Wake Up Here: My First Airbnb Experience

There are different types of travelers in this world: Backpacker, business travelers, flashpackers, tourists, budget travelers, volunteers, and so on. I’d like to think that I’m a mix of all these labels, possibly falling into the tourist, flashpacker, and budget traveler category the most. I say this because I like cheap travel, but I also want the place where I’ll be staying in to be nice and comfortable enough. If it’s my first time traveling to a certain country, I’d like to see the top tourist spots and landmarks first because they’re famous for a reason. Not all, but I aim for the ones I think are a must-see landmark or something that has piqued my interest. I prefer such thing because if I die, at least I could say that I was able to live a life where I’ve witnessed the beauty of Big Ben and watch the sun set against the Tokyo Tower silhouette. You know something like that. Anyway, that one thing that makes traveling uber expensive are accommodations. A week-long stay at a three-star hotel in Tokyo, booked through Agoda, is roughly PHP55,000. The rate doesn’t even include complimentary breakfast and wi-fi. Just the room and bathroom, and maybe housekeeping. As much as we love to stay at a luxurious hotel, JP and I know the value of money and that hotel rate is too much for two people who will spend most of their time outside. Fortunately, technology opened new means for people to travel at a cheaper cost. Hostels, couch surfing, au pair, Airbnb — You name it! So, for our Tokyo trip, we’ve decided to give Airbnb a shot.

What is Airbnb? Airbnb is an online community marketplace where guests can book spaces from hosts. it’s like a booking website but instead of reserving at a hotel, you live at someone else’s home. The whole idea sounds scary but I believe that Airbnb is safe, only if you’re smart about it.

How to use Airbnb?

  1. Visit http://www.airbnb.com
  2. Enter the city you want to visit and your intended travel dates, then click search.
  3. You’ll be redirected to the directory of available listings. You can further filter these search results to suit your needs.
  4. Click a listing. Review the description, photos, and, more importantly, the customer reviews.
  5. If you want to book or reserve this listing, click the orange button on the left (Instant Book or Request to Book).
Airbnb Listing

Here are some of the things you need to know before booking at Airbnb:

  • With over 2 million users, Airbnb doesn't and can't screen each user. However, the site does offer safety tips and verification questions. To get verified, you need to submit an official government ID like your passport or driver’s license. You can also confirm and connect your email address, phone number, and social media accounts as additional verifications.
  • Read the listing descriptions and reviews very thoroughly. By thoroughly, I mean read ALL the customer reviews. I can’t stress the importance of reading the reviews. Most of these reviews are honest feedbacks by previous customers of the host. Additionally, Airbnb is giving out badges to hosts who performed exceptionally well in terms of service or has received more than 50 reviews.
  • Start an email correspondence with your host.  Contacting your host builds rapport and gives you an idea where and who’ll you be staying with. Feel free to ask questions about the living conditions, directions, and so on. Also, please keep your communication within the Airbnb website.
  • Airbnb transactions are only accepted through the website. Any reservations and booking transactions should only be done through the Airbnb website. Any transactions done outside Airbnb is not covered by the website’s refund or cancellation policy. On another note, some listings may offer optional services and rental fees that are required to be paid by cash — these transactions are only between you and the host.
  • Airbnb homes do not offer the perks of a hotel Airbnb or its host doesn’t offer room service or housekeeping. If you want the perks of a hotel, don’t use Airbnb.

Since this is our first time to book through Airbnb, JP and I have spent two whole hours debating over our listing choices. Not only did we check based on the photos, we made sure the listing received positive reviews and the price is reasonable.  After much deliberation, we agreed on staying at a 2-storey house in the Itabashi-ku area, the northern western part of the Tokyo Metropolis.

Here're photos of the house:

Airbnb Home
Airbnb Home

Our room and the common area on the second floor. The house actually looks like that, except the common area was… messier. 

Airbnb Room

And this is what our room looks like on the 6th day

The 2-storey house is located in a quiet neighbourhood of Itabashi-ku and about twenty minutes away from the Nakaitabashi station. The host and the shower room are located on the first floor; while the three guest bedrooms, toilet, and kitchen are on the second floor. I think each guest rooms can accommodate up to 3 guests or a total of nine people. There’s only one bathroom for the guests, so I encourage to wake up early to avoid delays in your itinerary. Breakfast is not included, but you’re free to cook light meals and there’s also a convenience store located nearby. On the plus side, the place comes with a complimentary wi-fi and the electric plugs are compatible with most of our electric sockets. Our host, Starla, was also really nice and accommodating. She also didn’t impose a lot of rules on her guests as well.

There’s not much to say about our Airbnb home because JP and I spent most of our days exploring Tokyo — we’d often leave before around 10 AM, then come home around 11PM — but our stay was all throughout pleasant. I would recommend this place to groups who doesn’t have any strict itineraries and doesn’t mind the long commute to visit popular areas, like Shinjuku and Shibuya. Last but not the least, the price is a winner. We paid roughly around PHP18,000 for a 6-day stay and that’s already affordable considering our length of stay and distance from the special wards of the metropolis.

Here are my key takeaways from my first Airbnb experience:

  • Airbnb is a practical solution, especially for large groups. If you’re traveling with friends, Airbnb is a practical and alternative choice to a hostel because hosts can accommodate all of you.
  • Use Airbnb if you want to experience the local community environment Since our Airbnb home is located in a suburban Tokyo area, we were able to experience what it’s like to live in Tokyo.
  • But as a tourist, it’s better to book at a place that’s located near the train station or city centre. You’ll be able to maximize your time better if your place is located near the train station or city centre. Our Airbnb home is 20-minutes away from Nakaitabashi Station on the Tobu Tojo Line. Once we’re at the station, we had to allot at least 40 minutes to get to places like Shinjuku or Shibuya.
  • Don’t rely on everything on your host. Have a Plan B. Things could go wrong when you travel like your booking wasn’t confirmed or something. In our case, we informed our host that we want to rent her pocket wi-fi for ¥500/day. When we got there, we couldn’t use the Pocket Wi-fi because a previous guest lost the cord that’s needed to use the device. If I knew that beforehand, I could’ve rented one at the airport for ¥800/day. As a result, I had to use Globe’s PHP599 data roaming to connect to the Internet. :(

I have to admit that the whole idea of living in a stranger's house for a week is a little unsettling, but the experience was quite nice. Airbnb is also a great accommodation option for travelers who are planning to stay quite long in a particular country. I would do it all over again, provided that I’m not alone because my height and built don't have a chance against foreigners, lol.

Have you tried Airbnb before? If yes, how was your experience and would you recommend it? If not, would you try it in the future?