From saving money on the road to getting more value with your accommodation such as kitchen amenities, there are many reasons to choose Airbnb for accommodation on your next trip.
In this article, we list eight essential tips and facts about Airbnb before you book your next holiday.
1. Travel safely
One of the biggest concerns travelers have about Airbnb is the idea of staying in a stranger’s home, instead of the security of a hotel or commercial accommodation. However the safety issues are actually rare, relative to the high number of bookings that take place every day across the world.
Airbnb does perform background checks on both hosts and guests, but it’s still worth to do your research but checking out past reviews of properties for red flags, and reading the profile of hosts which can indicate how comfortable you would be staying in their home (assuming it is a shared space).
Some shared home Airbnb listings also do not have interior locks on all bedrooms, so it can be worth buying a temporary internal door lock to travel with – these are cheap and can easily be fitted to a door without tools, as an added precaution while you are sleeping.
2. Read the reviews
Airbnb user profiles, like most online marketplaces, rely on building a reputation through reviews, recommendations, and ratings. Take the time to look these through, as they can tell you a huge amount about a property and its host.
Importantly, users can only leave a review if they have a confirmed stay at the place in question, so profiles can’t be padded out with fakes. If the reviews are bad, look elsewhere.
3. Look for watermarked and verified photos
Every profile should come complete with photos of the place you’re staying, so that you know it has important things like walls and a floor.
If a photo features a triangular “A” watermark in the top right hand corner, it means it was taken by professional Airbnb photographers brought in by the host. It’s by no means a prerequisite, but the watermark is a good sign that what you see is what you’ll get.
In 2019, Airbnb announced it was undertaking a program to verify all Airbnb listings, and have also started asking guests to verify the accuracy of listings. Properties with verified photos now indicate this in their listing captions.
4. Don’t be afraid to contact your host
Alongside its reviewing suite, Airbnb’s website comes equipped with a messaging service that allows you to contact a host without having to request a booking.
Making contact and building rapport before booking is a good way to put both you and the host at ease; remember, the host is often giving up their personal space to a total stranger.
They don’t have to accept your booking request, but chatting beforehand gives you a much better chance of getting the accommodation you want.
5. Read the cancellation policy
Airbnb hosts can abide by one of five different cancellation policies, ranging from ‘Flexible’ to ‘Super Strict.’ The former allows you to cancel up to 24 hours in advance without losing too much money, while anything on the strict end of the spectrum can see you badly out of pocket, depending when you cancel.
Needless to say, Airbnb isn’t quite as flexible as hostel accommodation. Before you make a booking, make sure you’ve read the cancellation policy closely to avoid nasty surprises somewhere down the line.
6. Don’t think about your Airbnb as a hotel
Your host has to be at the property when you arrive to let you inside and hand over the keys. So when you give them your time of arrival, make sure you stick to it. If you’re running late, do your best to let them know as soon as possible.
Don’t expect all the amenities of a hotel. No one’s going to be turning up your bed while you’re out on the town. Enjoy your privacy instead, and do your best to keep things tidy. Many hosts charge a flat cleaning fee, and take a security deposit. So you’re paying for any damage.
7. What’s it likely to cost?
Rates vary widely depending on location and the type of accommodation. A room in an apartment will cost less than a converted railway car, which will cost less than a medieval castle. You get the idea.
An Airbnb is unlikely to ever be cheaper than a hostel, but it can often cost far less than a hotel, and you’re probably getting somewhere with a lot more personality. It’s also worth noting that rates aren’t fixed. Don’t be afraid to haggle (respectfully) with hosts.
8. Take advantage of your host’s local knowledge
Your host will be local to wherever you’re visiting, and many are happy to help make your stay in their city a good one. They’ll know the best attractions, bars, and restaurants, and can help out with transport and directions. Some might even invite you to dinner.
Don’t be afraid to ask their expertise, but always remember that a host has no obligation to provide it.