Location: Santiago de Los Caballeros, Dominican Republic
I just went through Airbnb hell. While I’m a big fan of Airbnb, no service is perfect…
Sometimes things just don’t work how they’re supposed to. And with this rental, I knew it’d be rough from the jump. When things go south, they go fast. My stay in the worst Airbnb apartment rental in the world was no different.
I learned no one would be available to let me in the apartment for almost an hour after arrival while I sat on the bus. That meant an hour standing around outside my apartment with all my luggage – in a “third world” country. Always a treat.
Luckily, nothing happened. My host’s “associate” showed up one hour after I arrived and let me in. Things seemed to look perfect. Everything in the apartment looked exactly like the photos. No surprises. Or so I thought.
The Little Things Add Up
I had the place to myself as I waited for my friends to arrive. I did a detailed inspection and slowly began to see issues creep up. Nothing in the apartment seemed to work just right.
The doors were all slightly off their hinges. If you didn’t lift up when you opened or closed them, a loud screeching noise could be heard throughout the apartment. Not just one door. Every single one of them.
It looked great in photos…
The door handle in the master bedroom fell off every time you tried to open the door. You’d have to gingerly twist the knob and then pull the door open with a latch from above.
Then there was the issue of keys. Security is taken seriously in the Dominican Republic. With high levels of crime and poverty, such precautions can be necessary. In the worst Airbnb apartment rental in the world, we had a set of 12 keys – all needed to get in and out of the flat, or to go to other spaces in the apartment.
Usually, I wouldn’t worry about having to unlock a few extra things each day. The issue was we had one set of 12 keys and three people living in the apartment with different work and life schedules.
Instead of fully enjoying our time in Santiago de Los Caballeros, Dominican Republic – we were continually planning how we would pass off the one set of keys to each other while coming and going. A logistical nightmare if I’ve ever seen one. We were planning to get copies made, but other issues prevented us from doing so.
Internet Issues Arise
Our host had explained the apartment didn’t have Internet, which was odd being the place was on Airbnb. But we figured we could just buy Internet easily and have things installed within an hour or two.
Wrong. This is the Dominican Republic. Things don’t just work exactly how you want them to. You’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto. Even a relatively little task becomes frustrating when dealing with language barriers and intercultural communications.
Instead of quickly paying for Internet and getting to work, we spent five full hours going from telecommunications company to Internet provider trying to find decently fast Internet immediately. We eventually accepted that high-speed Internet wasn’t going to be an option and accepted any Wi-Fi signal at all.
Taking the Toilet For Granted
While things hadn’t gone smoothly as of yet – disaster hadn’t hit. Having to wait for a little, pass keys around, find Wi-Fi, and gingerly open up doors is one thing. Having to manually flush a toilet is a completely different ball game.
Then we woke up one morning to find the water not running. No flushing toilets, no water to brush your teeth – nothing. We didn’t think much of it. In the Dominican Republic, electricity and water outages for an hour or two are relatively common.
So my friend and I headed to the gym first thing in the morning. We figured water would be back on by that afternoon. Nope. After two hours at the gym, we came back to the worst Airbnb apartment in the world to find no running water. I called my Airbnb host. He called his “associate” and told her to come over when she could.
When she could turned into 7 PM. Horrific customer service and all, but I was relieved to see her. In my mind, she’d be able to fix the issue immediately. I thought she knew something I didn’t. I was wrong.
Rooftop Showers For All
After continually telling us about “la bomba” for twenty or so minutes, she informed us that showering on the roof was an option. She grabbed a pitcher from the kitchen and demonstrated her patented rooftop showering technique.
We thanked her for the advice, and quickly tried to get a definitive answer on when the water would be running again. We were told by noon the next day everything would be good. A handyman was set to come to the building early the next morning.
He never showed up. We were not told anything. After 24 hours without running water, I was done. I told the Airbnb host of the issue and how this was unacceptable. He pleaded for one more chance to fix the situation, and we agreed to give him an opportunity. Still, nothing happened.
While not being able to flush a toilet was one of the nastiest things I’ve ever experienced, rooftop showers in the fresh air aren’t too shabby – especially when they come with a view. Dumping 20 gallons of water over your body while staring out at the mountains ass naked is quite delightful. And gives you a surprisingly clean feeling.
As we began to tell locals about our outdoor showering experiences, they simply shrugged it off. Most claimed we had only become “Dominicanized” through the experience.
A Second Chance
I was having a great time in Santiago de Los Caballeros – despite the shit apartment. But enough was enough. Nearing 40 hours without running water was draining. I called Airbnb customer service on Google Hangouts and voiced my complaint. I wanted a full refund.
The Airbnb customer service agent was extremely helpful, and my Airbnb host didn’t try to argue. He knew the situation was shit. The money was immediately wired back to my bank account.
Then a miracle happened. Less than 30 minutes after I had my money back, the water came back on. I couldn’t help but laugh.With our money back, we contacted the host and told him we would pay by the day for a lower rate, as we didn’t have much confidence in the apartment, but had no other three-bedroom apartments in Santiago de Los Caballeros. He agreed, and we stayed another night.
The Last Straw
On our final night in the apartment, I did a load of laundry in the semi-automatic washing machine. This required multiple YouTube videos and the assistance of a neighbor in the building.
After hanging my clothes to dry, I went to take a shower. No water came out of the shower head. I went over to my toilet. It wouldn’t flush. I checked every toilet and faucet in the house. The water wasn’t running any longer. Enraged would be the only words to describe how I felt at that point.
At this point, we had running water for less than 50% of our stay. We told the Airbnb host we’d be checking out immediately. And we got out of there as fast as we could.
Now, I’m sitting at a casino hotel featuring a swimming pool overlooking the mountains. While it’s not perfect, I feel like I’m living in luxury as I write this article. The water is running. Hell, it’s even hot. And I get to shower indoors. There’s air conditioning, and breakfast is cooked for me. Laundry service is provided. Plus, my toilet flushes every single time it’s asked to.
Travel junkie turned blogger. Location independent. From the Midwest, but often based in Latin America. Big on beaches, rumba, and rum. Addicted to the gym. Committed to showing a different style of travel - one that involves actually interacting with locals and exploring different cultures.