The first time I used Airbnb for a trip was for my ‘sister holiday’ with my sister Pamela to Lisbon, Portugal in August 2018. It was a smooth, convenient and easy process and that meant I very quickly decided I liked Airbnb as a platform.
I actually tried my hand at becoming an Airbnb host (use my discount link for money off your first time hosting) myself, at the end of last year, which was… an interesting experience, to say the least. But that’s a story for another day and another post really.
Back to this trip, which I actually spontaneously booked it in December after promising myself that 2020 would be the year I traveled more. I wanted to be more cultured and more in-tune with the world. And I was tired of waiting for my friends and family to get their acts together to travel with me, so solo it was.
Once I booked my apartment (this is the super cozy one-bedroom apartment with a stunning view I booked), I started googling stuff to do in Porto. While I did want (and need!) a relaxing time away from everything, I knew I had to book some activities in the calendar or I would literally end up staying in the apartment for 5 days straight!
After noting down some ideas of things I could do, I saw Airbnb had these things called Experiences, which were activities and adventures organised and hosted by local people.
I thought it was a brilliant idea – if I’m already booking the place I’m going to stay from a local, I might as well be shown around by a local too – for really decent prices too, might I add.
I’ll pause here to talk about safety – at the back of my mind, I did worry a little about the fact I was going to be in another country, ‘hanging out’ with local strangers but essentially alone – especially travelling as a black woman. I had to think about this to some degree in Lisbon too but at least then I was with my sister, so you know, strength in numbers.
This time I was alone alone. And of course, you hear the horror stories about British tourists in foreign countries. My mum literally made me buy travel insurance just in case.
But one thing I love about Airbnb is they get their users to upload governmental ID e.g. a passport or driver’s license (and I think proof of address). So, there was some assurance in that.
Being a content creator, I was concerned that I would have no pictures of my time in Porto and honestly, there are only so many selfies I could take and so many times I could politely ask strangers on the street to take photos of me.
So I hired a photographer – as you know if you’ve read my previous post about how Porto made me fall back in love with photography – who doubled as my tour guide and showed me some real hidden gems in the city.
I also booked a hike and picnic of the Porto Mountains with the super knowledgeable Ricardo. My claim-to-fame is that I did this five-hour hike in just three-hours – that being said, I was knackered afterwards!
Porto was also A LOT cheaper than I expected – or maybe it’s because I prebooked and prepaid for my accommodation and activities online via the Airbnb site so I ended up needing way less spending money than I thought.
I really did not want to use my card in Portugal because I’d be charged extra so I had about €150 in cash, which was £129.85 and literally only spent like half of it for the five days I was there!
I have to rave about how surprisingly good Porto was for gluten-free and dairy-free diets! Firstly, lots of McDonald’s restaurants in Portugal (and other European countries!) have gluten-free menus. McDonald’s meals are one thing I actually do miss since becoming gluten intolerant so I made sure to eat at McDonald’s every single day I was in Porto – no regrets!
There was also this cute completely gluten-free (sem glúten or livre de glúten) cafe that I went to twice – Com Cuore (near São Bento station)! I found dairy-free cow’s milk quite easily too – although my body still reacted to it a bit so not sure if ‘sem lactose’ is actually suitable for people with lactose intolerance.
Overall, I had a fabulous time in Porto. I would highly recommend planning your trips on Airbnb and even more highly recommend Porto.
I thought Porto would be too similar to Lisbon but honestly, it was very different – in a good way! Full of history, culture and stunning landscapes. This is the second time I’ve fallen in love with a Portuguese city – I just might have to go back to Portugal again!