I used to love Airbnb, wherever I traveled to. It was a great way to “live there” and be a “local” quickly if not instantly, and the price was kind of great. Sometimes it’s so convenient that you can ask the maids of the homeowners to wash your clothes, with a reasonable amount of tipping. Sometimes, a truly great host would greet you at the door and take you to your room and explain all the stuff. These are some of the best experiences I’ve had with Airbnb.
Most of the time, though, it can be a harder time than a hotel or hostel, even.
The host was not there to greet you personally. It’s either it’s one of their properties and that they live in a different place, or they’re simply too busy with work. I find that the “meet & greet” factor a very important experience. It establishes trust.
I was in Singapore one time and called my host in front of the shophouse where we stayed in to open the door for me. When asked about whether I can meet him, he replied that he actually lived far from the place, and it’s just “one of our places in town.”
Then, the real disappointment only started when we discovered that the homestay is on the third floor of a Chinese-style shophouse, without lift installed. We had to climb up steep stairs up to the third floor with big luggages. We had a baby, so we had to bring big luggages. This was nowhere notified in their Airbnb profile or property page.
We are fine with smaller-than-beautiful-photo rooms, but the stairs? Come on.
On our stop at our Airbnb in Melbourne, we discovered that the check-in time was actually 4 hours away. It was our mistake to not read the instruction, but when asked whether we could store our luggage somewhere in the property, the host again confirmed that she didn’t live there. “It’s just one of our properties in town.” We were frantic about how to spend 4 hours in the park nearby with a tired baby in need of nappy changes and eating.
When we finally entered the property, we found it a bit dusty. The bed was a little broken and that we had to sleep with a bad posture. I ended up spending the week coughing and having a back pain after the stay (which was a sign of herniated disc, apparently, and in part because of the coughing, said the doctor).
There’s also one place we stayed back in Singapore where I was bitten by bed bugs every night. It was terrible.
One of the best places I’ve stayed at an Airbnb was in Penang, Malaysia — the host was absolutely present, the room was ultimately clean and taken care of, and although it was in the center of food paradise, no smell or rodents were detected. I wish every Airbnb place on earth is this curated.
If I were single, I might fuss less about this, but now I always travel with a wife and a toddler, true hospitality begins to matter more.
I used to think that experience outside the place we stay overnight matters more. Now, I think the one inside equally matters to the one outside.
Imagine having to check-in late at night and you don’t have someone to depend to. Imagine having anticipated a great holiday or business trip and you end up worrying about the details of the place you stay in. Imagine bringing a baby on a trip of a lifetime but it ends up being a nightmare of a lifetime.
Maybe Airbnb is not for families with young children. Maybe I didn’t have enough money to pay more for a better Airbnb. Whatever. I think it matters that for Airbnb hosts of all scales, one-star or five-star properties, to cater to their guests better, and on a very personal level. Ensure their safety, be clear and transparent in your description, and make sure it becomes a safe, healthy and memorable trip of their lifetime.