I recently had the absolute pleasure of visiting Barcelona for a week. I’ve got a number of posts up already, including one on what I learnt and one stuffed full of photos of Gaudi’s masterpieces. More posts will be coming on the Barcelona theme – this is one awesome city!
Today’s post is all about where I stayed in Barcelona. I went for an apartment rather than a hostel or hotel for the trip - it’s an accommodation option I’ve mentioned before as being highly practical for the independent traveller. They offer a great deal of flexibility married to that other thing folks get excited about: namely a good price.
I was therefore delighted to partner with Roomorama for my trip to Barcelona. They helped out with the cost of my accommodation, and I get to share my experiences with you. But first:
If reading my prose wasn’t enough for you, I’m also happy to say that Roomorama are offering three of my readers (that’s you!) the chance to try out their service, and are giving away three Roomorama credits worth 50 USD each, or equivalent in your currency.
Even more excitingly, this prize is open to you wherever you are in the world, none of those annoying geographical restrictions on my watch. The only thing you need to do is use the credits within six months of winning them. Easy!
You can enter right now using the rafflecopter entry below. It’s pretty straightforward – the more tasks you complete, the more entries you get. Then, why not check out the search widget on the right hand side of the blog page to start planning where you’ll go if you win!a Rafflecopter giveaway
The contest will be running until the 11th May to give everyone a chance to enter, and I'll contact the winners once they’ve been chosen with all the details of their winnings!
What is Roomorama?
But wait, Laurence, you say. Sure, I’m all up for winning fifty dollars worth of free accommodation anywhere in the world that Roomorama operates. In fact, I’ve already entered. But.. what am I entering to win? Who are these Roomorama’s, and what can I do with their credits?
This questions is nice and easy to answer. Roomorama is a service that puts people who have property available for short term lets in touch with people who want to stay in property for a short period of time. It’s the classic consumer to consumer model of business that you will know from your marketing 101 class. (You did take marketing 101, right?)
Roomorama’s website lets you search for properties in locations all around the world. It then lets you filter your search by all kinds of options, including price, number of bedrooms and even amenities such as internet access or whether or not the property comes with a pool.
Properties available run from the simple “I have a room to spare in my house and you can come live with me if you like” right up to some seriously luxurious penthouse style apartments. Those didn’t fall inside my budget for this trip. Maybe next time…
Once you’ve found a property you like, with a price range, location and amenities list that matches your needs, you fire off an inquiry to the host, who will get back to you to confirm (or deny) availability and the overall price. If you’re both happy, then you just go right ahead and confirm. You then pay your money to Roomorama, who give you a code to present to your host.
What’s good about it?
The best thing about the Roomorama service, in my opinion, is the way it keeps your payment secure. You don’t pay the host directly, and they can’t get at your money until they get your code, which you give in person when you meet them at the property. This is the main advantage of using a third party system over something like a classified ad.
The rest of the service is also well polished. The site is easy to use and navigate and there are loads of ways to filter the results to get exactly what you want. You can also read reviews on the properties and on the hosts prior to making a decision, to make sure the nice description matches what people found.
The overall benefits of an apartment compared to other types of accommodation are also myriad. You have the place to yourself, to come and go as you please. You can save money by cooking for yourself, you can pop to the markets, and you feel like you have your own little house in your destination. Perfect if you’re over hostel life.. but aren’t quite ready for the impersonal practicality of a hotel room.
What could be improved?
You know, I’m racking my brains here. All the things that you could complain about with a service like this are common to this type of operation, where a site is operating as a third party go-between rather than directly offering a product.
So yes, you may end up with a turkey of an apartment. There is a review system in place, but if no-one has stayed in the apartment with Roomorama, or left a review, then you could be the first to discover a disaster. And there are plenty of properties without reviews at the time of writing this article.
There is what is called a “certified host” program, but this just means that the host has had three positive reviews from other clients – better than none, although you need to rely on your travelling peers.
Roomorama could of course inspect all the apartments that are advertised, but this would probably add such a cost to the operation that it would no longer offer good value. Maybe they could offer hosts the option to pay to have their property “validated”, for peace of mind.
There is also the potential issue of time lag between enquiry and booking, although again, this isn’t specifically a Roomorama problem. When you are travelling independently and booking a variety of things at the same time, it can be vexing to have to wait for a reply to confirm availability on accommodation prior to booking your transport, particularly as good deals have a habit of vanishing quickly.
As communication between you and the host is handled through the Roomorama system, you have to wait for your host to check their mail and get back to you. If the host is away from their e-mail, this could cause you a problem, although there are usually enough properties available that you could have backup options on hand easily.
This is a very minor niggle, and I can’t think of a way of improving it whilst keeping the site as safe as it currently is, so I’ll stop blabbing on, and tell you about our actual experience.
Our experience was very positive. The booking process was easy and smooth, with a friendly host confirming availability very quickly.
After making our booking, our host enquired as to how we were arriving in Barcelona, and we agreed on an apartment check in time. The only hitch was that I misread the map, and we ended up standing outside the wrong apartment – a quick exchange of texts later and he came and rescued us. Totally my fault that one.
The apartment itself was everything we wanted. It had two nice rooms – a bedroom, plus a lounge / kitchen area. There was a nice big flat screen TV that we never turned on, a compact bathroom with shower, and funky Japanese inspired decor throughout. We even had our very own balcony with washing line.
When we arrived, our host gave us a run down of the facilities, issued us with the wireless code (internet included!), and then gave us a whole bunch of information about what to see, where to go, and what to eat when in Barcelona.
He also gave us some tips on staying safe in a city that is notorious for pick pockets. Then, after letting us know that we could call him should we have any problems, we were left to our own devices.
The apartment came with a variety of cooking utensils and cups, as well as a stove top espresso maker, which meant I was pretty much sold. These did need a bit of a clean - It wasn’t that they were particularly dirty.. just that they didn’t seem to have been used in a while. Maybe not everyone was as cooking minded as I am.
One other minor niggle was that some light bulbs were out, but this wasn’t exactly a deal breaker. Otherwise everything was exactly as advertised.
As I said above, this really was the perfect option for us. We felt like locals with our own place. We weren’t disturbing anyone if we came home late, or inconveniencing the cleaning staff if we had a lie in. The place was secure, quiet, and we could leave our stuff without worry.
We were surrounded by all kinds of tiny bars and tapas places, there was a supermarket within two hundred metres, and we never had to take public transport anywhere. Absolutely brilliant.
Was it worth it?
The apartment we chose cost €60 per night, plus Roomorama’s 12% booking fee (8% for stays longer than 30 nights) and a €25 cleaning fee. Not all hosts charge a cleaning fee, and the rate varies – but the good news is that the fees are all displayed up front on the apartment booking page – no hidden fees just before you put your credit card details in like some low cost airlines I could rant about.
Overall, without Roomorama’s help, the price would have been €35.50 each per night. For a city centre location, in a major European city, within minutes from both the beach and a whole host of attractions, including wireless internet and even linen, we considered this to be a seriously great deal.
We’ll definitely be using Roomorama again for trips like this in the future. The feeling of independence and value for money were an unbeatable combination for the traveller looking for a slightly different, more immersive experience. Highly recommended!