I discovered Airbnb a few years ago and since then it has come in handy on quite a few trips I've made abroad. The idea is that anyone around the world can open up their homes for people to stay in, for a fee. You can either stay in one room or a whole house, and browsing the places on offer is pretty addictive! Airbnb can be a good alternative to staying in samey hotels, and often works out lots cheaper than other options if you are on a budget. Another bonus of staying in an apartment rather than a hotel is the fact you can do your own cooking there if you choose to, saving money on breakfasts and lunches. But sometimes it can be hard to know whether the place you are staying in matches up to the description or not.
The first trip I did using Airbnb was to stay in an apartment in Montmartre, Paris. We stayed in the apartment above, which was really beautiful, but what we didn't realise when booking was that the owner was on a work trip during our stay and her Dad would be there to look after the flat in her absence. He was very welcoming and friendly, but spoke only French, and as Tom and I lack the required skills in this language it was quite tricky to communicate. He also tended to walk around topless which I found a bit disconcerting! So we often felt a little awkward staying in the flat, and next time vowed to stay somewhere where we had full reign of the place instead of just one room.
Our second Airbnb excursion was to Apartment Ziggy in Dubrovnik. Yes, it was the name that grabbed us! Each apartment was themed to a different rock star, so of course we chose the Bowie one. The flat was really nice and had an a-may-zing view of the city and sea from its balcony (you can read more about our trip in this travel zine.) Plus the owner of the building, Zlatan was very friendly and interesting to talk to which was a bonus.
More recently we took a short trip to Berlin for Tom's birthday in June and I found a cheap apartment in Kreuzberg to stay in. It was actually my second choice as the owner of the previous apartment cancelled a few weeks before our stay (beware of this!) so I had to quickly find an alternative. The flat looked small but pretty so I thought it would be fine for a few days away. When we arrived though, the owner was quite flippant about the fact that 'the bathroom's a bit shit' and we found that the bed seemed to be partly broken too. As there was no ventilation in the tiny bathroom it had a really bad smell which had made all the towels smell too, not very nice!
So you never really know what you're getting with Airbnb but that definitely hasn't put me off going with them again. Tom and I have just booked ourselves a couple of nights in a little caravan in the woods in Yorkshire in a few weeks time which I'm excited about. Have you ever taken an Airbnb trip that was better or worse than expected?