Airbnb is a service that manages a relationship between those who want to rent accommodation and those who can provide it. The places are usually someone’s own property and are akin to the traditional bed and breakfast type of lodgings, with a more homely feel. The service offers tourists another option besides the usual offering of camping, hostels, cottages, hotels etc. They are usually more private than camping and hostels and cheaper than hotels plus they often provide the added benefit of interacting with a local resident. So how do you go about using the service? Here’s a handy guide to choosing and using Airbnb:
- Is Airbnb The Right Fit?
Although Airbnb provides accommodation, do keep in mind that a hostel or hotel may better suit your needs. If you are very budget conscious then look at couchsurfing or hostels, if you have strict requirements about cleanliness you may want to look at a hotel. You are booking a space at someone’s home and everyone has their own rules and levels of hygiene.
Airbnb is just one service provider, you may find a better deal using another provider, website or type of accommodation. However, in some situations, you may find that this is the only solution!
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2. Start With Your Basic Requirements
On the front screen of Airbnb, there is a panel where you can input your information. Enter your location, dates, and number of guests.
In this example, we are searching for a place in Dublin, Ireland for two people in September for seven nights. Press ‘Search’.
3. Narrow Down Your Selection
The next screen will show a list of properties and a map of where they are located. If the map isn’t showing, select the ‘Show Map’ toggle button on the top right-hand side.
Go to the top and click on ‘Price’ and move the sliding bar to a maximum price you want to pay for the room or apartment per night (not per person!). As a general rule, prices increase during peak periods (national and religious holidays, summer vacation time etc) and the closer you get to city centres.
Use the map + button to zoom in closer to the city centre or the part of the area you want to visit.
Click on the ‘Home Type’ button and you can then filter out any types of hosting you do not want, for example, if you prefer to have the whole place to yourself, only select ‘Entire Place’. If you are happy with sharing common spaces or then select the other options.
You may want to use the ‘Trip Type’ button if you are travelling with a family or for work purposes, as this will filter out unsuitable places.
This will then show you what is available to you in your date and price range, as well as preferred location and accommodation type.
TIP: You may have to keep zooming in or slightly moving the map to make sure you are looking at the right area!
4. Thoroughly Investigate Your Available Options
You can scroll down the list of places on the left-hand side and look through each one or click on the price on the map.
If you are scrolling: Click on one of the listings. A new window will open with more information about the accommodation.
If you are using the map: Click on the price and a small pop-up appears allowing you to look at the pictures. If you like the look of the listing then click on the photos and a new window will open with more information about the accommodation.
Take your time to read through the details.
- View the photos. Does the place look clean and tidy? Is the room very small or quite spacious? What do the other areas look like? You can tell a lot by the photos and if they are not appealing, look at another listing.
- Check the amenities – is there a washing machine, iron, WIFI, heating or air conditioner? You might want to consider these if it is going to be very hot or you need to clean your clothes.
- Is there a parking space? If you are driving then you will need to know whether you can park your vehicle in a safe place.
- Is there a kitchen? If you cook in rather than eating out for every meal you can save a lot of money.
- Always double check whether bedding, towels, and soap are provided.
- Look at the sleeping arrangements, for example, are there two single beds or one double?
- Look at the living arrangements if it is a shared space.
- Are there any reviews? If the host has lots of glowing feedback then this is a good sign and shows other guests have had a pleasant stay. Be careful if the host has cancelled many reservations.
- Research the area. If the place is not centrally located is it close to public transport? What times does the transport run and how much is it? How will you get there from the airport or bus station?
- Read the policies. Some hosts have strict rules about the rental and you want to make sure that you can abide by them. If they do not fit your requirements then choose somewhere else that is more relaxed. You may also be asked to remove your waste upon leaving, so do consider such requests.
- What are the check-in and check-out times? Do they fit in with your needs? You want to make sure that if you are arriving in the middle of the night you can get into your reservation!
- Find out what the cancellation policy is. Some reservations are strict and others are more flexible, if you change your mind you may only get part of your payment returned.
- Is there anything strange? Red flags include weird ‘fines’, rules or comments. Don’t stay somewhere where the host is making odd demands.
- If you have any questions you can contact the host directly. Now is the time to make sure everything you need is covered so don’t be shy!
5. Bite the Bullet
Once you have completed your thorough investigation make your choice and book the reservation. You will receive confirmation and more details about the exact location, plus instructions on how to check-in. Sometimes if the host is not available you may pick up the keys from a safe box. You should message the host with when you are checking in and to say hi!
If you have the app and data whilst travelling, you can use your phone to find the listing. Otherwise make sure you write down how to get there, the address and the host’s contact details.
6. Enjoy Your Stay
Once you are in the accommodation treat it with respect. Don’t be noisy or messy and try not to break anything. If something is not working or missing then message the host straight away. Abide by the rules and leave the place as you found it. Most hosts charge a fee for cleaning (which is included in the charges you paid already) but don’t leave anywhere dirty, especially the kitchen and bathroom.
Do check if there are cameras in the property – this should be disclosed in the listing and if this was not you need to contact Airbnb.
Don’t expect the host to be your guide, if they offer to help or show you around that’s great, but they are not there to hold your hand or answer every single question.
7. If Things Go Wrong
Contact the host and see if things can be rectified. Usually, they can come around and drop off extra towels or get a faulty shower fixed.
If the problem persists, the listing is not as advertised you have an issue with the host (or other guests in shared accommodation) then contact Airbnb. Check the terms and conditions – for example, regarding extra charges. Write down what happened and record anything with photo evidence if possible. This is usually very helpful if there is a problem and it is not your fault.
If the situation is serious then contact the local authorities immediately.
Once you have checked out you will receive an email to review the experience. If it was a pleasant stay then leave a review. If the place needed some attention then highlight this politely to the host. If the place was awful then it is up to you whether you wish to send that feedback!
Airbnb and other shared economy platforms have caused controversy in some tourist destinations, where critics have blamed the service for over-tourism and increases in rent. In some countries, Airbnb and similar services are banned. Conversely, it has also been cited as providing a much-needed boost to local economies and enabled hosts to earn a living in developing countries. It’s worth considering whilst weighing up your options.
Have you used Airbnb? What was your experience? Do let me know in the comments below.
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