Experience a new city like a local
Increased spending power, a shift in attitudes from spending on things to spending on experiences, FOMO… there are many reasons why more and more Bangladeshis have been venturing out into the world to explore it for fun. That being said, travelling isn’t easy -- it’s expensive, and there is something a little discombobulating about being thrust into unfamiliar terrain and alien cultures. And that’s really the genius of a service like Airbnb, which is changing the way we travel. You can now stay at perfectly comfortable lodgings at a fraction of what it would cost you to get a hotel, make new friends, and experience authentic local culture, all at once.
If you’ve been curious about this game-changing way to travel, but intimidated by the horror stories on the Internet -- and there are plenty of those too -- this is a handy guide that breaks it all down for you.
Step one: Create an account
This one’s pretty self-explanatory. Just like you probably did with your preferred rideshare app and social media account, you’re going to need a profile on Airbnb before you can access the homes. Because you’re in effect expecting people to trust you to stay in their homes, you’ll have to provide some information about yourself, including a photo ID, a verifiable social media account, and of course, contact information. The site is very user friendly, so if you’ve created Uber/Facebook accounts for yourself before, this should not be a problem.
Step two: Read the reviews
Once you’re set up, you decide on which city you’re going to rent in -- and the options are customizable, so you can narrow it down to general area, the number of rooms you’ll need, and price range you’re comfortable with. Look through the photos until you see a few that catch your eye. The important thing to do at this stage is to read the reviews. You wouldn’t want to get on a Pathao that has a poor rating, right? For the same reason, you want to pay attention to what previous tenants have said about renting from this homeowner, to get a good idea of whether or not this is for you. For the absolute Airbnb newbies, we’d strongly recommend opting for ‘superhosts’ with many favourable reviews.
Step three: Location is key
Prices may vary depending on location, so do some research here. While travelling, you ideally want to be somewhere close to public transport, or at least closer to the places you want to go, so check the map and make sure that the listed house isn’t in the middle of nowhere, or in an unsafe location. Be wary of really cheap deals; if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
More guests = higher prices. The good thing about Airbnb is that you can end up saving a lot if you’re travelling with a big party. While it’s cheaper than most hotels, the price is definitely dependent on how many people are in your group, and how many rooms you’ll need.
Step four: Flexibility and communication
If your flight’s already booked, you might not have a choice, but usually, it pays to be a little flexible with your dates. Bookings aren’t always instant, and may require a few conversations with the host(s) about availability before you can confirm, so give yourself that wriggle room. Also, if you can be open about a few days before or after your preferred dates, you might score better deals sometimes.
Step five: The devil is in the details
As with every big purchase or negotiation, pay attention to the fine print. There’s something called ‘house rules’ -- since you’ll essentially be living in someone else’s home, that person may have certain stipulations -- anything from whether you’re allowed to smoke, or bring pets. Budget for extra expenditures, such as the small non-refundable fee Airbnb charges for the use of its service, the cleaning fee. There’s an option to rent a single room as opposed to the whole flat, and if so, you want to be especially cautious about things like security and access. Do the homework before you commit.
What you see/what you get
The listings ought to give you a detail about what facilities you’re going to be getting. Pay close attention to this, because unlike a hotel, with an Airbnb, you don’t have access to room service that’ll bring you what you need. If you need laundry facilities, or a working kitchen, make sure the apartments you’re looking at have those provisions. This is particularly important for those staying longer than a week.
Step six: Money matters
Always, always pay directly through Airbnb’s secure system. It’s the best way to stay protected. You might be tempted to skip the booking fee, especially if it’s hefty for a long stay, but it’s worth it, because Airbnb will protect you from money scams. Read up on the cancellation policies before you confirm the booking, especially if your travel dates aren’t solid. If there’s a problem, Airbnb has a resolution team at hand to try and mediate.
Pays to stay
This is a great option for those looking for lengthier stays. Let’s say you’re staying for two weeks and need a home base, or an exchange student looking for a cheap place to stay until you can find your own apartment. There are usually weekly and monthly deals that give great discounts. Be very careful to read up on the fine print before you commit, though, and absolutely pay attention to reviews, and hopefully you’ll save money and stay safe.
Step seven: Rate and review
If you’ve used a rideshare/delivery app in Bangladesh, you will be familiar with this -- after your stay, you get to rate your host on the overall experience. The host will also get to rate you based on how you treat their home, and how you communicate with them, so be considerate.
One final thing to remember is that every rental is unique, so do the research, communicate with your hosts, and make it the best stay ever.