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Travelling Like a Local to Ghent with Wimdu

By andrew - August 7, 2012 (Updated: November 19, 2014)

Belfry of Ghent, Belgium

Our Wimdu flat was right around the corner from Ghent’s famous belfry. How’s that for a central location?

The Wimdu website connects travelers with local home-owners who have rooms to rent. On our recent visit to Ghent, we decided to give their service a try and experience the city like a local.  

When traveling, we typically find ourselves staying at a variety of hotels. We have loyalty cards for the big chains which are usually conveniently located. What we’ve found though, is while chain hotels offer consistency, they don’t create a bond between the visitor and the host community. To get a real feel for a place, you need to meet and interact with its residents. The best way to do this is to live like a local.

Ghent is one of our favourite cities in Belgium and we had been planning to return this summer. However, we wanted our visit to be more intimate, more local than our stays in the past. When Wimdu approached us about trying out their service, we found the perfect solution to our challenge.

Wimdu is a website that enables private individuals to rent everything from a room in their home to an entire house to visitors. Their tag line, “travel like a local,” spoke to us directly so we decided to give them a try.

Wimdu was started by two young German entrepreneurs who used their passion for travel to build a community as well as a business. Only a year and a half old, Wimdu already has over 50,000 properties listed around the world.

Booking a Room with Wimdu

Booking with Wimdu was easy. First, you search for your destination,  to find a properties you are interested in. You can also browse a map, to help narrow down your choices. Each property listing includes: a description of the property , photos,  a list of the facilities, the price, the rental terms, and reviews from previous visitors.

Since we were visiting Ghent, we narrowed our search to the main part of the city and found two interesting properties. The first was a full apartment, but it was located outside the center requiring public transit or a car to get around. The second was very central, but it was only a room in a person’s flat, meaning we’d have to live with them. After reviewing the properties and the comments, we decided on the room in the city center, for convenience, as well as the opportunity to meet the owner, Geert.

Our central room in Ghent, thanks to Wimdu

Our central room in Ghent, thanks to Wimdu

Having selected a property, you book it directly via the site. If this is your first visit to Wimdu, you need to set up a short profile – an important part of the site’s community aspect. Since the site is about connecting visitors with empty space in the homes of private individuals, it is only fair the home owner know a bit about you before you arrive. In fact, your booking will not be confirmed until the property owner reviews and accepts the booking.

Once your profile is created, you provide your payment details to Wimdu. The charges will not go through until you make your stay. This avoids the need to carry cash and allows you to pay by credit card, if you prefer. There may be some optional extras at a property (like parking) requiring a cash payment to the owner.

I created a profile explaining who we are and uploaded a lovely picture of myself taken by a great photographer I know.  I decided to use a credit card for our payment, although I was surprised to see you could also pay via Bancontact. This really shows the site is made in Europe; I wouldn’t expect to see Bancontact as an option on an American webiste.

Our Wimdu Profile

Our Wimdu Profile

The final step is for the property owner to review the request and accept it. Wimdu states this can take up to 24 hours, but within 4 hours our host, Geert, had accepted the request and sent us a welcome note via the site.

Approved!

Approved!

Once everything was confirmed, Wimdu allowed us to communicate with Geert about arrival times and other details, such as parking. The only thing left to do was visit Ghent.

Visiting Ghent with Wimdu

Arriving on Friday night, Geert was home to welcome us and to show us around. As advertised, the flat was central and convenient, just around the corner from the Ghent Belfry and St. Bavo Cathedral.

Located on the 4th floor, the flat was clean and our room had a comfortable bed. Geert provided lots of towels and included a big bottle of water next to the bed. A nice touch especially as it turned out the nights were quite warm over the weekend.

Since this was his private home, there were lots of pictures on the walls, knick-knacks on shelves, and the random bits we gather over the years. While we exchanged phone numbers, he shared with us a bit about his son and how he enjoyed living in Ghent. We also learned he worked in Brussels, just around the corner from CheeseWeb HQ. Sometimes we are amazed by how small the world really can be!

Saint Bavo Cathedral, Ghent, Belgium

Our Wimdu room was right around the corner from the beautiful Saint Bavo Cathedral.

We stayed with Geert for the weekend and barely heard him come or go. Sunday morning, the three of us chatted, over coffee, and learned a bit more about his passion for travel, and his plans for the future. He shared some thoughts on things we might see, but was equally interested in the parts of Ghent we explored which he had yet to visit. We’ve always enjoyed “seeing” a place through the eyes of friends who visit, so we understand Geert’s interest in his guest’s adventures.

The weekend passed very quickly and the location of our room was perfect. Wimdu made the process of finding accomodations easy and Geert made the stay feel welcoming and more local. We are looking forward to meeting up with Geert in Brussels now so we can show him what we love about our neighbourhood.

Is this type of travel for everyone? Maybe not.

It is more affordable than staying in a hotel every night and you can easily find properties where you can be by yourself. However, in our view, the real value is the experience of meeting local people in their homes, learning more about the culture and the place you’re visiting directly from them. It does require you take a bit of a risk, but the reward is definitely worth it.

Win Your Next Stay with Wimdu

Now it’s your turn! The kind folks at Wimdu have offered one of our readers one 100€ gift voucher to be used to book ANY of their properties. (For reference, our stay in Ghent was about 50€ a night). All you have to do to be entered to win is check out the Wimdu website of your choice and leave a comment below telling us what Wimdu city you would visit if you won. We’ll use a random number generator to draw one lucky winner on August 15, 2012. So you have a week to get commenting!

Thanks to Wimdu for sponsoring our visit to Ghent and providing the prize voucher. Also thanks to Geert for being a great host and sharing your city with us! As always the opinions expressed in this post are completely our own. 

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Andrew
Andrew is our resident tech-geek and is normally found lurking behind the scenes on CheeseWeb.eu doing things with code that Alison finds mysterious. He comes out of hiding occasionally to write about history and technology. He is also part of the duo that produces Tech Brew, a podcast about beer and technology in Belgium. He loves castles, driving on narrow, twisty mountain roads and relaxing with a glass of peaty Scotch. Follow Andrew on Google+
Andrew
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41 comments

  1. Comment by VR

    VR August 7, 2012 at 12:59

    I have been waiting to book on Wimdu in Cannes / Nice for a long time and a voucher would be a great incentive. I find the user interface of Wimdu very easy to use and the properties well detailed!

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison

      Alison August 7, 2012 at 13:02

      That would be a lovely place to go! Good luck!

      • Comment by VR

        VR August 13, 2012 at 14:17

        We are a Indian couple living in Germany for a year now and love travelling. Wanted to thank you for your recommendations for food in Brussels. We had a fantastic Belgian vacation, great mix of a relaxing time, good food, beer and lovely people! My husband looks forward to following Andrew’s posts on Beer and we can’t wait to come back to do more justice to the different varieties there.

        • Comment by Alison

          Alison

          Alison August 14, 2012 at 09:55

          We’re glad we could help and that you enjoyed Belgium!

  2. Comment by Amy

    Amy August 7, 2012 at 14:07

    I love this! We’ve had 2 great experiences now with AirBnB, so I’m happy to see there are other companies out there with a similar concept. We will have to try Wimdu next time. I would love to be able to visit Boston or New York like a local.

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison

      Alison August 7, 2012 at 14:17

      Great choices Amy! Those are definitely cities that would be fun to try being a local in 🙂 Good luck!

  3. Comment by Agata

    Agata August 8, 2012 at 13:44

    Sounds like a great opportunity for me to do it in pursuit of my Roman Holidays dream. Those days the escape from Brussels for few days to Rome to experience the city in all five senses sounds like the best thing that could happen to me…

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison

      Alison August 8, 2012 at 13:57

      Great choice Agata! I think the weather in Rome must be much better than here this summer!

  4. Comment by Alicia

    Alicia August 8, 2012 at 13:58

    Wow, thanks for sharing this resource! I too have grown tired of staying in hotels when taking trips in Europe, but I didn’t know of a good central resource for finding and comparing bed and breakfasts and guesthouses. I’ll be adding Wimdu on my favorites for sure. We’ve lived in Belgium for 7 months now and I still haven’t made it out to Amsterdam, so I think that’s one of the first places I’d try out “living like a local.”

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison

      Alison August 8, 2012 at 14:05

      Having actually lived in Amsterdam as a local, or at least as an expat, I highly recommend it! If you need any tips for the city just drop me a note 🙂

  5. Comment by Maxine

    Maxine August 9, 2012 at 09:56

    Would love a *london* getaway! One of my favourite cities… Also think that this website is a brilliant idea!

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison

      Alison August 9, 2012 at 10:16

      God luck Maxine! London is a pricey city to stay in so what a perfect place to ‘visit like a local’!

  6. Comment by Liz

    Liz August 10, 2012 at 14:01

    I’ve heard of some other companies with similar services although not with such a personal touch as your experience was! I’d love to live like a local in Porto, Portugal, a country I have been meaning to visit (loved your Portugal posts by the way).

    P.S. I also love Ghent! Much more ‘real’ than Bruges, I’d say.

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison

      Alison August 10, 2012 at 14:25

      Oh Porto! Good one. We haven’t visited Porto yet but we loved Portugal! More coming on Ghent so stay tuned and Good Luck!

  7. Comment by diane

    diane August 10, 2012 at 14:23

    oh, the places to go! and to be able to go local, even better! i’d like to try barcelona;) thanks for sharing this resource.

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison

      Alison August 10, 2012 at 14:26

      Barcelona is one of my top 5 favourite cities in Europe and how great would it be to live like a local there! Good Luck Diane!

  8. Comment by Adriana Y

    Adriana Y August 10, 2012 at 15:01

    I have to say I did not know about this company till you posted but what a great idea! I would love to go somewhere in Scandinavia!

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison

      Alison August 10, 2012 at 15:41

      Good choice as Scandinavian hotels can be expensive. Good luck!

  9. Comment by Megan

    Megan August 10, 2012 at 20:49

    I’m dying to go to Marrakech!

    Thanks for sharing. We use Home Away all the time, so are glad to learn about Wimdu. Love that you can pay online with credit card instead of messing with bank transfers and cash on arrival.

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison

      Alison August 12, 2012 at 11:45

      I agree Megan. The ability to avoid cash with Wimdu is a great feature! Good luck!

  10. Comment by Alex

    Alex August 12, 2012 at 10:33

    Thanks for sharing the website and for the opportunity to win the voucher.
    I’m having a look and there are definitely nice deals. I would like to visit Amsterdam by bike like a local.

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison

      Alison August 12, 2012 at 11:45

      Best of luck Alex! We love Amsterdam!

  11. Comment by Benedetta

    Benedetta August 12, 2012 at 12:39

    What a great initiative! Thanks for sharing your experience, I didn’t know about Wimdu before reading about it in your post! Not many holidays for me this year (you know, crisis, being a student and so on 🙂 ), so if I would have the chance, I think I would visit Berlin! I’ve never been there and it has been on the “to-do list” for too many years!

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison

      Alison August 12, 2012 at 14:53

      Berlin is a fantastic city! It really took me by surprise the first time I visited. Good luck Benedetta!

  12. Comment by Richard

    Richard August 13, 2012 at 12:04

    Interesting post Alison. Definitely some great places on the website. I would go to Liege to continue exploring Belgium.

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison

      Alison August 13, 2012 at 12:33

      We love Liege Richard! If you head there do check out our CheeseWeb Escapes Ezine, Liege issue. Good luck!

  13. Comment by Mica

    Mica August 13, 2012 at 12:17

    A great contest, I’ve used others such as Roomorama and I also know about Air BnB.
    Lets see, I’d head to Singapore as we like style and comfort and our last visit was expensive!

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison

      Alison August 13, 2012 at 12:32

      Singapore would be fabulous! It’s on our “must visit” list too. Good luck Mica!

  14. Comment by Stella

    Stella August 13, 2012 at 12:24

    Great initiative!
    I would love to visit Turin. I have many reasons for this choice: exceptional architecture, historic cafés, the Egyptian museum, hazelnut chocolate…

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison

      Alison August 13, 2012 at 12:31

      Fun choice Stella! We haven’t yet been to Turin but we hear it’s great. Good luck!

  15. Comment by Rachel

    Rachel August 13, 2012 at 13:01

    The website is very similar to airbnb in layout. I don’t know which came first, but the room with Geert in Gent is also on airbnb – I know because I searched there recently! In the end I chose a different room, and I’ll see how it measures up. You do pay a ‘booking fee’ with airbnb, which I didn’t see on the wimdu site. I was looking into cheaper places to stay in Stockholm. My boyfriend will be there for a conference, but who wants to stay longer at a conference hotel? It would be nice to avoid paying Scandinavian hotel prices.

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison

      Alison August 13, 2012 at 13:13

      Hi Rachel! Yes Geert did tell us that he rents through both websites. I believe Wimdu is more recent and European based vs Air B&B which began in the US I believe. I agree, Scandinavia can be very expensive for hotels so best of luck!

  16. Comment by Erika

    Erika August 13, 2012 at 13:22

    I would love to experience this sort of travel! Maybe Paris? Getting tips from a Parisian on where to go would be superb!

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison

      Alison August 13, 2012 at 13:39

      Agreed Erika! Paris would be a great place to live like a local! Good luck!

  17. Comment by Jennifer

    Jennifer August 13, 2012 at 14:42

    Fantastic resource! Thanks for passing it along. We’d like to spend more time in the south of France, living like a local. So I think Nice or Cannes would be our destination of choice.

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison

      Alison August 14, 2012 at 09:55

      Great choice Jennifer! Best of Luck!

  18. Comment by Aleksander

    Aleksander August 13, 2012 at 21:54

    Great post, I am planning on traveling to the US for the first time. The first stop: New York City. I want to live like a local there!

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison

      Alison August 14, 2012 at 09:55

      NYC would be wonderful! Good luck!

  19. Comment by Daniel

    Daniel August 14, 2012 at 09:41

    I am travelling to Tenerife (Canary Islands) for the first time in October and still haven’t booked a place to stay. I’ve never used a service like Wimdu, but I just searched on their website and found some very attractive options. A voucher would be icing on the cake 🙂

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison

      Alison August 14, 2012 at 09:56

      What a wonderful place to visit in the autumn! Good luck Daniel!

  20. Comment by Alison

    Alison

    Alison August 15, 2012 at 12:06

    Thanks for your comments everyone! Our winner is being contacted and we’ll announce them on our Facebook Page once they have accepted.

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