When we were planning out first trip to Europe, I scoured the internet to find the perfect place for us to stay. I looked at hotels, hostels, apartments, hotel suites, long-stay places and any other room you can imagine. However, none of them seemed just right.
Our goal while in Marseille, France and then Barcelona, Spain was to live like the locals do.
In a hotel, in my opinion, that is quite impossible. A hotel room can often be a sanitized space, far from how the locals live. Hostels didn’t seem like an option for us because we do like our privacy and hotel suites or long-stay rooms were quite expensive.
That is when I came upon AirBnb.
Here was a website where locals rent out their own homes, apartments or a room in their home to visitors for a small fee. All of the interactions are through the AirBnb website as are all of the payments. The owner doesn’t get any of your money until after you check out and other travelers review the apartments.
To my delight, the apartments available were way cheaper than any hotel I could find in the same location. In Marseille, we were able to be right off the main road, La Canebiere, just a few blocks from the port. Now, the road below, Cours Belsunce, was quite noisy, but the sights of Marseille from our top floor apartment and the access to the hot spots in town were perfect.
Because we were in an apartment, we were able to actually shop at the local markets for things to cook. The apartment came equipped with the normal kitchen items. We enjoyed breakfast at “home” every day and even cooked two of our own meals during our week-long stay.
Our host was also very friendly. He gave us directions to our place and showed us around the building. He explained a little bit about where things were in relation to the apartment and where to find some of the best food. After that, he did the best thing we could have asked for…he left us alone to enjoy Marseille. It was wonderful.
In the end, all he asked was that we leave the place exactly as we found it. Clean and neat. And we did just that.
In Barcelona, we had a similar situation. Our apartment was in the historic and very local neighborhood of El Born and was close to great restaurants and the sights.
In Dublin, where we also stayed in an AirBnb home, the owners saved our day with the shampoo, toothpaste and unused toothbrushes that we were allowed to use and take while we waited for our lost luggage.
The only downside to all three of our apartments was that they were at the top of a lot of stairs. The Marseille apartment was on the top floor and the Barcelona apartment was near the top of some very scary stairs. Getting our bags up both flights of stairs was quite precarious, but we made it. We also limited the number of times we went “home” during the day just so we didn’t use all of our energy climbing the stairs. I don’t know if the locals know they shouldn’t live on the top floor and that is why they rent them out to visitors, or what, but if you do choose AirBnb, just remember to workout before your trip.
Staying in someone’s home can be quite a leap for some who are used to the security, comfort and convenience of a hotel. There is always a chance that the owner will be crazy or that the apartment won’t be what you expected. But in my experience after staying in three different cities, the owners are generally honest, kind people just looking to make a little extra money with their extra space. It seems like the perfect equation to me. Traveler wanting local feel + Local with extra space = perfect marriage for the best travel experience.
Of course, always do your research. Read the reviews from the apartment, make sure it is in a location you want and talk with the owner to see if they have any other specific rules other than those mentioned. The most important thing, however, is to always remember that you are a guest in their home.
If you have any questions or need any other tips, please leave a comment in the section below.