New to using Airbnb? Check out these tips!

by Heena Modi on January 22, 2016

Booking a holiday and deciding whether to book a hotel or an Airbnb

Suraj and I went to Barcelona a few moths ago, and we decided to experience booking our accommodation through Airbnb. I’d heard of it before, because one of my friends is an Airbnb host.

We did some research, looked for some places and narrowed down our search by looking at reviews. It was an interesting experience! We’d definitely do it again, but now that we’ve experienced it once, we’re wiser about what to look out for, or ask about, before finalising a booking. I’ve shared some of these below.

Tips for booking accommodation through Airbnb

How to make choosing an Airbnb host easier

  • know what you want, and use the filters to help narrow down the results of your search
  • don’t be scared to ask questions – if the host replies, it’s great, and if they don’t; maybe that will help you narrow down the shortlist of potential hosts
  • read the reviews in order to suss out the host and the experience of those who have rented previously

Location, location, location

  • when you know where you’re going, reach out and ask about any known cultural differences re how housing is described e.g. in Spain, they number their floors differently so the second floor, may actually mean the fourth floor
  • have a plan a, b and c in case you are unable to book the place you like the most

When you need to think about booking and why

  • don’t leave it too late because booking an Airbnb isn’t like booking a hotel – the customer requests a booking and the host has the right to refuse, so you may not get something booked as quickly as you would if you booked a hotel room online
  • contact Airbnb to find out if it’s permitted for the host to rent their space, and if not, what the consequences might be for you if you/they get found out while you’re there
  • get in touch with the host directly before you book and get a feel for them, how it will work, if they will be staying there or vacating their home for you, and if it’s the latter, where they’ll sleep, when they’ll be in, when they eat etc.

Sussing out some of the thing listed above may take time, hence it’s best to start looking sooner rather than later.

Rent, fees and cancellation policies

  • ask the host if there’ll be any additional rental taxes
  • ask the host if there will be any additional fees e.g. to clean the place after you’ve left etc.
  • all costs should be paid through the Airbnb site and nothing should be paid in cash, before or after your stay
  • be familiar with the host’s cancellation policies because they vary

Timings, confirmed plans and being considerate

  • be clear about when you’ll arrive and when you’ll leave, and if you’re unsure tell the host and explain why
  • if your timings are pretty certain, be punctual so that the host can plan, prepare and return accordingly
  • if you haven’t got the space to yourself, and you’re sharing with the host or other guests, share your confirmed plans to make things like, using the bathroom, smoother for everyone
  • find out what the host expects in terms of cleaning up, cooking, if they need quiet time etc.

Making ‘checking in’ as smooth as possible

  • make sure you find out the full address of the Airbnb before you get there
  • find out if the host will meet you somewhere and take you to your accommodation, and if not, perhaps ask for a photo of the property from the outside, or for landmarks, so you know how to get there if you’re walking
  • if someone is meeting you when you arrive, ask them to send you a current photo of them, so you know who to look out for
  • if you’re meeting the host before you go to the property, how they will contact you i.e. will you have a mobile with roaming switched on, and if not, how will you ensure that you are in the right place, at the right time, or contact each other if someone’s running late

Unrealistic expectations?

I’m not sure if hosts bother to share tips about the area they live in, but we would have really appreciated it they had done a few things to make our stay even better.

In my mind, they live there, so they will know little things that can make all the difference to the visitor, especially if they’re only staying for a short period of time.

Knowing the information that we found out later, would have helped us save some time and money, which would have probably resulted in us rating the host better, and recommending them to others. Some of these things are:-

  • knowing a bit about buying a T10 ticket
  • having access to a small (free) map upon arrival
  • clearly labeling or stating which things can be used
  • stating whether or not we should drink the tap water from their home
  • a heads up about how long hot water lasts
  • there was no duvet on the bed, so we had a look, found one, covered it and used it, but we weren’t sure if the host would be OK with that or not
  • the host sent her friend to take us to the flat, but she didn’t have the time to take us all the way to the property, and she couldn’t remember the full address, and we hadn’t been given it beforehand either

Next time we use Airbnb

Whether the expectations above are unrealistic or not, we know what we need to find out beforehand, to ensure that we have a better stay.

Have you used Airbnb before? I’d love to hear how your experience was.

Our reaction to ISIS

by Heena Modi on December 6, 2015

The harm caused by ISIS

The terrorist group ISIS have physically and emotionally hurt hundreds of thousands of people. It’s not just the act of killing people, but the fear caused by it, the insecurity felt as a result, the helplessness and frustration that we are left with.

There are so many different ways that we have been, and are being, affected, by terrorism, regardless of the label it wears.

What can we do in response to these acts of terrorism?

  • We can send items to those who have been hurt
  • We can fund-raise to support charities who are working in countries affected by the terrorism
  • We can stop buying from companies who are known to be funding their activities
  • We can write to the Government and express out views
  • We can gather the masses and walk together in peace, and be a physical demonstration of the peace that we want to achieve

Laying the blame

There are some people who think that anyone wearing ‘Muslim clothing’ e.g. a hijab is a potential recruit for ISIS, if they haven’t been ‘turned’ already.

Others seem to think that the huge Muslim population aren’t doing enough to express their disgust for the behaviour of ISIS and that they should unite and show that they don’t support these terrorists.

Then there are those who think all Muslims, whether they are men, women, children, young or old; should be hurt and made to pay for what’s going on!

Retaliation

Recently, I heard that the niece of a friend of mine was sitting on the tube. This guy sat next to her for 15 minutes, after which he turned towards her, shouted ‘ISIS bitch’ and then punched her in the face.

Luckily others intervened and she wasn’t hurt further, but how can this be right?

You could argue that other innocents didn’t ask for what they got and you’d be right! But should we adopt the same way of thinking as ISIS? Should we behave like them? Should we target anyone and everyone, just like they are? Is it ever OK to make someone pay for the sins of others?

What can we do with our feelings of frustration and resentment?

For a start, I don’t think we should ignore these feelings, but I don’t think we should use them to fuel violence towards others either.

Here are some suggestions about what we can do, can you come up with any others?

  • go for a run, walk or do some sort of other workout to burn off that negative energy
  • talk to someone about what you’re thinking and be completely open
  • write your thoughts down, and be completely honest, knowing that the only reader will be you
  • spend time with Muslims and see that the majority of them do not support terrorism
  • turn these feelings into positive energy, and help those who are working on alleviating the pain felt by the innocents
  • think of other examples throughout history, where large groups of people have hurt others, and remember that they, like ISIS, didn’t represent the views of everyone who share the same faith, nationality or race as them
  • intervene when you witness or hear about harming other Muslims

Does this article go far enough to show that everyone is suffering as a result of terrorism?
Can you think of other things we can do to remain peaceful and positive?
Do you have a different point of view?

If so, use Twitter or Facebook and get in touch.

News that’s hot off the keyboard

I’ve added the following an hour or so after publishing this article.

Britain unites in rejection of Leytonstone Tube station attacker

The reaction of one Muslim responding to airstrikes in Syria

They way one Muslim reacted to the Leytonstone tube station attacker has resonated with thousands

Vlogs of reviews of vegan products and interviews with vegan businesses

13 November 2015

Videos I get excited when I find out about new vegan products and I want to share them as many people as possible. So, where possible, I review them on video. I also admire the innovative businesses that supply vegan products. I enjoy recording interviews with the owners and staff, to show you a side to […]

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Tips for buying on Gumtree and avoiding disappointment

10 October 2015

Decluttering Whether it’s due to moving home or wanting to minimise possessions, there’s been a few occasions when I’ve ended up with things that I no longer need or use. When this happens, I usually do one of the following:- donate to the local shop that raises money for charity give it away on freecycle […]

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I’ve been feeling unhappy recently and I want to change that! Do you ever feel the need to protect yourself from negativity?

28 September 2015

Grieving the loss of happiness I recently returned from a 5 week trip to India where I pretty much focused on myself. It was all about self improvement. I felt happier, more content, I experienced longer periods of peacefulness, I was compassionate in different ways, and more. I knew it would require effort to maintain that […]

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Round 2 – the gains from staying in Sayla for 5 weeks

26 August 2015

Spending time in Sayla A few years ago, I spent just over 2 months in the Shree Raj Saubhag Satsang Mandal Ashram in Sayla, India. It was the first time I’d stayed beyond 2 weeks. I left London with mixed feelings about the trip, because it was clear that some people thought I was making a bad […]

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What do you express more? Shame or pride?

28 July 2015

Can you name some relationships in which you feel emotion? Does that sound weird? We feel emotions all the time don’t we? I believe that there are some relationships in which we feel emotions more intensely than others. Then there are those, where we can hide, suppress or nullify pretty much, any sense of emotion. The […]

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