One of the most important aspects of travel involves your stay, whether you travel alone or you travel with a partner, an awesome, affordable, and comfortable stay makes your travel more memorable. Of course, all these 3 things do come with a cost: time and risk. In this blog post, we touch upon a checklist and to-dos to consider while booking your stay during your travel and whether the BnB option suits you or not … (A quick note: This blog focuses on Airbnb as that is the one that we have been using for all our travel)
Purpose of your travel
If you are on business travel and will spend a night or two in a city then the best option is to book a good business hotel and get away with it. It provides you with all the facilities needed for a business (good internet, heavy breakfast, quick check-in and check-out, taxi services). However, if you are traveling for leisure then the best option is to go for a BnB, and believe us, it will be an experience you will never forget in your lifetime.
We will be honest, when we first started traveling we were very apprehensive about going for a BnB, as Airbnb was a new concept back then and we were not sure what to expect and security and safety were our top concerns. However, as the platform and concept grew we too started to adopt and how. To address a few security and safety concerns, here are a few tips:
- Alway go for Airbnb verified host (Preferably with a Superhost badge)
- Verify yourself as well with Airbnb as a guest
- Go through the reviews to see if there were any complaints pertianing to security and safety
- Check neighbourhood review comments, at times the host might be good but the neighbourhood might not
Airbnb has a good and solid process of verifying your passport and past criminal history for hosts as well as guests. Hence, as a guest, we are comfortable if the host is verified and vice-versa. However, not all gestures can be in the records, and that’s where reviews come to your help. Go through all the reviews to make sure there are no reviews pertaining to security and safety for the host, and the same applies to the guests as well. We do make a point to give a constructive review to all our hosts and expect the same from our hosts as well. A good review whether given by the host or by the guest can go a far way.
A lot of BnBs do not offer a private toilet, in case you are not comfortable sharing a toilet with someone else, make sure you filter out the private toilets option from the selection. For us we value our privacy in that space hence we always prefer a private toilet BnB.
Note that you are a guest in someone else’s house, so there are certain etiquettes that one must follow, things like smoking (although drinking alcohol is allowed in most of the BnBs but do confirm that once with the host before booking, but most BnBs do not allow smoking), footwear should be kept at a designated place, and some general decency manners.
We suggest that you explain yourself extensively in your Bio and have the host invite us to book, that way it makes us comfortable and welcome in their house. After all, we are guests in their house and it is important for both of us to feel comfortable.
Community space is an important aspect of the whole BnB experience. If your BnB is a place where there are multiple people living / hosts living, the community space is one place where you can interact with others, know about their culture, their food, grow your network. Most of the BnBs have a kitchen and the hall as community spaces where you can interact and share thoughts, notes, food ..
We got a couple of good interior ideas from one of our BnB hosts which we have implemented at our house.
The next main aspect is accessibility, how easy or hard the BnB is from the nearest train/bus station. Although, if you are in a place like Switzerland, then we won’t mind getting lost, as in such cases be bold and choose a BnB far from the city in some remote village to experience the local lifestyle and culture. BnBs can be a bit far from the nearest access point, hence do confirm with the host before booking the BnB about the nearest access point and how easy or difficult is it to get there.
Essentials are a critical part of the stay, if you are driving then make sure that the BnB is offering a parking space. In places like India parking space might not be a issue, but in places like US/Europe getting a parking space might be tricky.
We are midnight eaters and like munching at odd hours in the night, a lot of BnB offer free munchies in their kitchen to satisfy your cravings at off hours, plus unlimited water supply if you are comfortable drinking tap water (which is totally fine in countries like US, Switzerland and might change per situation).
Many of the hosts also provide DIY laundry options in case you wanna do your laundry once or twice in your trip within the cost of the BnB, which is generally a expensive option in the hotels. We prefer to travel very light and hence take less pair of clothes with us and laundry it once so that we can reuse.
Many of the super hosts at AirBnB go above and beyond to make your stay a memorable one. And these services might differ from host to host and place to place. Some hosts will lend their cycles to go to the nearest access point, while some hosts might offer free beer 🙂 At one BnB, we were greeted by the host with a complete itinerary for our complete stay and as well was given a ride back to the airport for free. One of the cities we visited had weak public transport, so the host there offered full public travel details so that we do not need to spend time checking it ourselves. Some hosts might offer you food they have cooked that day while as you might share your own food with them. If it is a shared BnB then you might get to know a lot of new people and get a chance to talk to them. One host in Goa had his house just beside the backwater river and he cooked us some fresh fish he had caught from the river, imagine eating freshly caught fish with some freshly brewed toddy on the banks of a goan backwater river, no hotel will remotely offer you such experience. Our BnB in Coorg had a great ancient house and had a few games for us to play and also had cooked some lip-smacking local food.
AirBnB has a section introduced: AirBnB Experiences where some hosts offer unique local experiences of course for some extra money. These experiences might include:
- Learning making pasta from scratch from an Italian nona.
- Learn to dance basic Spanish local dance
- One of our hosts was a wine conossier and he gave us a wine tasting session
In short, they make you feel like a traveler, and not like a tourist, which takes us to our next section:
Traveller or Tourist?
We always ask this question ourselves when we start to plan our trip, are we tourists or are we, travelers? Typical habits of tourists are: visiting overcrowded touristy places, focusing on yourselves rather than focusing on the experience, the worst one is visiting a disco in places like Switzerland (if you visit a disco in Switzerland then you are a tourist, if you visit a disc in Netherlands / Paris / Bangkok / Goa, then you are a traveler.. lol).
A good BnB host will help you transform from a tourist to a traveler. They will guide you to places where the locals visit, eat and enjoy, in short help you get a local experience. Bottom line is, a tourist will stay in a hotel while a traveler will stay in a BnB.
And then there was food 🙂 This is one of my close-to-heart sections. A lot of BnBs offer cooking local food at an extra cost. You can confirm with the host beforehand if they can cook you some local food for you. Take it with a pinch of salt as not all local food might suit your palette but definitely worth a try. We liked the local Coorg food but not the local Ooty food much.
Although we have mixed opinions about BnBs when it comes to breakfast. If you are fond of breakfast buffets then BnB probably is not the best option for you. For us, we prefer both, breakfast buffets from the hotels, while a good old sunny side up cooked in a BnB. Breakfast is probably one of the most contentious points for us while deciding between a hotel or a BnB. In most of the BnBs, you will have access to the kitchen where you will have to cook your own breakfast, and most of the BnBs give free-of-cost bread, eggs, coffee/tea, and fruits. While a lot of people might argue that cooking on a trip is not the best option, at times we like whipping up the occasional egg omelet, coffee, and bread and to have it with your loved on the balcony enjoying the view, which brings to my next section:
Wake up to a view
Generally, we have observed that there will be a lot of BnBs which will offer you stunning views, think of views like the NY skyline, Amalfi Coast, Monaco Marina, Venice canal, Allepey backwaters, Eiffel tower … Imagine waking up to these views and having your breakfast or even your morning cup of tea/coffee. Of course, it comes at a cost as generally prime BnB charges a premium cost. In general, you will come to know about the actual views vs the views boasted by the host from the reviews. Views are very subjective matter so do not purely go by what the host says, check the reviews to confirm the same.
If you choose a hotel you might not get a view at all 😛
You might just hit what we call a BnB jackpot if it ticks all the above boxes and it costs you peanuts. It’s a long shot, by the way, we have hit the jackpot only once.
Some closing notes before we finish:
- A lot of BnB do not allow loud noise / loud talking in the night.
- If you have kids/pets, then many BnBs do not prefer that as well, do check with the hosts if they allow kids/pets if you are traveling with one.
- Smoking is a big No No.
- Drinking alcohol is allowed in most of the BnBs but do check with the host beforehand.
- If breakfast buffet is a must, then BnBs are not for you.
- You are in someone’s house as a guest, so if you are not comfortable with that fact then BnB is not the best choice for you. It’s a matter of perspective, give it a try, once you like it there is no going back.