Picture this: You’re twenty-something years old and off to explore a new country for the very first time with your best friend. You tell your mom while staying in Copenhagen, you’ll be staying in an Airbnb. Can you imagine that conversation:
“Where are you staying in Copenhagen?”
“In an Airbnb”
“Oh no. Are you sure that’s a good idea? What if something happens and it falls through at the last minute? What if you are staying with criminals? What if you get there and they cancel at the last minute?
“That would literally never happen, mom.”
Don’t you just hate it when your parents prove you wrong?
Airbnb is a wonderful concept, really. Staying in a fully functioning home, apartment or room while traveling for half the cost of a hotel room? What could be better? That’s why we turned to Airbnb during a recent trip to London and Copenhagen. We booked the rooms well in advance, spoke with both hosts, shared our travel plans and were in touch in the weeks and days before the stay.
The Airbnb experience (my first!) while traveling in London was absolutely wonderful. Our host was gracious, respected our privacy, gave great directions and was a great resource throughout our stay. Plus she had a cat, which is a huge win in my book. After such a great first experience in London, I was looking forward to an easy check-in after our flight to Copenhagen. It was a late flight, so we were looking forward to getting our heads on our pillows and resting up for a day of adventure the following day.
Our flight was delayed and landed a bit later than anticipated. However, our Airbnb host named Christian had assured us a few short days prior that he would be out watching a World Cup game, and would be sure to be in home time to let us in when we arrived around 10 PM.
With our flight delay, we didn’t arrive until 11 PM and swiftly sent an Airbnb message to our host to let him know we were later than planned but on our way!
Our host had told us in advance to get a specific bus ticket upon arriving at the airport. We bought that bus ticket and we’re looking around for the bus stop. We were directed by locals and airport transportation officials that the bus we bought a ticket for doesn’t run, and hasn’t run in a quite a while. We essentially wasted a lot of money on a bus ticket, but we weren’t too disheartened. We were finally in Copenhagen and in a cab on our way to our Airbnb for the night.
Our cab drove us to a residential part of town that was very quiet. After he dropped us off, it was about 11:45PM. We followed the instructions on how to ring up to his apartment to be let in. We rang, and rang, and rang, and rang.
Suddenly very aware of our surroundings and how pitch black it was outside, we began to worry. We tapped into our “for emergency only” data plans to begin calling and texting him. We were out there for about an hour ringing his bell, calling his phone and sending frantic texts and messages through the Airbnb app.
Essentially, it was past midnight in Copenhagen and we were stranded with our luggage and nowhere to stay. We eventually accepted defeat that he was not going to answer or let us in. Where were we though? And where is the closest hotel? Or even, the closest heavily populated street?
We took our bags and started heading toward where we thought the highway was. Lucky we were just blocks away but we began walking towards what appeared to be a more heavily populated part of town. We started down the road hoping to hail a cab, but fully realizing that there were barely any cars driving by.
Luckily, a cab did drive by and stopped to help us out. He brought us to the closest hotel as we had to figure out where to stay for that night and hope our host gets in touch the following day (though, at this point, we weren’t too jazzed to stay with him!).
We went to the Scandic Hotel in Syndhavn and the gentlemen at the front desk was such a doll. He was truly trying to do whatever he could to help us out in this situation. The cost of the two nights at the hotel was MUCH greater than what we budgeted for, seeing as we already had accommodations paid for via Airbnb. However, the front desk even called their sister hotels and everything was at a higher rate or sold out. To make a long story short, the hotel was at very high occupancy and we had to book two nights right then or run the risk of our Airbnb host not answering the phone again and being out of luck.
We were hoping to stay at another Airbnb or a hostel as to not break the bank, but it was past midnight and getting in touch at this point was impossible.
These two nights go by and we still haven’t heard from our Airbnb, so we realized it was time to look for alternate places to stay. Luckily, we found another Airbnb that worked out well.
Upon our return to the States, we were constantly reaching out to Airbnb about this issue and getting a refund. It was no trouble to get a refund of the stay, however, we felt it was very unfair that due to an Airbnb error we ended up paying over $600 for a new Airbnb and two nights in a hotel. After many calls and support messages back and forth, we were refunded an additional $200, which was appreciated.
To be honest, it just didn’t feel like enough. Truthfully, we were stranded at midnight in a city we weren’t familiar with and potentially in an unsafe situation. The whole experience left a really bad taste in my mouth for Airbnbs in general and I don’t know that I’d stay in one again. Given that the Airbnb business relies on its network of hosts and recurring guests to make their money, you’d think they’d put more priority on their guests.
It took an odd amount of time to get responses from their customer support teams and they did not seem to go above and beyond to make up for the poor experience we had. It was like pulling teeth to even get a full refund of the three-day Airbnb booking, even when the host never answered. They ordinarily only give partial refunds! I had to consistently battle their teams to explain the situation and let them know how much this experience cost us, both financially and the impact it left on our travel in Copenhagen.
I hope that I change my mind about Airbnbs in the future, but for now I think I’d prefer a hotel from here on out.
If you ever find yourself in a similar situation, here are some things you should make sure you do:
- Make sure you have screenshots of your conversation with the Airbnb host that says when your flight lands and when you expect to be there.
- Message your host immediately when you find out there are any kind of delays.
- Take screenshots of the times in which you called or contact your Airbnb host without hearing back.
- Get receipts of everything – including any hotel stays you may need after the fact. Even the cab ride with timestamps will be helpful to explain the timing of your evening.
- Contact Airbnb immediately. You can send a message via the app or call them, but if you don’t let them know immediately when you do not stay with your host, they will assume you had no problems.
- Don’t give up – even when it seems like all is lost. Keep contacting them explaining the situation, even if it feels like they’ve done everything they can. Chances are, there is more they can do.
I am fully aware that many people have wonderful experiences with Airbnb and only have positive things to say about the company and the hosts they have stayed with. I even had a positive experience in London! I know one bad host can’t represent the company as a whole, I just think the experience could have been handled better by Airbnb representatives.
What has your experience with Airbnb been like?