Many Paris visitors would love to experience the life of a local and forego a hotel stay in favor of an authentic Parisian apartment. Finding such an apartment is not always easy, however, particularly for those on a budget. Short-term apartment rentals through agencies are often pricey. Less expensive apartment share programs like Airbnb are increasingly under legal scrutiny, with city officials cracking down on illegal rentals. And then there are the free options. You could do an apartment swap, but if you don’t live in a city like London or New York, you may have trouble finding a Parisian who wants to switch with you. If you’re looking for privacy and comfort, Couchsurfing probably isn’t for you either.
Well now, there’s another option: NightSwapping. This new kid on the block aims to fill the gap between Couchsurfing and Airbnb. With NightSwapping you can get a free place to stay a la Couchsurfing without having to crash on someone’s couch. You can take advantage of the Airbnb-style online listings without the potential legal fuzziness. Hosts accumulate nights, which function like a currency, by letting others stay in their home. Guests just pay a $9.90 connection fee when they confirm their nightswap. They can also pay for extra nights if they haven’t earned enough or if they haven’t hosted anyone.
When I first heard about NightSwapping, I was intrigued. So I contacted someone from their marketing department and asked if they could connect me with one of their users. They put me in touch with Timothée, a Parisian who joined the site in its early days in spring of 2014. Here’s what Timothée had to share about his NightSwapping experience.
When Timothée and his wife were planning a trip to New York City for the summer of 2014, they ran into a problem. All of the hotels they looked at in the city were much too expensive. Then one day, Timothée received something interesting in his inbox: a press release for a new company, NighSwapping (then called CosmopolitHo
me.com). Curious, Timothée decided to sign up on the company’s website. While he didn’t find any apartments available for the period of his trip, when he got back to Paris he decided to test NightSwapping out, this time as a host.
Since then, Timothée and his wife have hosted an eclectic mix of NightSwappers in their apartment in the 14th district of Paris. Past guests include a young Spanish couple in town for a birthday surprise and a French family visiting grandparents in Paris for Christmas. All of this happens without the hosts and their guests exchanging money. According to Timothée, this is actually the main appeal of NightSwapping. Subletting apartments in Paris is illegal without the written agreement of the apartment owner. As a host, he’s comfortable knowing that he isn’t doing anything illegal because he’s not making any money from the arrangement. He says that previous guests have always left their apartment in good shape, often leaving gifts. And now, after hosting several other NightSwappers, Timothée and his wife plan to use the points they have accumulated to become guests themselves. They will exchange their points for an apartment when they go on vacation to Marseille this summer.
Having been on NightSwapping since its early days, Timothée was able to share a few kinks in the system that still need to be worked out. For example, currently, guests can’t leave comments on host profiles. Still, he’s seen improvements to the service over the last year. One notable change was the introduction of a calendar, which has greatly improved the site’s usability. Overall, he is very satisfied with his NightSwapping experience and plans to continue.
So, what do you think? Would you try NightSwapping? I’d love to hear feedback from anyone who has already used the service.