It’s time for my Plum Guide review! Tom, my in-laws, and I just got home from spending a relaxing week down in French Basque Country. It was our first time there and we rented an apartment on Plum Guide just a short walk from the beach in Saint-Jean-de-Luz. If you’ve never heard of Plum Guide, think of them as an Airbnb alternative that has beautiful properties in France, Italy and many other parts of the world including the U.S. Let’s get into my Plum Guide review so you can decide if they’re the right choice for your France vacation rental or wherever else life takes you.
Plum Guide review: Why this Airbnb alternative is worth it
When we go anywhere for more than a night or two, we tend to choose an apartment rental over a hotel. We love being able to cook and having a little more space and privacy than a hotel provides. But sometimes vacation rentals are hit or miss and look nothing like the pictures. Thankfully, that’s a problem you don’t have to deal with when using Plum Guide. Ever. We were excited to see what this Airbnb alternative was all about.
For our Saint-Jean-de-Luz trip, we booked a cozy 2BR walkup apartment on the second floor (US 3rd floor) of a small building in a quiet part of town. It was nicely renovated, had lots of natural light flooding in, and a balcony overlooking the street.
What is Plum Guide? Is Plum Guide legit?
But before we get into the apartment and our stay in this Plum Guide review, let me tell you what the company is all about. What is Plum Guide? In a few words, Plum Guide is the new global quality standard for vacation home rentals.
They’re a peer-to-peer vacation home rental website. Owners list their properties on Plum Guide for travelers to rent. Think of them as an Airbnb alternative that’s a cut above the competition.
Upon clicking over to the Plum Guide home page, you’re greeted by bold text that reads “Book a stay in one of the world’s best homes!” And that’s exactly what you’ll get. Launched in 2016, Plum Guide is a London-based company that takes pride in offering 17,000+ of the best vacation homes in top destinations like Paris, Rome, London and all over. They’re in 254 locations spread over 20 countries, to be exact. Plum Guide is most definitely legit if you’re looking for a high-quality stay!
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It blew me away to learn that each property is vetted by Plum Guide for location, cleanliness, quality, and more via a systematic 150-point checklist. They only accept the top 3% of homes in each locale, which ensures you’re getting the very best. Think of them like a Michelin Guide but for vacation rentals.
Booking a vacation rental via Plum Guide gives you access to the cream of the crop, making them an excellent Airbnb alternative for travelers looking for a fantastic quality stay. There’s nothing hit or miss about the properties available.
Because peer reviews aren’t always reliable, Plum Guide has done away with them entirely and opted for something better. Instead, they have instituted the Plum Guide Award, which is a more trustworthy and reliable signal of quality than reviews from strangers on the internet. A recent newsletter explains that “homes must pass all 5 stages of The Plum Test, culminating in a personal home visit from an independent Home Critic. Critics consider everything from the WiFi speed to the design aesthetic. They are our eyes and ears, and they are sticklers for standards.”
Every property is reviewed by their dedicated professional team, as I mentioned. Hosts are interviewed and the Home Critics stay in and test each property in person. The best of best go on to be nominated for the Plum Guide Award.
OK, well Plum Guide reviews wouldn’t be complete without prices, so let’s talk about cost.
What are Plum Guide prices like?
Plum Guide France properties are not all out of reach for a casual traveler. While yes, you can find huge castles that welcome 20+ guests and run over $4000/night, you can also find small Parisian studios at prices that won’t break the bank.
Plum Guide accepts only 3% of homes across low, medium, and high price points so there’s something great for all budgets. That said, the majority of properties do seem to be mid- or high-range and is not geared toward budget travelers, but you will find places under $100/night in some markets.
For reference, our 2BR rental in Saint-Jean-de-Luz was $127/night and slept four people. Whether you’re looking for a super luxurious stay or a more modest rental, you can rest assured that all Plum Guide properties are subject to the same quality standards.
Booking tip: Enter your travel dates to get accurate pricing, as nightly rates fluctuate in some cases based on the dates.
Also, prices reflect the nightly fee for the entire home, not just a room or other shared space like you’ll find offered on other sites. The whole place is yours which makes this Airbnb alternative a fast favorite because it’s easy.
A few of my favorite Plum Guide France properties
Cozy Paris 1BR “The Tannery” with Eiffel Tower view. I think that view says it all!
Dinard studio “Swimmer’s Delight.” A perfect contemporary, light-filled place for your Brittany adventures (like to Mont-St-Michel)
Cancale oceanfront “Seaforth” apartment. This small seafront apartment sleeps three and is just a half hour from Saint-Malo.
Jaw-dropping Provence “Spices.” If you’re traveling with a group and want a truly awesome stay, this is the place for you. Sleeps 12 and has a pool and hot tub.
Rustic and made for wine lovers, the “En Passant.” In the heart of wine country outside of Bordeaux, this charming beauty sleeps 12 and even has a life-size chess set.
24/7 Customer Service
A major perk of booking with Plum Guide and something I want to highlight in my Plum Guide review is that unlike other vacation property rental sites, Plum Guide has 24/7 support with an actual human via phone or chat. It’s the best Airbnb alternative out there!
If something goes wrong, you will be able to get in touch with someone right away no matter the time of day or night. That is reassuring. No one expects anything to go wrong on vacation, but when it does, you want to make sure you have someone to turn to ASAP. Plum Guide has you covered there.
Plum Guide review: Our experience renting a Saint-Jean-de-Luz apartment
We booked a couple of months before our stay and received confirmation from Plum Guide minutes after booking. We went with the 2BR apartment called Le Bonheur. Everything looked just like the photos.
P.S. I did an apartment tour video of Le Bonheur on my YouTube channel if that might be of interest once you’re done reading my Plum Guide review.
In our particular case, the apartment was managed by a local rental agency called Interhome and not the owner herself. We received a separate email from Interhome confirming everything about a month before the trip with instructions to pick up the keys from a lockbox since we were arriving on a Sunday (more on that below).
The email stated that we’d have to pay for sheets/towels if we weren’t bringing our own and that there was also a fee for Wi-Fi. Long story short, we did not have to pay for linens or Wi-Fi and apparently the generic email that went out to the agency’s other clients (not booked through Plum Guide) went out to us as well and that’s why there was conflicting information.
Quick note: It’s relatively common to pay extra for linens when you book a French vacation rental, especially on sites geared toward a French clientele. But this is not the case with Plum Guide. It was just a miscommunication in our case but was quickly resolved.
Anyway, with that behind us, check in was 4 p.m. and we promptly picked up our keys from outside the Interhome agency without issue. The apartment has street parking and this time of year, it was easy to grab a spot right out front.
We unloaded our luggage and fumbled with the keys and locks for a few minutes before figuring out how to open the door. There were two keys and then two locks on the main door into the building and both keys fit into the bottom lock. It was an older building and the keys were a bit tricky to use. A note on the welcome paperwork and maybe a diagram with the locks/keys labeled A & B would have been helpful. At first, we thought we had the wrong keys.
But we figured it out and up the stairs we went. This particular apartment building doesn’t have an elevator, so if you have a lot of luggage, a stroller, or are mobility impaired, the 36 steps up the narrow staircase to the apartment door might be a challenge.
From the entryway, you can see the doors to each bedroom on your right and left and then the family room further down on your left, and the kitchen on your right. The bathroom with the toilet is right next to the bathroom with the shower (no toilet) and both luckily have a small sink.
Sometimes, in France the room with the toilet doesn’t have a sink (so not exactly a half bath) and you have to go to the room with the shower to wash your hands. But I was happy that this was not the case with Le Bonheur.
The bathroom with the shower was a bit on the small side but was recently renovated and even had a heated towel rack, which was a nice touch. The toilet room had a washing machine (no dryer) and drying racks were provided.
A nice feature was that the family room and kitchen had a door you could shut, which is nice if you have sleeping family members and don’t want to wake them if you’re watching TV or banging around in the kitchen.
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Speaking of the kitchen, it was nicely equipped with bench seating, a dishwasher, oven, 4-burner stove, a coffee maker, electric kettle and good size fridge and freezer.
On the night we stayed in to cook, we realized there was only one frying pan which made cooking a multi-part meal a little bit more time consuming than expected. But not a huge deal.
The first bedroom had two twin beds and the second had a full-size bed. Both had adequate closet space and an electric radiator in each room for chilly nights.
Something we loved was the balcony space outside the first bedroom and family room. You’re in full view of your neighbors though, but the balcony is great for getting a little air or drying your clothes. A small table and chairs would have made it even better!
The apartment was nicely decorated, comfortable, quiet, and everything we were hoping for. The best part is that we were a five-minute walk from the beach and could easily walk to town to shop and go out to eat, get groceries, etc. We weren’t obligated to take our car when we wanted to go somewhere.
At the end of our stay, check out went smoothly at 10 a.m. We returned the keys and dropped off our linens in person, as requested. The apartment met all of our expectations and I would stay here again in a heartbeat.
To recap, let’s get into some pros and cons of Plum Guide.
Pros of Plum Guide
Beautiful vacation rentals in top locations. There are over 1,250 Plum Guide Paris properties!
Vetted for quality. Every apartment rental on the site has gone through the meticulous vetting process and been checked out by a Home Critic so you’re sure to have a quality stay.
No reviews. This one goes both ways and I’ve listed it below under cons as well. The fact that Plum Guide doesn’t publish guest reviews eliminates the possibility of bogus, overly critical reviews and is instead replaced by the systematic Home Critic vetting process. Keep in mind that you can find Plum Guide reviews on TrustPilot, which they link to at the bottom of their home page.
24-hour customer service. If anything does go wrong, you aren’t left to fend for yourself. You can always reach someone by phone or messaging on WhatsApp.
Cons of Plum Guide
No Plum Guide reviews on the site. Plum Guide doesn’t have property reviews from past guests which can be a pro and a con. That way there are no fake or overly nitpicky reviews, but at the same time it can be good to know what guests think about the property. We could have used a tip about the keys or a heads up that there was only one frying pan. That said, the “Home Truths” section of each Plum Guide listing is really useful and will note anything that may be a deal breaker for some (no a/c, lots of stairs, etc.)
Some cancellation policies are strict. No one expects to cancel their trip, but sometimes life gets in the way and you have to cancel your apartment reservation. Be sure to look at each apartment’s cancellation policy very closely before booking. Depending on when you cancel you may not get a full refund.
Properties are not yet available in all locales. Plum Guide is constantly growing but they aren’t in all regions yet, so if you want to stay in a specific part of town, options may be limited, especially during peak vacation times.
No welcome note/gift. We’ve been delighted in the past on trips where the host has left a small food item or a bottle of wine and a note. It feels welcoming and personalized. Might be something for Plum Guide to consider, especially when keys are picked up via a lock box.
Plum guide review: Final thoughts
Plum Guide is my new go-to choice for vacation apartment rentals in France (or anywhere). This Airbnb alternative is top notch. Where you stay is just as important as where you go and booking your stay via Plum Guide ensures that your accommodations will be a high point of your trip. 100% recommended for their attention to quality and selection!
Hope you enjoyed this Plum Guide review and that you’ll give this alternative to Airbnb alternative! Do you like renting an apartment when you visit France or are you more of a hotel person?
Disclosure: Thank you to Plum Guide for hosting our stay. This post contains affiliate links. All opinions expressed in my Plum Guide reviews are my own.
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Kameela Hays says
Thank you Diane for a great review. I haven’t heard of Plum Guide but will definitely seek them out. Airbnb has been hit and miss with me in the past. It’s great to have a person at the end of the phone in are of queries. I live about 50 kms from Cancale and sometimes after a day trip I would like to stay over so the Seaforth apartment us going on my list .
Awesome, thank you so much for taking the time to read it 🙂 That little apartment looks so cool and definitely has a lower price point which is always nice. Xx
This is so helpful and appreciated.
So happy to hear that, Phyllis!! Merci
Deborah Bosiack says
Thank you for this awesome information on the Plum Guide!
You’re very welcome!
Thank you for your informative review- I’ve had so many bad experience with Airbnb recently that the last place I booked for travel was Booking.com. Typically we rent apartments for our travels as it’s more conservative to eat in that out as a family with kids.
Interesting note about linen- I’ve been annoyed lately where Airbnb have asked about booking linen. Honestly- who can afford to travel around with linen for a couple of days away. It’s bulky and space consuming and if you’re in a train- impossible to carry around.
Lastly, good to hear your experience with Interhome was happy for you. My expertise with them last august in Belgium was awful
Yeah I find the practice of French rentals requiring people to bring their own linens or pay kind of strange for exactly the reason you specified. Much easier to just pay a fee but mentally just feels better to have it included in the overall price, like built in and not a separate charge.
The good thing about Plum Guide is it will give you a heads up about any potential downsides of the apartment at the bottom of the listing page, like the fact that there’s no elevator or thing s like that. They also note it’s if it’s managed by an agency so people can steer clear if they’d rather deal with the owner directly.
Glad you found this post helpful 🙂 Thank you!
Thanks for this-will file Plum away for future reference. We’ve been renting apartments in Paris for many years, for several weeks a year,, and love it. Much prefer going that to staying in hotels. Been renting the same beautiful flat on the Ile St. Louis for over a decade, directly from the owner whom we’ve become friendly with. R3e. Air BnBs-I’d never stayed in one until two weeks ago when a friend and I went to New Orleans. The company who owned the unit(s) was very responsive when we contacted them with issues/questions, etc. I’d use Air BnB again in the States but Plum sounds far superior when booking in Europe.Your apt. was light-filled and sweet looking!
Darlene Sanders says
Thanks so much for sharing this new source! We have used AirBnB in several cities in the UK and Europe and I will be looking for a place in Amsterdam next year. I have learned: 1) ask about ‘electric’ clothes dryers since the first Parisian apartment had a drying rack; 2) ask for a description of ‘air conditioner” because a fan with an ice block in a bottom drawer of the fan housing is NOT what we folks who live the southern part of the US call A/C; 3) ask if the coffee maker is electric; 4) buy a stack of cheap washcloths for bathing to travel with and leave them behind as you go; and 5).we in the US are missing out because we can’t buy 4-ply toilet tissue or loaves of bread with the crusts already cut off!
Chris Smith says
Thanks for sharing this information! I checked out some of the listings in NYC and there are some wonderful options there as well.