Month: June 2016

How To Book A Place On AirBnB

A few days ago, I’d read about a terrible experience that a dear old friend (and idol), Naren, had with AirBnB. Now, for those of you who aren’t familiar, AirBnB is an awesome service that lets you rent Apartments and Private Rooms (or if you don’t care much for privacy, shared rooms) in pretty much any city in the world that you want to holiday in.

I have used AirBnB twice so far – for my trips to Barcelona last year and Paris a few weeks ago, and I have to say, the experience is way superior to the one you would get in a hotel, it is a great deal more convenient than any other living arrangement and most importantly, it’s considerably cheaper than getting a hotel room of an equivalent standard. At the outset AirBnB sounds like awesome doughnut unicorn land, but the truth is that there is a great degree of uncertainty, not to mention the fact that you are at the mercy of your “host”. My experiences with Airbnb have been pleasant because I have massive trust issues. I follow a certain set of rules while booking anything on Airbnb, and these rules have worked quite well for me, so I’m sharing them here and I hope they work for you too. So without further ado, here’s how to book a place on airbnb –

Rule 1: Read the reviews!

I cannot stress on this enough, especially if it’s your first time booking a space on the website. Also keep in mind that a place with a four star rating after 200 reviews is a safer bet than a place with a 5 star rating and 2 reviews. I’m sure the 5 star rating place would be great, but for your first stay you want something tried and tested, with special emphasis on the tried. And tested. I read at least 25 reviews before I zero in on a place. Yes. I know.

Rule 2: Verify your account!

Now, the hosts aren’t the only ones who get reviewed, the users/guests do, too. So it’s only natural that well rated hosts are more likely to give their houses to well rated guests, which can be a problem when it’s your first time figuring out a place to stay on AirBnB. The idea is to be the least shady as possible so ensure that you verify your account with your phone number and email.

Rule 3: Research the area

Where is the apartment located, exactly? What kind of neighbourhood is it in? Is it accessible by Taxi? How close/far away is it from public transport? There are great apartments in shady areas and shady apartments in great areas, so don’t be swayed by the photos of the apartment alone, look up the area that your housing is located in.

Rule 4: Know the apartment and its rules

I almost booked a fifth floor apartment which was in a building without an elevator. Imagine lugging around your baggage for five floors! High rise apartments are cheaper sometimes, but make sure to check if there’s an elevator in the apartment. Alternatively, you can pack light (a skill I’ve never managed to learn because really there’s no such thing as too many pairs of blue jeans)

Rule 5: If it’s too good to be true…

…it probably is. Pass.

Rule 6: Be detailed and polite in your email to the host.

For most spaces, you’ll have to send a message to your host explaining the reason why you want to book their place. Suffice to say “Hai Plz give room” isn’t going to cut it. Introduce yourself, where you’re from, who you’re travelling with to their city, how many days you’re going to be there, and how great it would be if they’d let you have their place for your stay. You don’t need to write an essay, but providing necessary details about your trip (especially about the people you’re travelling with) will make you seem like a more reliable guest.

Rule 7: Other Reviewers

This isn’t an essential issue, but I am conscious about the experiences of people of colour (hello fellow brown people!) in the apartment. The world isn’t the most perfect place, and it is better for the sake of your vacation to be sure that your host is one who doesn’t discriminate.

Rule 8: Respect the property

Congratulations! You’ve got a room using AirBnB. To ensure that future bookings go even smoother, you need a good review, and in order for that to happen, you should respect the other person’s space. This means tidying up the bed, cleaning the kitchenette counter, taking the garbage out and generally not leaving it like your own room back home.
I love AirBnB and ever since I discovered the service last year, I’ve not even considered a hotel for travels. It’s affordable, it’s efficient and gives your holiday a kind of authenticity that staying in a hotel never will.
Have you tried AirBnB? What have your experiences been like so far?
{FYI, This is not a paid post. That I wish it was is a whole different matter altogether.}

Deviance – For Real!

So around November of 2008, I wrote a short story called “Deviance” about a Tamil dude who wanted to marry another man. The story was essentially the result of one of those “what were we even thinking?” conversations with another friend, (the erstwhile) IdlingInTopGear, except I actually wrote what we were thinking/talking into a story.

The story became popular in a very 2008 way – some people made into an e-mail forward with extra punctuation, some others posted it on their own blogs and so on; It also became a short film, starring very talented actors from the Chennai theatre circuit and was featured in an LGBT Film Festival in Chennai, too – it’s currently on a Youtube Channel for Indie short films called Bench Culture which is promoted by Karthik Subburaj, of Jigarthanda/Pizza fame . I’ve written a lot since then, but in all honesty, Deviance remains one of my biggest accomplishments in writing, not because of the popularity it achieved, but because a few people from the Tamil gay community reached out to me to tell me that they found it hilarious, and that for me was the greatest piece of validation.

Anyway, so 8 whole years later after I wrote Deviance, this news item comes up on my feed about an adorable gay couple who had a traditional, South Indian style wedding with pretty much everything that I’d imagined in the story!

Anyway, so I just thought I’d share it here because,
a) It’s too freaking cute
b) More people need to know about my Nostradamus-ness OKAY.

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