Why renting accommodation from locals might be your best choice
I never used to suggest renting accommodation from websites like Airbnb, Wimdu, or Homestay to people coming to Canada. Travelling with motorhomes and campers is the Canadian way and how tourists like to experience the country.
It makes sense in a country where distances between places are huge and campgrounds abound. For locals, who own their RVs it is certainly the best way; they don’t have RV rental costs to pay. It is also an ideal way to travel for families with children or couples.
For solo travellers like myself, renting an RV or camper would be an expensive option and a lonely one. I rather rent a car or buy a cheap car to be independent. This gives me the choice to put up my tent for the night and camp if I feel like it or stay at a hostel for the social atmosphere. Hostels are ideal places to meet people from all over the world.
But if sleeping in a tent or sharing a bunk in a hostel is not for you, I suggest you try a rental service like Airbnb. You might grow to love that type of accommodation.
Whether you rent a rustic cabin in the woods, a yurt on a hill, a luxury apartment in the city, or a room in a private home, the experience will be much superior to staying in a motel or hotel, guaranteed. Those places provide incredible dollar value, privacy, space, and a home-like environment.
These kinds of accommodation rental sites have been around for many years and are getting more popular as time goes on. Still, some people haven’t discovered that kind of accommodation option yet.
How do rental accommodation sites work?
Accommodation rental sites allow people to rent out an individual room, apartment, entire house, or cabin. The host lists their place online, posts photos, writes a description, and when the listing gets booked he earns money with the unused space.
The booking process is like booking any other type of accommodation. You search online for a place you like, create an account and request a booking. When the owner accepts, you will receive a confirmation.
The best part is, that most accommodation rentals are located away from overpriced tourist areas and allow you to get a feel for the local lifestyle. Depending on your booking, your host might be available to share local information and travel suggestions with you.
Renting accommodation with locals – Who is this for?
In the past, these types of accommodation rental sites have been used mainly by thrifty tourists looking for the cheapest place to stay. Now, more and more travellers are looking to these sites for a unique and memorable experience.
This type of accommodation rental is something between hostels and hotels. It is also suitable if you are on a business trip and want the comfort of home instead of staying in an expensive hotel. A private rental is a perfect compromise.
If you want to travel in Canada but you don’t want to rent a camper, you’re not into the hostel scene, and can’t afford hotels, this is an excellent option for you. A private rental will be quieter and more relaxing than a hostel. Many places offer cooking facilities, which keeps costs down on your trip.
Are you travelling with a large group or a family? An apartment or house rental is definitely the cheapest accommodation option for you. Depending on how many people you can squeeze in with you, these places will be much cheaper per person than a hostel room or a hotel. Most places offer lots of space to relax. This is so much better than dorm rooms and boring hotels.
How to pick the right host
I have been lucky and have only good memories of these sites. Most places offer what they advertise. It is easy to avoid bad hosts if you follow some rules. Here is a list of what to keep in mind when looking for a host:
Is the calendar up-to-date? – Listings show only up in a search if they are available, but hosts don’t always update their calendars. It’s nothing worth trying to book a place and they tell you that it is not available.
Do they reply to inquiries often? – You want to get your inquiry answered. These sites show the percentage of messages the hosts reply to. Of course the higher the better.
What does the host’s profile say? -If you click on a person’s image you will be taken to their profile page. There you can read a personal profile, along with other details.
Are they active users? – Active is good! See when they last logged on to the site. If it’s been a while you might not hear back from them.
Do they have good photos? – You want listings with plenty of photos to give you a good idea of what the place looks like.
Are the photographs verified? – Having verified photographs means somebody has been there and seen the place and guarantees that it looks like in the pictures.
Do they have reviews good? – Reviews are important. If people liked the place and had a good time, you probably will too.
Do they have multiple listings? – Many people use these sites to be property managers. They rent lots of apartments and then re-rent them to Airbnb. Try to avoid these places, because they might not be as nice and lack the personal touch that comes when hosts rent out their own apartments.
These are helpful guidelines, but at the end of the day, you have to listen to your guts. How seriously you want to stick to these guidelines is up to you. It also depends on the area you’re in. If you are out in the backcountry you might have to be more flexible and open about it.
Is renting accommodation safe from these sites?
All these sites run on trust. The companies try to verify both customers and hosts to ensure no one ends up robbing or hurting anyone else. You sometimes hear stories about creepy hosts. Following the guidelines, you will notice if something doesn’t sound right.
In any case, renting accommodation companies provide a window that allows you to get your money back if you get to a place that is not as advertised. You can call their 24-hour hotline and they will find another place for you.
Any accommodation can be risky, especially for a solo traveller. You can get robbed in hotel rooms or hostels, or have a creepy host when Couchsurfing, that’s why following the guidelines is important. Private accommodation rentals are as safe as any other accommodation option. In my opinion, the benefits greatly outweigh the apparent danger.
If I travel by myself during summer, I tend to stay on government campgrounds and pitch my tent. Any other time of the year or when I travel with friends I use Airbnb lots of the time.
The personal touch makes private accommodation rentals the best budget option for travellers without hotel points or a desire to stay in a hostel.
Try it out at least, it will be a memorable experience.
Yrene lives in the Okanagan, British Columbia, Canada, and is the founder of BackcountryCanadaTravel.com. She was born in Switzerland, lived and worked on different continents and has travelled the world. Yes, that's me, an Entrepreneur, wilderness nut and animal lover who prefers off-the-beaten-track places. I write about things I love. Mostely.
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