A home away from home

Published On: May 12, 2017 09:45 AM NPT By: Isha Upadhyay

We all know how difficult it is to find hotel rooms that won’t take a chunk of our vacation budget and are lovely and comfortable at the same time. Often times, we end up compromising on one of the two. But it needn’t be that way if you are a little savvy with your searches, and are up for staying at homes instead of hotels.

There are many places in Nepal in Airbnb that offer tourists a nice place to stay at reasonable prices. It is far easier to have short staying guests in the house than tenants with a long contract. This way if you don’t agree with someone’s ways, it’s easier to move on and find people with similar mindsets. What is the Airbnb culture in the country like? Isha Upadhyay finds out. 

Getting started 
Registering with Airbnb is a fairly simple process if you are looking to rent a place. Download the app, log in with your Facebook or Gmail ID and you are good to go. If you want to become a host, however, there is a list of other things you must do. Go to your profile and click on ‘become a host’ and select from a list the type of space you want to rent out. Options include your entire house, a private room, or a shared room. After finishing a short list and describing your room, your listing becomes public. “It is important to be as detailed and specific as you can in your intro and make sure you list any house rules you may have so that there are no clashes later on,” says Hemraj, who began renting out his place a little more than a year ago. The more information you can give out about your expectations, the lesser are the chances of being misunderstood later on. “Never book a place without chatting with the host first, even if you feel like it’s a safer option to do so. You don’t want to spend money and stay in a place you aren’t satisfied with,” he says. 

Living with strangers
Dil is a ‘superhost’ who has been hosting people since May 2013. Superhosts are people whose profile are in good standing and have maintained a more than 90% response rate and at least 80% of the ratings should be five stars. If you are looking to book a place, try to find a superhost in the area. The competition to live there is high and it is almost always booked full, but if you plan your trip in advance you might be able to snag a slot for yourself. “I look for foreigners mostly because I know that with most of them I can expect no funny business,” says Dil.

Having rented out to more than 400 people in the course of four years and with 229 raving reviews on the Airbnb app, Dil says he hasn’t met anyone he felt like he made a mistake renting out his place to. “The trick is to make people realize that they aren’t living in a hotel. They cook for themselves and clean up after themselves,” he says. If you try to integrate them into your family and be clear about your rules, there aren’t any problems living with new people. The longest he has someone stay with him is one and a half months. He still keeps in touch with the guest because, during the course of his stay, they became very close. 

Safety concerns  
It’s always a little difficult to let a stranger into your house, especially if you are living with your family. Going to live in a stranger’s house too is a hard thing to do. It’s not like staying at a hotel. You have to interact with one another so if you are renting or leasing a place, you should do so with an open mind. Airbnb has taken a few steps to ensure that the experience is as safe as possible. When you book a place on the app, you are required to upload a photo of a government issued ID and a selfie you take through the app. You are also required to link your account to a preexisting social media account. “It depends on how trusting you are as a host,” says Hemraj, “I require people to send me ID proof before I accept their booking, but I know others who don’t require this step,” he says. Most of the accounts have reviews so make sure you check out at least a few before you consider booking a place. 

Going hand in hand
Apart from being a host on Airbnb, Dil also owns a trekking company. When tourists come to the country, they are always looking for a local experience. Hotels and hostels, although cheap, are clinical and don’t provide any interaction with the local community. Airbnb bridges the gap between the host and the guests and allow both to benefit from each other. Rupert, one of Dil’s guests who is currently staying with his family, claims that it is one of the best places to live in, not too far from the hustle and bustle of the city. “The fact that he is also a trekking guide and has an agency of his own makes things easier for his guests. It certainly did for me,” he says.  

“My profession and the services provided by Airbnb go hand in hand. It helps me boost my business,” says Dil. People who contact him through his trekking company are delighted when they find that he rents out on Airbnb and vice versa. He is able to provide his guests with a complete package and that’s something Dil is extremely proud of.

The future of Airbnb in Nepal
“As more people in the tourism industry have found out about Airbnb, things have become increasingly competitive,” says Dil. When he first started out four years ago, there weren’t many hosts in the valley. Now, there are numerous to choose from, and the only reason he says people are coming to him is because he tries very hard to maintain his superhost position.  

It isn’t only in the Kathmandu valley that this rental business is thriving but people in Pokhara have started using Airbnb as well. Safala hosts a private room with two beds and an attached bathroom just a kilometer away from lakeside. She rents out the room for $10 per night, which is as cheap as it can get in Pokhara. She even goes through the trouble of calling trekking and tour guides to the house so that her guests can get the best deals from the comfort of their room. “I have started this as a business but I also want to make sure that my guests are comfortable,” she says. This is probably the reason why she is also a superhost.

“A lot of people in Pokhara are using this service to lure tourists with the appeal of getting to live like locals,” she says. Many hosts think that this business will continue to expand as tourist don’t really travel to Nepal for a five star experience. With Airbnb, they can live like a local and experience different cultures and traditions firsthand. And for homeowners who have a flat or a room sitting empty, it’s an easy and safe way to make some extra money.  

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