How to get the best from Airbnb

Airbnb has rapidly become our preferred way for locating suitable places to stay around the world. This lodging website is intuitive and easy to use.  We have found some great places and people to stay with so far on our adventure around the world. These days I always start with Airbnb.

How to get the best from Airbnb

When I first discovered it I was fascinated by the name and found out the story behind – read it here.  Think air mattress?  No really hosts do not actually offer air beds these days, rather a real bed. Firstly can I say this is not merely a booking site, Airbnb operates are part of the sharing economy and as such you cannot just log on and book. Read on for more…

What is Airbnb?

Airbnb is a website where everyday local people can rent their rooms in their home, apartment and houses to people looking for a place to stay. This is perfect for us as we meet and stay with locals.  Airbnb claims a wide range of listings in some 192 countries, they say on their site 600,000 listings.   The choices on offer range from simple shared rooms to really nice entire apartments to luxury villas. Whilst we are now guests, we have also hosted in NZ when we are there.

How to get the best from Airbnb

The choices on offer range from simple shared rooms to really nice entire apartments to luxury villas.

When is Airbnb best?

You can use Airbnb for almost anywhere, and in most cases if you are a couple it will be cheaper than a hostel and usually with loads more amenities.

It works best for a local community type experience or a family group. It also works best for at least a few nights and preferably a week. I would not use it for 1 night stays. although I know some do.

How safe is Airbnb?

Both guests and hosts receive reviews that allow you to see their history on Airbnb. 

As I said before its not a mere booking service. Guests and hosts are both required to provide identification to Airbnb, usually in the form of a scanned ID. They also verify your phone number. All payments are handled through Airbnb itself, so you won’t get ripped off by your host or guest.

But as safe as Airbnb is, remember that nothing is ever 100% safe. Bad experiences can happen from time to time with any accomodation.  From our experience we have never felt unsafe either as a host or a guest. 

How to get the best from Airbnb

Our lovely apartment in Guanajuato Mexico filled with every convienence for a traveller for $30 a night

Get started with Airbnb

Fill out your profile with as much detail as possible about yourself and your travel style, your interests and don’t forget your photo.  Once you’ve done this, make sure you then verify your ID. This will make you attractive to hosts – some hosts will not accept bookings from non verified people and of course you would not want to stay with someone who was not verified either. 

Now you can start checking out all the cool places you’d like to go… whether that’s a villa in Tuscany, an apartment in Paris or a room by the sea in the Caribbean. 

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Finding the Right Property

Like most accommodation sites  you put down your destination, preferred dates, and they show you all available properties.

On the page with results, you’ll be given three options to select:
Entire Place: The whole house or apartment is yours and nobody else will be staying there.
Private Room: You get your own room, but communal areas will be shared with the host.
Shared Room: You and your host share the property and sleep in the same room.

Check the amenities list. Is there wifi? Air-conditioning? Anything else you need?

Check the bed situation. The profile will tell you whether the bed is an actual bed or something else, like a futon or pull-out couch and check the photos for further verification.

Check your host’s profile, verification, and reviews. Do they seem like a person from whom you’d want to rent? Have they been verified by Airbnb? How soon do they respond to emails? Are their reviews positive?

Check the cancellation policy. Airbnb has cancellation policies ranging from “flexible” to “super-strict” — on flexible, you can get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance and mid-stay get refunded for nights 24 hours after you cancel; on strict, you can only get 50% refunded up to seven nights in advance and mid-stay get refunded 50% for nights seven days after you cancel.

Check the House Rules. Do they allow visitors?

Contacting the Host

I always contact a prospective host before booking to ask a few questions. The timing and response gives me an idea if  they friendly and helpful.  Be sure to read through the profile in advance and see if your questions are answered in there first though, if they’re not be sure to ask.

Some questions I often ask are:

How is the wifi quality? Does it work consistently?
How far is the walk to public transport?
Is there a table to work at?
If you’re happy with the answers, then go ahead and book.

Getting the best from Airbnb

Yes that bed was super comfortable with nice sheets!

Booking – How It Works

Unless it says Instant Book, you submit a reservation request, your host has 24 hours to accept it. Keep in mind that hosts are not required to accept you — it’s entirely at their discretion. This is why is it very important to have a detailed profile. If 24 hours elapse, the reservation is not confirmed, you pay nothing. The process as you can see is not instant therefore Airbnb does not work too well with last minute bookings like for tonight! You have to be a bit more organized.

Keep in mind that Airbnb charges a 6-12% fee on top of the room cost. (Airbnb also charges hosts 3% on their end as well.)
After your host accepts, your credit card will be charged. If there’s a security deposit or cleaning fee — and the profile will say whether there is — you will be charged these fees as well. A security deposit will be refunded at the discretion of the host; a cleaning fee cannot be refunded.
From there, you and your host can arrange a time to meet at the property. Make sure you use the Airbnb message system so there is a record in case of any misunderstandings.  Put your host’s number in your phone and give them specific details about your arrival, by bus, air etc. 

Getting the best from Airbnb

Spot the Kind Size bed, our apartment in Mexico City for $57 USD a night.

Be a Good Guest

Whether you’re staying in someone’s house with them or in a private apartment, treat the place as though it were your own.  It is not a hotel, there are not hotel services on tap. You are being ‘hosted’ by a local not served by a hotel maid.

Be considerate, especially if you’re sharing the rental with your host or other guests. Sure you’re paying to use their space, but that doesn’t include eating their food, drinking their booze, or using their toiletries. It’s polite to ask before you use anything not mentioned in the profile. 
Some hosts like to spend time with their guests; some prefer to keep their distance. Be friendly to your host and let him or her take the lead, sometimes we make great friends with our hosts and this is what we love about Airbnb and  traveling. If something goes wrong or you break something make sure you communicate with your host.

Getting the best from Airbnb

And sometimes you just make great friends with your hosts!

What If Something Really Goes Wrong?

If something goes wrong with your Airbnb stay you have support. While Airbnb recommends that you work things out personally if it’s a small matter, or involve the police if you’re in danger or laws are broken, they also have a 24-hour help line for both hosts and guests. We have only had to use this once and Airbnb were fantastic. 

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Always Review Fairly

A few days after your stay, Airbnb asks you to review your host. Always leave a review after your stay — it helps both the host and future guests. 
The nice thing about Airbnb is that it gives you the option to leave both public and private feedback for your host. It’s the perfect option when you have some suggestions for your host to make the stay better, but you don’t want air them publicly. 

We love Airbnb and have had great experiences thus far.  We have noticed that some places provide everything from dishwashing liquid to toilet paper and others supply little or none.  There is no set standard so keep that in mind.

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How to Get Started

Sign up with Airbnb here and you’ll get free credit from me on your first Airbnb stay.

Start planning your next trip now!

Have you ever used Airbnb? How was it for you?

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