-bedroom hotel, which was pretending to be a private villa / house on Airbnb. Expectations weren’t matched, and hence our experience was a sheer disappointment.
- Incorrect listings: In our Turkey Airbnb accommodation, it mentioned washer and dryer in the apartment. This was factually incorrect. The washer / dryer was in a neighbouring apartment. There were a whole bunch of other issues
- Reliability issues: Our Dublin Airbnb experience taught us that Airbnb isn’t too reliable. Our host decided to move countries a few weeks before our travel date, and we were left in a lurch! If you book a hotel, the chances that it will move to another country are very low.
- Unreliable Airbnb Consumer Reviews: A backpacker may give a host a raving 5-star review, but that does not mean it will be a great experience for you. While some properties are good for one segment they may be an awful fit for another segment. It is hard to figure out this difference by simply looking at the listing and reviews.
- Breakfast: Most Airbnb accommodations do not provide breakfast. This is an added cost you have to be wary of.
- Untrained hosts: Airbnb is no longer something that amateurs do (lease out an empty room). It has become a professional business for several hosts — who have zero training in hospitality (read Turkey review here). You are neither here nor there, unlike a hotel or a certified B&B. My Turkey experience has made me very wary of staying in Airbnb accommodations in the future — I’d rather pay less and stay in a hotel with breakfast included!
- No humans: Unlike a hotel, where you can complain to the management, Airbnb is a mysterious entity, where it is near impossible to find a human to contact and complain to. Resolutions, if there is a conflict, occur between the host and the guest, and it appears that Airbnb does like to get involved until the last moment.
My Dublin Ireland Airbnb Experience
The first bad AirBNB experience was when I booked accommodation several months in advance for a stay in Dublin, Ireland. Everything was perfect and we were looking forward to our trip. And, about 3 weeks before travel, came the news from the host, that oh, sorry, I’m moving to Switzerland. Reservation cancelled. There were three things that made this a horrible experience:
- The host sweetly suggested an alternative accommodation, and even more sweetly asked me to cancel the reservation. This, I fortunately knew, would mean that I would have to pay the cancellation charges. I convinced her to cancel the reservation so all sorted.
- I paid via my Indian credit card at the current rate of exchange.However, by the time the money was returned to my account (due to currency fluctuations) I lost Rs 1500. That feels damn unfair.
- Bruce Springsteen was playing in Dublin that weekend and this meant that ALL hotels were booked. There was literally nothing in our budget. We had to double our budget and pay almost 300 euros for a shady airport hotel north of the city.
- Now my question is who should be paying for such mistakes? If I was at a regular hotel, I wouldn’t have to worry about the hotel shutting down and moving to Switzerland. Nor would I have to worry about cancellation fees that I may be required to pay if the hotel shuts down. Nor would I have to worry about less money being returned to my account. Overall, it feels that the end consumer is not very well protected in AirBnBs existing systems.
My Turkey Istanbul Airbnb Experience – A horror story!
My second horrible Airbnb experience occurred in Istanbul at Istanbul Villa”complete” Sea view, which also goes under the name of Galley Hotel – Istanbul. Overall it was a horrible experience, where the rooms were double booked by the hosts (partial refund given after much discussion), portions of the listing were factually incorrect, the A/C wasn’t working, and the hosts had zero training of hospitality and were generally unsupportive of our complaints. You can read the full review here: (Coming soon).
Overall Airbnb Review
While I loved Airbnb a couple years of ago, I feel that it has grown far too big of late. Prices are comparative to hotels in certain countries, and there is no accountability for hosts which makes the end-user suffer. The fact that it is not a certified hotel or Bed and Breakfast means that standards do not have to be maintained either.
Having said all that, if you do a thorough check of your host, other properties they have listed, reviews, it is still possible to find great places to stay.
If you agree or disagree, please feel free to write your Airbnb reviews from consumers below.
Airbnb Referral Code
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