Why you should start using Airbnb and our best tips for you

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No, this is not a sponsored post by Airbnb, but I do genuinely feel that we should all consider Airbnb when planning your holidays. Many Singaporeans are so lazy and afraid of unknowns, that we usually just prefer to stick to the tried-and-proven routes, which is such a waste.

Here are some of the reasons why I strongly suggest that you give Airbnb a shot when thinking about booking accommodations for your next holiday.

  1. You can get a much more comfortable and luxurious experience. The range of accommodations on Airbnb is extensive and varied. It is not difficult to find comfortable and cosy private apartments, resorts and even villas suitable for your needs. And most of these private homes have their own unique decor, style and facilities. You can get private jacuzzis, whole kitchen, entertainment room, pool table and many other comforts that you cannot get in hotels or at least not reserved entirely for you.
  2. Privacy. Most of the time on Airbnb, you will get the entire apartment or home to yourself. This means that you do not need to fight with the crowds and you have total privacy for you and your family. You have a living room, kitchen, bath, all to yourself and it can be pretty awesome to have a cosy home to call your own if only for a few days.
  3. You can get much better value for the price you are paying. Certainly, not all deals on Airbnb are great. But if you take the time to search and negotiate, you can quite possibly find a very comfortable place at a lesser price than what you would normally have to pay for a place that size. If you book a room in a resort or a hotel, you get one measly room with attached bath. For the same price, you could possibly get a 2 bedroom apartment with a living room and kitchen. And this is even more profound when you are travelling as a larger group where you can get 4-10 bedroom villas for a fraction of the cost you would have to pay in hotels. Just recently, I booked a 6 bedroom villa with a huge private pool, TV room, attached bathrooms for a mere S$800+ per night. That works out to be slightly more than S$100+ per room per night.
  4. You can get very personalized service, recommendations and experiences from hosts. While it will depend largely on the service level of your host (the person you rented the place on Airbnb from), but many a times, hosts will do everything possible to make your stay wonderful since they live and die by the reviews left by their guests on Airbnb. They can give you a very local recommendation on what is really go to see and eat and do around the place instead of the usual commercialized recommendations you get from elsewhere. More than that, your hosts can chat and tell you stories and other interesting stuff from their experiences, which is something money can’t buy.

So having said that, Airbnb is great for travellers who are willing to spend a little more time to search for a nice place to stay. There is certainly a little more effort and time involved than simply going to the many travel aggregator sites to book your accommodation. Here are some of the lessons and best tips as you give Airbnb a shot.

  • Do a basic search first on the most important criteria for your accommodation. It will usually be location (Phuket, Penang, etc) and budget. As you get the first list of results, browse through the different options available to you. Then you can proceed to fine-tune your list based on what additional things you hope to get. A jacuzzi? 3 bedrooms? This will also allow you to have a better understanding on the range of possibilities for the price you are willing to pay.

  • Read the description of the places carefully. You can usually tell how invested and committed a host is by the level of description and details published about their homes. If I see a host putting one simple paragraph with very sweeping and general statements about their place, no photographs, no in-depth details, it tells me that this host is probably not very vested or they have things to hide. I will usually avoid such places. But if you see a place with an extremely detailed description of what to expect and lots of photographs of the home, you can generally be more confident that this host is committed to their establishment and is keen to provide a good service.

  • Questions you should definitely have answered as you browse through your options are:
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      How far is this home from restaurants, places of interest, public transport?

      How many bathrooms?

      What is the configuration of the rooms? Do they all come with attached bathrooms? TV? All rooms located within the same compound?

      Does it have basic necessities like wifi, air-con?

      What is the best way to get around the city from your home?

      Is breakfast, meals provided?

      Are there any other extra charges?

      Are there sufficient pictures to give you a good idea of the place you are renting?

      Does the price change with the number of people?

      Is airport transfer provided?

      Do they have private taxi services to offer?

  • Read reviews and experience of the host. This is quite critical as you might have read about horror stories of people who rented a place from Airbnb. I usually only pick places where there are at least a few reviews left by previous travellers or from hosts who have other properties with reviews. It will give you some confidence about what to expect and that the host is not completely new, unverified and inexperienced.

  • Check the quality and status of the host. Airbnb compiles the number of listings each host have, their ratings and even response time.

  • Write to the host with a list of all questions you need to clarify about the place. Again, the level of detail, transparency and even the speed of their response will tell alot about your potential host. Typically, from my experience, dedicated hosts will respond to queries within 24 hours. They are also not afraid to furnish all the details you ask for. If you find a host seemingly unwilling to answer your questions, then be wary. Many of the hosts I have encountered will reply with detailed explanation to all my questions and not just answering them, but be delighted to help you understand the place. Take your time to clarify and at the same time get a better feel of your host.
  • Do a search on google with the name of the place you are interested in (if there is a name for the place). You might find listings of the same place on other websites. You can then compare and read more reviews on the place and get a better understanding of the place.
  • Negotiate the price. Most prices listed on Airbnb are not fixed prices. This is especially true if you are going on an off-peak season. Or if you are making a relatively last minute reservation (less than a month). Hosts would much rather rent out their places at a lower price than to let it sit unrented. So always negotiate the price and ask for lower if possible. But do it nicely and they will usually give some discount. You can also try asking for additional free perks like free breakfast, transport, etc depending on how well you negotiate. But be sure you get all agreements captured in writing on Airbnb. This will also protect you in the event the host fails to live up to their side of the bargain. You can make a complain to Airbnb who may fight for your rights.

Hopefully some of these tips will be useful for you as you try out a different alternative to the standard hotels and resorts you are so used to. Getting a nice place from Airbnb is not difficult, but it takes some additional effort and time. If you invest the time, you will also learn alot more about the place that you are visiting and you will quite possibly find that it is time well invested. Have a great holiday!

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