Over the recent Easter break, my boyfriend and I flew down to Cape Town, South Africa.
There was no real reason for it; simply that we had been in small-town Dar es Salaam for quite a while, and we both felt that we deserved a break. With a long weekend on our side, and some willingness to fly by the seat of our pants, we decided to forgo the traditional route of booking a Bed-and-Breakfast or hotel, and instead opted to test out Air BNB for the first time.
I left the communications and bookings of accommodation to my boyfriend, who relished the price-comparison and mapping features, allowing us to select a location that was both in the centre of everything, as well as affordable for our 20-somethings budget. There was no shortage of places available, and given the popularity of the Easter weekend, it was significantly cheaper than any hotel option that we came across.
The ease and simplicity of Air BNB, along with the wonderful experience that we had with our host, left us with a significant case of the warm and fuzzies.
(Just a few of) The PERKS:
- Free to sign up; with no membership fee required, doing some investigation on rentals available was a breeze.
- Payment was straight forward: when you finally manage to select accommodation from the copious list of places inevitably available in your city of choice, you enter your credit card details, and the website requires verification of your credit card by taking a picture of it. That’s it!
- Communication: With Air BNB hosts keen to protect their customer rating and good recommendations, most hosts will respond to messages within a few hours maximum. Depending on if you are changing timezones or staying in the same one, you may find that they respond within a few minutes!
- Flexible: We arrived in Cape Town before the typical check in period that our host usually set, however he was more than happy to work with us and meet us when we did arrive. While a number of hotels do allow you to leave your luggage with them if you arrive before check in, I have found that many refuse you entry to your room until after the formal check in time, as housekeeping have to do a recon on the room.
- It feels like home. When we were in Cape Town, out host Andy was so incredibly warm and welcoming that to us it felt like we were just staying with an old friend. That feeling of comfort after a long day in a new city is priceless. Plus, being a local, he was able to give us tips and recommendations on the best local pubs, restaurants and attractions, but they were off the beaten tourist track. So we got to enjoy a whole new side of the city, without being lumped in with the rest of the tourists in town.
(The very few) PITFALLS:
- You have to have a credit card. Most hotels will accept cash, sometimes even cheque, but Air BNB seems to be a card-centered website. This is understandable of course; and provides the host with an element of security, especially if you cancel at the very last minute and cost them a booking from another customer.
- You rely on photos, and reviews from strangers. This isn’t necessarily a pitfall per se, but I know several people who prefer to have a personal recommendation on accommodation from a friend, or at least someone they know. Also, when you stay with hotel chains such as the Hilton, you know what to expect as there are international standards to be upheld. With Air BNB you are reliant on the testimonials posted on the website, and the quality of pictures posted.
- Air BNB hosts can set you up for unrealistic expectations. Okay, I admit, this ‘pitfall’ is a bit of a reach, but in our case it still applies. This was our first time using Air BNB, and we loved our host SO MUCH, that I fear we may be ruined for the website forever. That said, it is a wonderful networking tool, especially if you choose to rent a room off of someone, like we did, rather than a whole apartment/house.
So there you have it. A brief nugget of insight into Air BNB from a newbie. Of course, as soon as we saw the potential of Air BNB we began talking about renting out our spare room on the website for travellers and tourists. So if you’re planning on a trip to Tanzania any time soon, be sure to hit me up on Air BNB for some kick-ass accommodation!