Our fascinating Delhi trip looked great on pictures, blogs and posts – but had one major hiccup. Our stay at the posh Hauz Khas Village, Delhi, through Airbnb (was a friend recommended house), was one of the worst stays of our lives and a horror experience after which I pledged never to book stay via Airbnb, at least in developing countries. We had a five nights reservation but had to cut our stay in the middle and move to another hotel, disappointed.
After we returned, I raised the issue with Airbnb (reservation #P5DKF4) and the latter heard my entire concern and processed my refund within three hours. It helped restore faith in Airbnb. Note, we are middle class, budget, global travellers and have had great Airbnb experiences. From Zagreb to Rome to Istanbul. So this had to be that bad, worth raising complaints, and sadly in my home country.
Here’s how it unfolded.
- The Airbnb picture (2 Bed Modern apt @ Hauz Khas Village) put up by the landlord (Pranndeep) lied. It was a different apartment handed to us which could only sleep three people when we were four and had booked an apartment which promised five can sleep. My son had to reluctantly sleep alone on the sofa in living room.
- The apartment seemed to be a hurriedly organized place lying unused, idle, uncared for months. ‘We have guests, have taken money upfront, so why not take them for granted’. So there was probably no cleaning in it for months and no preparation.
- Cupboards had layers of dust. Layers. My wife had to sacrifice one of my old shirts in cleaning the shelves.
- The balcony wasn’t cleaned for months so had bird shit all over and not worth standing there; forget drying clothes. With balcony closed, you are left with zero windows and zero sunlight peeping in.
- The bathroom had no curtains, separator and no mop. We asked for a mop, wasn’t given. So take one bath and entire bathroom gets wet. The only bathroom.
- The bathroom had no mirrors to see/shave, pot seat half-broken, no soap, no soap holder, no toothbrush stand, no bucket, no mugs and just two small nails to hang clothes. Forget bathroom, the entire house there was no place to dry hang a towel or shirt.
- When we checked in – no soaps were provided, no hangars, two towels, one tissue roll – so we had to ask for them all.
- Drinking water came in after we checked in, so for each item we had to make calls-‘Please give soap, please give water, please give hangar, please give extra pillow and bedsheet for the fourth person, please give more towels, please give mop (didn’t come), please give battery in tv remote, please check AC remote not working’ etc.
- WiFi was good for two days but went off the third day and we never got it back.This is because the staff only stay from 1030am to 530pm to help out on anything. So after a sightseeing return, at 7pm, when we found that wi-fi not working, we had to wait till next day 1030am for any action to be taken.
- Since support staff work in timings when people are likely to be sightseeing, there is no chance of house cleaning to happen. So our apartment stayed unclean for entire three days. Dustbin not cleared for three days.
- Details of this place in the ad are incorrect. Hauz Khas village, true, is a happening place with many restaurants, pubs, discs, shopping, mini fort and deer park nearby. But that’s half the story. The area has one narrow, dilapidated, overcrowded road and they don’t allow outside cars to enter, 400 metres away from the apartment.
- So when we came in, my wife and I had to drag two 25 kg luggage and my kid pulled one small luggage. All through the dusty, crowded alleys; amongst vehicles and stray dogs. This long luggage drag through the Delhi heat, humidity and after a three-hour long flight.
- The staff didn’t help to pick our luggage through the stairs climbing up to the third floor – till the last flight to stairs was left. Again, it wasn’t mentioned anywhere in the ad that its third floor, no lift and worse, no lights in the staircase. So after dark, it’s a dark staircase and you are dependant on residents lights from individual houses.
- At night whenever we returned the gatemen never allowed our car to come beyond the gate. They are choosy about whom to let it, so we having small kids made no difference. So after tiring sightseeing day, we would need to drag our feet to the apartment 400 metre away, through the overcrowded streets. The kids didn’t enjoy at all.
- Worse, the second night one of the stray dogs started sniffing my six-year-old son and he started crying loudly and running away. So the dog too started chasing him. My son running with full speed towards the semi-dark two metre wide alleys (can trip anytime as some construction materials were lying around) and dog chasing him, followed by me, running. He was in shock for an hour after this. A horrifying experience and one that ensured every time crossing the alley became a horror.
- On Friday and Saturday nights, the narrow road leading to the Hauz Khas Village area is so so crowded that your vehicle cannot make it within 500 metres of the main gate. Which means around a kilometre away from the apartment. So you will need to abandon the taxi there and walk amidst the stream of moving traffic, brushing cars, up to the apartment.
- I sensed the magnitude of the problem on Thursday night when my friends Bharat Goel and Leon D’Souza dropped me but could do that only 300 metres away from the gate. Their car had little scope to move ahead. So Thursday night I had to walk back 300+400=700 metres amidst stuck cars on a packed street. Naturally, the situation would be far worse on a Friday evening; absolute nightmarish with a family. The thought of that made me cut short my stay that night itself.
- None of this is remotely mentioned and this apartment was just not fit for families to stay in or for travellers with luggage. It may be OK for backpacking young people but I doubt if they will appreciate it for the unclean, incomplete and lack of care state it was when we checked in. Ironically am happy I got that apartment, as an Indian, our tolerance levels would be higher. Had any foreign tourist got that place, he/she would have returned with very poor impression of my country.
- The bathroom light went off on Friday morning at 7am and we had to operate in that bathroom using mobile phone lights till 1030am – as no one comes before that. I had anyways decided to end my stay so then called up AirBnB, cancelled and booked another hotel via my international roaming home – don’t forget the WiFi stopped working from the previous evening.
- The owner (Pranndeep) promised to refund for the balance two nights that we didn’t stay, but as of today, twenty-two days post our trip, no refund came. Hence I decided to take it up with AirBnB. I did explain to AirBnB representative that we went through. Also underline that when we left the apartment, it probably would have been in better shape than what we got. The shelves were cleaned, all utilities were stocked, adequate towels, pillows, bedsheets in place, water, tissue rolls in place etc.
Thankfully AirBnB understood my situation and ensured they arranged for our entire stay refund (minus some non-refundable service and occupancy taxes). That process went so well that they issued a refund within three hours and it reflected on my credit card within 20 hours. Faith restored. Bigtime. I recall CheapTickets.sg unable to help me in another complicated situation two years ago. Point to note, even after entire refund process, the landlord Pranndeep never felt the need to drop me a ‘sorry’ message for how my trip got spoilt.
Will I book via AirBnB again? Yes, but will be sure of the city and country am booking into. And shame on people who only think of making money, spoil experience and image of themselves, their city and their country to travellers.