Airbnb fined $40,900 in Spain. What are the alternatives?

Everyone loves to travel and even more so if the price tag for the trip is as low as possible. People spend a lot of time finding the cheapest or best value flights, tours, rentals, hotels, hostels or other places to spend the night.

For decades there have been cheap or even free alternatives to staying in hotels. People have been opening up their homes because they enjoy meeting other people or simply because they want to earn a little extra money. One of the more recent options is Airbnb.

airbnb_logo

As many others, Airbnb is a website where you can find a low cost place to spend the night as an alternative to a hotel. So it’s not free, but often much cheaper. It has the added benefit that you are in direct contact with a local who can tell you about the area you’re staying in, take you to nice places not mentioned in the guide, direct you to good places to eat or even share a meal.

This of course is not to the liking of the hotel industry. Over the past years websites like Airbnb and CouchSurfing have become very well known, popular even. The hotel industry has picked up on that and sees these alternatives as direct competition. This in itself is not news, many articles have been written about it.

However, this is the first time Airbnb has gotten such a fine in Europe. In Spain to more exact. And it’s not alone, eight other companies have been fined for similar practices. Users of Airbnb may be interested to know that it has handed its user list over to New York state officials investigating illegal short-term renting.

I have personally enjoyed alternatives like CouchSurfing. However, with the rise in popularity the spirit of the organization has gone down. More and more people learned about CouchSurfing, but unfortunately most of them have the wrong idea. They see it as “a free place to stay”, not as a cultural exchange. This wrong idea has lead to a huge increase of new members who don’t host others, haven’t created a decent profile, don’t reply or simply haven’t even logged in for a long time. This makes it a tedious task to find a good host between the overload of results you can get when searching for one. The increased difficulty and mistrust that may have come from this could been the cause of the rise in popularity for websites like Airbnb.

The new CouchSurfing logo

The new CouchSurfing logo

CouchSurfing has had and continues to have it’s own problems, internal power struggles in the company among other things. This lead to the creation of OpenCouchSurfing in 2007. OpenCS wasn’t able to make any changes and the founders ended it after CouchSurfing became a for profit organisation in 2012. This move was rather unpopular with the members, and it didn’t help improve the hospitality spirit.

As previously mentioned, Airbnb and CouchSurfing are not the only options you have. There are literally (yes, literally) thousands of websites where you can find free or (mostly) paid accommodation. I have compiled a list of the most known ones with a decent amount of users. It is categorized into free, rentals, exchange and special interest. Sometimes you need to pay a membership fee for the free ones.

Free

Exchanges

Rentals

Special interest

Whatever option you choose keep in mind that people are letting you into their homes. It never hurts to bring a small gift, cook a meal, share some ideas, teach them something or learn from them.

And as always, enjoy!

Top travel destinations for 2014

TripAdvisor anounced the list of the top 25 travel destinations in the world for 2014. The numbers in front are the current ranking. The numbers at the back in between brackets are the ranking for that city last year. If there is no number, the city is new on the list.

Have you been to any of the places on the list? Do you agree with it, or do you feel some place is missing? 🙂

1. Istanbul, Turkey (12)
2. Rome, Italy (4)
3. London, United Kingdom (3)
4. Beijing, China (21)
5. Prague, Czech Republic (9)
6. Marrakech, Morocco (19)
7. Paris, France (1)
8. Hanoi, Vietnam (-)
9. Siem Reap, Cambodia (25)
10. Shanghai, China (22)
11. Berlin, Germany (11)
12. New York City, New York (2)
13. Florence, Italy (8)
14. Buenos Aires, Argentina (18)
15. Barcelona, Spain (5)
16. St. Petersburg, Russia (20)
17. Dubai, United Arab Emirates (-)
18. Chicago, Illinois (14)
19. Cape Town Central, South Africa (16)
20. Bangkok, Thailand (13)
21. Budapest, Hungary (-)
22. Sydney, Australia (10)
23. Lisbon, Portugal (-)
24. Chiang Mai, Thailand (24)
25. San Francisco, California (7)

Manhole cover art – Japan

Japan_manhole_cover_art

Travel and art can go hand in hand. Especially this way. In 1985 a high ranking government worker had the idea to let municipalities design their own anhole covers. After a few design contests and publications, things went quickly and municipalities were soon competing with each other to see who could come up with the best designs. Today you can find over 6000 of those artistic covers spread throughout Japan.

One photographer, S. Morita, has travelled around Japan for several years to photograph these works of art. You can see the resulting collection on Flickr.

Angkor street view – Cambodia

Since the beginning of April you can visit the temples of Angkor on Google maps. Just drag the yellow Google Maps Peg man into the temple complex and you can start walking around Angkor digitally. You can save the trip to Cambodia! Although I personally would suggest you to visit this beautiful country anyway 😉

Normally Google uses a car equipped with cameras on the roof for their street view images. Obviously this is not possible for Angkor and other places. So they designed a special ‘backpack’ with cameras to do the same, but while the carrier is walking around. Some types of organizations can actually borrow the “Trekker equipment” as they call it to help collect views of remote an unique places.

Follow this link for more information: Google Angkor street view

And here’s a promotional video that Google launched for Angkor street view

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Travel outside of Europe cheaper for Belgians

Vakanties_buiten_Europa_goedkoper

Good news for Belgians who want to travel outside of the European Union. Soon they will not need to pay the almost 4% travel taxes involved. Which makes travel cheaper for the people, but can also generate more income for the sector.

Since December 1977 Belgians pay 3.85% taxes when travelling to destinations outside of the European Union. No other country in the Union has such a tax. Because of that people book trips on line through agencies outside of Belgium, which in turn means losses for the Belgian tourism sector.

Travel by tuk-tuk

Who among you has had the pleasure of riding along in a tuk-tuk? I think many of us have. But I’m sure none of us have drive as far as these two British teachers who broke the world record tuk-tuk driving. And they did it for a good reason too: grassroots education projects in Africa, Asia and South America. Follow the link for more information and a movie!

British teachers break tuk-tuk record

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Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism is something to think about. Tourism can provide the local economy a boost. But if it’s not handled well, it can also end badly. “Death by tourism” is a well known term among travellers. Hopefully Myanmar (Burma) can avoid this scenario. With the decision to ban further hotel construction in Bagan, one of the tourist hot spots in the country, the government seems to be taking a step in the right direction.

Myanmar Bans Further Hotel Construction in Bagan to Protect Temples

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Tourist Scams: What You Need to Know

As a tourist you just want to relax and enjoy the peolpe, surroundings, food, … Sadly, the truth is that not everyone is always honest. Tourists are sometimes seen as an easy target. This article lists a gew things that are worth keeping in mind. With a positive attitude and some common sense your trip will remain a great experience!

Tourist Scams: What You Need to Know

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Siem Reap / Angkor – Cambodia

A tour of Ta Prohm, the temple that became famous because of Lara Croft and the Tomb Raider movie. The temples surrounding Angkor Wat may not be as big, but they are certainly not less impressive! So don’t just hang around the big famous temple, but give the little ones a chance!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QHHRYrxe-D0

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