Airbnb Review: It’s Not a Scam and It Can Save You A Ton of Money

by brian on June 24, 2011

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I was headed out to the yearly travel blogger conference in Vancouver. I booked late and was deciding between hostels when Chelle from Browngirlsfly put out a message on Twitter:

I had never tried Airbnb but I was intrigued. As an avowed hostel advocate, I loved the low cost and easy way to meet peiople. But you can’t talk intelligently about accomodations without trying all the options, so I hooked up with Chelle for Airbnb.

For those of you who don’t know, Airbnb allows homeowners and apartment dwellers the opportunity to rent their whole place, a bed or couch in their home. Some owners will be with you in the same living space. If that makes you uncomfortable you could compare it to staying in a hostel.

Others will provide you separate apartments with your own kitchen and bathroom. That’s what we had in Vancouver.

Since our conference was in downtown Vancouver we wanted the usual things:

Clean, Safe, Cheaper than a Hotel – those are a given

We actually spent most of our time when planning discussing how far the potential apartments or house would be from public transportation and the convention centre in Vancouver. That should be a big consideration. If you’re getting a hige house for $50 per person, but it’s an hour from where you want to be, you might want to rethink that.

Airbnb 300x300 Airbnb Review: Its Not a Scam and It Can Save You A Ton of Money

Our Airbnb Vancouver place

The one we picked looked like it was pretty far from everything but we are booking at the last minute and needed some place besides the streets of Vancouver to sleep at night.

It turned out better than we expected.

Chelle did all the booking and I just showed up. What a great way to travel!

We ended up spending only about $55 per night per person for 4 days.

Some tips:

Ask about amenities around the house or apartment
If you have a kitchen, ask about a supermarket nearby. Need to wash? Is there a dry cleaners nearby. Essentially you want everything you would get if you were living. Because, really you are.

Get a great owner
Kristina was a great owner. She met me at the house when she said she was going be there. Point for her. And folks we did not have to pay for WiFi. We used Kristina’s Internet hotspot as part of the package. With some hotels still charging per day for Internet, that can save you alot.

Ask for WiFi or whatever else you’re going to need to enjoy your time in someone else’s home.

Kristina lived in the apartment upstairs, while we had a separate two-bed apartment with kitchen, bath and its own entrance. Great for a 4 day stay.

When you’re leaving, leave it as clean possible. Why? Because you are literally in someone’s house. Also hosts and hostees can leave reviews for each other. So if you’re a slob who leaves dishes in the sink, you’re well within you right to do so. But if other owners catch wind of it, it may be harder to book you next Airbnb place. And owners, if you don’t give renters clean, well appointed places, you won’t have anyone willing to give you money. Courtesy goes a long way in this relationship and helps both parties.

My verdict on Airbnb – Great experience for me, but I can see it being a nightmare if you get the wrong person. You can’t tell a person’s personality from a photograph but if the reviews are legit you can get a pretty good feel of who they. This is especially important if you are staying in the same apartment or house as them. You can rent a bedroom and strangers sleeping the next room over. But really how is that any different than a hostel. This is just nicer surroundings.

Here is a great post with many more tips on how to get the best Airbnb experience possible.

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Michaela Chatman (@CampRoadless) June 25, 2011 at 6:45 AM

Do you think this program is better than couch surfing?


brian June 25, 2011 at 6:09 PM

Not better than couchsurfing, but different. Airbnb works especially well if you’re uncomfortable with NOT paying for lodging or if you don’t want to be in someone’s home while they are still there. You get the room, convenience and privacy of an apartment or house at a cheaper rate than a hotel. It may be in between point from hostels to hotels.
Couchsurfing is completely free, but no privacy and no room, unless someone puts you on a couch on a big house. And couchsurfing implies that you will talk and interact to your host. Sometimes you want to be alone after traveling or exploring a new area. You don’t want to be anti-social with someone who’s really doing you a favor.


keith o'brien September 19, 2011 at 4:56 PM

would just like to say,air bnb saved me a lot of money,staying 2 weeks in new york city in july 2011…stayed in a private house on staten island,only one small room,shared bathroom/kitchen…but my wife and i loved it,free ferry over to manhattan each morning,runs 24/7…and great view’s..we’ve stayed in harlem 2008,bronx 2009,and paid a lot more.
we are from liverpool,england,and in our mid fifties….and still love a bit of adventure,…poland in november,and will be using air bnb !


brian September 19, 2011 at 5:02 PM

Fantastic! That is great to hear. I think once you get over the initials concerns many more people will see there are great options besides hotels that are safe, clean and much cheaper.


keith o'brien September 20, 2011 at 4:11 AM

you have to put a little trust in people,i.e.the owner’s..but that goes with any hostel or hotel.i have travelled around the world,on the bones of my backside,never stayed at a hotel,they’re just a expensive place to leave your bags…hostels,if going with my wife..sleeping bag if alone.couchsurfing is a step up for me,if i’m travelling air bnb is a luxury.28$ a night in new york ! come on,that’s per room,not per person.may be basic,but just a base,to eat,sleep and wash….and best of all “real people”….i always stay in the suburbs in nyc,things are half the price,than in manhattan.air bnb now means i can hang up my sleeping bag.give it a try.


brian September 20, 2011 at 9:36 PM

You said it all right there Keith. Thanks for your comments!


Bryan April 10, 2012 at 10:08 AM

I recently booked a villa in Portugal for Feb 2013. My first months lease was deducted from my Mastercard account when I consulted AIRBNB about the duration of these funds being held by them I was informed that this was their policy after some negotiations together with the host a $50.00 deposit was agreed upon. The booking is still in place and I have been able to contact the owner of the property directly. I have nothing but good to comment about AIBNB so far and the host has been more than cooperative. I hope that all the negative comments I have read are just sour grapes by a few disgruntalled people who normally grumble anyway.


brian May 28, 2012 at 11:07 AM

You’ll always find people who will complain about something. Sometimes they are perfectly legitimate complaints. But I would look at the history of the host and see if there is a pattern. If there are 100 reviews and 3 are bad and the other 97 are great, I’d go with that host. You can’t please everyone and things do happen.

February 2013 is a long time off. Did you book so far in advance because this is a popular place to stay? Is there a significant event at that time that would cause all the possible rooms to book up?


Elisa May 17, 2012 at 4:37 AM

I think you have to utilize due diligence in these situations.
If they don’t have verified accounts or previous reviews, it requires further investigation. Check employer and personal references plus ask to see their passport/DL before handing over the keys. Put the valuables like expensive jewelry, cash, credit cards, birth certificates, sensitive information etc. in a safety deposit box or in storage before renting. Most importantly, use your gut instincts.

I think most people are inherently good. It’s a numbers game too.
Thousands of these transactions happen without incident but you’ll get a bad apple or two in the bunch.

I prefer this method of lodging as you get to know people from around the globe. It is a little more adventurous but you’re less likely to find a used condom stuck to a Gideon Bible in your nightstand drawer!


brian May 28, 2012 at 10:52 AM

I think you are right on the numbers game comment and that for the most part people are inherently good. It’s only the crazy cases that get press headlines. Thousands of Airbnb transactions happen every day without any incident. Those don’t get press because they are not sensational enough to grab eyeballs.


Kate September 26, 2012 at 8:44 PM

Seriously folks, having your home up on the web and vulnerable to all types of scam artists is just setting yourself up. It’s one of the fly by night here is the way to make easy money NOT. There is no way to make easy money. It is always challenging so don’t fool yourself. Remember your values and your life and what it means. I know not everyone is a scammer but seriously look at how your home is being represented and it’s out there for the world to see. If you are at all aware of the many scams you can rest assured someone is going to find a way to make an easy time off of your personal good life. Please verify all sources and do not rely on Airbnb to be held accountable. They are a platform and like Craigslist you need to have the warning about scammers and fraud. It’s really your own responsibility to make sure your own life is not compromised.


brian April 21, 2013 at 8:43 PM

Kate is absolutely right. There have been some well publicized cases of Airbnb renters trashing the host home. You are taking a chance any time you let someone into your home. But it appears the vast majority of Airbnb experiences are positive, for both the owner and renter.


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