Five years ago, the word ‘Airbnb’ meant nothing to me – and I’m sure you could probably say the same. I know what a bnb is – obviously – but Airbnb? Nah sorry mate. Stumped.
But fast forward to today, and every holiday I’ve been on since 2015 I’ve used Airbnb (except skiing) – and I’d even go as far to say I’d be happy never to go back to staying in a hotel. Yep, you heard that right. I have three trips coming up this year, Copenhagen, Lisbon and Bruges, and beautiful (and cheap) Airbnbs have been booked for all of them.
Seriously though, some of the places you can stay through Airbnb are absolutely amazing – huge heated pools, hot tubs on roof terraces, secret fairy-lit tree houses – you name it, you can probably find it on Airbnb.
Now, it’s not hard to find somewhere great – just as long as you know what you’re looking for, do some research, and know some nifty lil tips to navigating round the website. Even if you don’t plan on spending a lot of time there, it makes a big difference having somewhere nice to come back to after a long day of exploring.
If you’re an Airbnb virgin (as my mum keeps on calling herself), or consider yourself a lil bit of a pro, here are some of the things I keep in mind when looking for the perfect place. Some of them may sound obvious – but I’ve been caught out before!
1- Host reviews
There’s nothing worse than booking an apartment and then reading the reviews other people have left to find out the host is rude, unhelpful, or was bending the truth in their advertisement.
Although this rarely happens, and from my experience the majority of hosts I’ve encountered have been super helpful, it’s always best to have a quick read through before you book. You don’t want to be left regretting your choice – even if the apartment itself is amazing – a bad host can turn the whole experience sour.
Read all of the information the host has provided on the listing. Don’t just assume that all places have wifi (spoiler alert: they don’t) or if you’re visiting a hot country, the same can be said about air conditioning. Make sure you know what you’re paying for and what the host is offering.
3- Which area of the city?
This is more important than you might think at first. Do some research on the surrounding areas of wherever you’re visiting – there’s probably a reason that beautiful listing is a lot cheaper than other less nice ones in different areas.
No matter how nice the apartment is, you’re not going to enjoy it fully if you’re worried about how safe the area is.
4- Refine your search using the advanced filters
Airbnb has thousands of listings in cities across the world – this is great, but can sometimes be a bit overwhelming when you’re looking.
Be sure to make use of the filters and advanced filters to narrow down your search and filter through those that don’t fit the bill. A good place to start is the room type option, where you can pick entire home, private room, or shared room.
5- Zoom in for more options on the map mode
This one I learnt through my boyfriend – who didn’t realise that more options become available on the map once you zoom in. Don’t be caught out like he was in settling for a crappy place because it seems like the options are limited.
Zoom in a little – a load more will pop up! Thank me later.
6- Read the information thoroughly to gauge what the host is like
Just as each Airbnb apartment is different – so is each host. Some will like to play more of an active role in your experience – one kind couple we stayed with when we visited Dubrovnik came and picked us up from the dock and dropped us back off when it was time to leave, and another came round with wine and fruit for us one night.
This is great if you really want to get to know the local people, as well as find out a bit more about the area – however it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. Some hosts are happy to leave you to your own devices. Make sure you read through everything they’ve written on the listing to figure out what kind of host they are, and find one that suits you.
7- If possible, message the host before booking
It’s good if you can message the host before booking anything just so they a) know you’re interested, and b) know a little bit more about your trip, how many people you’re travelling with and so on.
It’s also another opportunity to gauge a little more about your host. Do they reply quickly? Do they reply at all? If the answer is no – I’d probably avoid!
8 – Don’t forget about the extra cleaning fees and adjust your price filter accordingly
One of the more annoying things about Airbnb is that almost every host adds a cleaning fee on top of the usual charge for your stay. This can be anywhere between £10 and £50 (I’m really not sure how cleaning an apartment after a weekend stay can cost that much, but meh whatever).
This will always bump the pricing up at the end, so remember to put your budget down a little when choosing an apartment to factor this in.
9- Use Google maps too
Whenever I’m looking at places on Airbnb, I always have Google maps open on a separate tab to get more of a picture of the restaurants, pubs, and touristy opportunities in the local area.
10- Remember they are judging you too
Remember that, while you leave your host a review after your stay, this works both ways. You will also get rated by the host after your stay. They could give you a low rating for anything from being rude, to leaving the apartment a mess, or not following rules.
And this will have a knock on effect when you go to book your next stay – hosts will be less likely to accept guests with low ratings. So bear that in mind when you consider leaving those dirty plates in the sink!
Hopefully you’ve found these tips useful – I know I felt a bit clueless when I first started using Airbnb. But as with anything, practice makes perfect and I hope these tips will get you well on your way to becoming an Airbnb pro.
What other things do you look out for when booking an Airbnb? Leave your tips in the comment box!