As a budget traveler, I’m always conscious about my expenses.
Accommodation, in particular, takes a big chunk out of my budget, which is why I prefer staying in hostels (if I can’t or won’t use Couchsurfing) rather than hotels.
In the past couple of years, however, there’s one other alternative I occasionally use, and that is Airbnb, an online marketplace where you can “rent unique accommodations from local hosts.”
I used it in New York when I balked at paying $50 for a hostel dorm bed in Manhattan, and I also used it for a week in La Paz, Bolivia, when I was getting tired of communal spaces.
Thus, when Airbnb (in cooperation with Smart) asked me to use it recently, I grabbed the chance. I wanted to be near the Philippine International Convention Center for the Travel Bloggers Exchange conference, and the hotels nearby were pricey.
I made a good choice; the unit I chose was a whole condo just at the back of Diamond Hotel, with AC, a double bed, a sofa, TV, fast Wifi, kitchen with utensils, and towels for my use. There was a guard 24/7, too.
Hearing the other participants’ complaints about how tiny their hotel rooms were (and they were paying more than I did for my accommodation in a condo unit!), I was certainly glad that I used Airbnb. I would have used it even without the credits given to me.
It is easy to use Airbnb when you’re looking for a place to book. Once you’re signed in (sign up here to get P950 in travel credit with your first booking!), you just put in where you’re traveling, when, and how many people are traveling with you.
To make your search simpler, use the filters. I usually tick “Entire Home” and set the maximum price I’m willing to pay. That would automatically disqualify units that are shared or are beyond my budget.
Some units have a lightning bolt icon beside the price. That means the property can be instantly booked, no need for the owner to get back to you and approve the request.
Before you book, however, make sure the property has a great location. One criticism against Airbnb is that most units are far from the city center. This is not true! You choose which unit to book, so you can definitely look for one that’s the most convenient for you.
The unit I booked in Manila early this month was only around 15 minutes from the conference venue, something that I really appreciated given the traffic in the metro.
Other than location, you can also look for these:
- Wifi (for me, this is the #2 consideration after location)
- Number of guests it can accommodate
- Number of beds available in the unit (for family travelers)
- TV (a must if you’re traveling with family!)
- Kitchen (great convenience)
Some hosts, like mine in Manila, offer freebies, too, like toiletries, drinks, and even bread for breakfast. All these are merely add-ons that make booking a unit more attractive.
Is Airbnb good for solo travelers?
I would say yes, occasionally. I used it for a week in La Paz, Bolivia, but despite the comfort of my big room, I soon moved to a hostel for company.
Airbnb is certainly best for families and friends traveling together (or for a staycation). My Airbnb room in Manila, for example, costs P1,100, and it’s good for three persons! You can do the math.
When my family visits me here in Manila in December, I would definitely use Airbnb for our accommodation. It beats hotels any day.
Take note: some properties ask for a security deposit (which can be hefty!) and a cleaning fee. Take those in consideration before booking.
Despite all its advantages, Airbnb has its share of critics. One criticism is on safety. After all, it’s easy enough to duplicate keys and come back to the apartment later to steal the current guests’ belongings, right?
While I agree it’s true, I have to say that thefts happen all the time, even in supposed to be safe hotel rooms or hostels. Some bloggers who had stayed at a hostel in Manila during the conference had their lockers broken open, all their valuables stolen.
How do you keep safe when you use Airbnb? Here are some tips:
- Airbnb is not a hotel, it’s a local’s home that’s just being rented out (although in a lot of cases here in the Philippines, the locals have never lived in those, as they were bought for rental purposes only). Knowing that, you shouldn’t expect to see things that you would in a hotel, like a safe, or free breakfast, or room service.
- If you have valuables, make sure to hide them well or bring them with you.
- Read the reviews carefully. Skip over the glowing ones and take a closer look at the negative reviews. If the host doesn’t have a review yet, book only for one night so you can immediately leave if something doesn’t feel right.
- If you have questions about the property before booking, don’t hesitate to contact the host. Their response, as well as their responsiveness, can help you decide which unit to book.
As always, when traveling, practice some safety measures especially as a solo female traveler, whether you’re using Airbnb, a hostel, or a hotel.
Tell someone where you are, and until when you’re in that place. Make sure you have copies of your important documents (e.g., passport, travel insurance, bank details) in your email that you can access when you need to.
And once you feel uncomfortable with the place or the host, LEAVE. Book a Grab or Uber (as you don’t want to be standing outside waiting for a cab if it’s the middle of the night!) and find a hotel nearby.
Listen to your intuition. It’s better to lose a night’s lodging and be safe, than regret not leaving later on.
Safe travels, folks!
Have you used Airbnb and what was your experience with it? Do share!
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Aleah Taboclaon is a freelance writer and editor. She likes running (completed one marathon, training for the next!), diving (PADI open water diver), and traveling with her Kindle. Connect with her on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. You can also email her; she would love to hear from you!