Our First Airbnb Experience And Why It Won’t Be Our Last

I wake up to the aroma of freshly brewed coffee, just as R walks in with a bag of flaky croissants from the patisserie nearby. As we devour them along with half a kilo of luscious strawberries, sweet yogurt and creamy Pag cheese from the daily market, we ask ourselves why we have steered clear of apartments so far.

Stradun - Dubrovnik , Croatia
The limestone paved main thoroughfare: Stradun.

R jokes that it’s been mainly due to my obsession with squeaky clean porcelain, and that the look and the positioning of the WC influences my accommodation choices far more than the price or location! Huge exaggeration of course, but while we have sought out some truly charming B&Bs and serviced apartments before, my (borderline!) OCD has perhaps been the principal reason we have mostly given non serviced local homes a miss.

Our Dubrovnik ‘home‘, is situated in an alley off the 16th century limestone paved main thoroughfare: the Stradun. It is on the edge of the flat part of town, and just a few steps from the restaurant lined Prijeko ul.

And serendipitously, apart from the perfectly positioned pot, there is a fabulous and very popular ice cream shop right below (two floors down) our window! Which is double glazed incidentally, so we have all the pleasure and none of the clamour.

This four night stay, in collaboration with Airbnb, is a trial that has us convinced that with a bit of due diligence, their sharing economy model – a bridge between basic home-stays and full fledged hotels – can be quite as dependable as hotel brands.

The interaction is one on one. I needed an extra confirmation letter from our hostess, Ines, for our visa application, and it was in my inbox within a few hours of my request. The arrival and departure routines were clearly indicated. She even gladly arranged transport for an overnight visit to Kotor as well as for our onward journey to Split.

That’s not to underplay the chances of things going wrong. The key to making a good choice, we learn, is to scour fellow travellers’ reviews before you finalise, and pay more attention to their opinions over published host descriptions. Also, to double check for hidden costs – some rentals charge extra cleaning fees – and whether the amenities one cannot do without, like elevators, heating/air-conditioning etc. are included.DSC_6999 copy

Once you establish that you do not absolutely require the full time concierge/ room service/ buffet breakfast frills offered by hotels  – we don’t –  the value of sharing a resident’s home becomes apparent.

The variety of listings on offer in the ever widening Airbnb network, and the interactive map on the website, makes it easy to shortlist one for every budget. And at short notice. It takes a bit of hunting, but you could find boutique quality accommodation at a fraction of the price.

The centuries old facade of our building conceals bright, glossy interiors fitted with every conceivable modern amenity: electric hob, dishwasher, coffee maker, kettle, microwave, washing machine, well stocked kitchen cupboards. ample toiletries…the works.DSC_7039 copy

There is no lift (which justifies the daily dose of ice cream), but the WiFi is strong and the air conditioner climate controlled. And we have an ample supply of the fluffiest, whitest towels replaced every third day. The atmospheric setting aside, the extra space, coupled with the savings in light meals and/or laundry alone are additional value.

DSC_6665 copy 3Most of all, the value for us is in the feeling of being at home in a strange land. Of living there. Of falling into a routine of morning walks to the bakery, shopping with locals in markets and hunting out non touristy things to see, do and eat with the help of the hosts’ invaluable local perspective.

In Dubrovnik, the cross cultural communication was relatively limited, but I can see myself connecting with hosts on a more meaningful level on longer stays in experiential destinations.

So yes, we are converts. And are even considering choosing future travel destinations based on Airbnb properties!

Here’s a Wishlist I’ve put together:

TREE HOUSE WITH LAKE VIEW – ₹7614
San Carlos de Bariloche, Rio Negro, Argentina
Our 2010 South America itinerary was disrupted due to ash blowing in from Chilean volcanoes leading to the closure of Buenos Aires airport. (We ended up staying nine full days in BA as a result and loved every minute!). Bariloche wasn’t on that itinerary, but I remember trying hard to include it. This listing revived my desire to visit the stunning landscapes of Patagonia and the Chilean fjords.

 

CASA UH MAY – TULUM JUNGLE HIDEAWAY – ₹6230+
Francisco Uh May, Quintana Roo, Mexico
“Jungle hideaway in the Yucatecan jungle, at the rim of a small Mayan village, half way between Tulum and the archaeological site of Coba”  Sounds irresistible.

 

SOMOYA: A LUXURY STUDIO ON A HOUSEBOAT  – ₹10798+ 
Amsterdam, North Holland, Netherlands
Wouldn’t that be a fabulous incentive to re-visit Amsterdam after three long decades?

 

LA NEVIERA NEI SASSI – ₹6160+
Matera, Basilicata, Italy
Puglia and Basilicata have long been on our radar. This traditional Sassi dwelling “The Ice House”, in the heart of the oldest residential area of Matera, would be the perfect base to explore its surreal troglodyte landscape.

 

A RESTORED 200 YEAR OLD CHURCH – ₹7683+ 
Athenry, Galway, Ireland
Fancy staying in Bookeen Hall: a former Church of Ireland Chapel built in 1820? I do!

 

OLD SMOCK WINDMILL – ₹17236+
Benenden, United Kingdom
This unique rental, popular with most top ten compilers, is a total splurge at that price. (And I have no clue where Benenden is!). But like all those reviews say, how often will you fall asleep under an ancient wooden mill wheel?

Go ahead. Create your own dream list. Do be sure to share any gems you unearth, here in your comments.

If you haven’t signed up on Airbnb yet, use my referral link to get more than ₹1000 off on your first stay.


Disclaimer: This post was created in collaboration with Airbnb.

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Madhu is an Interior designer turned travel blogger on a long sabbatical to explore the world. When not crafting stories on The Urge To Wander, she's probably Tweeting @theurgetowander or sharing special moments on instagram.com/theurgetowander

62 thoughts on “Our First Airbnb Experience And Why It Won’t Be Our Last

  1. We’re looking at advertising our tiny casa chica on there, I’ve joined, but the house needs a refurn first. It still won’t look like your upmarket wishlist though!!

  2. What luck, Madhu! The Airbnb apartment you and R chose in Dubrovnik looks so cozy and inviting. That ice cream shop downstairs is really the icing on the cake… I doubt that I could restrict myself to having it once a day had I stayed there myself. 😀 Your wishlist is the stuff of dreams. My personal favourite is the windmill, but that is quite a daring departure from my typical budget!

    1. We really enjoyed the space and privacy afforded by an apartment James. That windmill was just included for the WOW factor and to indicate the variety available. it is way beyond our budget as well 🙂

    1. The houseboat is my personal favourite too. Thank you for your visit and comment dear Isabella, and for all the ‘Likes’. Have a great week ahead ♥︎

  3. I’ve been using Airbnb for years now, they’ve mostly turned out to be really good, except for a few average ones. I totally recommend!
    And Dubrovnik, sooooo lovely, right?!

    1. Yeah, we had resisted so far, although many of our friends swear by it. Dubrovnik was the perfect place to start. In fact our apartments in Split and Zadar all worked out well for us. Appreciate your time on the blog Bipasha. Have a great day! 🙂

    1. Aww, thank you for your kind wishes dear Marina ♥︎ Would be interested to know how Airbnb worked for you if and when you use it.

  4. Madhu! I am so glad you found AirBnb! I have been doing that for years and have just started hosting my own home online:) Whenever I am out travelling. Let me know when you are in Boston next!:)

    1. Shilpa? I didn’t realise you had moved to Boston. I finally got myself an US visa – more to facilitate travel to Montenegro and through Frankfurt airport – but I now have no excuse to not visit my sister who lives just an hour from Boston. So I might just take you up on your offer! 🙂 Hope you are well. Happy travels.

      1. Madhu! Ofcourse ofcourse! I moved in January right after the wedding. But yes please it will be LOVELY to have you folks here! Keep me posted! And Montenegro? When will that be?

        1. We did a short detour to Kotor from Dubrovnik. It was stunning, but a bit cloudy, so I didn’t get the photos I was hoping for. Still worth the effort. The entire Balkan region is incredibly beautiful. Do plan a visit if you can.

  5. I know exactly where your apartment and that ice cream shop are! I think my daughter and I ended up having a cone there at least once a day while in Dubrovnik. I wish we had used Airbnb; when we went, it wasn’t as well-known and we ended up in a place outside the old town (which was perfectly fine). Since then, both of our sons have rented great Airbnb places there, and we have tried them elsewhere.

    1. We did consider staying outside for the views of the rooftops, but with the weather what it was we were glad we stayed within the walls. That ice cream store was very popular. One ice cream cone a day is de rigueur when on an European holiday for me as well 🙂

  6. I’ve had only one experience to date with an Airbnb, and as you state, reading others reviews is of importance. Our one stay had only one review (and was probably the owner’s brother), was an ok enough studio, smaller than shown, but the big factor was the building it was in….looked like a crack house as we got off the elevator on our floor. Ah well, we walked away from it and found a hotel room (and miraculously got our money back because I saw it had been rented again right away and asked the owner for a refund). My next scheduled Airbnb is set for September and I have done due diligence on this one which has many reviews, all good. There is something quite nice to actually be in a place to set up comfortably with one’s own food and be able to relax without houskeeping knocking on your door at odd hours.
    I’ll have to look in to that place near Tulum you show.

    1. That sounds dire. Good you managed to get a refund. Hope the next one works out fine. The comfort and privacy of a private apartment is certainly a huge plus. Pleasure to see you here Angeline. Have a great day!

  7. What a wish list, Madhu…wonderful ålaces…out of my reach of course… “The ice house ” looks lovely to me.

    1. Have been wanting to visit Matera for the longest time Ann Christine. A bit more effort should throw up equally beautiful listings at more affordable prices. I have missed all your lovely photography. Shall be over to catch up soon. Have a wonderful day! 🙂

      1. Thank you – and welcome back! We are melting up here right now…29 degrees C is too much for us northeners…

        1. 29 sounds like bliss! its been consistently close to a very humid 40C here for days! And no sign of letting up 😦

        2. phew…40 is just too much…Today we had 33.5 and that is a Very unusual temperture here – and in the beginning of summer. Hopefully better this weekend – for you as well!

  8. I’ve had two great air bnb holidays so far, Barcelona and Tavira. I hoped to book for Barca again this year but it didnt match so its a hotel this time. I’m glad to see that England is on your list even if its too far East!

    1. Ha, that listing was just for effect Gilly. Confession: I have no idea where Benenden is! 😀 But England is certainly on the radar. Shall keep you posted if/when plans firm up.

  9. We’ve stayed in apartments many times over the years, but only recently booked one through airbnb. We love apartments for the feeling of being at home, and they are usually cheeper that an equivalent hotel. We had a great place in BA for 3 weeks a few years ago. We too loved BA.
    I want to stay in every place on your wish list!
    Alison

  10. We’ve used BNB services in Germany and Austria and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. The owners were always helpful suggesting places we could visit of interest and other occupants friendly too. I recommend the experience, but not in large inner cities as its not safe walking around without a known local to keep you away from danger.

  11. Some of the best places we’ve stayed in have been through AirBnB! A villa in the middle of Tuscany, an apartment in Buenos Aires, loft next to Jalan Alor in KL – all through AirBnB and usually more affordably, with what is effectively personal “concierge” service. Haven’t had a bad experience yet! Headed to Europe for 3 months on Tuesday and will def be booking as many apartments as possible. 🙂 Glad your had a great experience too.

  12. Madhu, thank you for your great post about airbnb, I haven’t tried it out yet, as I was tempted to do so while I was India. But thanks to your great appreciation I will do so on my future trips.

  13. Interesting to read your story, been a fan of the personal touch and local experiences Airbnb gives us, that we hardly even go to b&b´s, hotels anymore if not necessary 😉
    Great recommendations too, thanks!
    Safe travels, Ron

  14. I love your account of your Airbnb experience. Most of my travelling accommodation has been through Airbnb. Whole apartments and single rooms – in Dubrovnik a very small room with no wi-fi but a wonderful host, a woman in her 80s, who was ready with thick black coffee for me no matter how early I went out. Hosts picked me up from airports and buses; took cancelled flights in their stride; left me a slice of cake made with grandma’s traditional recipe and a small bottle of potent liqueur also home-made; advised me about must-sees. I’ve only had one “bad” experience: a host who tried to make me pay more for an apartment whose keys didn’t work properly and whose light globe fell out! In Warsaw I’ve had now five apartments through Airbnb, for periods form 2 – 6 months. I’ve used it in Slovenia, Croatia, Budapest, Vienna, Prague, Poznań, Łódź. I’ve just made a non-Airbnb booking in Gdańsk and I feel disloyal!

    I’m looking forward to hearing about your future experiences.

  15. I love Airbnb! I used it a lot for a road trip in the US in 2014 and had wonderful experiences throughout. I’m so glad you had such a wonderful experience, and I hope you make it to one of those dream destinations soon!

  16. we’ve been contemplating Air Bnb for quite some time…but never really get down to it…as always aprehensive about the facilities,quality of rooms etc…Your post will certainly get me to make that decision the next time:))

  17. Quando sono stato a Dubrovnic ho apprezzato molto il fatto che nella città, dentro le mura, non circola nessun mezzo a motore; tutto viene portato a braccia e su carrelli spinti a mano. Tanto è stato lo sbalordimento per questo rispetto del vivere che ho dimenticato di immortalare il gesto con delle foto. Se sei ancora lì fotografa questo particolare della vita cittadina. Ciao 🙂

    1. Popof, I am back home. We stopped to watch many old men pushing loaded carts up to the gates, but you know what? I don’t think I have a photo either! 😦

  18. Lovely post, Madhu. I’ve been renting apartments (not all with Airbnb) for years now. It’s just so much more comfortable, and I like having a fridge with my own food. I looked into that houseboat in Amsterdam…but what currency is that you have? I can’t change it to dollars.

      1. Hmm, not being presumptuous, but your self confessed non-resemblance to THE Angelina just might go against you ;(

  19. How about R and me swap places when you revisit Amsterdam? I’ve never been and I would just die -almost- for that houseboat. Think we can make it work? 🙂 🙂

  20. Excellent post Madhu! We tried our first Air B&B and it wasn’t great. We stayed in NYC and perhaps that was the problem. It seems like there are much better offerings in Europe.

  21. Stunning captures of your stay Madhu! I love the atmosphere there and what a beautiful room! Love the colour decoration. I can’t blame you for being close to the ice-cream shop. 😆

    For me it would be a choice between the Jungle hideaway and the houseboat. I think I would want to have both. 😀

  22. I tried AirBnB twice in HK and Penang – loved it – and am recommending to a lot of people. BTW, love your wishlist – nice! 🙂

  23. That looks such a idyllic place! This makes me really hop into a plane and stay in an AirBNB in the vineyards of Tuscany! or a villa by the sea in Greece:)
    I love your wishlist Madhu! Thanks so much for sharing 🙂

  24. Thanks for this interesting read Madhu. We have plans for Croatia end of this summer, so this def. helps!

    As regards Airbnb which we started using since early 2015, you rightly pointed about due diligence. We pay a good heed to the reviews and most of them have been great or extraordinary!. On the other side, we’ve had couple of weird experiences. Last week we also read a post from a full-time travel blogging couple who had a very bad experience with Airbnb. Guess this game is still evolving and we’re surely supporting this stay option 🙂

  25. Oh, what fun, Madhu! I will dream along with you here. I adore “trying on” homes and villages, imagining what it would be like to live there. I like your list, too! 🙂

  26. Enjoyed this post. We have used air B & B countless times, with mixed results. When it works its really great. Recently we stayed in Rome but hadnt realised we were only getting a bedroom in someones home and that they were present while we were tgere. Not ideal! We have also had great experiences with home exchange and in that case, there is no cost involved so its really a huge plus factor. Seems you got really lucky here with your first!

    Peta

  27. Madhu, Terri and I have visited both Dubrovnik as well as Kotor, and we had wonderful apartments in both locations. We’re firm believers in apartments over hotels for all the reasons you experienced. Your feature on wish-list apartments would convert anyone. Nice post. ~James

  28. So funny Madhu, you’ve brought back a mixed bag of memories – our holidays when the children were younger were all out of holiday magazine catalogues. No user reviews whatsoever and we always went for the non-luxury because it was the cheapest. I dreamed of holidays in hotels, with a pool! And room service!
    Pleased you had such a good experience with AirBnB and hope you manage to move through your wish list!

  29. Hard to believe there still a lot of people not using Airbnb. As a host I’m finding that we’re getting quite a few first time Airbnb’ers as guests. It’s a little unnerving with new guests as we rely on those reviews from other hosts to know if they’re good guests but so far the experience has been great and most everyone has treated our home like they’re own.

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