I was dubious of Airbnb at first glance. So people just rent out their houses? Where do they go when you’re there? You pay upfront before you arrive so what if they’ve mis-sold it? What if the place doesn’t even exist and someone’s run off with your money? What’s the point when you can just stay in a hostel?
All totally relevant questions.
But when I decided on my Amsterdam trip, a long weekend with three of my favourites, I soon realised that most accommodation is expensive. Hostels in Europe aren’t the £3 a night hostels of Southeast Asia for starters, and because it was my boyf’s birthday weekend, I figured we should probably stay somewhere nice. But obvs on a budget because I’m not ballin’.
So I ventured onto Airbnb for a gander. Like an old lady looking at new technology, what’s all this about then?
The Airbnb booking process.
The first part of the search process was pretty standard to looking for a hotel or a hostel. You put in your dates and location and can sift through the results, filtering by your budget or zooming into a neighbourhood on the map for more localised results. Listings don’t just have photos and a description though, they have detailed reviews from people that have previously stayed there. And from what I can tell at this point, the reviews are a big deal on Airbnb and are what tend to sway you on choosing a place to stay.
I also noticed that fees varied on each house/flat. Some required pretty hefty security deposits before your stay – up to £300. Which is obvs not a budget option, especially for backpackers. But a lot of them don’t require any deposits at all. They just have a part of their listing that says they trust their visitors to look after their house, which I thought was quite cute.
On my Amsterdam trip, we opted for a chic loft apartment just West of Vondelpark. So not bang in the city centre but accessible, with a nice lounge we could take it easy in. This loft belonged to Ronald and Lotje and they had great reviews. And it was so cheap at just over £200 for 2 nights and 4 people. £25 a night each is cheaper than most hostels.
So anyway, the booking process. It’s a lot more in-depth than I thought. Once you’ve selected your dates and decided on your accommodation, it’s not yours just yet. The hosts need to decided whether or not they want you to stay. It is their house after all. So you have to send a message stating why you are visiting Amsterdam, who is going to be staying, a little about yourself, along with a photo. Fair enough I thought. No-one wants a a bunch of teenagers to stay in their flat and trash the place, right?
Surely that’s it? Nope, you’ve now got to provide a lot of identification. You need a fully completed profile, a copy of your passport and you have to sign in with your Facebook account. I guess these days your Facebook is just as good as a passport for your ID… But this makes sure you are who you say you are. And the hosts have to do the same to avoid any scammers.
A few hours later we received confirmation that we had got the loft as well as a message from Ronald and Lotje confirming our stay.
Overall, it’s a lengthy process but it’s not that complicated and it seems apt to have to go through security procedures before confirming your stay.
Arriving at the Airbnb loft in Amsterdam.
I admit I felt a bit awkward when we arrived at Ronald and Lotje’s place in Amsterdam. I’ve only even been on one Tinder date, but it felt exactly like that. When you’re kinda nervous and don’t know what to say in real life (Sidebar: I’m a terrible dater, I don’t know how I found a boyfriend). But Ronald and Lotje had offered us early check-in due to our flight times and had sent a friend round to let us in as they couldn’t be there at that time. And he was very welcoming, showing us around the loft, giving us tips on where to visit and then leaving us to it. He also gave us biscuits and a bottle of wine and told us to help ourselves to anything in the fridge! You don’t get that at a hotel.
The loft itself was awesome. Again like Tinder, I figured the hosts would’ve used the best possible angles and filters to make their place look as good as possible on their Airbnb listing, and I was worried it wouldn’t be as nice in real life. But it was quite the opposite. Vintage furniture, a hammock in the living room, a Mac computer we could use to research the places we were visiting in Amsterdam, a big kitchen and comfy beds, it was ideal. Did I mention the £25 a night thing? I know right.
Reviewing your Airbnb stay.
At the end of your stay you provide a review for your host which will go on their listing. But at the same time they have to review you. Future hosts need to know that you’re a good visitor after all. And the good thing is they won’t post either review until you’ve both completed it, so it’s fair and you get honest reviews from both sides. eBay could learn a thing or two from this if you ask me.
Needless to stay we gave Ronald and Lotje a fabulous review. Awesome house and awesome hosts.
So how does Airbnb compare to a hostel?
The main benefit or Airbnb on this trip was the fact that I could hang out with my friends. I mean I know you get common areas in hostels but it was nice to be able to get ready together before a night out, have full use of the kitchen and be able to play music in the living room without affecting anyone else. It really felt like we had our own house in Amsterdam, it was so homely and didn’t feel weird staying in someone else’s house at all. We could come and go as we pleased.
And when we had a long day of sightseeing in the city, we didn’t have to worry about getting ready to go out to dinner in a hurry. We could just chill out, cook dinner at the loft and head out to Amsterdam’s nightlife.
It was definitely more flexible than a hostel too. Our hosts allowed us a late check out so that we could recover from a night out in Amsterdam!
Overall, I think an Airbnb stay beats a hostel for something like this, a trip with a group of friends. It’s just perfect. If I was travelling solo, I think I’d still go for a hostel as it’s cheaper when you’re on your own and I like the social element. But our Amsterdam loft ticked all of the boxes on this weekend away and I would definitely consider Airbnb again for this kind of thing.
Have you used Airbnb in the past? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below or tweet me @HeelsInBackpack!