It was like The West Wing. For years we’d heard how wonderful The West Wing was, yet never bothered to watch an episode. When we did we were totally blown away by it and Aaron Sorkin’s writing.
Booking an apartment through Airbnb was exactly the same. We knew about the accommodation site and had heard rave reports about it from travellers and yet it was never really considered when planning accommodation for trips. A lot of the time that was for various reasons, we were checking out specific hotels etc. But there were times when there was no excuse.
A shortage of hotel rooms in Lisbon led us to using Airbnb for the first time.
The Searching Process
Slick and easy, I was able to see at an instant exactly where accommodation was, what it looked like and what others (real people) thought of it as well as being able to streamline searches to fit our needs. This might all sound the same as conventional travel sites, it isn’t. The only problem we had was that we were a bit overwhelmed by the choice of sexy or cosy looking apartments at seriously affordable prices in the best parts of Lisbon.
The Booking Process
Having decided the apartment we wanted, we sent a request to owner André. The response was almost immediate. Confirmation made, we paid the agreed amount via Airbnb. André sent more details, maps, advice etc. Job done and dusted. Again, the level of professionalism was impressive. Airbnb clearly insist owners react promptly. There’s no worrying faffing about. Having dealt with a few hotels recently who can’t be bothered to answer queries, having a smooth experience that didn’t involve chasing people up was a breath of fresh air.
Thanks to a system that is professional and efficient yet also personalised we breezed into Lisbon at the height of rush hour and found our way to the apartment, where André met us as agreed, with painless ease.
What a dream of a place to stay; a modern chic attic apartment in Bairro Alto looking over Rua da Bica de Duarte Belo, a street that oozed urban character. It even had a funicular.
André turned out to be an architect which was evident in the design – modern, stylish, clean lines, sloped ceiling, great little terrace overlooking the street, sleek kitchen with all the essentials, flat screen TV (only used for music in our case) and fast wifi.
André quickly talked us through the essentials with tips on where to eat, supermarkets etc. so by the time we stepped from the apartment we knew exactly where we were eating, where we could enjoy a drink and beautiful sunset experience within a few minutes, where to buy good wine and all sorts of other useful info.
After that it was like a home from home and we felt like we were living in the city rather than the slightly detached feeling you get from staying at hotels. It was perfect (once we realised that at the weekend, closing the bedroom door muffled the chatter from the great and very busy little bars in the street below).
The apartment was in the perfect position for exploring the Baixa/Chiado area of the city with loads of cafés, bars, shops and restaurants nearby. Within a few minutes we were in the heart of the nightlife, within ten minutes, or a funicular ride, we were at the river.
When it was time to leave, and move to the other side of the centre of Lisbon for a different experience, it was simply a matter of leaving the keys and closing the door behind us.
Basically Airbnb delivered exactly what we expected, more in truth. It was a supremely easy process that worked seamlessly at every stage. Impressed? We were blown away.
We’ve already used Airbnb again, booking accommodation on the island we live, Tenerife. It’s an island where communications and use of the internet as a tool are notoriously poor, so it was a good test of the Airbnb systems.
Once again, where local hotels failed miserably, the experience was similar to our Lisbon one.
Jack is co-editor, writer and photographer for BuzzTrips and the Real Tenerife series of travel websites as well as a contributor to online travel sites and travel magazines. Follow Jack on Google+