Is Airbnb a reliable option for overseas travel?

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Our European Christmas holiday was the first time we booked Airbnb across all locations (Munich, Salzburg, Vienna, and Prague) and we are pleased we did. The main two reasons for booking Airbnb were the price and home conveniences (cooking facilities and washing machine).

In this blog, we will discuss whether Airbnb is a reliable option for overseas travel based on affordability, reliability, what is and isn’t included and the overall experience.

Affordability and value for money

Travelling during the festive season is quite expensive in Europe and although we were booking 10 months in advance, most traditional and boutique hotels were on average $250AUD – $300AUD+ a night to be in central locations. Hoteliers yield their rates in advance over peak periods to capitalise on high occupancy.

Paying high prices was not feasible, so we decided to investigate Airbnb options and were pleasantly surprised that not only were they of a high standard, but they were also in prime locations and a fraction of the price (thanks to booking in advance) with quality amenities, including cooking facilities and a lot of space.

The other bonus is the ability to self-cater which is a lifesaver. For us, there are only so many restaurant meals you can eat over the course of 3.5 weeks, so we purchased our own food from the supermarket for breakfast, along with some lunches and of course snacks; we even cooked dinner one night. Not only is the ability to self-cater very convenient, but it also saves you money along the way.

We made sure the apartments we booked all had a washing machine, which was also a lifesaver; it meant no expensive hotel dry cleaning services or using public laundry mats. This also allowed us to travel just with carry-on luggage so we could wash and wear at each stop.

Reliability of hosts

We had a mixture of hosts and housekeepers greet us personally and also self-check-in via a lock box. Each host was very responsive via the Airbnb mobile app, greeting us and offering assistance with any questions we may have about the apartment or even things to do in the local area.

One host went to the effort of writing us a list of all the local restaurants, local attractions, and points of convenience. She even had daily breakfast included with a neighbouring cafe. Another host provided chocolates on our pillows and cookies in the kitchen.

We did have one host cancel our accommodation unexpectedly before we left for our holiday which was disappointing, however, Airbnb was very quick to refund our money, provided a voucher of $150AUD to use towards new accommodation, and also assistance to find somewhere else to stay. We had no trouble rebooking another Airbnb, but given it was much closer to the travel date the price was double.

The Airbnb difference

If you do choose to book Airbnb and you have not used this service before, it is important to understand they are not hotels. They are privately owned houses or apartments that people list for holiday rentals. You may get the entire accommodation for use or you may get a single room; these are things you need to read in the listing before booking.

What you won’t get

  • Daily housekeeping
  • 24-hour reception
  • Mini-bar
  • Onsite restaurants or bars
  • Onsite security
  • Tour desk
  • Concierge
  • Spa/sauna/gym
  • Room service

What you can expect

Airbnb hosts provide 5 essential amenities: toilet paper, soap, linen, a towel per guest and a pillow per guest.

  • No interruptions from hotel staff/housekeeping
  • Local recommendations from your host (if requested)
  • Basic amenities

What to check

Depending on your own requirements will determine what you are looking for in an Airbnb. They are all different, so it is important you read through the features of the listing so there is no disappointment on arrival. Don’t just assume it will have everything you need.

  • TV – not all listings have a TV, but do you really need one if you are out every day?
  • Kitchen – those that have kitchens will provide cookware, glassware, utensils etc.
  • Washing machine/dryer – not all accommodations will have this and some might just have a washing machine and not a dryer. Some may have both.
  • Hairdryer – most have this amenity, however not guaranteed.
  • Bathroom amenities will vary from one to another. At a minimum, you will have soap and toilet paper.
  • Wi-Fi – always good to double-check as we rely on this, especially when travelling internationally.

How to book?

The Airbnb mobile app and website are easy to navigate.

Simply create a profile if you don’t already have one and use the search function like you would any other accommodation site. Your profile will allow you to store your credit card to make automatic payments on your bookings. Most will allow you to make a deposit and then final payment closer to the date of check-in. Many also provide flexible cancellations. You can easily create wishlists of places that you like the look of and save them by location. Each listing will provide you with photos, reviews, and information on its location so you can make an informed choice before booking. You can also easily see availability before you book.

All your bookings are stored under ‘trips’ which makes it easy to find on your travels. From here you can communicate with your host, get directions and how to check in, Wifi details, and the ability to change your booking or cancel if required. It is very user-friendly. There is no waiting on the phone to make enquiries or long wait times for email responses.

Our overall experience

Based on our Airbnb selections 3 out of 4 of our Airbnb exceeded our expectations. They provided over and above the minimum requirement of an Airbnb host with some offering additional towels, complimentary sparkling water, chocolates, cookies, shower gel, moisturiser, shampoo, full-size hair-dryer and heated towel racks. 2 out of the 4 looked newly renovated with stylish high-end furnishings and fixtures. 2 out of the 4 had bedding that was more comfortable and plush than some of our 5-star hotel experiences. 3 out of the 4 hosts were very quick in their responses to our questions, often responding within the hour. 1 host even met us personally and showed us through the apartment and where everything was. The locations of all 4 were central to everything we needed, so we never needed to get a train, bus or tram unless to explore the immediate area. For those that required self-check-in, the instructions provided were easy to follow.

Airbnb is certainly an affordable and comfortable accommodation option for confident independent travellers and also for families who need more space. We would certainly use this service again on future holidays.