When I saw my uncle and my cousin recently, they had stayed in the Netherlands using Airbnb. I'd heard of it, but hadn't really thought about using it for until I heard about their experience.
My business partner and I needed to go to the Netherlands (and some other places) ahead of an event we're running out there. So, I thought I'd look into the new fangled Airbnb thing.
You just hop on to their website (www.airbnb.co.uk) tell it how many are in your party and when and where you'd like to stay. Although it wasn't easy to find, you can also search on number of bedrooms, WiFi etc, too. Hey presto! You get a list of possible properties. If you click on the map, as you move, it'll ping up properties that follow you. It's really very cool. You can then view the properties online.
All properties are people's homes. There are boats, eco houses, apartments, houses... all kinds of places to stay. Some are whole properties and others are simply rooms in someone's house. All budgets are catered for.
I applied to rent a property in Antwerp (Belgium) for two nights. You apply for properties by telling the owner about yourself and your party. I know from one owner that they had a group of 'youths' stay who had caused some problems, so they now only allow family groups. I assume I didn't sound like someone who might wreck the place, and so our host agreed to let us stay. Hurrah!
You have to provide ID to Airbnb before you can apply for places, but this just involves either signing in using Faceache, LinkedIn or by sending them a pic of your passport or driving licence.
We emailed to make the arrangements and then I drove to his apartment. The international roaming on my phone decided to wander elsewhere, rendering my phone inoperable and so I couldn't contact the host to let him know we were there. But, he'd figured out that I had a problem when he tried my number and so he'd been watching the street to see if a car with British plates arrived. Bless him! He came and found us and all was well. Good lad :D
His apartment was AMAZING. It was beautifully clean and immaculately furnished. It was in a lovely part of the city within a 10 minute walk from the city centre, the station and the zoo (well worth a trip if ever you are in Antwerp). Our host had left us a box of biscuits, a bottle of wine and lots of mineral water and fruit. Really kind of him. Not something you'd ever get in a hotel on my budget!
So this was out base for two lovely days. It cost far less than two hotel rooms in a European city would have cost. In fact, the whole trip is costing just over £50/night - and that is for two-three rooms each night. Not bad eh?
I'm now typing this post from the second Airbnb stop on our journey. This time we are in a residential area of Utrecht in the Netherlands. Again, we have really friendly, helpful hosts and a great place to stay for far less than a hotel.
Two advantages of Airbnb, aside from the cost, is that your hosts can tell you all about the local amenities and sights, and you get to experience the area as a local rather than as a tourist in a faceless hotel. We've already made friends with the owners of the local cafe here in Utrecht who were really helpful to us when we first arrived.
After you leave a property, you get to review it, and the host... and they get to review you too :D
I have to say that I can highly recommend Airbnb and I might even look into hosting. Really looking forward to the next three stops on our trip.
I can also get my friends a £16 discount. Email me if you want the code.
Happy holidays, everyone!