Six months ago I had scarcely heard of Airbnb. Strange, because this online accommodation service has apparently been running for quite a few years. It has apparently ruffled the feathers of the hotel and guesthouse community, as people are undercutting them when letting a room, apartment or whole house. Never mind the rights and wrongs, it is usually cheaper than commercial rental prices, and that is its main appeal.
I had my first Airbnb experience last week, when going to Cagnes sur Mer with Sara. We had already researched and booked a (perfectly satisfactory) hotel room in Cassis using the standard hotel booking sites like Tripadvisor and Booking.com.
The Airbnb site is quite different: not only are you looking at a host of solutions offered by private individuals but the site is completely different. It is easy to specify what you want, slick to use, the language is modern and not the usual stuffy commercial lingo, the confirmation message included a map and photos of the flat, there are reminders in the days running up to your booking, and the ongoing dialogue with the ‘host’ is efficiently handled. (I reckon it is essential to have a mobile phone at the very least to use the service.)
I had some initial problems with the app I downloaded for my iPad and I learnt the hard way to complete all the necessary information as a prospective renter before before attempting to make a booking. There are quite a few security hurdles – a good thing – such as scanning in your passport and providing a photo. (My Facebook id got rejected because of lack of use! I can’t remember what was accepted in its place.) But now I know the ropes and know that next time booking will be a doddle.
I booked a studio flat round the corner from James and Céline’s flat. It was modern – in a somewhat dauntingly impersonal but secure modern block – comfortable and cheap. It was the owner’s second Airbnb experience, so we were both novices. I learnt the hard way to get proper information about which of the mean anonymous doors on the first floor led to her flat! And she now knows to remember to include it in the address.
Now I plan to advertise my gite using Airbnb. (First I have to get round to writing a French version of my pages!)