I think it’s safe to say that I experienced two extremes!
Here’s what happened…
Trip 1 – London
While on a business trip for PiggyBee, I rented a room in London as my first Airbnb experience. The price was cheap, the place was lovely - located minutes away from the Google campus where I had to pitch my project - and Alejandro was a great host. Originally from Buenos Aires in Argentina, he now lives in London were he offers a very nice room to rent (which I can heartily recommend if you’re visiting). Also, as an expatriate away from his country, Alejandro joined PiggyBee as an active user! All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
Trip 2 - Portugal
Heartened by my first experience of Airbnb, I decided to try it again during a driving holiday around Portugal with my wife and child. We decided we would drive all around the county, heading from south to north, and started our holiday in Lagos, in the Algarve region of southern Portugal. We rented an apartment through booking.com, as we hadn’t found anything better on Airbnb or similar.
A few days later, we drove up to Lisbon and found the perfect apartment on Airbnb - right in the city center for an incredible price, with reviews that talked about the owner as a great and friendly host.
The reality didn’t quite live up to the billing. Firstly, the location was barely accessible by car and it proved a nightmare to drive in the tiny streets of the old city, dodging the odd tram as I went. Next, a lady welcomed us at the apartment, who although perfectly pleasant, didn’t speak English or French and seemed to be quite in a rush, giving us some quick instructions in sign language.
Where was our friendly, English-speaking host?
It went on - although the website pictures looked incredible, the apartment was actually on the ground floor with no view and the bedroom had no windows. As this was our first Airbnb family experience, we chose to look on the bright side – we were happy with the low price, were within walking distance of the main sights and, after all, would spend most of the time outdoors.
Then, as we unpacked, I found out the air conditioning system was broken. Pretty bad news in the middle of a Portuguese summer when you are in a confined space! We also noticed a distinct odor coming from the bathroom.
On the second day, things got worse – we were invaded by ants, which made it hard to consider staying there with a young child. We gave it one last chance and cleaned everything as best as we could, but the next day was the end of our adventure as the odor from the bathroom was spreading throughout the whole apartment. That was it - I grabbed my laptop and got back on booking.com. It took us one hour to leave this place and move to a nice and cozy hotel room, without added ants!
Our vacation continued by driving up to Porto, the country’s second-largest city, located along the Douro river estuary in northern Portugal.
We had found an Airbnb apartment in the old city and what a difference! Hugo was waiting for us at the door, even though we were a bit late. He warmly greeted us and invited us into the apartment, named ‘toc toc studio’, immediately giving some toys to our little one, who was delighted. He gave us a full tour of the apartment and all the amenities – fully-equipped kitchen, nice and light living room, great and clean sleeping area, books to read, satellite TV, working wifi with a tablet available for guest use, and perfect decorative taste.
After this, we were reconciled to Airbnb and our Lisbon experience became nothing more than a bad memory. Even better, the owner in Lisbon agreed to reimburse us for the canceled nights! Our holiday was fantastic and if you’re visiting Porto, we strongly advise you to meet Hugo and rent his great place.
So, that was Airbnb for me – but what about you?
How have you fared on Airbnb or other accommodation sites?
Please leave your comments - I’d love to hear from you!
Entrepreneur and worldwide traveler, David Vuylsteke is the founder and CEO of PiggyBee, a startup that connects people who want to move items across the world with travelers who can help.