I recently came across a $350 round trip airfare to Santiago. Of course I had to jump on it as I’ve always wanted to visit Chile. Unfortunately the dates didn’t work out so that weather would be appropriate to visit Patagonia, so Torres del Paine will have to wait for another trip. But I’m excited to be planning my explorations of more temperate parts of Chile for a week this summer.
As has become my habit, once I book flights I immediately start searching in my home exchange networks for free lodging options. In this case Guest to Guest was the clear winner, as the only network with a number of listings in Santiago. Also essential was their option to do point-based swaps since I’ll be going on this trip alone and so I can’t offer up my home for a simultaneous exchange. I was surprised by the number of people on Guest to Guest who have active profiles in Santiago. I emailed nine people who seemed likely candidates: those who were listing second homes, or listed availability for guests during my dates of travel, as well as those indicating that they might host guests in a spare bedroom.
Within a few days I had responses from two people offering to host me in their spare bedrooms. The first person to respond said it would be his first exchange, but he wrote to me within a few hours and was very excited about hosting. According to his Guest to Guest profile, this host has some similar interests to me, suggesting that I might get some good tips from him about stuff to do in the area. We exchanged a few emails about proximity to a metro station (very close) and other details.
After establishing that this would be a good host and location for me I raised the question of negotiating the insurance and deposit. Guest to Guest seems to default the settings on points-based swaps to a rather high insurance and a security deposit, but I don’t think these are necessary, especially when I’m staying in someone’s home with them. And of course I’d rather not pay for these things. Once I explained how the insurance and deposit works, my host agreed to lower the deposit amount and remove the insurance. I’m sure it didn’t hurt that I have a number of good reviews on my Guest to Guest profile, helping him trust me as a guest.
This was one of my quickest home exchange searches yet: After just 3 days and a few emails my lodging for a week in Santiago is finalized for €7 (the 3.5% fee on the 200 euro security deposit)!