Air B’n’B is a relatively new service that allows people to list their own houses or apartments to be rented like a hotel room, offering a platform for hosts and guests to review each other and holding the payment until both parties are satisfied. While there are always some risks inherent to renting from a person rather than a corporation that trains its employees in customer service, the average hotel room gets a lot more traffic than someone’s house, and is probably a lot less interesting to look at, too.
The website is so user-friendly it’s virtually an eBay for accommodations, and the locations can range from pleasant enough to genuinely jaw-dropping depending on what you want to spend. When traveling internationally, being an Air B’n’B guest comes with the potential added bonus of instant friendly contact with a local who will have a unique knowledge of the city, something even the most dogged concierge cannot supply. The perks for the hosts are obvious: anyone that consistently has a friend’s house to stay at can turn their apartment or house into an income stream, which is a commodity now more than ever. Not to mention the appeal for those special souls who genuinely like playing host – and can now more or less get paid to do it.
The major drawback for the guest is the lack of security. An agreement with Air B’n’B isn’t legally binding; the host can simply pull out of the booking at the last minute, and the only penalty is getting negative feedback or potentially kicked off the site, which is hardly helpful to the person who has just been stranded. They can just find a hotel, of course, but it kind of kills the charm of the whole thing. The only real risk for the hosts (who are heavily insured against damage to their residence through the site) is getting their house back in disgusting condition, to which their only defense is negative feedback, which has about as much cathartic punch as tattling to someone who isn’t really listening.
Air B’n’B is the rare service that really does split the line between two distinct types of personalities: those who would never dream of staying in a stranger’s bed when there’s a Best Western down the street, and those who would gladly never set foot in a mid-budget hotel again. For the adventurous, the choice is fairly obvious, and there’s something undoubtedly compelling about the idea of staying in people’s houses during your travels, rather than a never-ending tour of homogenized hotels that offer the same vacu-sealed pleasures in every city on the planet. To get a more intimate, personal look at a travel destination, it’s the best-managed, easiest option out there.