When we went to Paris last year, Alex and I decided to try out Airbnb instead of a hotel, mainly because we wanted to be immersed in Parisian life. While it’s already a popular option for travelers, I wanted to share my Airbnb experience in case any of you haven’t yet given it a shot and are curious about how it all works.
Where we stayed
We chose a small, but comfortable apartment in the 15th arrondissement, a residential neighborhood that’s slightly removed from the major destinations. I was immediately drawn in by the apartment’s clean, modern decor and all the great reviews from other guests.
The owner was helpful and responsive leading up to our trip, and even though he was out of town, made sure there was someone to greet us and give us a tour of the apartment when we arrived.
I think we were staying in his actual primary residence, which I hadn’t expected, and it was a little strange to find closets full of his clothes and shoes. But, it was also sort of cool to see all his fun photos and little trinkets. It was like stepping into the life of a Parisian for a second.
I usually cringe at the thought of being in someone else’s bed or bathroom, but I was actually fine during this trip. (I think I had just resigned myself to the idea that this wasn’t the typical hotel experience.) Plus, our host made sure the apartment was really comfortable. He was kind enough to provide basic items like soap, toilet paper, and even coffee and bottled water. He also had an eclectic collection of books and left magazines on the nightstands and an iPad and speaker for music. And did I mention there was a washing machine in the bathroom?
One of the great things about Airbnb is how easy it is to set up a profile and start searching for a place. There are a ton of filters to narrow your search according to your needs and I love that you can use the map to focus on a specific area. I dare say it’s easier than looking for a hotel because you can do it all in one place. They also make sure everything is super transparent, so you can see real reviews from previous travelers.
When you find one you like, you can put in a request which the owner accepts at their discretion. We actually didn’t get the first apartment we liked. I think it was because we hadn’t yet put up any photos and my profile was blank, which looks shady to apartment owners.
Speaking of profiles, there have been a lot of stories lately about racial discrimination on Airbnb, but fortunately, I didn’t experience this. However, as a black woman, I’ve become accustomed to being judged by my appearance, so I uploaded a profile photo of me and my boyfriend, Alex, who’s white. It’s sad that I might have needed that validation, but my priority was finding a great place to stay with as little problems as possible.
Would I do it again?
My first experience was a good one, and I think I’d consider using Airbnb again, especially if I’m traveling with more than two people. In most cases, it’s probably more affordable to split the cost of a large apartment among a group than trying to wrangle multiple hotel rooms.
That said, Airbnb offers a specific kind of travel experience. It’s for the person who’s comfortable figuring things out on their own when in a foreign country and is ok with forgoing the luxuries of a hotel room.
I’m definitely a girl who likes her comforts – like a freshly cleaned room every morning, access to the front desk at any moment, and maybe even room service (if I’m feeling super lazy and the hotel food is decent). And when traveling alone, I’d probably feel safer staying in a hotel than a stranger’s home.
Still, I like that I have options.