If you had asked me a few years back what AirBnb was, I would have been clueless. Since we did not book our hotels in Italy, I never got an opportunity to try it till my trip to the US. Even in the US, since I was staying with friends and family at most of the places, I really did not comprehend the significance of it in the beginning. (Airbnb (Airbed and Breakfast) is a website for people to list, find, and rent lodging, mostly home stays.)
When I was figuring out where to stay in New York, I thought I would give it a try. I created an account and got it verified by connecting it with my Facebook, Google and LinkedIn accounts (I personally am yet to get it connected to my Linked in profile). Then I started searching. But since I did not know the localities in New York, I was not sure on booking a rental through AirBnb. So finally went and booked a hotel room instead.
I did not have to worry about all other places till San Francisco. I did have friends there and two of them did invite me to stay with them. But one of them was pregnant and the other one was living in San Jose which was around 45 minutes from San Francisco by a private car. Since I did not want to trouble either of them, I again started searching for accommodation.
San Francisco city is one of the costliest places to live in the world. So even though I searched relentlessly, I was not able to get a decent hotel for an affordable price. Even the hostels were overbooked. I soon started searching in Airbnb. Since I had my friends there, it was easier for me to figure out the neighborhoods and I started filtering them based on the neighborhoods.
When it comes to AirBnb, searching is the easiest part. Especially in a city like San Francisco (AirBnb was founded in San Francisco), you are spoilt with plenty of options. But it was still difficult to find the perfect place to stay. Since I was a first time user, I did not have any references / reviews (Every host / lodger will have to mutually review each other at the end of every stay). I did contact few hosts through the messaging feature but many of them declined saying that their places were already booked (In reality I feel it was because of my lack of reviews/ credibility on AirBnb). Since I was only contacting people with good reviews, it was even harder. Additionally I preferred lady hosts since I was just being cautious in a new city.
Finally Michelle (name changed to protect identity) accepted my inquiry. Even though her place was a little expensive compared to the others I had contacted (cheaper than all hotels), I finally decided to go ahead and book. It was a good decision and I was very happy with the whole experience.
For starters, Michelle was very friendly and warm. Even though she was traveling during my 4 nights there, she ensured that I was well attended to. She gave clear instructions on how to get there and how to get inside the apartment. She was always ready to answer any queries I had. Well if you know me well enough, you know that I ask too many questions. J She gave me suggestions on where to eat and shop in San Francisco. A perfect host and what I understand is that is hard to find. Since she was a traveler herself, it was much easier to relate to her. It is funny how you can find someone like this halfway across the world.
Room itself was warm and cozy. San Francisco is colder than most cities even in Summer. It was cleaned most days and the sheets were changed periodically. I was free to use amenities like the fridge and other kitchen supplies. Wifi was also included. Washrooms were clean and everything was replenished whenever necessary. I did not use most of the things anyway since I was out most of the days and just came back to shower and sleep. There was another house guest at the time but I just saw once.
But what I loved was the neighborhood. This was in Castro and everything was walking distance from the apartment. Both the MUNI and BART (Public transportation systems) were minutes away. The place was filled with rainbow colors. Yes, Castro district is still one of the most prominent neighborhoods for the LGBT community and hence kind of felt safer for a solo woman like me. And how can I forget the food? It was paradise for a foodie like me and I had different cuisines like Thai, Mediterranean, Italian, French etc. All this in 4 days. I even accidentally walked inside a Gay restaurant and did not realize till half my dinner was over. There was a Safeway close by too and I did all my chocolate shopping from there. (San Francisco was my last stop and I did most of my gift shopping from there).
Everything cannot be a bed of roses. The apartment itself was on the first floor and I had to lug two heavy suitcases up and down the flight of stairs. Since it was my last stop, my bags were filled with gifts for friends and family back in India. That was the only problem I faced.
You do not get many opportunities to live like a local. I wouldn’t say that I lived like a local completely too. But this AirBnb experience definitely was the closest thing to living like a local and for that, I add it to my list of things to do at least once in your lifetime. I will definitely use AirBnb for my future trips too.
On this joyous occasion of Diwali, please find an Airbnb Coupon Code from my friend Will.
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