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How to Use Airbnb to Have a Local Travel Experience

October 19, 2019

From someone who has stayed in over 14 Airbnbs and has tried-and-tested Airbnb Experiences, a guide to a local travel experience using the Airbnb platform. This guide will cover the following:

  • What does a local travel experience even mean?
  • Why use Airbnb for a local travel experience?
  • 3 ways to use Airbnb to have a local travel experience
  • How to get the most out of Airbnb: 5 tips from a frequent user
  • Final tips on having a local travel experience and money off your Airbnb stay or experience

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Hello good travellers and aspiring travellers! I have been an absentee blogger while I have been following the current of life in Berlin. Since we last spoke, there was a Spring and a Summer, which will be wonderful to share some tips on nostalgically now we are in Autumn. But for now, let us focus on why I invite you to read today. That is, the topic of having a local travel experience. To make things nice and simple, I’ll talk about how to do so with just one much-loved website: Airbnb.

Before we begin, I will preface that this is not one of those blogs where I will sit up on the #authentic travel throne, and look down upon traditional tourists. I am a pretty live-and-let-live person, and ultimately think travel is a good thing. However, very early on in discovering travel, I felt strongly that is was more satisfying for me to come away from a trip, knowing I had at least attempted to scratch the surface of understanding the culture, people and places I visited. I.e. a local travel experience.

What does a local travel experience even mean?

Browsing the internet, it’s quite hard to find a proper definition of what we mean when we say this. A lot of the dialogue routes back to the slow travel movement which is of course closely linked. Let us first define this:

“One of the defining elements of slow travel is the opportunity to become part of local life and to connect to a place and its people. Slow travel is also about connection to culture.”–Slow Movement

And there it is. So when we talk about a local travel experience, we are simply removing the leisure of time from this definition. Something many of us in restrictive jobs or lifestyles unfortunately do not possess. Instead, what we are referring to is a desire to experience local life (rather become a part of it) and to connect to a place, its people and culture, irrespective of time spent in the destination.

Local travel experience cooking in Bali

Of course I would encourage travellers to approach this in a respectful and ethical manner; and if you are interested in my ethos and approach to travelling, it’s outlined in my about page. But without further ado, let’s get into how you can use one of the travel world’s most disruptive and wonderful services: Airbnb.

Why use Airbnb for a local travel experience?

Airbnb is for me, one of the most exciting phenomenons to hit the travel scene. A somewhat-curated online marketplace for people’s homes and tourism experiences across the globe, it has over 150 million users, covering 65,000 cities, and boasts around 1.9 million listings at a single given time.

A parallel Amazon to print books, I can’t deny the negative effects it’s had on tour operators and the hotel industry, however from a cultural perspective, the ability to live like a local has never felt closer. And since its debut of Airbnb Experiences in late 2017, which I have tried and tested, it has cemented its place of one of the best websites for accessing a more authentically local travel experience.

Me and an Airbnb host on my first ever visit to Paris

I have personally stayed at 14 Airbnbs, ranging from Bali to Bucharest and I’ll be honest when I say that I have a real sense of pride about the positive reviews on my profile; I’m really “nice clean and friendly” of you are wondering 😉

3 ways to use Airbnb to have a local travel experience

Due to my experience with Airbnb and solo travel. I realised the best ways to approach using the website, that give me the local connection I am often searching for, the local travel experience hacks, so to speak. Below are my three best tips.

  1. Rent a room in a flat with people who you think seem interesting. Thanks to the personal profile attached to accommodations you can learn about the owners of where you are considering staying. And though renting an ‘entire place’ may afford you the privacy you desire, renting a single room in a flat means you have automatic access to people living their everyday lives in this new and exciting location. In my experience, they had invited me to join them in eating dinner with their friends at home, and I also ended up in a wine-infused heart-to-heart with a french woman, in a local bar in Paris. Though it was far from my first time in Paris, she gave me some very important insights into French culture. And of course, we still follow each other on Instagram.
  2. Book a local experience. The plethora of experiences hosted by locals on the platform is nothing short of overwhelming, but the good news is I’ve never personally had a bad experience that I can share with you in regards to quality. Cooking classes are a great way to start, and for you to quite literally taste the culture. The sheer volume of experiences means you could zoom into desserts, meals or even very specific delicacies and learn about those exclusively. In the past I have also enjoyed a painting class, a perfume-making class and a session on how to prepare a Balinese offering.
  3. Book a personal tour guide. Here’s a tip for companionship when travelling alone. Hire a personal tour guide to slow you the sights of the city and talk to one on one. As a personal preference, I usually go for women, as usually, after about an hour it feels like I could just be exploring the city with a friend, albeit very fabulous and knowledgeable. My Paris personal your guide taught me about literature in Paris, my Barcelona tour guide taught me photography basics, my Balinese tour guide taught me about spirituality.
My guide in Paris, a literary tour

As a testament to these tried and tested methods. In my last solo adventure, in Paris, I put all three into practice. It was a week-long trip, which helped get back my creativity and inspiration for life. Ultimately helpin me to make the decision to move to a new country. You can read about it here, and see the itinerary below:

  • Accommodation: Hostel 3 days, Airbnb 4 days
  • Airbnb local experiences: how to make my own perfume, spending a day painting with an artist
  • Airbnb local tour: a literary tour taking me back in time connecting location, to writers

How to get the most out of Airbnb: 5 tips from a frequent user

Airbnb is surely a treasure chest when planning your next getaway, but there are still ways you can navigate using the website to make sure you achieve the outcome of what you want: a dream stay in a place that fits your budget. Here are my tips on making the most out of the site.

  1. Save places you like the look of for later. With the sheer number of accommodations on Airbnb, trust me, when you want to revisit that place you saw one time, it’s almost impossible to find. Curating your own list of places you may visit some day is a good starting place when planning your trip.
  2. Use ‘lists’ as a trip planning tool. On that note, using lists to arrange your travel plans is very useful. You can have fun cherry-picking which experiences and accommodations you have your eye on, and easily come back to them to make an enquiry and organise what day you plan to do what.
  3. Update your profile fully. We look at the reviews when we are booking a place, don’t forget that so do hosts too! Be sure to add a little bit of insight into who you are and at least add a picture. As this is a human-to-human platform we have to bear in mind that hosts as much as us, want to know who’s staying in their home.
  4. Craft a proper outreach message. To the last point, as much as you may only have one thing on your mind: getting that trip booked! It’s good to give the host some information on who you are, what you’re doing in town and just taking the time to reassure them you are clean and can be trusted. My tip is to create a template per trip, where you change the details slightly depending on the accommodation.
  5. Don’t be afraid to start a conversation to negotiate what you want. Okay, this point of course entirely depends on your bargaining power/position. However, if you say want to stay for a really long time and want a discount, or you need to arrive or leave later than stayed, or maybe there is not an experience scheduled on the day/time you want it–don’t be afraid to simply reach out and ask if it’s possible. Like I said you are talking to humans here, and so they might be able to bend a little to make things work better for you and your trip.

Final tips on having a local travel experience and money off your Airbnb stay or experience

I hope you’ve found this resource useful! I have two more useful tips for you:

  1. Check out useful websites for booking a local travel experience. Over 40 websites that you can use on your travels.
  2. Money off of your Airbnb stay or experience, if you are using the site for the first time. Simply follow this link to get €25 of your first stay and €9 towards an experience (or your currency equivalent).

In the comments below, or on my social media channels, reach out and tell me your favourite local travel experience with Airbnb, or simply what you have planned! (Note: I have not been paid for this article even though I have mentioned Airbnb’s name a lot of times – I simply love the website.)

About me: my name is Kyomi Wade, also known as your useful travel friend. I am a writer, and also enjoy helping people consider life and travelling abroad in a thoughtful and practical way. My work has been featured in Travel Noire, We are Travel Girls, BRB Travel, POSTCRIPT, Black Ballad, and my published poetry collection on Amazon ‘Sadness and Short Bliss’. Having lived abroad four times previously, I am currently settled in Berlin, Germany, though originally from London. Join me on Instagram and Twitter.

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