Fancy renting a private apartment in the heart of a foreign city? You must be joking; we students could never afford that, right?! Wrong. Accommodation phenomenon Airbnb has taken off, and it’s revolutionising travel virtually wherever your plane lands.
For those of you who have somehow bypassed the hype during the past few months, here’s a summary: cheaper than a bed and breakfast or hotel, but more than a hostel, Airbnb is a web-based social accommodation service where hosts advertise their spaces for tourists to rent. Basically, someone can rent their spare bedroom, apartment, or entire house to tourists – and it’s cheaper than you’d expect. More often than not, the hosts simply want to make a bit of money from their unused space; and prices as high as hotels just wouldn’t attract customers. Suddenly, that villa in Spain you’ve lusted after taking your lover to in the summer holidays is a genuine possibility.
Sounding too good to be true? It’s not a scam; the site is regulated so that fraudulent traps are hard to fall into. From verifying hosts to making your booking and even processing the payment securely, the Airbnb team make sure that your experience is as smooth as you feel when you turn up to your modern studio in the centre of the city. True, experiences can vary, but that’s the case with hotels too. The double en suite room I stayed in in Prague for a weekend last summer wasn’t exactly lavish – but it was vastly cheaper than the nearby hotels. By contrast, the apartment my friends and I rented in Copenhagen was quirky and top quality! Ultimately, this isn’t the crux of what Airbnb is about anyway… it’s about the people.
“Airbnb is a step classier than couch-surfing, but with similar social aspects”
It sounds cliché, but living like a local really is the best way to experience a new place. The rustic restaurants, the hidden bars, the transport tips, and most importantly: the conversation. By staying with someone who really knows the city, not only can you make some new friends but you can find out the top insider secrets. Airbnb is a step classier than couch-surfing, but with similar social aspects. Hosting can also be a rewarding experience, giving you the opportunity to make friends, conversation, and a bit of cash! Obviously if you’re renting an entire apartment or house then you likely won’t actually encounter your host, but the freedom your own space gives you beats any hostel curfew.
It’ll be interesting to see how the phenomenon fares over the coming years. Questions about tax, demand, and potential decline of regular bed and breakfasts have already cropped up. But for now, the travellers’ tool-come-social movement is making cheap, rewarding and previously impossible holiday options available to everybody – so keep it in mind when planning your next student getaway!
Image: Bob Doran via Flickr