I’ve known about Airbnb for several years now, but haven’t gotten around to using it until my recent trip to Manila.
If you’re unfamiliar with the site, Airbnb is a place where private home owners can rent out their properties (usually apartments) to travellers. It gives hosts a platform to earn some short term rental income and travellers the chance to enjoy the comforts of a private home.
Manila is notorious for a lack of good, budget hotels (at least in comparison to the neighbouring Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia), so I decided it would be the perfect place to enjoy my first Airbnb experience. Here’s how it all went:
Finding a place on Airbnb
Airbnb has properties available in pretty much all major cities around the world. The search function is easy enough to use, and works basically the same as the popular hotel sites.
You can search by map or by list, and can filter by price, housing type and amenities. One thing I don’t like is you can’t filter by area/suburb, or at least I couldn’t figure out how to.
For this particular booking, I set the filters to apartments costing less than $40 a night with free wifi and a gym. There was a good number of results, and I used the wishlist function to bookmark around 5 or 6 places which looked good and were within my budget.
Securing Your Airbnb Booking
Once I had a shortlist I had to decide on one to book. My priorities here were safety, price and location, in that order.
Two of them did not have any reviews from previous guests, so from a safety perspective I disregarded them from the get-go. That left with me with around 4 properties to choose from.
Now, Airbnb has an “Instant Book” function, where you can simply book using the online reservation system and secure the place instantly at the listed price. However, if you plan on staying for more than a few nights, you probably have a bit of bargaining power. I’ve noticed a lot of places on AirBnB are not heavily booked, so, at least when I was looking, supply seemed to outweigh demand. Therefore I decided to get in touch with each of them, and see if anyone could offer me a better price.
To do that I simply used the “Contact host” option. You can find this option at the bottom of each listing.
My message was along the lines of, “Hi, I’m arriving in Manila tomorrow and need a place to stay. Could you possibly offer me a better rate if I stayed for 5 nights? My budget is around $30/night. I’m a great tenant, I promise!”
I got a response from one host literally within minutes. Her listed rate was $38, but was happy to give me $30 per night for the 5 nights. That’s a 21% discount just by asking! I accepted immediately and we arranged a check-in time that would suit us both. It really was that simple.
(As for the other hosts, one got back to me the next day and counter-offered, one said she couldn’t lower her rate and one didn’t reply at all).
Payments and fees
Airbnb allowed me to pay in NZD, and the rate was decent, however the fees they charge are a bit extravagant for my liking.
$21 for a $171 booking is 12%. I understand these guys need to take a cut somewhere, but 12% is getting rather hefty.
If you don’t mind being a little sneaky though, there is a way around it. Just tell the host you plan on staying for X nights but you’ll just book one night on Airbnb first so you can check the place out, and you can sort the rest out later on. This is good for three reasons:
- The host also gets charged a fee by Airbnb, so will probably be happy to take the booking offline. He/she will also be more likely to give you a discounted rate.
- You actually get to see the place before committing more nights to it.
- By booking one night on Airbnb, you’re technically making a legitimate booking, so you’re not blatantly breaking any rules. You also still have the leverage of posting a review on the host’s profile if he/she tries any funny business on you (as opposed to removing Airbnb from the process completely).
You should note however that you won’t totally avoid fees by doing this. I did this on a subsequent booking and got charged $5 in fees for just a one night stay, which was about 20% (yikes!).
In the end though, I’m quite happy to pay Airbnb a fee for their service, so for short bookings I just plan on booking through the site. If the time comes however that I need a longer term (2 weeks+) booking, I’ll probably try to take it offline.
What does a rental on Airbnb look like?
My place was what I expected. The photos were accurate and the apartment was clean with all the amenities promised. Here’s what $30 a night gets you in Manila:
For some reason I forgot to take a photo of the kitchen, which was small but sufficient.
As for the process, the host simply gave me the address and a time to check-in, we met in the lobby at the scheduled time and within 15 minutes I was all settled. If I needed anything (like towels, sheets), I just sent her a quick text message or email and it was all taken care of. It’s all very fuss-free without any filling of forms or paperwork (as Airbnb keeps all that stuff on their system).
Once my stay was over the check-out was just as easy. The host came by the apartment to take the keys and I was on my way.
Verdict on Airbnb
Airbnb definitely has my tick of approval and I plan on using it much more in future. It’s not exactly ideal for super budget travellers, as dorms and even private hostel rooms are likely to be cheaper, but for those who want a bit more privacy and flexibility it’s definitely a better option than hotels.
The fees for using the site are very high, and that’s probably because they’re one of the first sites of their kind. Several other sites have popped up, but nothing that’s really come close to knocking them from the top spot.
It is however a great service and often worth the fees for the value you can find there.
A few other tips and things you should know
Always make sure you check the reviews of the host. I, personally, wouldn’t stay with anyone who does not have at least one positive review. Remember these places are not as secure as hotels, they are individuals and you need to be a little more cautious than usual.
There’s no need to pay the listed price. As far as I can see, there are far more hosts than there are renters, so the bargaining power is in your favour. Moreover, on Airbnb you deal directly with the home owner, rather than a manager or receptionist, so the chance of negotiating a better rate are far higher.
Be mindful that when you make a booking, Airbnb will pre-authorise your credit card and charge a security deposit. If anything happens to the apartment while you’re in there, like, say, you leave the shower on and flood the place, Airbnb will be able to charge it to you.
Before you can make a booking they also will require a photo/scan of your ID to verify your identity/account, and I assume they do the same with hosts. It’s bit of a fuss but a good sign that they take security seriously.
Ready to try Airbnb?
If you’re interested to try Airbnb on your next trip, you can get a free $25 credit for your first booking by signing up through my referral link.
Have you tried Airbnb? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below!
I’d love to try it out! I’ll have to check the India listings.
I’m sure there’d be a lot! Let me know how it goes 🙂
Great post! Thank you show much for sharing all of this! I’ve bookmarked it and plan to re-read when I’m ready to try it out.
No problem, glad it was helpful.
Awesome tips! I have known about them for the past few years as well, but I still have yet to try them out (although I really want to). I’m excited for what’s to come from that company, they have been dropping some massive hints lately on new developments.
Really? Like what? Sounds intriguing.
I used it all throughout Spain in May. It allowed me to stay 50 feet from the heart of Madrid, right on the old town in Granada, lost in the walking streets of Sevilla and in a most amazing B&B room in Almunecar. Every one of those were inexpensive and their owners were so hospitable to giving us the room early if we arrived early (like 10am early). On the flip side, I made a change and got a room that looked good on the site but stunk of mildew intensely. It didn’t have any comments for it so I learned my lesson there. Still, highly recommended. I’ll probably use it whenever possible in the future.
I haven’t had the chance to try it in Europe but I would imagine there are some gems for sure, as you’ve obviously already discovered. Will definitely use next time I head up there, thanks for sharing
We love AirBNB (my wife even posted at length about her crush on AirBNB: http://depart2arrive.com/crush-airbnb/)! We’re traveling as a couple so the pricing often works out to be competitive with hostels and budget hotels that charge per person. We’ve stayed in AirBNBs in France, Italy, Morocco, South Africa, USA, and Turkey and have upcoming bookings in Hungary and the Czech Republic. In our experience, you are right on the money when it comes to asking for a lower rate – we have a near 100% success rate with that, and sometimes get a lower rate without asking by mentioning in our inquiry that we’re looking at a number of local properties. Anyway, great tips!
Hey Adam, sounds like you’ve used it a fair bit, have you tried Wimdu or Roomorama yet?
was skeptical at first… tried airbnb when I went to Germany. had no problems at all, the place and location were great.
Yes I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long to try it, but I’m definitely a fan.
I love Airbnb! It allows you to have a home away from home. I’m currently searching for a good Airbnb stay for my Oct Hong Kong trip. =P
HK would be a perfect place to do it, hotels are notoriously expensive there.
Exactly! I’m still on a lookout… but if you’re going to Bali, Paris or Greece, here are some places I’ve stayed at and recommend… http://the-sia-brat.com/2014/06/05/home-away-from-home/
Awesome Bren! Very helpful. Thanks for the discount link too.. will surely try this soon.
cool blog your post more with more information
I tried to use your link to get the travel credit, but it didn’t work.
Hi Ari, checked the link and it’s working. What is wrong exactly?
Also try to pick a “Superhost” if you can, because this means they have had consistent 5 star reviews from their guests. Try this when in Manila…[link removed]
Hi, anyone here tried airbnb in Macau? and is the confirmation letter from airbnb a valid document while in PH immigration? I really do appreciate if somebody could share their experiences.