What is an Airbnb accommodation?
Airbnb is a hospitality exchange venture. Travelers use it to find a lodging and hosts use it to offer some apartments, rooms, dorms etc. While Airbnb itself does not offer its own accommodations, it creates a platform for the people that need (travelers) and people that provide (hosts) ‘Airbnb accommodation’ in their homes or cities. So far it has over 3,000,000 lodging listings in 65,000 cities and 191 countries, in just 9 years!
Why should we use it?
We have used Airbnb many times in last few years (Thessaloniki, Milan, Reykjavik, Krakow, Bled, New York, Philadelphia, Freiburg, Nice, Volos etc). We love the concept of bringing the locals and travelers together. You interact with your local hosts on a daily basis during your stay. You can ask for recommendations, cuisines, cultural insights and what not. I love it when we stay at someone’s house in a new country. You get many hidden insights about the daily life of a resident from the decor, building styles, communication etc. By paying the locals, we are helping them and hence promoting responsible tourism. And believe me or not, contrary to what other people believe, it is cheaper than hotels. Do not get me wrong. I am not anti-hotel here. I understand it is sometimes easier with the full-fledged hotel management teams but I like the personal flavor Airbnb brings along 🙂
Types of rooms in an Airbnb
Before moving on to the booking section, let me first explain what are the three types of accommodation options that are available.
In this option, you rent an entire apartment/studio/bungalow. Your host does not live in the same listing. Usually, this option will be the most expensive. You can, of course, choose the size and budget of the listing. In most cases, you interact with the locals when you arrive at the property and exchange keys. They give you a short tour of how things work in the apartment and everything you might need during the stay. Hosts are then, mostly available via messages and calls if you need anything. I use this option the most as it is a perfect blend of interaction with the local hosts but still having my privacy.
In this option, you rent a room in host’s property. Hosts (or maybe someone else) stays in the apartment but you have a private room not shared with anyone. In these listings, typically you share the bathroom and kitchen with the host. Sometimes, host family provides you with home cooked meals even. Read the descriptions in the listings to see how a specific one works. I have never rented a room but my husband has. He didn’t mind it but as I mentioned before, when we travel together, we prefer renting the entire home.
In this option, you basically share a room at the host’s property. For example, if someone has a spare couch in their room, they might offer it to you. I would assume this would be the cheapest option. But again, I have never used this option.
Booking the Airbnb accommodation: Step by step
I am breaking down the steps to make the process easier and more understandable. It might look daunting in the beginning, but trust me, it will become more and more natural every time you book a new apartment. So, let’s get started!
Like how everything else works these days, first, register and create an account. (You can use my link and receive 30 euros (or equivalent in your home currency) towards your first booking. I will get the same amount 🙂 )
Choose city and date
Enter the city/town you want to visit and the dates of your travel. Similarly, add the number of travelers in the next option. As soon as you do that, the left side of the screen will show you all the available options. You can scroll/zoom the map on the right side of the screen to find the options in your preferred area. The apartment options on the left will get updated to show the options only in the current map view as you change the map.
Enter your preference (WiFi, type of apartment, etc)
Enter what type of accommodation that suits you the best. Would you like to have the entire apartment to yourself or are you more of a sharing home/room kind of traveler? It also depends on who you are traveling with. I personally go for the entire home option to have my privacy 🙂 Other than this basic preference, fill out all other things you are expecting from the apartment. Adjust the price filters (under the Price range tab). You can also add your requirements like WiFi, parking, balcony etc under the ‘More Filters’ tab.
Open interesting offers. Prefer Superhosts
By this time, the left panel of the screen is showing you the options with all your constraints. Use the ones that you like and open them in new tabs (by right clicking). Next to the apartment descriptions, the price and headline are mentioned. If the host is a ‘super host’, it will also be mentioned next to the description. Super hosts are basically hosts that have gotten amazing reviews in the past and offer all the basic services needed by an average traveler. In other words, they are the ‘ideal hosts’. I prefer them if I have that option in my budget limits.
Check the photos and read the description provided
Now when you have opened several options in the tabs, go through them one by one. First and foremost, check the photos made available by the host. Does it suit your style? Do you like the apartment? Does it have enough space? Check the bathrooms as well. Then go on to read the descriptions provided.
Check the refund options
This is a relatively new feature provided by Airbnb. Now you can get 100% refund for cancellation up to 24 hours before the trip. In past, they only provided 50 or less percentage of refund (excluding the service fees). Make sure the apartment listing obliges with it, like in the photo below.
Comments, reviews, ratings
Now comes the most important step: to check the ratings/reviews from previous guests. Also, pay attention to the breakdown of criteria. Read the reviews. What problem did people face? Was it the common problem with all the people staying? Pay more emphasis on the last 10 reviews. I usually prefer apartments with at least 15-20 reviews to get a better opinion of the place.
Read the house rules and description carefully
Go through the house rules and descriptions. Rules about cleanliness, neighborhood, key transfers etc are mentioned in the description.
Check what services are mentioned in the description. Do you need anything extra? Extra mattress? Towels? Shower gels? Pet-friendly?Always ask the host (by messaging them on the Airbnb platform: via Message/contact host) beforehand if they can provide it if it is not mentioned in the description itself.
Check the sleeping arrangements
One very important step is to check the sleeping arrangement while booking your dream Airbnb accommodation. This is especially important when you are traveling with more people/couples. For example, even when the listings mention that the place is sufficient for 4 people (or 2 couples), it might be that they have two beds in the same room. You should be able to see it from the photos, but if you missed it, check the sleeping arrangement under ‘The space’ section of the overview of the description. It should mention the sofa beds/real beds and the number of bedrooms, bathrooms etc. I find this very important when traveling with other couples/friends.
Check distance from points of interests
There is always a map near the end of the page where you can check the location of the apartment. It does not disclose the exact address unless booked but you can still get an estimate of the location. On the map, you can find the closest Metro/bus station. Otherwise, you can type the locality (mentioned in the description) in Google maps to find what does it offer. Cafes? Shopping areas etc?
Filter out the unnecessary tabs
Keep filtering out your options. If a certain listing does not fulfill your criteria, just close the tab and move on to the next one. Go through all the tabs deciding if this could be the apartment for you. If yes, leave it open and move to next, otherwise close it and move to next
Adjust the price range
I know you will say ‘But wait! We did it before already’. I know I know! But this time I am talking to people who didn’t find any ideal home after the previous steps. Then all you can do now is to revisit your budget and amenities constraints and look again (from step 4)!
By the end of this step, you should be able to sort out the preferred apartments. Now take a pick! Not all apartments will be the same. Some would be cheaper than others and some might have a better location. If you find everything perfect in a listing, go to the Step 15 already. Otherwise, try to find a sweet spot between all your conditions and go with it! I will recommend putting more weight on cheap price AND good reviews!
Check the dates again!!
We have all been there! Booking flights/hotels/tickets for the wrong date. So now will be the good time to check the dates again before booking anything.
Say hello and book it
If it is an instant booking option, your apartment will be booked immediately. If not, your request will go to the owner who has 24 hours to respond to it. In the meantime, write to your hosts (through contact host), introduce yourself, say hello and let them know how excited you are for the upcoming trip! Congratulations! You have successfully booked your first (or next) Airbnb accommodation!
A word of caution
Like everything in the world, Airbnb is not perfect. People always find ways to cheat the system. For your own safety, do not pay anything outside the Airbnb platform. No bank transfers, no cash payments, nothing! Sometimes the hosts ask for extra city tax, it is okay (only if they have mentioned it on the listing). But other than that, do not pay anything else before or after your trip, other than from Airbnb platform!
Notes on using Airbnb accommodation
Airbnb might be a business venture but it works well only because it is a community. Make the best of your trip but at the same time be responsible towards someone’s house.
- Keep it clean: Leave the apartment as you found it. I mean, we are all adults, we should know this by now. By the way, hosts also review the guests which can affect if someone hosts you next time or not. So be careful about it.
- Leave reviews: As others’ reviews help you choose the perfect place for you, your reviews can help others. Please leave your reviews after the visit. Airbnb will remind it to you many times as well.
- Make the most of your trip: The whole idea of Airbnb is cool because it brings locals and travelers together. Make the most of it. Ask for local recommendations! Restaurants, cuisine, offbeat spots, activities! Ask your hosts for suggestions. Most of the hosts actually have these lists prepared.
Interested in being a host as well?
You can also register on Airbnb as a host. Do you have a spare room or apartment? Register it on the website as well. It even gives you estimates of how much you can earn from the listing. Be a part of the movement 🙂
Few points before you do:
- It is a lot of work. Cleaning, washing, managing the keys, recommendations! So, please register as a host only if you have time/interest for this. No money comes easy!
- Please check with legal authorities (and/or owner of the apartment) beforehand if you are even allowed to do it!
So, what are you waiting for? Go and book your first (or next) Airbnb accommodation here!
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