Husband was at work one day when he met a guy who had traveled the world doing something with microfinancing. While he was on the road, he used Airbnb to book apartments in each location. The idea is that locals in places all over the world rent out their houses, apartments, or spare rooms and acts as your host. The man was raving about how great it was and how nice all the places were.
Husband came home and told me about his encounter. That was about a year and a half ago, and we filed it away.
We went on several domestic trips including visiting San Francisco and Washington, D.C., but we didn’t use Airbnb. It wasn’t until we went to Peru that we thought it might be a good idea to try it out. Yes, we avoided staying in a stranger’s apartment whilst still in America, but once we journeyed to a third world country we were all over it. We searched for a few places in Lima and Cusco and ended up booking accomodations with Airbnb in both cities.
Here’s the run down:
In Cusco, we stayed at a place that cost $80 a night. It was a nice open, airy guest house. It was about a 15 minute walk from Plaza de Armas, but still far enough away to not feel like we were in Touristville, Peru. It was a very beautifully decorated room, comfy bed, and it felt very Peruvian. We only stayed one night, and then headed to Aguas Caliente via train to visit Machu Picchu.
Once we returned from Machu Picchu (more on that experience at another time, but it was AMAZING), we booked another hotel through Airbnb. Initially, we wanted to look for an apartment in Cusco, since we had two more nights there and wanted to feel a bit more homey. We messaged a guy about his apartment that was listed as available, and it turns out, it wasn’t. We settled for the Golden Inca, a hotel that, even when given the address in written form, was difficult for any taxi driver to locate. Two of them flat out told us they didn’t know where it was, so we didn’t even bother getting into the cab. We started to think that this place just didn’t exist. Then, we found a cabbie that knew his way and were whisked off to a off-the-beaten path part of Cusco and pulled up in front of a pretty underdeveloped area. There it was, the Golden Inca. It was beautiful!
We walked into a beautifully modern, brand new hotel. The man at the desk was very polite and we found our room. There was a small balcony, a nice TV and a bathroom with beautiful fixtures. It was very comfortable, and was only $30 a night.
After two days there, we headed back to Lima, where we had booked an actual apartment in the Magdalena del Mar neighborhood, which is about a 15 minute taxi ride from the popular and trendy Miraflores, for $55 a night. Our host, Roberto left us the keys at the security gate and we held our breaths as we unlocked the door. It was perfect. Cozy. There were two bedrooms, a nice living room, cute dining area and a fully equipped kitchen. Our host left us coupons for tours and restaurants, as well as a few guidebooks for Lima.
The first night in Lima, we walked to the grocery store, bought food and spices (which was quite the challenge not knowing what the Spanish name for things like ‘garlic’ were) and came home to make dinner. Yes, I said home. That’s what this place felt like for us. We immediately felt at home. Our host was responsive, the neighborhood was authentically Lima and overall it was a wonderful experience.
Our Airbnb experience in Peru was all-around a good one. However, there are a couple of things that are important to keep in mind when using this service:
1. Make sure you message the host prior to going through the booking process. Many of them list their apartments on several different sites, so even if the calendar says it’s available for your dates, it might not be.
2. Make sure you know if you need to put down a security deposit. They will charge your card for it before the booking. We had to pay a $100 security deposit for the apartment in Lima, which was fine, but we didn’t originally budget for it. It was returned right after we checked out.
3. Make sure the host has a photo! This might seem weird, but it’s nice to know that it’s an actual person that you’re talking to.
4. Be sure that the host knows that you’d paid in advance via Airbnb, and I’d even recommend printing out a copy of the confirmation. Both places in Cusco attempted to charge us for our rooms upon check out and the first time it happened, we spent about 15 minutes ironing it out, which proved a bit challenging with a language barrier.
5. Make sure the host has reviews. I simply won’t book a place that doesn’t have at least one review. Unless it’s too amazing to pass up…
6. Take a chance, but be safe. Communicating with the host in advance is a great way to ensure that you feel comfortable with the situation that you’re walking into.
Why use it?
We use Airbnb because we don’t like hostels, are willing to spend a bit more on lodging, and like to feel at home when we travel. Having the option of cooking and not feeling like you’re living out of a backpack is a nice perk that we seek out any chance we get. Also, we like to feel like we really live where we’re staying and get to see the dirty underbelly that you miss out on in a hostel or a hotel. Also, families traveling together would benefit tremendously from the pricing and the comfort of a rented apartment.
Why not? Well, if you like to meet other travelers, you really can’t beat the social nature of hostels. Plus, they are undeniably cheaper.
For other perspectives, check these out: