A holidaymaker went viral recently after sharing a hack that she claims saves her “thousands” each year. TikTok user Anna , @annathingbutanimals, has been garnering attention for her “best travel hack” which she revealed saying she didn’t want to "gatekeep".
In the clip, Anna explained that she kept a record of the phone numbers of Airbnb hosts she had used before. She stores them in a Rolodex – a wheel of paper pieces that’ easy to flip through.
When Anna wants to travel somewhere she looks thought these contacts and messages the hosts directly to book a stay. She claims that they’ll often give her a cheaper rate than booking through a website.
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She negotiates with them to pay lower prices and often pays in cash. However, fellow tourists worry that the hack could bypass various safeguards built into booking sites. In a recent collaboration, Cottagely.co.uk and travel expert Joshua Rasia listed 6 reasons to NOT use this travel hack.
1. The host can cancel last minute
Without an official booking confirmation from Airbnb, there's no guarantee the host will uphold their end of the deal. You could potentially find yourself without accommodation at the last minute if the host decides to rent to someone who books officially through Airbnb.
From Joshua’s point of view as a travel expert without a booking guarantee a lot of things can go wrong:
"You could either arrive there and not find your room as they might have booked someone else last minute who pays more than you to start with."
"If you are lucky and find effectively the room available at the discounted price mentioned, let’s say unfortunately you get damages on any of the values you carry with you during the trip there’s nobody that is going to assist you with that as the booking wasn’t done through an official application but just via message. This would even lead to bigger problems for disputes over damages to the room as you don’t have any confirmation on that."
2. You may get scammed
Paying the host directly, especially in cash, opens the door for potential scams. A host could take your money without providing the accommodation, and without Airbnb involved in the transaction, there would be no way to claim a refund.
Joshua commented: "Rarely as it can be, from my personal travel experience both in Europe and Asia, paying with cash can lead to some dodgy situations out there. Nobody can confirm to have received cash from for the accommodation, they can come in the middle of the night and pretend you leave the room while you don’t have anything to confirm that you paid for it."
"If something doesn’t seem fine with your room there’s no chance to get your money back as Airbnb is not protecting a trip that wasn’t booked via the app and done directly from your message. In a few words, the saving that you might make isn't worth the risks connected to it."
3. You won't get help with problems
Airbnb offers AirCover for guests. If you're unable to check-in, if your listing is significantly different than advertised, or if there's a serious issue with your accommodation that your host can't resolve, Airbnb will help.
They can assist you in finding a similar place at comparable pricing or give you a full or partial refund, depending on the circumstances. By booking directly with the host, you risk missing out on this essential safety net.
"I had a pigeon once entering through a broken window while traveling in Delhi. God knows what could have happened if I hadn’t stayed there with the host living below me, who changed the room immediately. But even other times, in Italy you can have issues with hot water and while in the summer it might not be a problem in the winter it is. If you stay with your host without a reservation he has no responsibilities nor he has to assist you with that", Joshua said.
4. Your account may be suspended
Airbnb can suspend or delete accounts that violate their terms of service, including making deals outside their platform. Engaging in this travel hack might limit your future access to Airbnb properties worldwide.
"While it might not sound as serious as it is losing your account for breaching regulations can lead to a full suspension of your access to Airbnb which leads to a loss of your potential great deals within the app all around the world", Joshua advices.
5. Your personal safety could be compromised
Airbnb implements safety measures like host background checks and property safety guidelines. If you choose to bypass Airbnb, you lose these safety assurances and potentially expose yourself to risk.
As a travel expert, Joshua has seen a lot of these things happening and hosts who aren’t reliable:
"Airbnb continuously checks the background of all of them, assisting in keeping a high level of safety for the guests staying at the accommodation. If you, however, book directly with a host, you don’t know what can happen as they might look to take advantage of you, organize a drink with a friend, and so on. It might be enjoyable but you don’t want to expose yourself to unnecessary risks while abroad."
6. It could cause legal issues
In some jurisdictions, it might be illegal to rent properties outside of approved platforms. Engaging in such activities could potentially expose you to legal action.
Joshua commented: "As a Travel expert, I always remind travelers to not get involved in potential legal actions as they not only have their holidays but even their return home. These issues can lead to a lot of expenses and a few months of lawyers and stress. Do not take this for granted and be careful where you book your Airbnb, but most importantly, book it throughout the platform."
In conclusion, while Anna's TikTok travel hack may seem like a clever way to save money on travel, it's essential to be aware of the risks. Using established platforms like Airbnb provides important protections for both guests and hosts, which can make your trip smoother and safer.
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