What were the places (Apartments / B&B) like?
The sizes and layouts varied considerably, as did the facilities. We managed to find Air BnB apartments (one was a B&B) in all the cities we visited, that were either easy to walk to or from, or had good public transport options nearby. In Zurich we were just over the road from a tram stop which made purchasing a 24hr tram/bus pass worthwhile, especially as it’s quite hilly and it was good to be able to jump on and off as we wanted.
You can also communicate with the host through the internal channel either before you commit, to ask about something that’s not clear, or after you’ve applied and been accepted.
One apartment we stayed was clean, beautiful, new and a perfect location. The only downside was that it didn’t have much in the way of kitchen things. Not a major drama, it just meant we had to have a small cup of coffee made in a saucepan. We were probably spoilt by the places that had a couple of types of coffee maker! If you think something is lacking, just mention it nicely in your private comments later.
Were the listings accurate?
All ours ‘homes’ were pretty close to what we expected, though we have heard of one friend who had to do some cleaning before she could use the place. Anecdotal evidence suggests that if you do your selection carefully, knowing your needs and choosing accordingly, you should be a good match with what you select.
In most cases, what we got was more than what we expected, especially in terms of kitchen facilities. However, they aren’t standard – some places had a microwave but no toaster, others an oven but no pans to cook things in. However, no big dramas – you’re on holiday or maybe a work assignment so cooking probably isn’t the main focus. All places did have sufficient plates, cups and cutlery for the number of people the place was offered for. One thing we did notice though, was that one particular Swedish chain was a popular source of many of the fittings and furnishings!
Not all places provide toiletries, although towels etc are provided. Also be aware that sometimes there is access mentioned to wasing machine/drier. This does not necessarily mean it is in the apartment. It may be a ‘pay for’ laundry in the same building or nearby. Check with the host if you want clarification.
Did we save money?
While a tiny apartment in Paris cost about two and a half times what we paid for the same length of time in a spacious place in Prague, it’s more appropriate to decide this question on how much it would cost us to stay in a hotel or hostel in each of the locations, within a short distance. In all cases we were well ahead.
Plus we had the advantage of being able to eat at our own table rather than in a restaurant if we chose to do so. Case in point: There were no hostels to be found near where we stayed in Paris but the Holiday Inn Notre Dame was just around the corner and the cheapest price we could find for four nights there was €820, more than double the €398 we paid for our cosy apartment. The apartment also had a washing machine, a BIG plus!
We found supermarkets and small markets were easy to find in all the places we stayed and there was generally an abundance of street food, of variable prices and types. Be warned though, if you’re looking for Halal food, you might not find it easy unless you want to live on kebabs, but the markets will widen your options.
Do your homework first. Know what you are looking for, Do you want /need a washing machine, lift/elevator, heating/airconditioning or wifi? Most places to have wifi, but some don’t. If everything else is great, you can send a message to the host through the internal system to ask if there are internet cafes or even public free internet nearby.
Make sure you check the photos supplied and match them against the reviews from other guests. If the listing is new, you will have to rely on the photos and a bit of ‘gut feeling’.
Make sure you write yourself a profile. Your potential host will be able to decide whether to accept you based on what you say and also on reviews you have received. Be honest and not long-winded.
Be a good guest. Leave the place clean and tidy and even if you can’t find the garbage disposal, bag your rubbish properly and leave it where the cleaner can get it easily. Make sure you take all your things with you. For your sake as well as that of your host. Seems obvious, but it’s easy to miss something.
Good to remember
You get to write a review. It doesn’t have to be lengthy but it helps others to make more informed choices. If there is something that wasn’t good, please be polite and you can also make a private comment to the host, as well as a private comment to Air BnB, which won’t be shared with either the host or the public. Helpful comments about the facilities and the local neighbourhood are very useful to others as are comments about parking / public transport, nearby markets or restaurants. However, please observe the important rule – don’t publicly identify the exact location of your stay as is noted on the review page. Similarly, if you are posting photos, please remove the location info first.
You get a review from your host as well. Good reviews will make it easier for you to get a place to stay the next time you book, because other hosts can check. So think of your place as your home and your host as a friend and treat them accordingly.
Would we do it again?
Definitely. We met our hosts in three of the places we stayed and they were all very welcoming. Communication with all the others was easy as well, using the internal messaging and we were able to make arrangements for collection and return of keys without much difficulty. One of our hosts even sat down and shared the locations of her favourite restaurants, we tried two, which were really a great way to try the local food, recommended by a local, at reasonable prices. She also pointed us in the direction of a craft market on Saturday morning which was a great place to buy gifts. Another host (at our B&B) was going to the local farmers / produce market the Saturday we were there and we went with him and bought some great local home-made delicacies for our lunch which we later ate in the park.
Three of our hosts left us little welcoming gifts – chocolates or local biscuits and one also left a couple of bottles of the local beer. Many also left basic supplies of tea and coffee. Do be a good guest and say thank you! We also took along some small gifts from home for each of our hosts. Little things that don’t take up too much of your luggage space but are a nice way of adding to your thank you.
And the best part? We met people who live there, we visited the places they shop and the places they like to eat. We walked the same streets and caught the public transport they use and we enjoyed it immensely.