In this age, travelers already have so many options to help plan dream vacations and trips. We have all these third-party travel booking websites at our disposal such as, Booking, Agoda, and the like, and they really make our lives easier. But when they fail us? Well, thank God for Airbnb!
Airbnb is not so new, but it’s definitely one of the hottest things online right now, which every traveler needs to be acquainted with. What’s great about it? It provides low-end to luxurious accommodation arrangements at a very affordable and competitive price, that’s also available worldwide. Below, let me show you how we scored an awesome deal for our Melbourne City accommodations.
We decided to do a side-trip of Melbourne, and tried to book all the essentials just a few weeks prior to the actual trip. Needless to say, we were almost already out of options that wouldn’t hole up our pockets so much. Our roundtrip airfare for example, cost us $129.60AUD per person. Had we made up our minds and booked earlier, it would’ve only been around $80-90.
Anyway, right after booking our flights, I looked directly into our trusted Agoda.com (which we used to book all our accommodations for our 2014 Indochina backpacking trip) for backpacker hostels in Melbourne. We were only up for the average mixed-dormitory type, common bathrooms, etc. But the cheapest we could find was around $32, per person, per night. Being an Agoda user for a few years now, I know that’s not exactly affordable. At any given time, results would give you at least $15-18 for the same specifications. That’s “Agoda-cheap.” So, frustrated, I randomly gave Airbnb a try.
I had been already been scouting the site for quite some time, so I knew what it had to offer. I locked in the specifications (city, neighborhood, number of guests, etc.) and voila! It gave me shocking results. Very unexpectedly, I saw right before my eyes, many available places that describe exactly what we were looking for! Till I stumbled upon a certain listing.
It was a whole apartment (fits 7) with 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, fully-equipped kitchen and dining, washing machine and dryer, pool, jacuzzi, gym, sauna, steam room, and a cute pocket garden. And have I mentioned, crazy cheap?! It was also located right in one of our preferred neighborhoods around Melbourne Central Business District (CBD), which was also right within the Free Tram Zone. I thought it was “too good to be true!” There almost couldn’t be anything better. Of course, that didn’t take much thinking. We didn’t let that opportunity pass. ^_^
The location: Concept Blue Apartments on the corners of Russell and La Trobe Streets at Melbourne CBD. It’s an apartment complex, part of which is the old Deco Tower, which housed our 10th-floor flat. It just gets even more interesting from here.
The listing on Airbnb didn’t have any mention of the apartment building’s historical past. As we were about to meet the host down by the entrance, I was just surprised to see a couple of landmark tablets cemented into some corners of the building. I took a closer look, and then all historic satisfaction came upon me! haha
Built in the 1940’s, The Deco Tower has a lot of stories to tell. It was actually the Victoria Police Headquarters up till the 70’s. It also served as the control room for Air Raid Precautions services during World War II. On the more tragic side, it was the site of the Russell Street Bombing in 1986. For many years, it had been left abandoned till in 2004, when it underwent major renovations, to convert it into the apartment complex it is now. You must be wondering, but no, we didn’t feel anything eerie while in there, despite that history. ^_^
P.S. My photos don’t do justice to how the apartment actually looked like. I hurriedly took them as we were about to leave. I even forgot to take photos of one of the bedrooms!
We had such a great host. After touring us around the unit and complex, we asked if there was a rice cooker. He thought there was one around, but he found out that there was none. And so he left for a while and came back with one. He bought us a rice-cooker! Of course, you can’t demand for it, but that was just such an awesome gesture!
Check-in and out was glitch-free too. The host didn’t even need to meet us anymore. We also gladly obliged to keep up with Airbnb tradition by leaving a few food items/ingredients in the pantry which the next guests could use. When we checked-in, there were snack bars, peanut butter, jams, and some ingredients which we were able to use. So in turn, we also left some Filipino “Lucky Me!”cup noodles which we brought all the way from home (Cebu).
Here’s a point-by-point comparison of the cheapest hostel we found on Agoda from this Airbnb apartment.
HOSTEL – mixed dormitory type with common bathrooms. Depending on the hostel, some may have a common kitchen and other common recreational areas.
Pros: It’s cheap, and you get to meet a lot of people that can make for potential lifelong friends and even spouses. You gain a lot traveling wisdom and knowledge from the stories and experiences of other travelers. And it’s FUN! You can share notes and even tour together. They’re very accessible as most hostels have very central locations.
Cons: You don’t get that much space and privacy. It gets worse if you’re going solo, booked in a dorm type, and mixed with other unhygienic travelers. You can just imagine the funk from all their used clothing (please, let’s not even get to the socks part 0.o) and wet towels just laying untidily around!
AIRBNB – Entire apartment/home/private room/shared room.
Pros: You have the place all to yourself. Just like hostels, Airbnb homes are everywhere too so accessibility’s almost out of the question. Since you’re renting a whole house, you get most (if not all) of what is found in a basic house. Your own living and dining room, bedroom/s, fully-equipped kitchen (so you can cook your own meals to save money), washing machine, and dryer. If you’re lucky, you can find some listings in prime areas, that have 5-star amenities that may come out cheaper than hostels and even hotels (just like what we had). You could also (usually) communicate directly with the host to customize your check-in/out, and living arrangements.
Cons: Though very rarely, you might unfortunately get scammed. The property might not match the promising description, or at least what you expected.
Our ultimate deciding factor in using Airbnb was the price, the amenities are just a plus since you’re main objective is to go out and explore. We only needed a place to stay at night, and keep our things safe when we’re out for the day. Below, you can see the price difference between the Airbnb and a hostel.
= $32AUD/pax/night (mixed-dormitory type, common bathrooms)
x 2 nights
= $64 (per pax; 2 nights)
x 6 pax
Total = $384AUD (6 pax; 2 nights)
= $136AUD (per night)
x 2 nights
Total = $272AUD (6 pax; 2 nights)
**As you can see, we saved a little over a hundred bucks from our accommodations, which we then used for other stuff. (Y)
Now let me give you some tips on how to find the best deals out there. Some may not be luxurious, but you sure will be comfortable.
- Research. Know which neighborhood in your destination is best for you stay in. Choose the one most accessible to transportation, food, shopping, and spots. SAFETY is first priority.
- Check into the websites I’ve mentioned above, lock in your travel details (dates, number of guests, etc.). Make use of the filters for you to have even more specific results. I personally don’t use them because I like seeing everything that’s available, from low-end to 5-star. If you’re just diligent in searching, you just might find yourself a promo on renowned 5-star hotels from those websites. You won’t even believe it!
- Compare one website from the other. Rates, listings, , amenities, and inclusions. Some have breakfast, free cancellation, etc., while others don’t.
- When doing a spontaneous trip (like backpacking), with no definite plans, just book only your first night in your choice hotel (through the websites mentioned above). That way, you’ll have a place to stay, to go to, the moment you arrive in the destination. This will also give you enough time to go on looking at other hotels, which you may find better. But if you’re already contented with your first hotel, then extend your stay by booking again through the websites. Take note: Walk-in/desk rates are usually a little bit higher. Don’t worry, most receptionists are kind enough to let you book through the websites and just confirm your booking at the desk. It doesn’t hurt if you ask.
- Download the mobile applications of those websites into your smart gadgets. They sometimes have more discounts on there which you may not find in the websites.
- Befriend foreign travelers. Observe how they’re doing their thing–where most of them are staying, where they’re going, and what they’re doing. They have more experience, and probably have done more research than you. They most likely know the cheapest, safest, best places around.
- If traveling solo, give CouchSurfing a try. Free accommodation!! The only concern is your security. I haven’t heard of an incident though, but I hope it stays that way.