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What do you think of Airbnb? Or hostels? Basically “Other People� While Vacationing?

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DD is in France, having a great SA experience. She just had her Spring Break and toured around multiple cities within France, solo. She had “circumstantial friends†along the way a couple of times, but overall, she was traveling alone to Grenoble, Strausberg, Lyon, Nantes, Bourdeux and maybe another place or two I am forgetting. She used Air B&B in a few cases, and hostels one or two nights. (If you don’t know, Air B&B you have generally a sleeping space and use of a kitchen, but you are 100% in somebody’s house; hostels are like dorm-room hotels where you have a bunk space and there are other same-gender folks sleeping in the room too.) (Sidenote: in Nantes, she stayed in a Tiny House in someone’s garden, which was really cute!)

 

So, she has this whole story now of one Air B&b; the (male) host met her at the train station with a white work-style van. She was very worried that this was one of those terrible ideas that is the last thing you do. The house was off the beaten path and she said she was mentally calculating how she would escape if this turned out badly. 😱😳😖 (This is the one blog entry I am not really hoping her father reads!) Turns out, all was well. Se adored this couple and they were incredibly welcoming and generous. They fed her great food and gave her glasses of wine and talked and were generally delighted to talk with someone trying her best to speak in French and so interested in learning a lot about France. She said it was the best bed she has slept in.

 

The hostel was her least-favorite sleep. She got there late, and was worried about making a racket getting the bed organized, but then was kept up all night by additionaly people coming in and making noise all night.

 

But here’s my meta-question that I’m taking my sweet time arriving at😠: how do you feel about “other people†or “strangers†with arrangements like Air B&B? I wasn’t totally sanguine about her plans, but I also feel like I can’t be like that. At college, she sleeps in a building full of “strangers†- at least they are all strangers at first. Of course, that is more regulated than AB&B. The thought of her getting into a box van with a total stranger does...well, pretty much stop my heart. But I don’t know - everyone is a stranger until you get to know them. And the outcome was amazing. It was her best night away. Would I feel differently if it were my SON in France, getting into a van with a female? Yes, without a doubt.

 

I will be going over there in March and I have considered using AB&B for my last two nights in the Loire Valley, but it’s that “other people†thing that makes me nervous...yet, it could be the best stay of all should I meet interesting local folks. What do you think?

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We use air b&b but always use the entire place option.  I love meeting people but not rooming with strangers that's just to much for me.

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They’re not my cup of tea but I have a friend who traveled Europe that way for months. L’Abri in Switzerland was her final stop but she took a very adventurous route to get there, way moreso than I’d have been comfortable with.

 

But she also spent many months in Haiti doing missions, so I question her risk assessments as being a bit lax 😆

Edited by Arctic Mama
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We do them periodically but we always do the entire house or condo option.

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Doesn't Air B&B have a fairly reliable review system?

 

Traveling alone as a woman can be risky but usually everything is fine. You can protect yourself by reading reliable reviews, not going to deserted places alone at night, staying sober, choosing female hosts. I have sometimes felt uncomfortable taking taxis alone. Your concerns are completely understandable though most people who interact with tourists are good.

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If I were in a group sounds good, but not on my own. 

 

Honestly, I've probably seen the movie Taken too many times :)

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Doesn't Air B&B have a fairly reliable review system?

 

Traveling alone as a woman can be risky but usually everything is fine. You can protect yourself by reading reliable reviews, not going to deserted places alone at night, staying sober, choosing female hosts. I have sometimes felt uncomfortable taking taxis alone. Your concerns are completely understandable though most people who interact with tourists are good.

Yes, the reviews are a good way to have some idea. The main thing she didn’t realize from booking was that, although it is possible to walk to the house from the train station, it is twenty minutes and off the beaten path. Even after nothing alarming happened while staying with this couple, she still had to then walk early in the morning to the train station off the beaten path. She said she saw no one while walking to the train and it was 5am. So that also gave her the creeps.

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If I were in a group sounds good, but not on my own.

 

Honestly, I've probably seen the movie Taken too many times :)

Probably glad I never saw that one right now!

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We also only ever do the whole house option.

 

When traveling at 20 in Europe by myself, I got one bedroom (lockable door) hostel/b&bs a lot. Communal sleeping is not safe. My friend got roofied at a pub in Switzerland; it was only her friends who got her out safely. I also take precautions with re: to unguarded drinks, etc. Europe is a lot safer than the US, but it’s not problem free.

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I have discouraged DD to use AirB&B (or similar services) when she is traveling alone.  She has done homestays with a family if it was arranged through a university program or some similar situation.  For example, she studied Italian at a language school which arranged a room in a local home for her.  We have rented homes, apartments, and rooms when traveling together or when we have known someone local who is aware of the situation.  

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Dd is fine using Airbnb for just a bed, while I have only done it by renting the whole house. When I was young, I would have embraced the way dd travels. But I’m old and not as adventurous as I once was. I want privacy, and I’m super introverted, and I’m becoming more this way as I get older.

 

Your dd’s adventures sound awesome. Dd did the same in Tokyo. Just found something on Airbnb and took off from Kobe for the weekend. I love people who seize the day like that!

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My parents use Air BNB to rent out their second home. They’ve had a wonderful experience with it & lovely people rent their home from all over the world. I’ve never personally used Air BNB, but in my early twenties I only used hostels when traveling in different areas of Europe. A few were less than desirable, but the majority were amazing. I would totally recommend either.

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Honestly, I've probably seen the movie Taken too many times :)

 

And Criminal Minds, and the Equalizer and...:-o

Edited by Ellie

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When I was young and traveling alone it was before the era of AirBnB. But I did other things that were totally in that vein, like getting on the back of mopeds with strange men. And I stayed in hostels sometimes and in some weird guesthouses. I don't feel like anyone who doesn't want to do those things should feel they should. As a middle aged person with a bit more money, I wouldn't travel that way again most likely. But I also wouldn't trade my experiences for anything. Like, I'm glad I did that stuff. I had fun.

Edited by Farrar
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Welllll, speaking as an Airbnb superhost (in fact, it's midnight thirty or so and I just got home about 45 minutes ago from cleaning it for my guests tomorrow), I think it's a fabulous option.  Of course, I can't say what all hosts are like, but I do believe the vast majority of hosts are very, very into making their guests stay an excellent one.  Maybe I'm biased as a host that operates that way.  I have picked people up from the airport shuttle a couple of times, I always have a pastry from a local bakery on the counter when guests arrive, and offer a giftcard to a locally owned restaurant with multi-night stays.  I clean thoroughly every time.  

 

Mine is a studio apartment (with a second bedroom add-on option), so it's a completely self contained unit.  My guests don't at all feel like they're in someone else's home.  The apartment IS attached to a house in which I have regular monthly renters, but the apartment itself is very private.  I have hosted people from Germany, France, Great Britain, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Ukraine, Canada, and Italy (that I can remember off the top of my head), as well as from a wide variety of places around the USA.  It's been pretty cool. 

 

You mentioned regulations and that Airbnbs aren't regulated -- in many places there are regulations, some quite stringent.  In some places, they're more relaxed and in some places, there are none at all.  We're in the latter category at present.  No, Airbnbs don't have sprinkler systems or fire suppression doors, and we serve food that may have been (gasp!) made in our own non-commercial kitchen, etc., but I guess I figure -- people know that going into the deal.  They WANT to stay in a home type situation rather than a hotel.  They have made that choice and they know what goes along with that choice. 

 

I have also traveled using Airbnb and love it.  I've found some really great places.  Only once did we choose the share-a-space option but that was by mistake.  I thought it was an apartment.  I didn't like going that route, but as a young vagabond, I can see the appeal (lower cost + more interaction with people).  In some situations (San Francisco, for one), we didn't stay in an Airbnb because they got pretty expensive fast with exorbitant cleaning fees. 

 

If anyone who is not already an Airbnb member wants a link which, if used to register, will give you $40 off a qualifying ($75+) stay, PM me and I'll get that to you.  I don't know if I'm allowed to posted it here. 

 

Edited by milovany
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We have used AirBnB repeatedly, both travelling as a family in a whole property and travelling solo.  Hobbes is going for a university visit next week and is staying in one room in an AirBnB.

 

I would make sure that I could get to and from the place without relying on anyone else, and I would be a little concerned about being picked up in a vehicle by a stranger.  Otherwise, it doesn't worry me, nor would booking into a hostel that I found in a guidebook or that had tons of reviews.

 

My only potentially dangerous travelling incident in thirty-five years on three continents was one night on a train when I overheard some worrying chat in a foreign language that the talker didn't know I understood, and joined another woman for a night in the train corridor.

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I never minded staying in a hostel in France when I studied abroad.  I'd be more concerned about the man picking up a young woman in a van though.  In college, one of my dumbest moments was flying back to school after winter break and going to the taxi line at the airport and having a stranger come up and ask if I wanted to use his luxury car service for the same fee as a taxi.  I said sure and jumped in the car.  Only once we were moving did I realize that was probably a really dumb thing to have done.  It all worked out fine, I just regret making that decision as it was unwise.  

 

Objectively, the most danger I was probably in was simply walking to and from my study abroad campus at dawn and dusk to my homestay through the lower-income neighborhood in my southern France city where my host mom lived.  

 

Most people, in most places, are good people.  Whether or not you're willing to rely on that statistic is probably a question of experience, youthful invincibility complex, sense of adventure...  I no longer would be willing to do a lot of things that my youthful invincibility complex allowed me to do.   

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A couple of summers ago when DS22 was doing a summer study abroad he went all over Europe on weekends using trains, cheap flights and staying at hostels. He didn't love them but he did love the price. ;) I don't think he had any bad experiences other than noise and commotion. Now he's got a great full time job lined up that doesn't start until August, a summer to fill, and is thinking about seeing Spain and Portugal, also staying in hostels. As Farar said, as an older person with more money it's sure not the choice I would make. But I don't have any real worries about him doing it.

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A couple of summers ago when DS22 was doing a summer study abroad he went all over Europe on weekends using trains, cheap flights and staying at hostels. He didn't love them but he did love the price. ;) I don't think he had any bad experiences other than noise and commotion. Now he's got a great full time job lined up that doesn't start until August, a summer to fill, and is thinking about seeing Spain and Portugal, also staying in hostels. As Farar said, as an older person with more money it's sure not the choice I would make. But I don't have any real worries about him doing it.

Do you think it bothers you less that he is male?

 

I suppose it is all Monday-morning quarter-backing now and, whew! Glad it was not a bad situation! And now she has an adventersome story to tell. But, FTR, I’m not eager for a repeat of that scenario...

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Bear in mind, we are all "other people" to the folks we meet while traveling, too. :-) I think using a bed in a hostel or Air B&B would be ok - a room rented off Craigslist or a flyer tacked up in a public space - no.

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Do you think it bothers you less that he is male?

 

I suppose it is all Monday-morning quarter-backing now and, whew! Glad it was not a bad situation! And now she has an adventersome story to tell. But, FTR, I’m not eager for a repeat of that scenario...

Thinking about this, since I have all boys. For me, it's about the ability to protect themselves. I worry less, in general, about my 5'10" 170 pounder than I do my 5'7" 120 pounder, just because one looks like an easier target. I know I'd worry more if I had daughters.

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In the mid '80's, I spent a year in Berlin. My mom came to visit me and we did some travelling. In one city, when we got off the train, we were approached by a woman who asked if we needed a place to stay as she had an extra room she was willing to let us use. My mom had read this was common in Europe, so we accepted her offer. This is similar to an Air BnB offer (before internet access.)

 

My dd spent time travelling through Europe when she had a summer there and used Air BnB successfully. Like the OP's dd, though, she had an experience when she and her friend booked a place, not realizing how far away it was from the train station. They arrived late at night and the host picked them up and drove them the 30 min to the house. I've told my kids that I don't need to know everything they do and I'm glad I didn't know about this until after she returned home! 

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Like posted above, not all Air BnBs are a room in someone’s house. A lot are a un-occupied house, apartment, cabin, etc. I know someone who traveled using a couch surfing website. THAT I would NOT recommend.

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Good question.  Somehow I always felt different about this when I was in Europe than I do about it in the US.  I wonder why?  When I used to travel in Europe, long before the days of Air BnB, there were often people at the train stations offering a room and breakfast at their place. You'd follow them home and that was that.  Most of them were older women, so maybe that is why I didn't feel so nervous.  I don't think I ever would have done that in the US!

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I tend to do B&B rather than AirB&B.  But my personal preference is really a hostel.  I don't care about sharing in terms of safety though I do these days in terms of getting to sleep and having my own bathroom.  Now, if I am traveling with a chatty person, I am happy to stay in a B&B.

 

Most AirB&Bs aren't in homes in many markets, they are separate or whole properties, so in that case I don't see any difference to any other rental.  (This may be different in markets that traditionally have a lot of homestays like the UK.)  And in large city markets they are increasingly owned as a major business investment, not as private people making a little extra money - so really, not much different from any other business.

 

 

Edited by Bluegoat
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Do you think it bothers you less that he is male?

 

Probably.

 

But since I only have male children it's kinda hard to say for sure.

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Thinking about this, since I have all boys. For me, it's about the ability to protect themselves. I worry less, in general, about my 5'10" 170 pounder than I do my 5'7" 120 pounder, just because one looks like an easier target. I know I'd worry more if I had daughters.

 

DS22 is very short, maybe 5'5" or thereabouts. But he's also about 140 pounds of solid muscle (he's very much into physical fitness, lifts weights and/or runs almost every day). So even though he's a small male I don't worry about his ability to take care of himself.

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We used hostels when traveling through Europe. I would prefer that option for safety, as they are regular businesses, with employees operating the desk, can choose same sex rooms if desired, etc.

 

Air b&b can be a toss up, as they are personal private rooms.

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I have used AirBNB several times.  It is for our family vacations so I always rent a WHOLE space whether it be a house or apartment.  I love it over a hotel for longer stays.  It has not always been cheaper for us, but it hasn't been more expensive.  For the cost of a hotel, we get a lot more space and are able to prepare meals which makes for a more pleasant and cost effective vacation for us.

 

I'm not sure how I feel about your DD's circumstances, but I'm leaning more towards it being a better option than some random find with getting a much better cultural experience.  

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We have used Airbnb quite a bit, but as a family we use a place that is either detached or an apartment. It has been a great option.  We used one in Sydney right in the best area and it was a decent price and very nice.  We are using another one for our spring break coming up and I think it will be great.  I do not know about staying in one right in someone's extra bedroom as a female alone, but I'm a very small female.

 

When I was young I traveled around Europe for several years.  I stayed in hostels. The official hostels are safe, clean and really great.  They can be extremely noisy if a school group is there, but otherwise it was a cheap and fantastic place to stay.  One time I stayed at an unofficial hostel and it was terrible.  It was not nice and clean.  People partied all night and my bed was made out of 2x4's.  I think there were fleas as well.  

 

I did also stay in the guesthouses (seemed like a boarding house type thing) those were awesome too.  I met all kinds of great people and my hosts were always gracious.

 

 I did get stranded once and could not find a room.  The local police (this was somewhere in Austria) sent all the women traveling alone to a monastery and it was very nice.  After that I did look to stay in them when I could.  They were basic but very nice.

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That sounds like a great story, and honestly, the best stories come when there's a little bit of risk or uncertainty involved.

 

When I traveled as a teen and young adult, I know I met people who invited me to stay at their houses, and I didn't really enjoy these experiences, but they gave me the best stories afterward, and luckily my gut instincts (that these were good people) were right. The reason I preferred youth hostels was because I was raised with a great deal of freedom and independence, and I found it limiting to stay with people whose expectations of young women were that they should not go certain places by themselves or do certain things alone or at certain times. It was so good for me to experience this aspect of other cultures, and to recognize my extraordinary privilege, but it was definitely less constraining to stay among groups of other travelers. However, isn't it amazing that so many people are so eager to share their homes and lives with relative strangers? I truly believe the overwhelming majority of them are guileless and good.

 

 

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I would love to travel that way alone - and the other people wouldn't bother me unless they were really needy but I imagine that would be rare.

 

It would not be as comfortable travelling around "other people" with my DH or children along. I guess I feel more comfortable and able to not be an intrusion if it's just my own introverted self.

 

I don't know how I'd feel if it were my kids - I'm not there yet and only have boys.

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I just looked around for a place to stay when we go to visit my sister and my mom in a couple of months.  We can't stay at their house anymore because they got cats (I love the cats!  but allergies...)

 

Hotels are running $130 a night, for a room without a kitchenette, about 5 miles away from their house.

 

AirBnB has HOUSES for $70 a night plus a $100 cleaning fee, so it's $95 a night all told.  Three bedrooms, full kitchen--it is a HOUSE.  My mom and sister can come and visit with US there and be comfortable.  We can eat full meals.  It's within one mile of my sister's house.  

 

So yeah, I am going to give it a try.  I read the reviews and they are all good.   We stayed in a VRBO in Hawaii and the hostess was hospitality itself

 

I don't think I would be interested *as a couple* going to stay in a "wing" or extra bedroom, but I probably would have done so when I was single.  

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I have never done any of that stuff. I have always stayed in hotels when I traveled. Places like hostels never appealed to me at all, and I had no interest in renting a room in someone else’s home. I always felt that if I couldn’t stay at a nice hotel, I’d rather just stay home. :)

 

 

(Edited for typo!)

Edited by Catwoman
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We've stayed in an AirBnB that was an entire separate home, and it was a great experience.

 

Last summer dd, then 17 (but looks about 12), needed a place to stay in NYC (minimum check-in age for NYC hotels is 18).  Through another boardie here whom I don't know in real life or even have much interaction with here, I found a young couple who offered her a place to stay in their apartment ... so we put her on a plane and shipped her off to stay with total strangers, who picked her up at the airport and took her home with them.  So, sort of a similar situation as in OP.  It has become one of dd's favorite stories to tell -- going off to stay with strangers ("Does my mom not understand Stranger Danger? This is pretty much exactly What Not to Do"), wandering around NYC on her own.

 

(We DID have several weeks ahead of time to email back and forth with the people she was staying with, and checked them out via social media.  And we had a list of emergency contacts for dd, such as other dd's BFF who was living in the city at the time, my cousin in Connecticut who works in NYC.  I mean, it wasn't quite as crazy as it sounds.  Almost, but not quite.)

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I've never stayed in AirBnB but have stayed in many hostels in Italy. It worked great for us. Some of them were fantastic. If I was travelling alone I think I would feel safer staying in a hostel because of the staff and so many other people around.

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