The Crafty Traveller: City Breaks - how to get the inside story
- Airbnb's Trips enables travellers to immerse themselves in communities
- The offering provides accommodation as well as about 500 experiences
- These can range from discovering street art or spray-painting workshops
With an inventory of three million property listings in 190 countries, Airbnb has revolutionised the travel accommodation market.
But the peer-to-peer website (airbnb.co.uk) is not content with that. It is now spreading its wings with the creation of ‘Trips’, to enable travellers to immerse themselves more fully in the communities they visit.
Where you stay (Homes) is just one element of what Trips offers. The others are insider recommendations from locals (‘Places’) and, more interestingly, ‘Experiences’ – activities designed and led by local hosts.
The majority pf Airbnb's Trips are multi-day activities, including discovering street art plus attending a spray-painting workshop in Tokyo, and ice-cream-tasting and making in Florence
About 500 experiences can be booked across 12 cities – Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, Detroit, Havana, London, Paris, Florence, Nairobi, Cape Town, Tokyo and Seoul.
The majority are multi-day activities, including discovering street art plus attending a spray-painting workshop in Tokyo, and ice-cream-tasting and making in Florence. But some experiences are events or tours lasting just a few hours, such as attending a private music gig in LA, and having a workout session and picnic on a Cape Town beach.
The offerings are generally imaginative and enticing, especially if you want to venture off the beaten tourist path for an alternative insight into a destination.
Over the coming months, Airbnb will start offering experiences in a further 39 cities, including Amsterdam, Barcelona, Rome and Prague. Crucially – and unlike with its property listings – the company is vetting experiences before displaying them.
Among the standards desired of an experience are that it’s something you wouldn’t be able to discover on your own, that it offers an original perspective, and that you can participate (ie not just observe). All that will be tricky for Airbnb to monitor, so it will be interesting to see how rigorously these criteria are applied.
You can browse the experiences on offer by applying category filters, such as social impact, arts, fashion and sports. At present you need to use Airbnb’s app rather than the website.
Over the coming months, Airbnb will start offering experiences in a further 39 cities, including Amsterdam, Barcelona, Rome and Prague (pictured). Crucially – and unlike with its property listings – the company is vetting experiences before displaying them
The information given on each experience is usually detailed, covering information about the host, available dates, what’s included, and guest requirements such as minimum age, fitness and skills.
You’ll also find videos and, as with Airbnb homes listings, reviews from previous participants. And, as with an accommodation booking, Airbnb passes on payment to the host only on the day after the experience – a good protection.
Airbnb is not the only online platform where you can find and book activities and tours led by locals.
Trip4real (trip4real.com), which has just been acquired by Airbnb, focuses also on letting travellers participate in the daily life of locals. With the company based in Barcelona, the best choice of activities is in Spain – options include tapas bar crawls in Barcelona, an intriguing rooftops walking tour in Madrid, and learning about flamenco with a dancer in Malaga – though other European cities are covered.
Vayable (vayable.com) is a similar set-up, featuring rated and reviewed cultural experiences created and hosted by local insiders. In Paris, you could eat like a local, take a jogging tour or visit designer boutiques.
If you’re after a high-quality local guide likely to be professionally qualified, ToursByLocals (toursbylocals.com) offers 1,850 guides in 150 countries. It carries out a rigorous screening process before signing up guides and says only one in ten gets through.
Lastly, you may be able to get residents to show you around their home town or neighbourhood for free. See on the Global Greeter Network (globalgreeternetwork.info) whether your next destination has a ‘greeter’ programme of volunteer guides – more than 100 cities do, from Almaty to Zagreb.
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