Growing up, our parents tell us not to talk to strangers. But they never said anything about living with them.
Founded in 2008, the California company Airbnb doesn’t find you hotels in the sky, but homes of strangers around the world. Whether you’re looking to rent a room, apartment or even an entire house, Airbnb means shacking up with more tenants than just your trusty travel companion.
With Airbnb prices well below those of normal hotels, UCF Knights are no strangers to the lodging service.
Avid traveler and recent graduate Mikaela Duffy has stayed with Airbnb hosts in Germany, Czech, Switzerland, Netherlands and Belgium. She says guests’ interactions with their live-in host can expose them to a country’s culture or make for an interesting connection.
“When I was in Switzerland, I needed to run to the market but I didn’t have my car and my hosts let me borrow their bicycles and gave me a lot of help trying to find places,” Duffy said.
Although the international-sharing hub has helped more than 30 million guests find safe and protective lodgings, safety issues still pose a concern for young, lone travelers.
To ensure safety with guests, hosts follow rules that include removing any hazards that might cause guests to trip or fall, fixing any exposed wires and meeting government and safety codes in the area. Hosts can also give guests a safety card that lists emergency numbers, exit routes and other resources, according to the website.
Monica Betancourt Sanjuan has been traveling via Airbnb for three years now. She often travels to other countries alone so safety precautions are usually filtered through the site and through her own research.
“As far as safety is concerned, all monetary transactions should be done through Airbnb. Normally, you contact a host via their website-messaging system after creating a profile for yourself,” said Sanjuan, a sophomore biology and environmental studies major. “This is key, and I don’t recommend skipping.”
Before booking international trips, Sanjuan recommends checking the U.S international traveling website for vital requirements.
“They list all sorts of advisories for multiple countries just to make sure if I need to take any extra steps or provisions before my trip such as vaccinations or documentations,” she said.
Airbnb offers programs that include a 24/7 global team available to assist people with questions or concerns. Guests and hosts can research each other through tools provided on the website. In the case of any potential property damage, Airbnb protects its host with a property-damage claim of up to $1 million.
Francheska Aristy, a senior graphic design major, said the company assisted her through an odd experience with a host.
“It was the host’s first time hosting and he didn’t know that in the neighborhood it was at, if you were under 55 you could not be there without the tenant present, so we were kicked out by the condo association and forced to find another Airbnb last minute,” she said. Aristy was eventually refunded her money and found another apartment on the website.
Airbnb’s purpose of creating an immersive experience for people continues to remain contingent with its national and international mission.
Last December, the company launched an effort, #OneLessStranger, to dissolve the concept of strangers by uniting a worldwide community. The company gave the equivalent of $10 to hosts worldwide and challenged them to use the money to make a helpful gesture to a stranger.
Safety tips for first-time users:
1. If not comfortable staying with the host, book a private room or apartment.
2. Message hosts through Airbnb after booking with them to find out more about them. Communication will help first-time users become more comfortable with hosts.
3. Make sure all monetary transactions are through Airbnb to ensure refunds.
4. Invest in a travel lock for your suitcase and belongings.
5. Verify identification on your host’s Airbnb page by checking for a professionally photographed profile picture, and for links to their social media pages.
Tips from students and Airbnb website
Shanae Hardy is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Email her at ShanaeH@CentralFloridaFuture.com.