In America, we primarily encounter Latin American workers in the construction and hospitality industries. Few people who have worked alongside them or benefited from their work would have cause for complaint. Consequently, I had high expectations regarding Airbnbs when I arrived in Mexico. After all, it was a combination of the two fields they dominated in America.
I have never had a terrible Airbnb stay, per se. But, my stays in Mexico certainly fell below the standards set by Airbnbs in other countries, especially America. Here’s what you can do to ensure you have a much better experience than I did. As full disclosure, not only have I stayed in several Airbnbs across America and overseas, but I co-own and co-manage two Airbnbs as well.
1. Choose Superhosts
When traveling domestically, choosing any Airbnb with a solid rating is a great idea. When you’re traveling overseas or into unknown territory, it’s best to stick with Superhosts. All three of the stays we booked were with Superhosts in Mexico. While this obviously did not guarantee a great experience, I couldn’t imagine how much less satisfying our rooms might have been if we hadn’t chosen Superhosts.
2. Consider More Expensive Stays
When I travel via Airbnb, the cost is one of the biggest determining factors after ratings. We chose cheaper Airbnbs with high ratings, like we usually would in America. However, I think if we had splurged a little more, maybe we would have Airbnb experiences that were closer to what we’re used to when traveling in America.
3. Check the Specific Location
You could have just one street be a bad area in an otherwise nice part of town. So, narrowing down the areas worth staying in can be difficult as a foreigner. Try asking people on forums or reaching out to a local if you can. Here’s how our gamble with locations turned out:
- One of our stays was in a gated community and we hated the hassle of being processed at each entry and exit because they didn’t use the keypad system we take for granted in America. They did it manually.
- One stay was along the border wall between Mexico and America, which is usually not a safe place to be. We were literally about three houses away from the wall. I saw Americans patrolling on the other side.
- The final stay was in a beach town and on a dirt road. I drive an FJ Cruiser, so I had no issues with the dirt road, but my mom certainly didn’t like it.
4. Prepare for Tiny Parking
If you plan to drive in Mexico, choose the smallest car available. We struggled to get my truck into the parking space of every Airbnb we stayed at. Even my Dad had a hard time parking Big Boy Samson. While I may refer to my truck by this ego-stroking title, he is actually quite small. For starters, an FJ Cruiser doesn’t have a pickup bed.
In fact, the FJ Cruiser is smaller than even the Toyota 4Runner. Jeep Wranglers are also relatively small compared to other trucks. At the final Airbnb, we had to share a parking space with one. I had to park halfway along its length, so I could open my doors. The spaces were that tight!
5. Bring What You Need
Our primary complaint with our Airbnb stays is how poorly stocked they were. None of them had washcloths, none of them provided more than almost empty bottles of body wash, one had no paper towels, and another provided two bottles of water when we had three registered guests. So, these are some of the things you should bring with you or prepare to get at the store, just in case:
- Bottled water (you should not drink the water or use it to brush your teeth)
- Body wash
- Washcloths or loofahs
- Pots and pans (if you intend to stay long-term and you cook)
- Paper towels
- Toothpaste and toothbrushes
- Entertainment (only one Airbnb had Netflix and all the channels and streaming services were in Spanish)
- Laundry detergent
- Pest control (a mouse came into one apartment and ants came into another)
6. Prepare To Speak Spanish
My mom vacationed in Panama for years and used to speak a little Spanish. Both my Dad and I also know enough to get by. However, Mexicans speak Spanish really fast, especially in Mexicali. We had a tough time understanding each other. I often had to pull my translator app out and just hand them my phone.
You might expect that people who live on the Mexican-American border or in towns with a lot of American tourists should speak English. That has not been my experience, so far. The good news is that it’s given me the push I needed to improve my Spanish. I’m sure I now speak twice as much Spanish as I did before I got here three weeks ago.
7. Have an Open Mind
Despite my complaints, we generally enjoyed our stay at the Airbnbs. We rated our first Airbnb host at 4 stars and the other two at 5 stars. Ultimately, we understood that the standard of living and the culture is different from America. Our hosts were all quick to respond and eager to accommodate whatever we needed. At no point did we get the feeling that they were trying to make a quick buck as Airbnb slum lords. But, we did privately provide our honest feedback about what we felt was missing from the suites.
One of the best things about staying in Mexican Airbnbs is that most of them were pet-friendly. Shadow was welcome at all three of our Airbnbs, though I only brought him to the one we stayed in for five days. This is a huge plus because once I put in “pet-friendly” as a requirement when searching for Airbnbs in America, my options are severely limited. It was pretty awesome not to encounter that in Mexico.
Have you ever stayed in Airbnbs in Mexico or anywhere else overseas? Tell me about your experiences in the comments, below!