Sleeping Around (Our Experience with Airbnb)

In our seven months of travel, 90% of our accommodation has been booked through Airbnb. For those of you who don’t know about Airbnb, it is an online system where host families can rent out a spare bedroom in their home, or their entire home or apartment while they are away. In total, we have stayed in 40 Airbnb homes in 34 different cities.

We love Airbnb. For the most part, it has been easy to find accommodation within our budget and we find that the cost for a bedroom on Airbnb is almost always cheaper than two beds in a hostel. We tend to stay in spare bedrooms in family homes for anywhere between $10 – $35 a night. Airbnb’s site has pictures and a description of the place and neighborhood, a message from your host, and reviews from previous guests. All of this information helps ensure that the place you choose is a good fit.

Honestly, I don’t know if we would have been able to last this long on this adventure if it wasn’t for Airbnb — not only due to the major financial savings, but also because its helps to curb homesickness when you are constantly being welcomed into people’s homes. We have met some amazing hosts and been welcomed into some wonderful families, which is my favorite part. We get a rare opportunity to live and interact with local families, which usually means a more enriching experience for us.

Here are some of our favorite stays:

  • In Chiang Mai, Thailand, we stayed in the spare bedroom with a wonderful family – a couple and their elderly parents. The 80-year-old mother did not speak English, but we communicated through sign language, smiles, and kind offerings of treats. She’d see me writing alone on the porch and she’d come over and slip me a sliced local fruit to enjoy. Several times I caught her giving homemade sweets to Christopher as we walked out the door. Our host took us to a local, hard-to-reach temple at sunrise, one that he had worshipped at as a child. Not a tourist in site, we listened to the monks performing their chanting and rituals as they prepared for the day. It was so special.
  • In Stone Town, Zanzibar, it was dark when we arrived and we weren’t sure about heading out into the maze of streets after dark. Our host insisted on taking us to the local night market and giving us a tour of the neighborhood. He said that he is proud of his town and loves showing it off, so we got the full tour and enjoyed a delicious dinner among locals.
Forodhani Gardens Night Market
  • In Cape Town, South Africa, our home was in Bo-Kaap, which we learned after checking in was a top tourist sight due to the colorfully painted houses and cultural significance. Loads of tour buses would be dropped off right in front of our house and the tourists would take pictures of our home, all while we were sitting inside drinking our coffee. It was very entertaining.

  • In Ubud, Bali, Indonesia, we stayed in a home in a traditional homestay, which is sort of like a compound where an entire extended family lives. Each individual family has their own small home and the entire family shares the communal spaces. It was so interesting to be a part of the comings and goings and observe how the entire family got on together.

  • In Mtunzini, South Africa, we rented a cottage on a working farm and had three dogs that followed us everywhere we went. We took walks with them through the sugar cane fields at sunset, laid with them in the sunshine, and laughed every time they “protected” us from the local monkeys.

  • In Nice, France, we got to stay in our first tiny house. It was like one of those model studios you see in Ikea, where they show you how efficient they can make your closet-sized home. I found it incredibly amusing, all of the organization and efficiencies – “optimized” is what our host called it. Also, something about climbing a ladder to get in bed brings back good childhood memories. Christopher, not so much.
Tiny home!

Since I know you are wondering, yes, we have had a few bad experiences. We stayed in a frat house once, had a host totally forget we were coming, and also stayed with an avid (and uncomfortably so) conspiracy theorist. For the times where we needed to find new accommodation in a pinch, Airbnb was incredibly helpful in finding us new homes. It is that piece of mind, along with all of the overwhelmingly positive experiences that we’ve had, that keeps us using them.

A chocolate cake baked by our wonderful host in Chiang Mai.

If you are thinking about using Airbnb for the first time, please let us know. We have some tips that help us choose the places that we do, and we’d be happy to pass those along. Hey, maybe we’ll even make that a future blog post!

Love from an Airbnb in Italy,
Cathleen & Christopher

P.S. This is by no means an ad, promotion, or paid endorsement (I wish) for Airbnb, just our honest feedback in hopes that it will help fellow travellers stretch their dollar and get farther in their travels. In the event that you are not already signed up for Airbnb and are interested, please use my referral link so you we both receive a travel credit. Last time I checked it was $35 for each of us (it’s always changing, so don’t quote me on that). Here’s the link: www.airbnb.com/c/cathleenm363

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