You may have noticed in my last post that I spent only $313 on lodging for seven nights in Sydney, a city that has a cost of living higher than London, Hong Kong, Los Angeles, and New York City. Did I stay in youth hostels and sleep in a room with six of my closest strangers? Nope. Did I buy camping gear and sleep under the stars? Nope, although that might have been nice. I used the services of my new best friend, Airbnb. Full dislosure: if you book a stay by clicking on that link I get 25 bucks.
If you’re a seasoned traveler then Airbnb is old news, but many people I talked to back home had never heard of it. I first used Airbnb to book several days in Denver and Boulder, Colorado and I had a great experience. The premise is pretty simple: you want to visit a cool city but don’t want to stay in a boring Motel 6 and someone in said cool city has an extra room he or she is not using. Voila! Airbnb fills the gap and lets travelers search for renters, kinda like match.com but without the expensive dinner and ignored follow-up call.
You can save a bunch of money using Airbnb. I think I spent $40/night for my stay in Sydney, on top of which the service adds a percentage for their cut. I stayed with a late-20s college Doctoral student who wasn’t there most of the time. I had my own private room with a full-size bed, desk, etc, and a shared bathroom. My host knew a ton about the area, cooked dinner a few nights, gave me tips on getting around via trains and buses, let me borrow a bike (all three hosts I’ve stayed with have let me borrow bikes, which is an awesome way to explore a new city), and told me which off-the-beaten-path areas to check out. Sure, there are even cheaper lodging options. I just did a quick search and you can get in a hostel for $28/night but are you going to leave your huge backpack in the room when you want to go out exploring? Or I guess you could hang out with the pinky up crowd at the Hilton Sydney for $430/night (good lord).
So I think Airbnb is pretty great, but you have to be smart about it. Look at lots of available renters, get on google maps and research the area in which they live, read their reviews carefully. Think of it like ebay; you wouldn’t PayPal someone a hundred bucks if they had a bunch of negative reviews. Oh, that’s another thing- the website takes care of all monetary transactions. You request to stay with a host on certain dates, the host agrees, you pay the website by credit card, done. No money changes hands between host and traveler.
Sorry for the informational posts lately, but I’ve started to get a real passion for helping people realize that they can afford to get out and travel. In our next exciting episode I’ll tell you what I’ve been up to since leaving Sydney.