My friend said to “book the quirky Airbnb house on Gozo” when I gave him a few choices for our last minute trip as he was more familiar with the island than I was. He wanted a private pool and a farmhouse. I still blame him for our calamities!
Walking past the pool and into the house after 10 p.m. as we missed the ferry, we immediately had a bad feeling about this place. The host made up only one of the four bedrooms (we wanted our own bedrooms) and showed us around, indicating what items were broken. I saw something move in the dark, the host stepped on the bug and said “we are in the country, there are bugs”. With that, she was off and we were hungry after a very long travel day full of delays and a missed ferry to the island. We would need to drive to another village on the island in the hopes of finding food near 11pm on a Thursday. Lucky for us, the café just agreed to let a table sit down and would serve us. Back at the house, in the dark we promised to explore the house and property more in the morning. Full of wine, with fans on and windows opened we passed out exhausted from the stressful day.
Wandering in the Light of Day
I woke up first and took to exploring the house and the compound of three other farmhouses. In the daylight, my findings were a bit dire. First off, the Wi-Fi didn’t work in the house, I needed to go to the caretaker’s house (he was away) and stand on the top step or go inside (which I attempted but it was messy with uneaten bread on the table). Then I looked into the other houses past the odd garden made up of tile, glass bottles and dead plants. Our pool, while clear, had algae on the steps, walls and floor – we would not be using that.
The house itself had dust and trash behind the couch. The couch, well-worn had obvious stains and weirdly a child’s dirty stuffed animal on it as well as christmas holiday towels. The space wasn’t ready for our arrival.
The upstairs cushions to put on the deck had mold, the wooden table was missing wood with rusty nails sticking out. The grill was rusted (no food was going on that thing despite my tetanus shot). The kitchen sink had only one of two faucets working (the host mentioned that on the quick tour the night before). The other bedrooms both upstairs and downstairs had shoved in all of the extra supplies, furniture and equipment – all dusty and full of cobwebs. It felt that the house hadn’t been open yet for the season and we were the first guests. Despite booking a week in advance, nothing seemed ready to welcome us.
Key Take Away: Take photos of everything! If you have any issues with the property (even a 5 star hotel) it’s always best to have photo evidence when discussing concerns with the host, Airbnb or hotel staff. Research the property on all property rental sites if you can.
The Quirky House
The house had potential, it really did, it just needed a good cleaning, consistent décor that wasn’t weird and to be set up for visitors. But sadly, it was missing all three of those things. The bathrooms were a mixed bag – the faucet in one was turned off and barely dripping, with black mold around, the other had a rusted toilet that made noises and the powder room was darkly lit.
The stairs had a loose step (I made a mental note not to trip on that going up and down) and outside the bedroom was an uneven last step that was filled in but not level. Our bedroom was weirdly decorated and there were no screens in the windows. We had fans to provide a bit of cool air in the otherwise humid room. The bed frame was custom made of wood to support the double queen size. Downstairs there was a plant growing inside the house with so many dead leaves and a vine that grew across the wall that we needed to duck under to reach the stairs. Of course, with plants there are flying bugs, etc.
So I assessed that the place was dirty. I’m sure we’ve all encountered something like this (or worse) in college but I was surprised that this was allowed to be rented on Airbnb. It was Friday morning and we were scheduled to be here until Tuesday before moving to my friend’s family house which the rental agent was cleaning for us. They needed to clean the house before we could move in, apparently our Airbnb host didn’t get the “clean the house memo”. The island was sold out that weekend so our options to move were few and the prices quite high so I added a few cleaning supplies to our shopping list. Pif Paf, the European version of Raid!, was a lifesaver!
My friend slept past noon and woke up with more than ten mosquito bites on his back, arms and legs. He agreed the place was dirty and we tried to figure out how we would stay here not knowing what else to do. I texted the host for a hairdryer Friday morning as none was provided. We left the house to explore the island and tried to stay out as long as we could to avoid the house.
On Saturday (no hair dryer yet), my friend woke up with bug bites on his wrists. This time they appeared as boil like, fluid filled arranged in a circle of five on one arm and one on the other. In a word – GROSS!
Key Take Aways: First impressions! One of my own suggestions with European hotels is to view the room/property in the daytime not at night so that you have time to sort out alternative options. Also, on the first showing with the host, confirm that all items noted as provided are available. Bring Bug Spray!
I sent an email to Airbnb asking what to do about the dirty house as I looked for alternatives. The host had a generous cancellation policy so I sent a text to cancel our Monday night stay, well within her policy. The rep replied quickly that I should have contacted them within 24 hours to work out the situation with the host. I told them it was my first time renting with Airbnb and I didn’t know about this policy. I explained that the host wasn’t replying to text messages about the hairdryer or the canceled last night. The rep asked me to send photos to him showing the house condition. I told him I would once I got Wi-Fi reception as the house didn’t have it.
Key Take Away: Contact Airbnb by email or phone immediately if you feel that the property is dirty or unsafe. They will work to accommodate you elsewhere and talk with the host. If you feel unsafe or something doesn’t seem right, leave immediately and then call/contact Airbnb from a safe location.
The Vacation Injury
As I was getting ready for dinner, I came out of the bedroom and the uneven step threw me into the hallway and I heard a “pop” and couldn’t move my foot. Trying not to cry in front of my friend (silly, I know), I yelled out his name and he came up the stairs to help me try to stand (not easily). He helped me downstairs (we both stepped gingerly on the loose step) to the couch which I was putting paper towels on the pillows and went to the freezer for ice (we had none but we did have a frozen pitcher with a stain around the inside that I wouldn’t use).
By this time the caretaker was back, he introduced himself earlier in the day with his dog. He had brought the hairdryer to me (a bit late after air drying my hair for two days). My friend went to the caretakers house, explained that I had fallen on the steps and was given ice after the caretaker said “you guys are not having any luck here”. Icing my foot, my friend went for takeaway pizza as I opened the bottle of wine. We decided that we would leave in the morning as we couldn’t take it anymore. I would visit the clinic and get an x-ray on my foot – it was bruised & fractured which greatly affected the rest of my trip as I hobbled around for the next month.
Key Takeaway: You should always make sure you have your own health & travel insurance for any injuries that require medical assistance. Also, make sure you have wine around for your pity party.
Let’s Restart this Holiday
In the morning, I called the five star hotel on the island, the Kempinski Gozo, and explained I was fleeing the Airbnb with an injured foot. My friend and I packed our bags in the car and headed out to restart our holiday. The hotel provided us an upgraded room with a view of the pool. We were able to sit in the sun and relax for the first time since arriving on the island.
Airbnb was quick to respond once they received the photos – they provided credits and an apology as well as intercede with the host who posted negative and libelous comments about me which violated the rules of Airbnb. I was quite happy with their response to my plight.
I can’t stress enough the importance of researching properties – while I found a few postive reviews on Airbnb, it took a while during my stay to find negative reviews on another property site which were spot on with the issues I encountered. If only I found that one first!