Airbnb Reviewed

What is Airbnb?

Airbnb is a website which allows you to book short to mid-term accommodation in cities and towns around the world. However instead of staying in hotels or hostels, the accommodation on offer is beds or rooms in people’s homes or even entire private properties. Likewise if you have a room or a whole flat that is not being used, you can become a host and offer it on Airbnb where travellers can book to stay with you.


How does it work?

Searching for Properties

Like a normal accommodation booking site, you can search for properties and have a range of options to filter the results by price, location etc. You simply enter the dates you want to travel and your destination and you get a list of possible results and a map showing you the location of them.

The most important filter is the ‘room type’ which allows you to choose between a private room, shared room or entire home. For the first two options typically you will be staying in a flat/house with the host and whoever else lives there and possibly a few other Airbnb travellers. With the other option you will have the entire property to yourself but in this case you are more likely to be expected to pay a deposit, which will be returned at the end of your stay as long as you don’t trash the place. This should be detailed in the listing, where you can also see reviews from other people who’ve stayed there.

Some properties have a minimum stay but most can be rented for anything from one night to several months. The price you initially see will be a daily rate but if you are booking for longer than a week, you should see a reduction as most hosts offer weekly and monthly reductions.

Booking somewhere

To book on Airbnb, you need to set up a free account (see next section). The main difference with Airbnb from reserving a hotel or hostel is the actual booking procedure. Once you’ve found somewhere you like, you send a ‘request to book’, where you’re asked to provide a few details about your stay. The host then will typically reply quite quickly, in most cases within 24 hours either accepting or declining your request. Some hosts prefer people with a previous booking history and reviews while others will accept almost anyone. Of course you can also send the host a message prior to the request to book if you have any questions.

Once you send a request to book, you have to enter your payment details which will be charged in full for the period of the booking (unless it’s more than one month) once it is accepted. However this money is held by Airbnb until 24 hours after your check-in date so if the property doesn’t meet your expectations and is different from the listing you should be eligible for a refund.

They have also recently introduced an ‘Instant Book’ feature. If a property has ‘Instant Book’ turned on, you can book without needing to wait for the host to respond, which should speed up the process and is useful for bookings in the very near future.

Checking In

Once you’ve made a booking, the contact details of your host will be made available and they are obliged to contact you to sort out the check-in time. You can’t just show up at any time like you would to a hotel or hostel, so it’s important to communicate with your host. They should at the very least send you the exact address and arrange with you an arrival time. In some cases you won’t share a common language with your host but the Airbnb messaging system automatically translates which should make life a bit easier. The main thing is to agree on a time and be clear about the address.

On arrival, you should be given a key, brief tour of the flat and the opportunity to ask any questions about the property, local area, things to see etc.

After your Stay

Following your stay both parties have some time in which to review the other. You can provide a rating for numerous things such as cleanliness, value, location etc and can write a summary of your experience, although none of this is compulsory. Likewise they can give a review of you, which unless you tear the place down, should make life easier booking other properties in the future as with a couple of positive reviews, you will seem more trustworthy.


Sign Up & Get Free Travel Credit

To book through Airbnb, you need to set-up an account, which doesn’t cost anything and doesn’t take very long. One of the good things about them is that by recommending friends both they and you get €30 free credit (or the equivalent in your currency).

Use this link to sign up & get €30 free Airbnb credit

Once you’ve got the hang of how Airbnb works and if you have a bed or room free in your apartment you can start hosting. It’s a good way to make some extra cash whilst meeting people from around the world.

Use this link to start hosting and receive €47 free credit after your first booking!


Airbnb Reviewed

Advantages of using Airbnb

Airbnb is a nice option for people sick of staying in hotels and hostels all the time. It enables you to experience life in a real home in the country of your visit which can be interesting and often you’ll get the chance to get to know your host and they’ll be able to share their local knowledge on cool places to see and things to do. In some ways an Airbnb stay is somewhere in between the one you get with staying in a hostel/hotel and the one you get when Couchsurfing. If staying on a stranger’s couch doesn’t appeal, but getting a more ‘local experience’ than a hostel/hotel can provide does, then it’s a good option.

Perhaps the people who will benefit most from Airbnb are those looking for short to medium-term options of anything from say 4 days up to a few months. If you’ve more than a few days in your destination, you have a bit more time to take it easy and really get to know a place and the ‘local experience’ that an Airbnb booking provides suddenly becomes an appealing option while the ability to do your own cooking is another big plus on staying in somewhere without self-catering facilities and will save you money on eating out.

Airbnb also works really well for anyone moving to a new city as it enables you to take a room for a few weeks while you look for your own flat. Staying in a hotel for this period of time can get very expensive while spending weeks on end in the same dorm isn’t ideal so Airbnb is a really nice compromise. Likewise it works well for those who are spending just a few weeks or months either studying abroad or on a short work placement. It takes the hassle out of looking for accommodation and you don’t have to sign up for any form of longer term contract which landlords often require.

The booking system and website is quite simple once you are used to it and although hosts are free to set their own prices, typically you can get good value using it. Certainly a bed or room booked on Airbnb is likely to offer better value than one booked in a hotel or hostel and most cities have quite a wide range of options.

Airbnb Problems

Airbnb does have its down-sides though and there are circumstances when there are probably better options. For short-term bookings of just a day or two for example, booking through Airbnb can seem like more hassle than its really worth. If time is of the essence, it’s probably simpler just to do a quick reservation in a hotel or hostel in a central location and get out exploring rather than go through the effort of conversing with a host and trying to find his/her apartment.

Perhaps the biggest disadvantage of Airbnb is the chances that your booking could be cancelled, potentially at the last minute. This is relatively rare but when you are dealing with individuals rather than a big place with lots of staff, one problem or change of plans for the hosts could lead to your booking being cancelled. Hosts are discouraged from doing this and have to pay a cancellation fee and you can see on their profile pages if they are regularly cancelling bookings. Ordinarily you can simply book into another place if this happens however at busy periods such as New Year or during local festivals, you can be left with precious few options as the better places typically sell out at such times. Therefore at times like that, perhaps Airbnb isn’t such a good idea and if you do go for it, be sure to book with a host that has lots of positive reviews and seems reliable.

Other people have reported Airbnb’s customer service is quite poor in the event of problems with your booking. We’ve never had any issues with a reservation so have had no need to deal with them but there are reviews floating around the internet that suggest its an issue that could be improved on.

One other disadvantage is the need to pay for your booking in full at the time of reservation whereas most hostel booking sites allow you to just pay a small percentage as a deposit and the rest on arrival.


Overall Verdict

Airbnb will never be the definitive solution to booking accommodation but there and again will anything? The key to finding the best solution for your trip is having a variety options and Airbnb certainly offers an interesting alternative to the hordes of hotel and hostel booking sites out there which essentially all do the same thing. Once you get used to the way the site works, it’s quite simple to use and there are certainly times when booking through Airbnb is the best approach to take.

Sign up for an Airbnb account today & claim your free travel credit


 


Note – This is NOT a sponsored post. It is an honest review of the pros and cons of using Airbnb. If you set up an account by clicking on any of the links in this article, you receive €30 free travel credit to spend on your first booking and so do we. It’s a win-win deal and one you can repeat by inviting friends with your own invite link that you’ll get when you sign-up. No BS. Thanks.

Visa Check Tool

Use this simple tool to check if you need a visa for any country in the world.

Simply enter your nationality and where you want to go and you’ll find whether you will need a visa.

 


If you follow the link you will reach VisaHQ which provides visas for most countries. The service they offer will generally be more expensive than going via an embassy of the country you wish to visit but may be quicker.

Factors to Bear in Mind

Even if a visa is not required, you need to consider how many days you are likely to stay in the country. In cases where no visa is required, you will receive an initial stamp in your passport usually giving you somewhere between 15 and 180 days visa-free (every country has different rules on this). If you think you will need more time then you may still need to apply for a tourist visa or alternatively leave the country before your time is up and return.

A tourist visa does not give you the right to work in that country. Although cash-in-hand jobs are often easy to come by in some countries, others have sticter rules and if you intend to find a job, in most cases you’ll need to apply for a working visa.

Some countries offer either a ‘visa on arrival’ or an E-Visa. These options are much less hassle and it’s usually worth going for them where they are available.

Travel Resources – Visas


QUICK RESOURCES FOR PLANNING TRIPS

flights | hostels | backpacker insurance | group travel | travel gear | shoestring guides | visas


Visas

Depending on where you are from, you don’t need a visa to visit a huge number of countries. The ones you do, often now have a visa on arrival services where you can just show up at the border and pay a fee on the spot to obtain the visa. However some countries do not and you may need to arrange visas well in advance of your trip which can be done by contacting the embassy or consulate of the country you wish to visit.

If you are in a rush or can’t be bothered with the hassle consider using:


visahqVisaHQ

We’ve included their visa check tool on our website and it’s a very easy way to find out the entry requirements for any country. They offer a visa service (for a fee of course!) where they will save you the hassle of having to go through embassies to sort it out yourself. It will most likely be quicker and less time-consuming particularly if you choose their express service.


Travel Resources – Budget Travel Guidebooks


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flights | hostels | backpacker insurance | group travel | travel gear | shoestring guides | visas


Budget Travel Guidebooks

Believe it or not, it is possible to go travelling without a guidebook and it can lead to a much more fascinating trip. That said almost everyone leaves with home with some kind of guide and having a decent budget travel resource can be really helpful in terms of saving money and deciding where to go.

There isn’t a huge amount of competition in the shoestring guidebook market.

Here are three options:


lonely planetLonely Planet

For most budget travellers their search for a decent guidebook starts and ends here. Lonely Planet have a range of shoestring guides that provide an in-depth look at budget travel in Southeast Asia, South America, Central America and Europe. The travelling hardcore cringe at the mere mention of LP and it can come across a bit pretentious and preachy at times but thousands of travellers wouldn’t dream of leaving home without the latest edition so I guess they must be doing something right!

For an hilarious parody of their guides check out Phaic Tan – Sunstroke on a Shoestring.


rough guidesRough Guides

Rough Guides provide the main competition to LP and they also cover the same regions with their ‘Rough Guide to …………. on a Budget’ range. Truth be told they lag a fair way behind in terms of popularity but do still have a loyal legion of fans. Rough Guides perhaps appeal more to slightly older travellers and are similarly priced to Lonely Planet and offer a comparable amount of content.


funky guidesFunky Guides

Our guides are considerably cheaper than the others but far less detailed. We aim to cut the content down to just the important stuff rather than providing 800 pages of info. We might be more Maidstone United than Manchester United at the moment but we’re upwardly mobile so Lonely Planet you better watch out!

You can get our Southeast Asia Backpackers Guide on amazon or as an app on google play.

More guides will be posted here as we publish them.


 

Travel Resources – Group Travel & Backpacker Tours


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flights | hostels | backpacker insurance | group travel | travel gear | shoestring guides | visas


Group Travel and Backpacker Tours

While many people enjoy the freedom of travelling alone it is certainly not for everyone. If the fear of going alone is putting you off the idea of travelling, then a group backpacking tour might be just what you need, at least to get you started. You will join up with a group of other travellers and explore countries or regions with much of the hassle of solo travel taken away from you and a bunch of other people to share your experience with.

Here are some companies that offer group backpacker tours:


xtrem gapXtreme Gap

They are very popular with young travellers who want to hang out with other people for the duration of their trip. The name is a bit deceptive as there is nothing all that extreme about what they offer but they have a range of different travel styles and cater for the most popular regions such as Southeast Asia, Australia and Latin America. If you’re nervous about solo travel then joining one of their shorter tours may help you meet some people who you could continue travelling with once the organised part is over.


more coming soon….

Travel Resources – Best Backpacker Travel Insurance Companies


QUICK RESOURCES FOR PLANNING TRIPS

flights | hostels | backpacker insurance | group travel | travel gear | shoestring guides | visas


Backpacker Travel Insurance

Finding travel insurance is an easy enough task but finding insurance that is tailored towards and provides good value and cover for backpackers is much tougher. Getting travel insurance before your trip is one of the most important things you will do and it is crucial you choose a reputable company and package that will cover you against the sort of activities you might get involved in and problems that could potentially come up.

These are two companies we recommend because they provide excellent cover geared specifically towards backpackers:


backpacker travel insuranceWorld Nomads

Insurance companies often have a pretty bad rep but a quick browse on World Nomads website and it’s clear they are not your average travel insurance firm. They are a relatively new enterprise (starting in 2002) and are directly targeted at backpackers, independent travellers and those with a thirst for adventure. As well as offering excellent deals on travel insurance they run a number of travel programs and scholarships, work with numerous charities and have some engaging and interesting blogs on adventure travel.


columbus travel insuranceColumbus Direct

The second company we are happy to recommend is Columbus Direct. They are one of the few companies to offer specific backpacker insurance and have some of the best prices in the industry. It’s actually quite surprising how little it can cost to be covered for travel in the entire world for up to a year!


There is more info on why you do need to get travel insurance here.

If you’ve had good experiences with any other travel insurance companies then feel free to get in touch and let us know. There are contact details at the top of this page.

Travel Resources – Find a Flight!


QUICK TRAVEL RESOURCES FOR PLANNING TRIPS

flights | hostels | backpacker insurance | group travel | travel gear | shoestring guides | visas


Flights

If you rarely travel then the internet can seem like a minefield of flight finding, fare comparing nonsense. That’s probably because it is but in reality most of the comparison sites and travel agencies provide basically the same service although some are considerably better at it than others.

Here are some of the sites and companies we recommend using:


 

skyscannerSkyscanner

Skyscanner is a great tool for finding the best deal on flights and is the first point of call for many travellers. If you’re flexible on dates it is brilliant as it lets you compare prices across a whole month or even the whole year and will help you find the cheapest days to travel. You can even use it as a source of travel inspiration by leaving the destination field blank (or typing ‘everywhere’) as it will show you the cheapest prices to all destinations on any given day or month.


 

farecompareFareCompare

This is another flight comparison site but it works differently to skyscanner which shows up actual fares that people have found as opposed to live prices. Farecompare searches a wide range of travel agencies and links to other flight engines meaning you can quickly get a wide range of prices up for flights on any given day. It lacks the flexibility on dates but is a decent alternative as skyscanner can sometime draw blanks for less popular routes or dates further in the future.

 


sta travelSta Travel

This student travel agency often has special deals for students and Under 26’s that don’t show up on flight comparison sites. They also specialise in round the world trips although you have to be careful that you fully understand the terms of the deal as sometimes they can be quite inflexible.

 


 

budget airBudget Air

These often do live up to their name by providing some of the best fares in the business. With branches in numerous European countries you can get good deals on flights to or from the continent.

 

 


 

expediaExpedia

Expedia is another flight booking site that has a worldwide presence and is popular for booking flights from Europe to Asia or Australia. It’s booking service is relatively simple and reliable so if there’s little difference in fares on long-haul flights (often almost all the agencies have very similar prices) they are a safe bet for making big bookings.

 


 

qatar airwaysQatar Airways

One of the best airlines in the business and their service and prices often put leading European and North American airlines to shame. If you’re flying from Britain or Europe to Southeast Asia you can get some really good deals on flights to Bangkok via their hub in Doha and may even arrive well rested and entertained. It’s usually cheaper to book through an agency like expedia rather than on their site.

 


 

You can find more details here on how to find cheap flights in different parts of the world.

 


 

 

Travel Resources – Backpacker Hostels


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flights | hostels | backpacker insurance | group travel | travel gear | shoestring guides | visas


Backpacker Hostels

Booking hostels online is a relatively simple procedure which allows you to search for hostels and read reviews and ratings left by other travellers. It’s usually immediately obvious which ones are decent and which ones are rubbish. As a general rule a hostel with lots of reviews over a reasonable period of time and a rating of over 80% is usually a reliable bet. Hostels with high ‘fun’ or ‘atmosphere’ ratings are usually sociable places that are good for meeting other travellers but might not be the best places to get a quiet nights sleep.

Here are some of the best places to book hostels:


where to book hostels onlineBooking.com

This site has developed into perhaps the best accommodation booking site on the web. Unlike the other two it doesn’t just cater for hostels but it’s very easy to use and you can quickly find the cheaper places by their filter. It also includes a lot of budget hotels and guesthouses that aren’t featured on the two sites below and you’d be surprised how often you can find a room for basically the same cost as a bed in a dorm.


 hostelbookersHostelbookers

They have an easy to use website that lets you search for beds in almost every country in the world. Larger cities can show up over 100 choices so you can use the rating and price filters to find the perfect hostel for your trip. When you book, you pay a 12% deposit and the rest when you arrive at your hostel.


 hostelworldHostelworld

Everything that we said about Hostelbookers applies here too. They tend to have a slightly larger range of hostels than the other lot and receive more bookings but basically they do what hostelbookers do with a few small changes. It’s worth comparing prices between the two as sometimes hostels can be cheaper on one site than they are on the other.


If you’re not in any rush or have a large booking to make then check out –How to find the best deal on Hostels


 

 

Step by Step Guide to Sorting Out Visas

published: October 2013

Sorting out Visas

The process of getting a visa can be relatively stressful. It largely depends on where you’re from, where you’re going and for how long. Here we’ll try and simplify the whole process for you as it can be quite daunting if you’ve not done much travelling.

visa for egypt


STEP 1: Check if you need a Visa

You can use VisaHQ to quickly check if you need a visa for any country. You can also book there in many cases and it’s good if you are in a rush to get it sorted but may be a little more expensive. Alternatively you can do it through the embassy of the country you wish to visit (in your own country). It depends where you’re from and how long you’re planning to stay but for UK/EU citizens it’s amazing how many countries you can visit without any need for a visa.


Contact details for embassies in UK

Contact details for embassies in Germany

Contact details for embassies in USA


Contact details for embassies in Australia


Contact details for embassies in Canada

Your country’s foreign office website (UK Foreign Office page) should also be of some use although you may be left with the distinct impression they don’t want you going anywhere such is the excessive nature of the travel warnings.

A Few Other things to Consider:

1) Make sure you’re passport isn’t in danger of expiring before you leave home (they normally last 10 years). You don’t want to end up like Tom Hanks in The Terminal or living in a desolate part of Russia like Edward Snowden. (Okay this is unlikely but lost passports and especially expired ones are a huge pain to sort out when you’re abroad.)

2) Also if you’re extremely well travelled you may find out you’re running out of blank pages in your passport. If you run out then you will also need a brand spanking new one!

3) Make sure you have several recent passport-sizes photos and take them on your trip with you. These are almost necessary when applying for visas.


STEP 2: Getting Visas

visa on arrival nonsense

A few pointers:

1) Some countries only grant visas through their official embassies or consulates. Others outsource to private companies to issue visas. Make sure these companies are reputable before handing any money over. Check travel forums and contact reliable sources in the travel industry if you’re at all in doubt.

2) Nowadays you can often get visas on arrival (i.e. when you land or reach the border). Sometimes you need to fill in some kind of online form beforehand while other times you can just turn up and fill out forms and pay fees at the entrance to the country. Queues can sometimes be long (see above!).

3) If you’re doing a backpacking trip across multiple countries it is also almost always possible to get a visa in neighbouring countries (e.g. you can get Myanmar visas at the Myanmar Embassy in Thailand). It’s normally cheaper to do it this way and allows more flexibility so if you’re planning being away for a while you probably don’t need to get all required visas before you leave home.

4) Visa applications for some countries can take a long time to process. For example Russian visas take several weeks to come through. Therefore make sure you allow yourself enough time to do this. If you want to visit China then apply at least a week before you wish to visit. You can get Chinese visas in neighbouring countries (including Hong Kong which most nationalities can visit visa free).

5) Before your trip, research not only the visa requirements but also the granted length of stay for each of the countries you think you might visit. This will help you plan more effectively. Typically travellers are granted anything from 30 to 180 days on arrival in a country.


STEP 3: Once You’ve Made it In

cambodia border crossin

Whether or not you required a visa to enter a country there are several fairly simple things you need to remember once you are there:

1) You can potentially get in trouble (and will at least be fined) if you stay longer than your allotted allowed time so be careful not to overstay. Whenever you arrive in a new country find out how long you have. This info should be clearly written on the stamp in your passport.

2) If you intend to spend several months in one country which only grants shorter stays then consider doing a border run. Even if you only spend ten minutes in the neighbouring country you will be granted a fresh amount of time on your return.

3) Hold onto to your immigration and emigration forms or any other paperwork you’re issued with on arrival. Losing them in some places can result in a lot of hassle when you eventually want to leave the country and potentially result in you missing transfers or getting fined.

4) Having a tourist visa doesn’t give you the right to work in a country. That said it is often very easy to find cash-in-hand jobs or ones that reward you with food or accommodation instead of money.


That’s the end. God that was dull!