Tranquil Nature Reserve Actually Shanty Town

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Disastrous holiday with appalling customer service. Never will I use Airbnb again.

Over two months ago we found out my partner was pregnant. We decided that before the baby arrived we wanted a relaxing and peaceful break where we could quietly celebrate the news with her parents. We set about searching for somewhere suitable. We are both experienced travellers all over the world and happy hiking and camping but obviously this time with my partner being pregnant and her elderly parents coming along we didn’t want anything too basic.

We settled on the idea of a nearby island of Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands which is owned by Spain. It is frequented by millions of European tourists per year and well developed so it should have been a very easy trip.

After much research I finally found the perfect place on Airbnb located in a nature reserve in the north of the island. The description said “ideal for those who choose tranquility” and “for those who want to live in contact with nature while enjoying the sport and what seas of tranquility offer.”

Again, as my partner is pregnant, we didn’t want anything too basic and this was the perfect fit: TV, iron, laptop-friendly workspace, etc. We even got an extra reminder that this was one of a “few places in the area where breakfast would be included!”

It was advertised at 50 euros a night but slightly less on the nights we were looking for. I naively was only slightly wary when I saw it just had one review but it was a new place that had very recently opened and it was absolutely glowing: “The garden gives great spaces for the eyes. A feeling of great freedom, openness, connection with the authentic nature of Fuerteventura… great pleasure staying in the house… contemplate the beauty of what surrounds you.”

It went on and on with absolute rave reviews. This guest clearly thought this was the best, most beautiful place she had ever stayed so surely we in the very worst case weren’t going to dislike it. We booked four nights and were very excited about it. How wrong we were.

The trip started out well with good communication from the host who by a strange coincidence turned out to be Italian just like the solitary reviewer. Polite, quick to respond and would be meeting us at the property at the check in time. After a long day of travelling, by late evening we drove into the nature reserve; the reviews were correct, it was beautiful.

I continued to follow my GPS across a dirt track towards our peaceful isolated house. Upon the horizon a group of buildings started to appear. As we got closer we realised that these buildings were in fact made of pallets and various other discarded materials and were surrounded by rubbish. This was a medium sized chabola illegal house, called slums or favela in other parts of the world.

We have seen many of these on our travels through Asia and Africa. Essential and unavoidable in many developing countries but unusual to find in the middle of a nature reserve. It was with absolute disbelief when I saw the GPS was taking me right into the middle of it.

However, there was no GPS mistake when I pulled up outside a somewhat recognisable house and was met by a smiling host and a stray pit bull. We were quickly ushered into the house which in fairness wasn’t too different from what we were expecting; the interior matches the photos that were displayed. We had studied the photos on the website so we knew the basic style and layout.

What wasn’t apparent from the pictures was the horrible smell and that it was that it was an entirely open plan including the bathroom and toilet which was adjoining the living room. My partner started to panic about having to ask everyone to leave the house any time she needed the toilet (which is often during pregnancy).

It was then the other conditions started to be explained. First, there was no water main; it came from an outside container which is very limited so ‘use the toilet at least four times before flushing it’ as it will run out. Second, no electricity. We were taken back outside through a broken rusted door that was falling down and needed to be tied on by rope. There we found an old generator and a couple of jerrycans.

Our host politely explained the quirks of how to start this particular old generator. He also explained that it would last about five hours, then I needed to drive to a nearby petrol station (about 30 minutes), buy enough petrol to fill a jerrycan, and then refill the generator with a half water bottle scattered around the floor that could be used as a funnel.

While I was trying to work out why I was having to pay for the petrol or the logistics having to refill something every five hours night and day just to have a fridge working or the lights on I became aware that it wouldn’t really be a problem as there was no way we were going to be able to stand the ridiculous noise of the generator for longer than five minutes, let alone five hours. Once started we couldn’t be heard over the top of it and even in the house it was loud enough to feel like you were in the middle of a construction site. Tranquil it most certainly was not.

The tour of the outside didn’t get any better. Past the pizza oven – which was being used as a bin – around to the side of the house which wasn’t shown in the pictures we discovered a pile of broken furniture leaning up against the house (sofa, plastic table and a bathroom sink, indoor dining room chairs) and then just beyond that a dumpsite. All manner of broken things and building rubble which I imagine was the previous interior of the house had been piled up and left.

Was this the “authentic nature of Fuerteventura”? It was certainly true that in stunned silence we were ‘contemplating’ the ‘beauty’ that surrounded us. In truth at this moment the host looked so embarrassed by the place and eager to move us away from the rubbish that we didn’t really question it much, he just kept repeating that he wasn’t the owner, just the host.

Once the host had left and the pit bull had chased his car out through the chabola we had time to reflect upon what we were about to stay in. Luckily my partner’s parents weren’t due to arrive until the next day. I sat down on the sofa and rechecked the advert on Airbnb to see I had made no mistake. I had not.

It was clear that the accommodation no way matched what they were advertising from the important things like clean and with electricity and water to the less vital things like the breakfast that was most certainly not going to be provided. While contemplating how to explain the situation to her parents I looked down to find my shoes and legs cover in flees, and I do mean covered.

At that point my partner decided she would do the rest of her contemplating in the car. She rushed outside to find a local resident and extremely suspicious looking character peering into the back of car which was still loaded with all our holiday gear. When I asked who he was he merely commented that he was the cousin of the owner and continued to walk around the property at his own leisurely pace.

This was now a step too far, it had gone from being a somewhat comical, farcical situation to actually feeling quite unsafe. While the nature reserve is certainly ‘isolated’, the house being in the centre of the chabola most certainly was not. It may be the area is quite safe and the ‘cousin’ was just coming to be friendly but this certainly wasn’t the type of holiday that had been sold to us and we weren’t willing to stay and find out.

I stayed just long enough to take some photos and then drove away to try and work out what to do next. I called the host to tell him we wouldn’t be staying even a night and by his tone he had been waiting for that phone call. He said not a problem at all and even avoided an embarrassing situation by not asking us for the reasons. He just reminded us again that he was not the owner which I understood to imply that even he wouldn’t want to stay there. I asked about a refund and he said he hadn’t received any money and it would all be returned by Airbnb.

At this point it was 8:00 PM and with very little mobile battery left we were trying to navigate the nightmare Airbnb customer support site and look for somewhere to stay. I eventually found the support contact and emailed explaining the situation. On that evening I received absolutely no reply at all and we were in a desperate sprint to find something, anything safe that we could stay in that night.

By 10:00 PM we were lucky enough to find a very accommodating host who replied pretty much immediately to our messages and let us stay. Before I could book the new place my only option was to ‘cancel the reservation’ of the old which seemed to imply it was in some way our fault and therefore we were penalized in that they kept most of the money. Only 66 euros were returned to us.

While the new accommodation was excellent, a great host who had provided an honest and truthful advert, it was a more expensive flat, only for two people and in a crowded tourist resort. Not at all the holiday we were looking for. It also meant that there was no space for my in laws and with all the uncertainty they decided to cancel their flight and not come at all.

I have attached a link to show just how poor the support was when they eventually replied as my words couldn’t really do it justice. Needless to say we ended up paying for two accommodations (minus 66 euros). I wrote at length and sent plenty of pictures as evidence but Airbnb seemed entirely uninterested, delivering superficial responses.

It was only after five days with one day left in our holiday that I was passed to a specialist who asked if he could help book us into accommodation. I guess he imagined we had been sleeping on the streets for the previous four nights. When it was apparent that he wasn’t properly reading my replies or trying to understand the situation his response of ‘I have a lot of cases needed to be assisted as well’ was infuriating. A particular favourite phrase that he wrote after admitting it was a host violation was ‘just to set your expectation we will do our best in order to meet the proper standard but we cannot guarantee this hundred percent to provide the expected outcome’ (sic).

It has now been nearly a week and Airbnb has just stopped replying to my messages. Last I heard I was eligible for a refund but that has never arrived and they are simply ignoring all my attempts at communication. While we are both safely home and we can look back on a spoilt holiday somewhat fatalistically as I explained to customer support it is the safety of others that is most concerning. People book with them expecting a certain level of security, their whole brand is based around that. If not we might as well just arrive in a place and knock on any old door and ask to stay.

A current look on their site shows that this accommodation is still being advertised in exactly the same way. My lengthy review has not been published, still only the original poster, so they will have people booking it expecting what we expected. I find it worryingly immoral that Airbnb is continuing to advertise it in the same way. At best they will be spoiling people’s holidays and costing them money. At worst… well, it doesn’t bear thinking about. Here is the link to the place. Check it out in full here.

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Airbnb: Pathetic Service and Fraudulent Hosts

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It’s very painful to think that I booked this Airbnb after reading what services we can get here. Kitchen service was not there as it was written but I thought there must have been at least basic amenities like a kettle, milk pouches, tea bags, etc. I checked in at 12:00 PM but the caretaker was not present; he said he would come in the evening at 6:00 PM.

When he came, he provided me a fridge which was so dirty and unhygienic. Upon asking about basic amenities like a lawn chair and table to sit outside the host rudely said he couldn’t provide anything as this hotel was about to shut down.

My first day’s stay was gone to waste due to the caretaker and basic amenities being unavailable. We could not go anywhere else because this was a hill station and after 8:00 PM we couldn’t go for food outside. If I wanted to cook in the kitchen there were nothing like a pressure cooker, etc. What could we eat in just a pan and bowl?

I don’t want stay here tomorrow and today’s stay was forced on us. I’m requesting a full refund from Airbnb because my holidays are ruined now and I am going back to Delhi again tomorrow morning.

Airbnb Defends Hosts who are out of Town

It was a disgusting, dirty and stinky apartment. Someone’s sheet was in the toilet. Airbnb took the host’s side, who insisted that the apartment was clean, although he was out of town.

First of all, I read all the reviews carefully before booking. The reason was that I decided to show Prague to my mom who is 70 years old and who has never been there. It was her biggest dream. I shared this with the host because it was really important for me.

We arrived at the apartment at 6:00 PM as agreed upon by the host. The host at the very last moment informed me that he was out of town, and his mom would meet us.

When we arrived, the place was a total mess, as if some company partied there and it hadn’t been cleaned for a long time: dirty bed linens on the beds, trash everywhere, sheets in the toilet, and the smell of urine as if someone left a cat locked alone in the apartment for a week. The smell was so bad that we left the place immediately.

The host’s mom started to clean it and in two and something hours informed us that everything was set up and we could come back. It was already after 8:00 PM. We were exhausted after our long trip to Prague, so we already booked a hotel nearby to get some rest and take a shower, and informed Airbnb support about the case.

When we came back just to get our bags, we found out that one bed was made with fresh bed linens (the dirty ones were although left in the bathroom), but another bed was made with the dirty bed linens left after previous guests. It was just made to look a little nicer. Someone still slept on this bed linens I was supposed to sleep on that night.

The trash bins were still full of trash left after previous guests. In the bathroom there was used toilet paper left in the trash bins; it smelled terribly as it was probably there for a long time. The showers were left unclean. Trash was still everywhere on the floor. The smell of urine was still so strong that it was impossible to stay more than a minute.

We left the apartment and contacted the host immediately. He told us that he was out of town and that he would deal with that once he was back. I asked him when he was back. The next day I asked him again. He never told me when he was coming back to town.

We contacted Airbnb support. It took me 50 minutes of waiting on the line. After I explained the situation, I was told that Airbnb would contact the host and call me back. No one called this day. They only contacted me the next evening, almost 24 hours later, to tell me that they cancelled my reservation according to the host’s cancellation policy (the first night I didn’t spent in the apartment was non-refundable, for the next three days I got only a 50% refund). I paid 250 EUR for five minutes of urine smell and shitty toilets.

After I shared the photos with Airbnb support, they told me that they couldn’t offer me a full refund because the host’s mom tried to clean the apartment. Yes, she tried. However, it was not cleaned properly, and the host violated check-in policy and ruined my mom’s first expression of Prague, her biggest dream.

I tried to talk to the host. I explained to him what happened. I showed him pictures, but he accused me of making a mess and breaking stuff in the apartment and refused to discuss anything at all. I’m not that surprised by the host’s actions, but I’m really surprised by Airbnb support’s apathy. Some guy from support is telling me that he decided not to refund me because the host’s mother tried to clean the place. Tried, but failed. I have photos of the apartment after that so-called cleaning.

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Disgusting Suite, Silence on Refund from Airbnb

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We arrived at the Airbnb in Tel Aviv at 5:45 PM, tired after a long day of traveling. The earliest check-in was at 3:00 PM, but the suite had not been turned over. It was very unclean and there wasn’t even toilet paper or unused linens. We had to book a last minute hotel so we could rest.

The next thing I did was contact the host and request a refund. He said “okay” but it’s been more than 48 hours and my credit card had been charged nearly $900 (before the money I had to spend on alternate accommodations) and I haven’t heard anything back.

I also contacted Airbnb via chat about the issue right away. They responded at first but then said they’d have to get back to me. No help. I waited more than 48 hours. No response, so I messaged for an update.

It’s now been about 60 hours and there’s been no refund and no response from either Airbnb or the host. They charged me before I checked in so they should refund me immediately. Now I’ve been on hold trying to talk to someone for almost 25 minutes. No response. I have been a long time client of Airbnb since 2011 but I’ve changed my mind about them. It isn’t what it used to be.

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Los Angeles Airbnb Nightmare Forces Guest Out

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I booked a trip in Los Angeles and when I arrived the Airbnb was not as it was on the site. First off, there were homeless people hanging out on the staircase; I had to ask if I could pass to go up the stairs. They obviously slept there. The whole staircase stunk of urine.

Going into the apartment was a shock as the place was so dirty and dusty; they even left us a present in the toilet: a nice big poo. There were stains on all the furniture and thick dust everywhere. In addition, we could not use the aircon as the plug socket was off the wall. The host said it worked.

I drove six hours to come here. I had to spend another $300 on another hotel. I stayed in the property thirty minutes before leaving and opened a case straight away on the 29th of last month. I asked for a refund. Every time I messaged Airbnb they kept fobbing me off.

It’s been two weeks now and I’m still waiting for a refund. They keep passing my claim around in order not to pay it I’m guessing. I’ve also read other stories of similar experiences in which they keep passing the claim around in order not to pay it. I paid $300 for two nights yet I didn’t stay here. I provided pictures and they still don’t want to help me. I will never book through Airbnb again.

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Left Airbnb Early to Escape Disgusting Property

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When arriving at our accommodation after a very long flight, we saw the property hadn’t been cleaned. We contacted the host by telephone and he sent the cleaner in. She told us that it would only take her a half hour to clean.

When we came back all she had done was put some clean towels and made the mattress that was on the floor (no actual bed). We had to book into a hotel for our last few days of our trip at an extra cost to ourselves. We would have checked out sooner but we couldn’t find a place to stay at short notice.

This decision was due to the lack of cleanliness and mice infestation. There were mouse droppings and urine on the kitchen work surfaces and floor every day. The last straw was the appearance of some kind of cockroach which we had to kill. We were unable to sit on the sofa due to it not being fit.

The tap in the kitchen leaks water every time you turn it on, most of the lights don’t have bulbs that work, the toilet seat is old and dirty with the lacquer peeling off, the fridge has brown ice forming thick at the top (unfit for use), there are mouse traps that are not even in use making them pointless, the carpets are frayed and dirty, and the paintwork is dirty. We don’t want to touch the handrails which are wobbly and dangerous, and the bed advertised is not a bed; it’s a mattress on the floor. There was no mention of restricted headroom in the bedroom. The soap was dirty and used. There was a smell of gas. I have taken photos that I have attached. The property was dirty, tatty, tired and it smelt. As for the dishwasher, it was filthy with a moldy plate in it.

We found it really difficult to contact Airbnb whilst in NYC and their terms for resolution were that you had to complain within 24 hours of arrival. They also state that you must not contact the host directly with any problems and it must go thorough Airbnb, which is easier said than done. Of the £1026.00 that we paid Airbnb offered us:

I’m your case manager from Airbnb, I hope you are doing fine. Thanks for contacting us regarding your reservation. I’m sorry to see the condition of the accommodation you stayed at. I have gone over your refund request, and even though not all conditions have been met according to our Guest refund policy, I do think it is fair that you receive a refund after seeing the pictures that you made. After considering, I have refunded you one night and 50% of the cleaning fee, for a total of £167.19. This amount has been sent to your card and you will receive a confirmation email about this shortly. Please let me know if you have any further questions for me. Wishing you a nice day.

My Experience with Airbnb? Deplorable

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I have been dealing with this Airbnb situation over the past two weeks. I have spoken with about ten call staff and five different supervisors/managers, each of whom has said that they would call me back, but there has been no follow through.

I have been on hold for 30 minutes at a time waiting to be transferred to a supervisor. I have had my calls disconnected (dropped) four times after waiting at length for a supervisor to come on the phone and, when calls were dropped, I received no callback. This situation has been frustrating to say the least.

My reservation was from May 4 to May 13 in West Hollywood. I sent Airbnb a number of pictures that I took of the rental.

Please note, there was mold and mildew all over the bathrooms and kitchen (I am an infectious disease epidemiologist by training and it was definitely a health hazard; the Los Angeles Department of Public Health and Housing Safety should be notified). The walls and paint were cracked and chipping throughout the house. The floors were dirty. There was rotten food in the kitchen sink and on the countertops. There was mold growing all over the AC unit.

Throughout the home was a thick coat of dust across most surfaces. The place was filthy. Even more alarming, there were electrical wires hanging out from the baseboards – a huge violation with the Los Angeles building and safety authority.

We walked into this rental, and spent ten minutes looking around and taking pictures. I immediately called Airbnb and spoke with a representative and was transferred to a supervisor. The gentleman asked me to email him pictures of the house, so I sent the pictures to him. He told me and my friend that was with me (on speaker phone), verbatim: “These pictures are enough to justify a full refund since the place is definitely a health risk and is absolutely not in the condition of what was advertised.”

As you can see from the pictures, there was mold, mildew and rotting food. All very concerning for me, since I had recently had major surgery the week before. After the Airbnb supervisor told me that he would ensure that I receive a full refund for every dollar spent (my friends heard him tell me this on speaker phone), we locked the house, put the key back in the lockbox, and checked into the Andaz Hotel (also in West Hollywood), which cost me double the price of this Airbnb rental.

Unfortunately I had no other options, as all the listings that I would have considered staying at from Airbnb were no longer available and booked by other guests. As such, I have had to pay over $4,000 in hotel fees for this time period. I also had to pay $100 in cab expenses getting to the Airbnb rental and then to the Andaz Hotel. This has caused me considerable loss, both in terms of actual cash, but also in terms of time spent dealing with the situation (an estimated five hours of time lost).

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Infestation = $9 Refund on a $750 Charge

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My current Airbnb is not at all as described: there has been a carpenter ant infestation for the past week and a half where there are literally hundreds of them in the kitchen on the floor, shelves, and cabinets. I have been unable to cook because of it. In addition, there are cockroaches in the hallway and stairs.

The house is very dirty and under maintained overall. Many of the photos do not match the description. For example, there is supposed to be a “garden” in the yard but it is overrun with old chairs, wood planks, construction material, and leaf debris. The pool is empty, the “library” is a shelf with books covered in dust with broken glass on the floor (no joke), and the stove does not work as it was promised to be fixed on day two of my stay.

My host claims fees such as laundry or A/C are separate but in the description they were said to be included. I disputed this to Airbnb and I was switched to three different case managers in the process. They refused to give me a refund, and I left my Airbnb early (more like as soon as I possibly could). My Airbnb was $17/night. I left a full four days early and got back nine dollars in total.

The reason they dismissed my case is because the host provided “alternate photos” of dishes being left out, claiming this to be the cause for the hundreds of ants and cockroaches. My roommate and I never cooked in the kitchen because of the bugs; we wasted so much money on eating out because it was too disgusting to cook in there.

The son who lived in the house and used our kitchen always left dishes out – they were not ours. A few dishes does not result in the infestation of hundreds of vermin: only months of neglect, water damage, unfixed holes and leaks, and vile conditions will result in this. Absolutely ridiculous. I’ve been in touch with Airbnb and they immediately sided with the host.

Host Took Advantage of Airbnb and Guests

We found a place in Boston for the Charles River Regatta. The city was extremely crowded that weekend so we took one of the few places left. Once we made contact with the host via Airbnb, he contacted us via phone to say he could save us the deposit fee but that we had to discontinue our quest for his place through Airbnb. So we did.

His place was an absolute dump. He slept on his couch and we slept in his room. He had two other guests in another bedroom and we all shared the same bathroom. There were many unsavory issues about this place: the cat sleeping on top of the coffee maker; not being allowed to use our own soap; one bar was shared by all five people.

The fact that Airbnb thought we had turned down this particular place meant that we could not leave any comment on the site to warn other people. Our host made a very pretty penny that weekend and honestly, I’m extremely hesitant to use Airbnb again.

Shared House Meant Nowhere to Poop

My boyfriend and I booked an Airbnb in a neighbouring town for one night so that we could attend a wedding and have somewhere nearby to crash. The lady we communicated with seemed nice and the room we booked seemed clean and modern.

We arrived at a big house in a sleepy neighbourhood and knocked on the door. Nobody answered for quite a while and finally a young man came to the door and initially didn’t know why we were standing there. This was clearly not the lady we had originally talked to. When we explained we were guests for one night he let us in, showed us the room upstairs we would be staying in, and gave us the keys. I think he was another long-term guest at the house who was told how to greet us, but there was a bit of a language barrier.

After a bit of awkwardness, we settled in and got ourselves ready for the wedding. Other than not really having any storage or surfaces to put things down on, as the room was basically just a bed, nothing was out of the ordinary. We also had access to a bathroom through the suite that we shared with another bedroom.

After a lovely wedding, we arrived back at the suite tired and a little tipsy so we immediately went to bed. In the middle of the night I woke up needing to use the bathroom. I headed towards the door and found that it was locked. I realized that the other guest must have locked me out while using the bathroom that night and forgotten to unlock the door on our side.

Since it was the middle of the night and I needed to go bad I had no idea what to do. We had not explored the rest of the house at all before we left for the wedding. Desperate, I went downstairs towards the kitchen area to see if I could find a bathroom nearby. Fortunately, I did find one but what I came across was a nightmare. I couldn’t believe how bad my luck was stumbling upon a bathroom like this one, and I have no idea who was using such a neglected bathroom like this.

First of all, the toilet was plugged up. Luckily there was a plunger present and after a few tries I managed to unclog it. When I went to do my business I realized I couldn’t find toilet paper anywhere, so I was left in a lurch. In fact there was nothing at all in terms of toiletries in the whole bathroom, so I had nothing to wash my hands with either.

After this disgusting experience I crawled back up to the bedroom to wait out the rest of the night. As you can imagine, I recounted my horror story to my boyfriend and we got out of there pretty quickly in the morning. We didn’t really have a choice as the bathroom upstairs was still locked.

After this experience I am not sure whether I will use Airbnb ever again. We didn’t realize we would be staying in a house with multiple units that was so neglected by the host and the tenants that lived there. Even if the place looks nice you never know what you’re going to get until you see for yourself. This kind of experience just wouldn’t happen at a hotel. We picked this place because it was very affordable but ultimately you get what you pay for.