How To Use Airbnb – The 2018 Guide

My Review of Airbnb

Updated: November 14, 2017

Airbnb Tips

  • 1. Book early.
  • 2. Be flexible with room requirements for best experience. Particular guests will be happier at a hotel.
  • 3. Read as many reviews as possible and be aware negative reviews are underrepresented.
  • 4. Pay close attention to location.
  • 5. Send a private message to the owner.
  • 6. Read the fine print and cancellation policy.
  • 7. Expect the unexpected.
  • 8. Confirm directions with owner.
Our first Airbnb rental in Sayulita, Mexico. All in all a good experience, though the host was 2 hours late meeting us.

Our first Airbnb rental in Sayulita, Mexico. A good experience even though the host was 2 hours late meeting us and the kitchen was completely lacking in utensils. All in all, lots of fun.

How Airbnb Works

  • A guest starts the booking process by clicking Request to Book. When Instant Booking is authorized for a property the reservation will be confirmed automatically if the guest meets the host’s requirements. When Instant Booking is not authorized the host will need to manually accept the reservation request. Airbnb collects guest payments when the reservation is accepted and releases those funds to the host 24 hours after arrival.

Booking Airbnb – The Basics

  • Step 1. Go to Airbnb.com (there are no third party websites or booking sites) or install the Airbnb app on your phone or iPad.
  • Step 2. Enter your destination, dates, and number of guests (technically kids should be entered as guests but to start it’s best to only count adults or you might eliminate some rentals that would be perfect for a family of 4 but won’t show for a 4-adult search).
  • Step 3. Select whether you want an entire home, private room, or shared room. Then click “Filters” to finely tune your criteria (wifi, kitchen, number of beds, bathrooms, etc.)
  • Step 4. When you find a place you like click “Contact Host” to ask the owner a question, or “Request To Book” to start the booking process. Hosts need to approve you before the booking is finalized.
  • Step 5. If this is your first time using Airbnb you’ll be prompted to create an account before contacting or booking is allowed.

Airbnb Reviews – Why They’re Not Always Accurate

  • Airbnb focuses on real people, real relationships, real experiences. And no anonymity. All good, but it makes it tough for people to leave negative reviews of places they don’t like. Thus most reviews are glowingly positive.
  • The anonymity you can have on Yelp and Tripadvisor reviews definitely has its downsides but does allow and encourage more negative reviews.
  • Airbnb hosts will read past reviews of prospective guests. If they have a history of leaving negative reviews they’re not as likely to get rented to. This skews rentals to people who only (or primarily) leave positive reviews.
  • Bottom line: There can be some pretty lousy places that get good to great reviews.

Hotel vs Airbnb

  • I prefer hotels to airbnbs my a good measure. Better service, better locations, more luxurious, special, and unique.
  • The biggest problem with using Airbnb is meeting the host to get the keys. With a hotel you walk in the door and someone is waiting for you to get you settled.
  • Much is made by Airbnb fans about getting the local scoop from real people. This is largely nonsense. A good concierge will know way more about the city than the typical resident. I live in Seattle and feel I know the city pretty well, but compare my local knowledge to the concierge at a decent downtown hotel regarding a good jazz bar, the best place to shop for handbags, or where to find the best whiskey and you’ll quickly see how limited my knowledge is.

Is Airbnb Safe?

  • Is Airbnb largely safe?, sure. Is it as safe as a hotel (where the risk is basically zero)?, no.
  • If you’re a single female traveler I’d recommend having a door stop with you. I’m not trying to sound alarmist but if you did find yourself in a place where you felt unsafe (or at least uncertain) a simple way to block the door might be the difference between a long anxious night and a good night’s sleep.

Using Airbnb

  • 1. Start your search and book early. – Unlike hotels that have multiple rooms of the same type, most Airbnb rentals have just 1 or 2 rentals and once these are booked they’re not coming back online.
  • 2. Be flexible. – Airbnb works best when you’re not on a set schedule, don’t need to be in a specific area, and don’t have specific demands on the rental.
  • 3. Read as many reviews as possible and be aware that negative reviews are discouraged (perhaps unintentionally) by the nature of the Airbnb marketplace.
  • 4. Pay attention to location – Use Google Maps and Street View to get a feel for where the rental is located and what’s nearby.
  • 5. Send a message to the owner – Even if you don’t have any specific questions, make something up, and send an enquiry with a few basic queries (what’s the neighborhood like? is there a grocery store nearby?) – the response will tell you a lot about his or her style, assumptions, and whether they’re a good fit for you. But don’t be too demanding. If you seem high-maintenance the host might just ignore your email.
  • 6. Read the fine print and cancellation policy. Really! – Unlike hotels, Airbnb hosts can have rules and stipulations far outside of your expectations. Don’t just look at the pictures and click “Book Now”.
  • 7. Expect the unexpected (for better and worse). If you like predictability, then Airbnb is not for you.
  • 8. Confirm directions to the property. It’s amazing how often the directions will be lousy, hard to follow, or just simply make no sense. Write the owner to directly confirm that the directions are accurate and ask if they have any tips for getting there (e.g. airport transportation, taking the bus or train, cost of a taxi, etc.).

See Also



2 Questions and Comments

  1. Airbnb, Booking.com, or Agoda for Bali

    We have a 2 week trip to Bali next summer (late July, early August). We would like to spend 3 to 4 nights in Jimbaran, Seminyak, Ubud, and somewhere in eastern Bali (yet to be determined). Is it better to use Booking.com (for hotel or villa) or Airbnb (house rental) for Bali?

    Thanks,
    Trev

    1. Santorini DaveSantorini Dave Greece, Italy, and Everywhere

      Airbnb does not have an overwhelming selection for Bali. And Airbnb works better for stays of a week or more. So, with that in mind I would go for booking a hotel or villa. Also, if location (especially on the beach) is important to you then hotels have most of the top spots in Bali. It’s hard to find an Airbnb rental with a beach-front location. That said – if you have the time, it never hurts to look.

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