Is AIRBNB a good choice?

Old Jan 24th, 2013, 05:52 AM
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Is AIRBNB a good choice?

Hi there. My wife and I will be in France and Italy for 14 days from September 21 to October 6. We are leaning heavily towards renting flats/apartments while we are in Paris, Florence, and Rome. It looks like it will be less expensive than hotels and will give us the feel of being a local. I've looked on AIRBNB and am generally impressed with the places available and their location. Has anyone had any experiences with going this route and any suggestions?

Chad B
Raleigh, NC
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Old Jan 24th, 2013, 05:53 AM
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Hi Chad, if you do a search here for airbnb you will get lots of threads with people's opinions. I havent used them myself but the search should give you a start.
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Old Jan 24th, 2013, 06:02 AM
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I've read some negative reviews of it. You can get a lot of suggestions on this forum if you post what you need and your budget/itinerary.
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Old Jan 24th, 2013, 07:29 AM
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Air BnB is just a service that connects you with owners of apartments. They are not an apartment management company.

You need to do all your own checking to see exactly what you are getting if you use one of the places they list. That is - confirm they exist with google earth, check out neighborhood, look for references, get full information (not just email) but also phone and address of the owner and find out who you are to contact if there is any problem on the spot (address and phone number).

(Per the posts here some people have had good experiences and some awful ones - with the posters not providing accurate info on the accommodations.)
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Old Jan 24th, 2013, 07:49 AM
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There are apartment management companies in Paris and Rome that are reputable. There may be some for Florence too. Airbnb gives you no recourse if the person listing the apartment is scamming you. You will be in a foreign country, with a foreign legal system. In much of Italy and especially Tuscany the legal system is farcical (read The Monster of Florence and then realize the same prosecutor still had a job and is the one who brought the ridiculous claims against Amanda Knox).

Use a reputable company that requires payments by credit card (so you can challenge later if the company screws you) and you can find very nice apartments for less than hotel prices (especially in Paris, where decent hotels run 180E or more per night) without risking a fiasco from cheaping out on an airbnb "steal."
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Old Jan 24th, 2013, 08:26 AM
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Big Russ, as an Airbnb host for our guest room in the States, I can tell you your information about Airbnb is not quite accurate when you say you have no recourse if the apartment owner is scamming you.

The way that Airbnb works is that you request a reservation for your dates with the owner through Airbnb. You can ask the owner all the questions you may have, again through Airbnb. When you are satisfied, and book, they put you in direct contact so you can then talk directly with the owner if there are details you need to check.

Your rental money is paid via credit card or PayPal to Airbnb when you make your booking. The money is not transferred to the owner's account until 24 hours after you arrive. If things are not as advertised when you inspect the property, you can contact the 24/7 Airbnb hotline and stop the payment until things are made right.

I'm sure there are screw ups with Airbnb, just as there are with any rental agency, but at least you can take some comfort in the fact that the owner is motivated to have things in order so that he gets his money. This contrasts to other services, like VRBO, that often require 50% payment when you book, and the full payment a month before you arrive. Don't get me wrong, I have had only good experiences with the numerous VRBO places we have rented, and did have one really bad Airbnb experience in Amsterdam before they had the 24/7 hotline established.

As with all agencies like this, be sure to read the reviews carefully and ask any number of questions of the owner if things are not clear. If you don't get straight and prompt answers -- look elsewhere.
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Old Jan 24th, 2013, 08:52 AM
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With that $10,000 budget of yours, AirBnb wouldn't be where I'd be looking. I'd be checking out Paris Perfect. I'm sure AirBnb works out fine for a lot of people, but if you want to read about one person's experience with it, check out my Not A Trip Report by clicking on my screen name.
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Old Jan 24th, 2013, 09:17 AM
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nukesafe does defend airbnb - and is reasonable. But me personally would never (EVER) use airbnb overseas. Ever. No more than I'd use Craigslist.

In the States <i>maybe</i> (still not that likely but possible)

If you have a problem in Europe--how the heck are you going to resolve it? It's not like you can't haul the owner into small claims court.

If I was on a very limited budget I'd stay in hostels. Otherwise I can always find acceptable accommodations w/o resorting to airbnb.
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Old Jan 24th, 2013, 09:54 AM
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Several posters on Fodor's are near-hysterical about AirBnb. I've never used them, but I've read plenty of positive reviews on other message boards like Frommer's and TripAdvisor from well-seasoned travelers to Europe.

Just because you have $10,000 budget doesn't mean you should spend more than is necessary to make you happy and comfortable in your hotels. It is very common mistake Americans make going to Europe that they overspend on hotels -- especially in the multi-star category of hotel, out of an erroneous belief they MUST be in the 7th arr to be right on top of the Eiffel Tower, or the BEST hotels in London are looking up the horses' rear ends of the changing of the guards.

You needn't take AirBnB out of the mix, but you might want to start soliciting a wider range of opinion and rigid absolutist response than you are getting here on Fodor's about just about everything. Having identified yourself as a first time traveler, you can expect a lot of yelling at you that "I would NEVER do this" and "if I had YOUR money" etc etc., and a lot of anxiety about every little thing going wrong.

You'll need travel insurance. You really don't need this.
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Old Jan 24th, 2013, 09:59 AM
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For what it's worth, I think Paris Perfect is suburbanized American Paris for tourists and charges a fortune for hand-holding super-nervous anxious travelers. They really are overpriced and almost all of their apartments are out of walking range of the most interesting parts of Paris unless you are going there to shop and be around other American tourists. A lot of people on Fodor's ADORE them -- but honestly, you don't realize if you just showed up here that Fodor's is distilled to a fairly small and uniform demographic of traveler to Europe, with a pretty narrow idea of what traveling is to Paris or London. It is worth your money and your trip you check out other resources for advice, unless you want to go to "Fodorite Paris." You might prefer going to Paris. It's a great, varied city.
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Old Jan 24th, 2013, 10:27 AM
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Nukesafe: perhaps you need to re-read both the post and my response. The OP is going to a foreign country with foreign laws, not another state in the US. Paypal to an airbnb owner in another country who is not legit is as good as money down the drain.

As for goldenautumn's posts - it seems like flanneruk has a Paris equivalent: strident, bumptious, accusatory and full of rot.
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Old Jan 24th, 2013, 11:24 AM
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Thank you all for the suggestions. We'd much rather save money on the accommodations and have more to spend on experiencing the cities (food, museums, food, wine, etc). Our goal for Paris, Florence, and Rome is to have a home base in the best walkable locations. Whether that be a hotel or flat is completely undecided. In saying that, what are the best districts in these cities to be able to walk or use transit to see the major attractions? Thanks again for your prompt attention.
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Old Jan 24th, 2013, 12:00 PM
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BigRuss, I think we are really in agreement on this issue. When you rent in another country, and pay up front, you are at the mercy of a different legal system, complicated by a language barrier. All I am saying is that the Airbnb practice of not paying the owner until the renter has a chance to inspect the property gives one some level of protection in being able to recover your bucks. If you have paid in advance you are not in the driver's seat.

I agree that if the accommodation is unsuitable, or you have been scammed, you are going to find yourself out on the street with no place to lay your head for that first night, no matter what agency you use.
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Old Jan 24th, 2013, 12:04 PM
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<<strident, bumptious, accusatory and full of rot.>>

Perfectly stated,

And there is nothing at all "American" about Paris Perfect. Obviously, zeppole knows nothing about the owners/operators.
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Old Jan 24th, 2013, 05:14 PM
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zeppole: "<i>but you might want to start soliciting a wider range of opinion and rigid absolutist response than you are getting here on Fodor's about just about everything.</i>"

What a load of crap. Why the heck can't you just respond w/ your opinion w/o attacking everyone else???? What did anyone say that deserved that sort of nastiness?

Oh - and BTW "<i>You'll need travel insurance. You really don't need this.</i>"

If one finds a place through airbnb (or any other site really) and it exists but isn't as nice as represented . . . that won't be refunded by travel insurance, nor will travel insurance find you another place to stay.

And if you think Fodors gives such awful advice, why do you keep re-registering w/ new screen names?

(BigRuss: goldenautumn is zeppole back yet again)
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Old Jan 24th, 2013, 06:41 PM
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I have a friend in Ireland who rents out the ensuite bedroom in her house on AirBnB and has done very well with it.

She's had good guests, and the place is immaculate - so it's not such a black hole process to go through.
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Old Jan 24th, 2013, 07:03 PM
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HAH! Love you, janisj. If she ventures into the Dordogne, her a&& is arugula!
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Old Jan 24th, 2013, 07:13 PM
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burnstock - You need to state how much you want to spend on rooms per night and what amenities you need. It makes no sense to just talk areas without that. There is no point in someone suggesting a place that doesn't meet your budget/needs.

>>>She's about the most offensive person on all the travel/food sites combined and has been booted from many of them justifiably for being so.<<<

Stepsbeyond aka zeppole aka goldenautumn aka multiple other banned screen names, I think makes the rounds of the various travel boards. When she is banned from one website, she moves on to the next only to be banned there also after a few posts. I think she is on her 7th or 8th name here.
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Old Jan 24th, 2013, 07:17 PM
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I have never used them, but here is a thread from the France forum on tripadvisor concerning them:
http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic...nb-France.html
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Old Jan 24th, 2013, 10:42 PM
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I have used Craigslist with much success. I rented an older house that had been renovated and made into 3 flats. The owner and I corresponded through e-mail a few times and at the end of the last chat told me I could pay in full when we arrived.

The flat was wonderful and so was the owner.

Did the same in Rome with no trouble.

You can also look at this site for apartment/hotel advice;

www.slowtrav.com

Have a great trip !
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