Whether you’re looking for a cheaper place to stay on your travels or perhaps a spacious holiday home rather than a hotel room, Airbnb can be a great website to find the perfect short-term accommodation to suit your needs. However, without the typical hotel regulations in place and the fact you are renting directly from a person (or even staying in their home), there are some risks and pitfalls to be aware of.
So, if you’re new to Airbnb, read on for a guide on how to find your perfect stay.
How does Airbnb work?
Airbnb works as a peer-to-peer short-term accommodation website and app. People with a spare room or whole home can add their property to Airbnb and become hosts. Prospective guests can then use the search function filtering by location, budget, dates and accommodation style (and a whole host of other options) to find their perfect stay.
Unlike a hotel, you usually deal directly with the property owner. Often hosts list their property on Airbnb for supplementary income. As a result, check-in and response times can be limited, and it may be essential to make arrangements in advance rather than just turning up as you would with a hotel.
Another main difference is that unless the host has an ‘Instant Book’ function, you may have to wait for approval before your booking is confirmed. During this time, the host will be able to review your profile and decide whether they are happy for you to stay in their property.
It may sound like a lot of hassle, but Airbnb has the advantage of offering unique and exciting accommodation options, from houseboats to treehouses and everything in between. Furthermore, Airbnb can give you a home from home with all the space you need and often for a lower price too.
1. Know your requirements
Airbnb offers a range of different accommodation options. These can include weird and wacky places to stay and even sharing with complete strangers. It is a good idea to set your specific requirements onto the search function as soon as you start looking so you don’t accidentally choose a place you won’t feel comfortable in. This is under the function ‘type of place’.
Airbnb offers four mains options for the type of place;
Entire place – If you like peace, quiet and privacy then having an entire place to yourself means you can treat the property as your own home.
Private room – While you will have the sanctuary of your own bedroom, this option means you will share common spaces such as a bathroom and kitchen with other people such as your hosts.
Hotel room – Some boutique hotels and hostels now list their properties on Airbnb which offer both private and shared rooms in a professional hospitality set up.
Shared room – You’ll be sharing your bedroom with other people, much like a hostel.
2. Choose your location wisely
If you plan to stay in a big city, you may not want to be out in the suburbs where transportation is limited. Fortunately, there is a ‘Show Map’ feature which will display all your listings on a map of the area so you can select the perfect neighbourhood; whether you want a quiet residential area, or to be in the heart of the action.
If you want more information on the area, such as transport links, shops and cafes, then on each listing the host will describe their neighbourhood in more detail.
3. Check the price before you book
On the initial search results, Airbnb will list each property with a nightly rate. However, this may not include additional costs such as the service fee, cleaning charge, currency conversion fee or additional guest fee. Hosts may not charge for all of these fees, and the fees may vary from property to property. However, it is also wise to check the final price as it may be higher than the nightly base rate you were expecting to pay.
4. Read the reviews
For your first stay, it is best to choose an experienced Airbnb host who has several reviews for their property. It is wise to read the reviews and check the star ratings too. As with all reviews, it is best to take them with a pinch of salt. However, if something stands out, like difficulties with check-in, then it may be best to steer clear for a seamless first experience.
5. Check for instant book
Just like you can leave reviews for properties, hosts can leave reviews for their guests too. This helps to protect hosts, and they can turn down guests with bad reviews and accept people with glowing feedback. As a first-time Airbnb-er, you will not have the reviews that show you’re a trustworthy guest. In this case, it is best to opt for properties with an instant book feature which doesn’t require your host to approve your booking.
Instant book is also a great option if you’re looking for a place urgently.
6. Host interaction
In some cases, you could be staying in the host’s home. In other cases, a host will have to meet you at the property. Be aware that you may have to communicate via email, Airbnb or phone to arrange check-in. Some properties will have independent check-in, where you collect your keys from a lockbox, or there is a code entry system in place. These can be a great way to save time and confusion, especially if you plan to arrive outside of check-in hours.
7. Don’t be afraid to double-check
If it is vital that the property has a particular feature such as WiFi or no stairs, then don’t just assume what is on the listing is accurate. While most hosts ensure their listing is accurate and up to date, they may have forgotten to adjust a listing if something changes. If it is an essential aspect of your stay, don’t be afraid to contact the host and ask if something is available.
Contacting the host will not only give you peace of mind, but the host will know what guests expect from their property which could lead to them improving their offering.
8. Review the house rules
Hosts will have a list of rules for their property. Usually, this is just a standard rule list such as ‘no smoking’ and ‘no parties’. However, if the rule list seems strange or over the top, it may be best to avoid the host at all costs. It is always best to check the rules before you book so you don’t accidentally break the rules, have to pay a fine or get on the wrong side of your host.
9. Trust your instinct
Remember that the photos will usually be the best representation of the property, and often makes the accommodation look bigger than it actually is. On the other hand, if a host can’t be bothered to include great pictures of the property that can be a warning sign too.
If the listing and the pictures of the property don’t quite match up or you have a niggling, worrying feeling, then go with your gut. There are lots of amazing properties on Airbnb but also some bad ones too. Don’t just opt for the first option, give yourself time to review the list and go for a property and host that you trust.
10. Be mindful of different standards
While half the fun of travelling is experiencing different cultures, be mindful that you will have different standards than others. Try to go into the property with an open mind and enjoy the experience. However, if there is a problem with your stay or the property lacks amenities listed, then you can launch a complaint with the Airbnb Resolution Team within 24 hours of arriving at your accommodation. The team will work hard to resolve the problem by finding you an alternative place to stay or refunding you.
If you want to reduce the risk, look for superhosts on Airbnb. Superhosts are people who have over 90% response rate, have hosted ten trips and have over 80% five-star reviews. Furthermore, the superhosts have confirmed all of their reservations without cancelling.
Finally, remember that Airbnb will often provide a great experience, but it is not perfect. Always have a plan B in mind, just in case a host cancels your booking at the last minute. Remember, hosts are humans too, and unforeseen circumstances can happen. That said, you are likely to have a great trip, meet a fantastic host and feel at home wherever you are in the world.