For frequent and the not so frequent travellers, Airbnb has completely altered the playing field for finding the perfect accommodation to suit every type of trip! No longer are we limited to chain hotels or overpriced boutique stays!
Airbnb brings home-style accommodation all around the world and lets you truly live like a local! However, before you jump on the website and start booking up a storm, there are a few things to be mindful of to make sure you don’t find yourself in an Airbnb dud!
Trust me… we’ve been there! More than once! But we are oh so much wiser from it!
THE COMPLETE BEGINNERS GUIDE TO AIRBNB
What is Airbnb?
First things first, what even is Airbnb? Much in the way that Uber has provided an alternative to taxi services in many parts of the world, Airbnb allows private home and apartment owners to rent out their property or spare room to travellers.
This is on their terms, with the ability to list their property for availability all year round, or to choose shorter periods when it may be available.
No dealing with hotels and traditional check in processes.
Instead you have the chance to stay right in the action in big cities or somewhere out of the way, where there may not be accommodation available. Airbnb has every type of accommodation you can imagine and something to suit every single budget!
Is Airbnb Better Than a Hotel?
Well… not always! Often you get luxury or home-style comfort that hotels can’t really give! Stylish furnishings, quaint buildings, amazing views and central locations.
But other times you get duds. BIG FAT DUDS! Like dirty apartments that barely fit a bed, let alone much else. Makeshift sleeping options. Broken TVs. Lots and lots of stairs. Oh yes… we’ve had pretty much all of these in the bad Airbnb choices we made early on, with an attempt to save a buck!
Unlike a hotel, there is no official body overseeing the properties to ensure they are in optimal condition. What is clean and liveable to one person might be an Airbnb hell to another! However the bad ones are thankfully less frequent than the nuggets of gold that you will also find listed!
One of the biggest perks about Airbnb properties is often you can get a self-contained house with all the furnishings and plenty of room when travelling in larger groups. Far more affordable than booking 3 or 4 hotel rooms to fit the same number of people! This is our favourite part.
Plus quite often the Airbnb hosts (the owner of the property) is incredible and helpful, giving you a chance to really experience the area you are staying in with their expert knowledge and local area guidance.
So overall… there are perks to both Airbnb and hotels! It depends on what you’re looking for at the time!
How Does Airbnb Work?
Airbnb works in a similar way to traditional accommodation booking sites, with a website listing available properties. You search based on location and dates, just as you would for any other booking website and it will narrow down the available options for you.
To be listed on Airbnb, hosts must register and set up their profile and then list each of their available properties on the Airbnb website. The perk for hosts is that anyone can become one if you have a suitable room or property available to rent out.
Many of the accommodation listings are ‘instant book’ and you can find the one you want and secure it instantly with payment. However some are not, and you will need to send a request via the Airbnb website to check availability with the host. From here you may be given pre-approval to allow you to secure your booking with payment.
Most hosts are super fast with their communication and their replies go via text message and email so you can access them easily.
Once your accommodation is confirmed and paid for, the host will usually advise on the check in process via email. This can sometimes be automated, or via a manual correspondence.
Be mindful that as they are private properties, the hosts may not always be available to meet you at the time you like due to work or other commitments, unlike a hotel which is typically staffed 24/7. Most are flexible though. You just need to ask!
How Do I Make My First Booking With Airbnb?
To get started, visit the Airbnb website and set up a profile for yourself. This is compulsory for bookings and with good reason. Unlike a big hotel, you are staying in someone’s private home or apartment so they want to know a little about you, just like you want to know what kind of place you will be staying at!
Once your profile is set up and email confirmed, you can begin securing accommodation for your next trip!
Payment is typically required up front to secure a property, particularly for instant book properties. A pre-approval does not secure your accommodation until payment is confirmed either, however it does put it on hold for you for a period to give you time to make a decision, either through communications with the host or simply through deciding it’s a good match for your stay!
Before You Book With Airbnb
Read the Fine Print
There are a lot of things to consider before booking on Airbnb. For hotels, you can read a quick review of the place, Google Map search the location and decide if it’s a good match. For Airbnb, a little more planning is needed to ensure you don’t book yourself a total dive of a place!
Firstly, read the small print. Most listings have comprehensive details on what is included, such as facilities and extras, how many beds and bedrooms, whether there are cooking facilities or shared kitchen/bathroom requirements, depending on whether you are booking a room or a whole house/apartment.
Make sure the property has everything you need for your stay, and of course, that it has enough beds to suit your party size. No point booking a 1 bedroom apartment for 2 if you’re travelling with your 4 kids too! I’m sure they don’t want to sleep on the floor.
Many properties also stipulate house rules such as no parties, no loud music, etc in their listing details as well. Depending on your reasons for staying, this is important to consider too! Pretty much, read all the fine print on the listings before you book!
If you’re unsure about something, message the host! They are happy to answer your questions… especially if it means they get guests!
Be Aware of Extra Charges
When booking Airbnb, certain charges are not always listed in the per night/week stay total. If you check the detailed costing, in most cases you will find that the property has a cleaning and service fee added on also, which can be a significant extra fee if you are looking for a low budget accommodation option.
Although if you don’t mind getting your hands dirty, some Airbnb hosts are happy to remove all or part of the cleaning and service fees if you offer to do the cleaning for them before you check out. If you’re up for it, it doesn’t hurt to ask! Being a private property, pricing with Airbnb listings can be more flexible than hotel rates!
Also be aware that most room rates will increase with the number of people staying, so even if you are staying in an apartment that sleeps 8, you will likely be charged more if there is 6 of you instead of 4 as an example. This will also bump up the price compared to the initial listing price per night.
The extra charges are listed under the About This Listing section on the property profiles, detailed under Prices. Be sure to read them carefully!
Double Check Facilities
While they may not always intend to mislead, sometimes the information listed is not completely accurate when the time comes for your stay so if there are facilities listed such as free wifi or air conditioning, and these are essential booking points for you, make sure you confirm with your host before you book.
We have found Wifi to be one of the big ones where on arrival you find it doesn’t work, even with the instructions that have been left, and very slow action getting it sorted! However these situations are rare.
The bedding configurations is another big one! In Europe especially the beds are not always beds. Often they are all pull out sofas, which aren’t the most comfortable places to sleep if you’re staying for more than a night or two. If an apartment states it sleeps 10 and you have 10 guests staying, ask before you book exactly what those 10 beds consist of.
Nothing worse than being stuck with a broken portable bed not suitable for an adult, or deflating air mattresses for a week. YUCK!
Check the Cancellation Policy
While cancellations are not expected, sometimes they do happen so it’s important to read the cancellation policy on each property before you book too. Some will give a full refund in cancelled in a certain time frame, others a part refund and some none at all.
Confirm the Location
For security reasons, the exact address is often not visible for properties until after you have secured your booking. Most will give an approximate location and often an ETA for nearby points of interest or landmarks.
If you are staying for a particular reason, such as attending an event in the area and want to be sure if the property is within walking distance or in easy access of public transport, always ask the host before you book so you don’t end up booking somewhere not even remotely close to your preferred venue!
Some hosts have a tendency to exaggerate the closeness of certain landmarks to their property too in the listing so again, ask for specifics so you end up where you expect when the time comes!
Check the Reviews
And of course, the BIG ONE! Reviews are one of the most important factors in determining the quality of an Airbnb apartment. If there are very few reviews, and the property has been around for a few years, this is a bit of a worry. But the biggest warning sign… bad reviews!
One or two bad reviews mixed in with a hundred great reviews is not too concerning. Some people just look for something wrong with every situation… or they got unlucky! But if the bad reviews are a bit of a theme, you probably want to stay away!
I will admit budget gets the better of us sometimes and we have winged it a few times with some places that have had a mix of good and bad reviews. This has come to bite us with dingy places that don’t feel very clean. Ick! Even worse when you’ve got your kids travelling with you.
Reviews are so important! Don’t skip over them… unless you want to spend barely a thing and can handle slumming it for a bit!
Before Your Stay
A week or at least a few days before your stay, if you haven’t already heard from your host to confirm your stay, message them to finalise details. This is your opportunity to confirm arrival times, check in process and any other necessary details.
Some properties leave keys in a safety deposit box or similar with a code to retrieve them so you never see the host at all. Others require you to pick the keys up from a nearby location. Most of the time your host will arrange to meet you at the property and give you a tour on arrival though.
Airbnb hosts are usually very helpful for recommending public transport options, as well as the location of supermarkets and restaurants nearby. Don’t hesitate to ask!
During Your Stay
As with any accommodation, whether it’s privately owned or a big chain hotel, show respect when you stay. Treat the place as you would your own… or better. Common sense really!
Respect your neighbours if you are in an apartment or closely built up area. Keep the noise down, be friendly and keep the mess to a minimum.
Most of all, aim to leave things the way you found them. Hosts can leave feedback about you just as you can for them so you don’t want your profile blacklisted on Airbnb!
Quick Tips Guide on Airbnb
- Do your research
- Read the reviews
- Be mindful of extra costs
- Ask questions before you book
- Check it has all the facilities you need before you stay
- Confirm the location
- Leave the property as you found it after your stay
- ENJOY YOUR TRIP!!