New to Airbnb? Everything You Need to Know (Tips from a Former Superhost)

Airbnb graphic: how to stay safe, save money, and avoid scams. Tips from a former Superhost.

Are you thinking of using Airbnb for the first time? Curious but wondering what the whole thing is about? Want to try it but you’re put off by horror stories that you’ve read online? Worried about safety? Nervous about being scammed or ending up with a disappointing rental? This guide is for you.

As a former Superhost, I notice many people make the same mistakes or share common misconceptions about Airbnb. Armed with the correct knowledge, many of these worrying scenarios can be resolved or avoided altogether. Even if you’re a frequent Airbnb user, there might be some tips in here you’ll want to bookmark for later.

In this guide I’ll go over:

GOT A QUESTION? SKIP STRAIGHT TO THE ANSWER

Airbnb graphic: Is Airbnb right for you? Pros and cons of using Airbnb vs a hotel or hostel.

SHOULD YOU USE AIRBNB? PROS AND CONS

IS AIRBNB RIGHT FOR YOU?

What is Airbnb? Airbnb isn’t just an accommodation booking site, it’s a phenomenon that has changed the face of travel accommodation. Originally conceived to allow people to share space in their home, Airbnb has popularised the quirky apartment rental as an alternative to hotel stays.

Airbnb is not an accommodation provider. It’s an online peer-to-peer marketplace for renting short-term accommodation and hospitality experiences.

Remember though, you’re not renting from Airbnb – you’re renting from a person. Similar to buying something from Ebay, Etsy or Amazon Marketplace. Airbnb is just the booking platform, an intermediary.

Airbnb does offer some protection if things go wrong, but it’s a trade off of risk vs potential and you have to decide how comfortable you are with this in the context of your trip.

As Nomadic Matt says of the sharing economy:

“First, it’s not convenient. You’re dealing with people, not companies, and people have things pop up. Life gets in the way, so you can have encounter cancellations, delays, rejections, and odd meeting times. It’s not as simple as checking into a hostel or hotel or just buying a ticket for the train. You have to work around people’s schedules, which can often waste a lot of your day.”

As such, if you’re only in town for a short stay or have a lot riding on your trip, a hotel might be a better option.

Skip to: How to Protect Yourself if Something Goes Wrong

PROS

  • Greater range of accommodation options,  from couches to luxury villas and everything in between
  • The visual map search makes it easy to see at a glance what kind of accommodation is available in your desired destination
  • With its focus on hosting and hospitality, it can be a much more personal experience than a hotel stay
  • You can find many unique properties such as tree houses and boats
  • Better value than hotels for solo travellers, groups, and families
  • Provides accommodation options in cheaper and less popular areas, further away from tourist infrastructure
  • Provides the opportunity to connect with locals and experience life ‘as a local’
  • Apartment rentals can provide amenities more suitable for long stays (kitchen, parking) and more personal space than you would get in a hotel
  • The verification and review system works well to foster trust amongst users

CONS

  • Greater element of risk that you might not get what you’re hoping for as you’re dealing with an individual, not a company
  • Doesn’t have the convenience of a hotel or hostel with flexible check-in and dedicated staff to answer your messages
  • Not always as cheap as you’d think – there are various extra fees on top of the displayed price per night which can vary host to host
  • Lack of regulation – as with other services in the sharing economy, there’s grey area around taxes, insurance and legality
  • Controversy over its impact on property markets as locals are priced out of the area
  • The approval process allows for discrimination

I go into the last few points in greater detail in my post: Is it possible to use Airbnb ethically?

Airbnb graphic: New to Airbnb? How to sign up and use the Airbnb platform (including free travel credit when you create an account).

AIRBNB: A GUIDE TO USING THE PLATFORM

WHAT TYPE OF ACCOMMODATION IS ON AIRBNB?

Airbnb is famous for finding quirky apartment rentals, but you can find all sorts on the platform.

Listings are categorised into three types of accommodation:

  • whole apartment
  • private room, this is usually a spare room in the host’s apartment, a traditional B&B setup, or an apartment divided into separately-listed rooms
  • shared room (this might be a sofa or sofabed, airbed, or a dorm-like room)

Airbnb is now used as a booking platform by some professional B&B/apartment rental businesses but currently there is no way to filter listing by professional/amateur status.

NEW USERS – SIGNING UP TO AIRBNB

These are a few compulsory steps in the signup process that you must complete before you’re allowed to start booking on Airbnb:

Airbnb graphic: Click here for free travel credit when you sign up for an account

  1. Sign up using this link and you’ll get a discount applied to your first booking (the amount varies country to country you’ll have to click to find out!)
  2. You’ll be asked to verify your email using a link sent to your inbox
  3. Then you’ll be asked to verify your phone number using a code sent to your phone
  4. You must verify a valid form of nationally issued ID such as passport or driving license, by providing a photo of the ID and a photo of yourself. I completed this using the webcam on my laptop and was impressed at how smoothly it worked. The process is carried out by a third party, you can read more about the process over on the Airbnb Help pages.

WHY DOES AIRBNB NEED MY ID?

Airbnb requires your ID as an extra level of reassurance for the host and a deterrent for bad behaviour.

Think of it this way, do you feel safer staying at a stranger’s house knowing Airbnb has their ID on record? ID verification is a requirement for all new hosts.

“Trust is the fundamental currency of the sharing economy” – Airbnb

From the host’s perspective, attaching your behaviour and reviews to an official identity discourages rowdy and criminal activity. It can also help to prevent blocked users from signing up with a new account.

Don’t worry, your ID is not visible to your host or any other user. A lot of people think that Airbnb shares a copy of your ID with the host, but this is not the case. The host will only see the name on your ID (in case this differs from the name in your profile) and confirmation that your ID has been verified, which appears as a check mark on your profile like so:

Airbnb screenshot: verified info on profile

In the US a third party performs background checks using your ID, but this is not currently happening in Europe.

But is my data safe? That’s a different kettle of fish entirely. It’s not easy to find up to date information on this, and some people are understandably concerned about the third parties used for the verification process. Here are Airbnb’s official blurbs on security and privacy.

CAN I USE AIRBNB WITHOUT VERIFYING MY ID?

Previously ID verification was required, at the host’s request, on properties allowing Instant Booking only. But it seems Airbnb is moving towards compulsory ID verification for all bookings. It’s not clear whether Airbnb is asking for this on all properties yet.

CREATING A GREAT PROFILE

So you’ve completed the compulsory steps for creating an Airbnb account. But wait! That’s not all. The default booking process gives hosts a chance to approve or deny a booking request. This means you need to make your profile look as trustworthy as possible to future hosts. Think of it like a dating app for rooms. Would you right swipe somebody with no profile information, no photo?

“We approach trust as a “hierarchy of needs.” We believe, in order for you to trust each other, we must accomplish three things . . . Safety . . . Connection . . . Support” – Perfect Strangers: How Airbnb is Building Trust Between Hosts & Guests

Many hosts will automatically reject an enquiry from someone with no ID verification, no photo, and limited details on their profile. I know I would. It makes you look dodgy.

I highly recommend completing the following steps on your profile:

  • Link to your social media accounts. This adds a further layer of reassurance that you’re a real person.
  • Add a photo to your profile. This is separate to the photo requested during the ID verification process. Airbnb is moving towards making this required.
  • Write a nice description. Say a bit about yourself. Your future host is looking for hints that you’re not a complete weirdo. Pro tip: if you list your interests then you might just receive some tailored recommendations when you arrive!
  • You can also request references from people in your personal network – that is, people you know who are already on Airbnb. You can import your email contacts to find them. These references are particularly important when you’re new to Airbnb and don’t yet have any reviews.

Airbnb is pushing hosts to Instant Booking, and this puts the onus on the guest to demonstrate trustworthiness before booking (through the verifications) rather than the host interpreting it during booking. This is partly a response to the recent discrimination controversies.

Airbnb graphic: How to find your perfect Airbnb rental in Europe

HOW TO FIND YOUR PERFECT AIRBNB RENTAL

Airbnb’s visual search is a great way to get a feel for your options. Searching on Airbnb is as simple as entering your target destination, dates and browsing the lovely photos.

But keep your critical hat on. Fancy photos will have been taken by a professional with a wide angle lens, making rooms look bigger and lighter. Things are tidied, props come out. Read the listing description like you would a real estate ad (e.g. ‘cosy’ translates to ‘small’).

Use the Filters button to narrow down properties that meet your criteria. Airbnb will only show you listings available for the dates you enter, meaning no time wasted looking at unavailable properties.

SEARCH FILTERS

Consider what kind of experience you’re looking for and adjust the filters accordingly. Is privacy important to you? What about the vibe? Or are you just looking for the cheapest possible stay?

The Filters view will give you the chance to include/exclude listings based on:

  • Price range
  • Instant Booking
  • Superhost
  • Number of rooms/beds/bathrooms
  • Amenities (wifi, bedroom locks, hairdryer, etc.)
  • Facilities (parking, pool, accessibility)
  • House rules (smoking, pets, parties)
  • Language

Airbnb screenshot - amenities

If you have particular needs beyond what’s in the listing  (need your wifi to be a certain speed? specific kitchen and laundry facilities?) then scroll down to find the Contact Host button and drop them a message.

CONSIDERATIONS WHEN BOOKING A PRIVATE ROOM

Staying in a private room can be good value,  great fun and a way to meet people on your trip. But as you’re sharing space and facilities, it’s worth considering:

  • Is the bathroom shared or ensuite?
  • What’s the host’s attitude to communal areas (including the fridge!)? Will there be other Airbnb guests or housemates around?
  • Are there locks on the bedroom doors?
  • How much interaction with the host are you looking for?
  • How many listings does the host have under their profile? This can give an indication of whether they’re renting an empty room for spare cash, or something more professional.
  • Do the house rules clearly explain expectations around behaviour?
  • You can usually get a feel for the vibe by reading the description and the reviews.

Airbnb graphic: How to choose the right location for your Airbnb vacation rental.

LOCATION

Something to bear in mind is that Airbnb does not disclose the address of a listing until the booking has been confirmed, so it’s not possible to check the exact location beforehand.

Hosts and guests are not allowed to give out sensitive information until a booking is confirmed. This includes address and contact details.

This is to protect both parties from weirdos, and to stop people making offline arrangements. It means you can’t message a host asking for the address. If you try the platform will simply redact the details.

Airbnb screenshot - mapIS THE NEIGHBOURHOOD SAFE?

Good question. Although you can’t ask for the address, you can ask about time/distance to famous landmarks or the nearest public transport routes for clues. Does the listing, or any reviews, advise getting a taxi at night? Use the search function to scour reviews for key words. What do the previous guests mention about the location? If in doubt, ask the host. If you feel they’re not giving you a straight answer it’s probably not the rental for you.

WHAT IS A SUPERHOST?

Airbnb screenshot: host verification and reviews

A Superhost designation is a badge of quality for hosts. If you’re new to Airbnb then I recommend booking with a Superhost for your first stays.

Superhosts are assessed four times a year on a number of metrics: at least 80% five star ratings, response time, no cancellations. This means that – as well as good hospitality – the benefits of dealing with Superhosts include:

  • A quick response to your initial booking enquiry
  • Very unlikely to cancel your booking
  • Calendar will be up to date
  • Realistic listing description

However, don’t discount an otherwise ideal property for lack of Superhost status if it has a number of good reviews. Speaking from experience, it’s quite exhausting to maintain and there are many good hosts and listings that don’t have it.

If a host has recently cancelled a reservation you’ll see an automated message like this in the reviews section:

Airbnb screenshot: trip cancelled by host automated posting

Although there can be genuine reasons for cancellation, I’d treat it as a red flag, particularly during peak season.

HOW TO READ THE REVIEWS

Airbnb reviews are crucial to deciding on your booking. Here’s what you need to know about the review system:

  • Guests and hosts review each other within two weeks of the stay.
  • Neither party can see what’s written until both reviews are published or the time limit runs out.
  • Guests are reviewing the host as much as the property.
  • As such, people are unlikely to write a negative review unless something was really wrong. It’s awkward. So look out for lots of neutral reviews that don’t really say anything. Or listings with few recent reviews despite a busy calendar.
  • Online rating systems suffer from this weird kind of inflation. People by default dish out 5 stars unless something was wrong, in which case they leave a 1. Really bad listings are removed from the site. So the vast majority of listings have 4-4.5 stars, which makes it fairly useless as a tool to distinguish between listings. Everything is amazing!
  • Each listing is rated on: location, accuracy, check in, communication, cleanliness and value.
  • Superhosts must meet a % of reviews for completed bookings.
  • Future hosts can see the previous reviews you’ve left, so I don’t recommend leaving personal attacks or shouty rants.

WHAT IS INSTANT BOOKING?

Airbnb screenshot: Instant Booking thunderbolt

The little yellow thunderbolt symbol that you’ll see next to listings denotes properties you can book instantly, without going through the approval process. This is known as Instant Booking. You can adjust your search results to show Instant Booking properties only, though this will narrow your selection. Some hosts prefer to have more control over who stays at their property.

MESSAGING AND CONFIRMATION

Airbnb has a built in messaging system that you can use to get in touch with the host at all points of the booking process. This is particularly handy if you have questions about the listing.

It’s recommended that all contact with the host is done through the messaging system so that Airbnb has a record, in case the Resolution Center needs to get involved. In reality, many people switch to something like Whatsapp once the booking is confirmed.

AIRBNB FEES AND CHARGES

Airbnb sreenshot: Pricing subtotal example

Airbnb charges a service fee to guests of between 5 and 15%, which covers use of the platform and support services. It seems as though this fee is scaled down as the subtotal goes up. You may also see VAT added on if your destination country requires it.

A separate cut is taken from the money paid to the host for host service fees.

Any extra charges should be mentioned in the listing.

Hosts are able to set a cleaning fee which applies to the whole booking and is worked into the price you see displayed in the search results.

The total price can also change according to the number of guests. This can increase the cost substantially for larger properties. Hosts can set their own rules for infants and children so it’s worth reading the listing carefully if you’re travelling with kids in tow.

I don’t recommend misleading the host about the number of guests unless you fancy a call from the Resolution Center asking for that extra cash.

Want that free travel credit applied to your first booking? Sign up using this link:

Airbnb graphic: Click here for free travel credit when you sign up for an account

WHEN DOES THE MONEY LEAVE MY ACCOUNT?

Airbnb will take the full booking payment from you when you confirm the booking. The money stays with Airbnb until 24 after check in, at which point it is released to the host (minus the host service fees).

This is why it’s important to contact Airbnb within the first 24 hours if you have a problem with your rental. After the money has been released, Airbnb has less leverage to fix the problem.

Skip to: What if something goes wrong?

Airbnb graphic: How to save money on your rental. Tips on pricing, discounts, and negotiation.

HOW TO SAVE MONEY ON YOUR AIRBNB BOOKING

SIGN UP WITH A REFERRAL CODE

There’s one great way to save money before you’ve even booked anything and that’s to use this referral code when you sign up to Airbnb. A discount will automatically be applied to your first booking (over a certain amount, which roughly equates to one night in a cheap apartment or two in a private room). As a thankyou I get a little credit in my account too. That’s what I call a win-win! Here’s the discount link for you:

Airbnb graphic: Click here for free travel credit when you sign up for an account

SEND A FRIEND YOUR OWN REFERRAL CODE

Even better, once you’ve signed up you get your own referral code that you can send to friends and family.

If you’re travelling in a couple or group and staying at more than one Airbnb rental, this means your friend or partner can use your invite code to sign up and make your next booking and you both have some travel credit applied to your account. #winning

You can find your code through the Credit link in the menu or a message in your inbox that contains the relevant info.

Similar referral discounts apply for initiating business trips or inviting new hosts.

NEGOTIATING A DISCOUNT

Negotiating a discount is not the norm on Airbnb.

Relentless pestering for a discount will likely mark you out as a troublesome guest. Don’t assume that hosts are desperate for your cash. If you don’t book for the stated price, somebody else probably will. For many hosts, it can preferable to set a higher price and accept a lower occupancy.

Some hosts do offer weekly/monthly discounts for long term stays. If so this will be stated in the listing (see screenshot below for an example) and automatically applied to your booking.

Airbnb screenshot: extra fees on the listing

If you do decide to negotiate, be polite, stay flexible and find a benefit to the host to leverage. Awkward gaps in calendars? No recent reviews?

NEW LISTINGS

The best potential for a bargain is to find new hosts and listings that don’t have many reviews yet. Hosts will usually drop the price until they have a few decent reviews. You’ll be taking a chance, so exchange a few emails with the host first to get a sense of the vibe.

UNDERSTANDING PRICING

Hosts can set a base nightly price, and override this with weekend, seasonal, and custom pricing.

There’s also the Smart Pricing option, where Airbnb will match pricing to demand (within a range stipulated by the host).

In my experience, we would use Smart Pricing only when bookings were down, as anecdotally it gives the listing a boost in search results.

IMPORTANT – CANCELLATION POLICIES

Airbnb allows hosts to choose from three defined cancellation policies. It’s really important you check this before you book.

  • Flexible – full refund if you cancel up to 1 day before
  • Moderate – full refund if you cancel up to 5 days before
  • Strict – 50% refund if you cancel up to 1 week before, no refund if you cancel within one week of your booking

The host is under no obligation to refund you for a cancellation outside these terms, although it’s at their discretion. Also, bear in mind the host can see how many bookings you’ve cancelled in the last year.

If you need a more flexible cancellation policy then I recommend using Booking.com instead.

Airbnb graphic: How to avoid common scams and dodgy hosts

HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF FROM SCAMS

You may have heard scary stories about people scammed on Airbnb. Perhaps they turned up to discover the listing didn’t exist, was in a state of disrepair or didn’t look like the photos in the listing.

Remember you are dealing with people, not businesses, some due diligence is recommended before you book. But the following rules can help to protect you:

  • NEVER hand over cash outside the Airbnb platform. Not only are offline payments against the Airbnb T&Cs, but it means Airbnb can’t protect if something happens. Treat it as a red flag and report it to Airbnb – especially if there’s any mention of Paypal or Western Union.
  • Check the URL to make sure you’re on the secure Airbnb platform (https://www.airbnb.com, https://www.airbnb.co.uk, etc). There have been cases where people have followed fake links to fraudulent listings on clone sites set up to look exactly like Airbnb.
  • Scrutinise any emails that claim to be from the Airbnb system. Type the URL directly into your browser instead, and check your inbox within the platform.
  • Check for cancellation notices. An increasingly common tactic in popular destinations is to cancel a booking close to the trip and then relist the property at a higher price. There is an automatic notice which is added to the review section if the host cancels to help you spot these.
  • Book with Superhosts (see: What is a Superhost?), cancellations are unlikely as they will be penalised in the Superhost assessments.
  • Look for a steady stream of good reviews. A full calendar but patchy reviews could be a sign of guests unwilling to leave awkward reviews (or else the property is listed on other booking sites).
  • Look for Airbnb verified photos/listings. This means the official photographer has been out to visit the property, so you can at least be sure it definitely exists! There can be a long waiting list for the photographer services though, so don’t discount listings without it.

Check up more examples of common scams over at the Airbnb Support Centre.

A WORD ON SECURITY DEPOSITS

Some more expensive properties and long-term stays require a security deposit in case of damages. This should be mentioned in the listing. Your payment details are recorded but not charged, and if the host makes a claim within 2 weeks of your stay the Airbnb Resolution Centre will mediate and take the payment.

My host has asked me for extra money to cover the security deposit – should I pay?

Not in cash, and only if it was mentioned up front in the listing. Any security deposit should always be paid through the Airbnb platform.

My host has asked me for extra money for local taxes – is this legit?

Any additional charges are required to be mentioned before booking, either in the listing or in a message thread. Currently, there are only a few locations in the US where Airbnb collects occupancy taxes directly from the guest. City taxes of €1-2 per night are common in European cities. Realistically they are often paid in cash on arrival, but you can request to pay the host through the Airbnb Resolution Centre which has a tool for collecting/sending money.

What if my host asks me for a copy of my passport details – is this a scam?

Don’t be alarmed.  In most countries in Mediterranean Europe accommodation providers are required to register guest details with the local authorities or keep a record for tax purposes.

My host has double booked the property and has asked me to move to a different one?

This is annoying, but it very occasionally happens for a legitimate reason. If you’re not happy to move to the alternative provided then call Airbnb to involve their resolution team.

Airbnb graphic: Airbnb newbie? What to expect on your first stay. Tips on etiquette, house rules, common mistakes.

WHAT TO EXPECT ON YOUR STAY

If you’ve never stayed at an Airbnb before it can be hard to know what to expect. Here are my top tips to help your first stay go super smoothly.

ARRIVING AT YOUR AIRBNB

Have a plan to get to your accommodation, nobody likes being lost and late in a strange city.

This is SO much easier if you have data on your phone, but if not there are a few steps you can take in advance to reduce the stress.

  • Write the address down – in the local alphabet if it differs – just in case the taxi drivers don’t speak English or understand your pronunciation.
  • Store the host’s telephone number in your phone
  • Save the listing address offline on your phone in case you don’t have data.
    • Star the address in your Google Maps to save it, and download the map offline by entering OK Maps in the search field
    • Or use the app Maps.Me for offline maps
  • Arrange a way to keep in touch with your host in case you get lost. Be courteous and let them know if you’re running late.

HOUSE RULES/AIRBNB ETIQUETTE

Should you take the bins out? What should you do with the bed linen at the end of the stay? Can you help yourself to coffee? What about the food in the fridge?

The house rules should give an indication of what to expect. If in doubt, a quick message to the host should clear it up. The general rule of thumb is to treat it as you would your best mate’s house.

  • There is no daily turndown service unless specifically mentioned, so if you require extra cleaning or linens mid-stay then contact your host and expect to pay extra.
  • Be courteous with regards to noise, mess, neighbours, parking.
  • Tidy up after yourself and leave it easy for whoever is cleaning.
  • Clarify any rules around garbage/recycling if it’s not clear in the house rules.

COMMON MISTAKES PEOPLE MAKE WHEN BOOKING AN AIRBNB

Many of the grievances I’ve seen could have been easily avoided or quickly resolved. Hosts are usually at pains to put information in the listing to avoid bad reviews. Do yourself a favour and read the whole listing before booking to make sure the rental is aligned with your expectations and avoid any nasty surprises.

The main points to check before booking:

  • house rules
  • cancellation policy
  • check-in time
  • amenities
  • communicate any particular needs to the host

REMEMBER IT’S NOT A HOTEL

Most properties on Airbnb are not professional lets, and most hosts have day jobs and busy lives. This can result in a bit of a grey area in terms of expectations.

On one hand, you’re  a guest in someone’s house, on the other, you’ve parted with cash. Consideration on both sides is the key to a happy stay.

Remember you’re probably staying in a residential area, and standards may be different to what you’re used to at home or in accommodation purpose built for tourists, particularly with regards to building standards and utilities. In older European city apartments, this can mean small rooms, dodgy looking wiring, damp and thin walls, electric hobs and hot plates.

This is the reality of the Airbnb motto ‘Don’t just stay there. Live there.’

Oh, and church bells can be loud.

HOW TO BE A GOOD GUEST

Water, electricity and gas can be expensive relative to income in some countries in Southern Europe so please respect any requests to turn these off when not in use.

Being in a residential area can mean access to cute local bakeries and a unique vibe, but it also means respecting your new neighbours.

Be considerate of local customs. As well as piping down at a reasonable hour at night, in some Mediterranean countries it’s common for people to take a siesta in the heat of the day. Folks will appreciate it if you keep noise to a minimum during these hours.

Airbnb graphic: What to do if something goes wrong on your trip. Cancellations, support, and refunds.

WHAT IF SOMETHING GOES WRONG?

IS AIRNB SAFE?

Your Airbnb experience is as safe as the guest and host on either side of the rental agreement, so choose carefully. Additionally, Airbnb does protect your money for the first 24 hours and has a Resolution team to sort out any issues.

In all likelihood, your trip will be amazing. But with a vast number of bookings taking place every night, there’s bound to be the occasional hitch. Make like a boy scout and be prepared.

Is the host verified? Are you happy with reviews and the information in the listing? Have you double-checked that you’re using the secure Airbnb site?

Here are a few extra precautions you can take on your trip:

HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF IF SOMETHING GOES WRONG

  1. Book on your credit card for extra protection.
  2. Buy your travel insurance before making any bookings, it might cover you in certain situations that fall outside the Airbnb refund policy.
  3. Save the Airbnb support number into your phone (see below).
  4. Save telephone numbers for local police/taxi firm into your phone before your trip.
  5. It may be worth noting down a nearby hotel/hostel in mind, just in case.
  6. Give the address to a friend/family member so someone knows where you are (tip: you can do this through the Airbnb platform if they are also a member of your personal network).
  7. Perform a quick check of the property when you arrive and raise any issues immediately. Trust your gut instincts.
  8. If there are issues, take photos as evidence.
  9. Call Airbnb as soon as possible if something is wrong.
  10. If you feel the listing on Airbnb was misleading, make sure to screenshot the relevant part of the listing before raising an issue with the host in case they change it retrospectively.

CANCELLING BEFORE YOUR TRIP

If you cancel your booking before your trip takes place any refunds are subject to the listing’s Cancellation Policy.

Hosts can choose from three different levels of Cancellation Policy (see: What is Airbnb’s Cancellation Policy). I can’t stress this enough – check that you’re happy with the policy before you book.

If your cancellation falls outside the time allowed in the policy then the host is under no obligation to refund your money (although it doesn’t hurt to ask nicely).

What happens if my host cancels before my trip?

If your host cancels within 4 weeks of your booking you can either request a refund or transfer the money to a new booking. If it’s very close to your trip and you’re having trouble finding a replacement I recommend giving Airbnb a call, they might be able to help.

ISSUES DURING YOUR TRIP

If you have a minor issue during your trip (a listed amenity missing? wifi not working? kitchen is a bit dirty?), always give the host an opportunity to sort it out first. Mistakes happen, sometimes previous guests don’t report issues, and everyone has an off day occasionally. Most hosts would rather solve an issue than score a negative review.

But remember, you’re in a stronger position to get an issue resolved during the first 24 hours, whilst Airbnb still holds the reservation money.

Communicate this via the Airbnb messaging, it may feel awkward but it means Airbnb have full visibility if you later escalate the issue.

If you feel the listing has been misrepresented, take photographs and call Airbnb as soon as you arrive.

HOW DO I CONTACT AIRBNB?

It’s notoriously difficult to find a telephone number for Airbnb, as the platform directs you first to their warren of Help pages and the Resolution Centre, where you are prompted to open a ticket.

Thankfully, this site has a list of the support numbers for each country.

I’ve always dealt directly with the US San Francisco support team who have always been wonderful (so you might want to save their number into your Skype account).

REQUESTING A REFUND

Any requests for refunds are best made over the telephone (use the site listed above to find the number).

Before you call, it’s worth reading Airbnb’s Refund Policy. This covers the following situations:

  • booking is misrepresented
  • booking is unsafe or unclean
  • animal present not mentioned in the listing
  • host fails to provide reasonable access

Know what you want before calling. A refund? Assistance finding alternative accommodation?

Whatever you do, don’t wait until after your trip to complain. Their refund policy explicitly states ‘contact us within the first 24 hours of check in’. Gather as much proof as possible.

The longer you leave it, the harder it will be to reach a resolution that you find acceptable.

The policy also states that you must ‘Have used reasonable efforts to remedy the circumstances of the Travel Issue with the host prior to making a claim, including messaging your host on Airbnb to notify them of the issue.’

LEAVING A NEGATIVE REVIEW

All the reviews that you write are attached to your profile. Future hosts will be able to view these, so make sure any negative review is reasonable and informative.

Equally, if there’s something you feel future guests should be aware of then do mention it in the review.

Note: Previously, you could only leave a review for completed trips. This meant that users were missing some pretty vital information on cancelled trips. At the request of regulators, Airbnb has recently updated the system so that trips cancelled by the host are visible on in the reviews section.

 

Got a question not covered by this guide? Let me know in the comments below and I’ll answer if I can.

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22 Comments

  1. September 2, 2017 / 5:41 am

    A really comprehensive guide, I’ve been put off airbnb for on reason or another but may give it a try using this resource thank you

    • September 6, 2017 / 9:52 am

      Thanks Amanda. FWIW I think Greece is one of the best places to try it – Greek hospitality and Airbnb are a match made in heaven!

  2. September 2, 2017 / 9:57 pm

    Wow, what a comprehensive guide! I like Airbnbs and always compare them against hotels for trips, but the ethical issues are making me more conscious about it.

    • September 6, 2017 / 9:55 am

      Yes, same here. Let’s hope Airbnb addresses some of the issues over the next few years as it can be a fantastic way to travel.

  3. September 3, 2017 / 12:19 am

    This is an amazing resource! I’ve used Airbnb many times over the years and absolutely love it. It saved our budget this past year when we travelled for 13 months. It’s so lovely to stay in someone’s home with a kitchen and local recommendations.

    • September 6, 2017 / 9:49 am

      The local recommendations can really make the experience 🙂

  4. September 3, 2017 / 4:08 am

    Wow, you put your all in this post. I have never booked anything in Airbnb. The main reason is price. I have taken a look at the site but it does not beat the hotel prices I find. The other thing is that I stay 3 or 4 days in cities and we are only two. I can see having a rental for a longer time or when there are kids in the family. I have stayed in rentals but I have found them in Booking.com. Have to admit it feel incredible to have an entire apartment for yourself.

    • September 6, 2017 / 9:48 am

      Thanks Ruth! Yes, I think in popular destinations the days of finding a cool apartment for less money than a hotel are long gone. But it may still work out cheaper if you’re travelling in a bigger group or on longer trips where you can save on eating out.

  5. September 3, 2017 / 8:41 am

    We haven’t used Airbnb as extensively as others, so we’re still a bit new to it. I loved how in depth your article went: it gives real tips, and I hadn’t thought of most of these things you mentioned! We will use Airbnb in Tuscany for a trip in November, now I know what I will have to look for and I’m sharing it with my friends because I know they’ll find it just as useful! Thank you very much!

    • September 6, 2017 / 9:43 am

      Thanks Dany, I’m glad there is some useful info in there for you. My #1 tip is to put the Airbnb contact number in your phone before you go, so you can relax and have a great time in Tuscany!

  6. September 3, 2017 / 9:51 am

    I love Air B n’ B and this is an amazing guide to everything to need to know about it. Do you prefer accommodations such at this, or hotels?

    • September 6, 2017 / 9:37 am

      Thanks Lindsey. I travel solo so prefer accommodation which has a social aspect – usually a combination of flashpacker hostels, guesthouses, or private rooms on Airbnb. It depends on the destination and the reason for the trip though.

  7. September 3, 2017 / 11:47 am

    Wow this is so informative! I’m new to air bnb and have only used it twice, so this post is really useful for me! Although it’s true that air bnb isn’t quite as easy as just checking into a hostel, I am really impressed with air bnb so far and I can’t wait to use it more on my upcoming travels, and I will bear in mind all your points above! Thanks for sharing this post 🙂

  8. September 3, 2017 / 3:04 pm

    This is the most thorough guide I have ever seen! Would totally share it with other Airbnb Newbies.

    Airbnb is great when things go right. When things go wrong… not so great. Sigh.

    • September 6, 2017 / 9:38 am

      Oh dear, sounds like you’ve had some trips gone wrong!

  9. September 3, 2017 / 3:11 pm

    This is an awesome guide! It pretty much covers everything you need to know. I love using Airbnb but I’ve never hosted. I’d be interested in hearing more about your experiences as a super host!

    • September 6, 2017 / 9:29 am

      Thanks Kimba, I might cover this in an upcoming post.

      Hosting is so much fun, I’d definitely recommend giving it a go for a while. As someone who loves meeting new people whilst travelling, it’s great having them come straight to your house! I made some great friends and met a lot of really cool people from around the world. It’s a slightly more varied crowd than the people you meet in hostels, and I found it very rewarding helping them get the most out of their trip.

      The main downside is the admin and communication which can take up a lot of time. To keep Superhost status you have added pressure to respond quickly and keep your stats and reviews up. After a while, the little app notification sound started to make me twitch a bit every time I heard it! And if you’re sharing your space it can be draining to have people in your house all the time so it’s best to book out some time for yourself every now and then.

  10. September 3, 2017 / 5:23 pm

    Really interesting info! I would’ve never thought to negotiate… I always assumed it was a take it or leave it kind of thing. I really like your photos and the graphics of your post – super beautiful! Glad to have found your blog 🙂

    • September 6, 2017 / 9:09 am

      Thanks Christie 🙂 I think negotiating is more common for long term stays – I see it discussed in digital nomad scenes. But as a host, it would immediately make me think ‘nope’.

  11. September 4, 2017 / 2:44 am

    This is such a great detailed guide, thank you! Luckily, I’ve had positive AirBnB experiences thus far, but friends and family have had a few negative stays – which is why this guide is so necessary and helpful! Will definitely be referring back to this article for reminders and tips when it’s time to book again in the future 🙂

    • September 6, 2017 / 9:06 am

      Thanks Miranda. I’ve been lucky with my Airbnb experiences so far too, but I like to be prepared!

  12. September 12, 2017 / 2:15 pm

    I personally love Airbnb – this is a great guide for starters! Super helpful.

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