The Ultimate Beginners Guide To Airbnb
Photo Credit: Airbnb

The Ultimate Beginners Guide To Airbnb

Airbnb is a booking website where one can book accommodation, for a short period of time, in many locations all over the world.

It is possible to stay at inexpensive shared accommodations in the heart of the city to magnificent villas overlooking the ocean vistas. These accommodations are typically a lot more affordable in cost compared to the majority of hotels. 

For that reason, it could explain why Airbnb has exploded over the past few years because of its value and ease of booking.

If you are new to the Airbnb experience or an experienced Airbnb traveler, this The Ultimate Beginners Guide To Airbnb will help you find the best accommodation possible in whatever destination you may be traveling.

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I need you to know that if you click through my link, no extra cost will be added to your final price just because I get a kick back. In fact, in many cases, you’ll probably get a discount for clicking through my links.

The Ultimate Beginners Guide To Airbnb – What Is Airbnb?

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Photo Credit: Airbnb Source: Airbnb.com

Airbnb is the middleman. People from all over the world rent out their residence or perhaps a bedroom, and Airbnb makes sure things are professional and they also provide the booking platform that you can do that on.

You will get value for the money. With Airbnb, you could get an entire home for the cost you might pay for just one room in a hotel. Plus, you get privacy which is very valuable. 

It’s nice as a full-time traveler to rent out an Airbnb and take a break from the hostel or hotel life. Every so often you want somewhere that feels a bit more like home – and Airbnb provides that.

Signning Up For The First Time

Creating an account on Airbnb is free, and it is relatively simple. To do so, you enter your name, email address, birthday, and a password. 

Airbnb also asks that you agree to treat everyone equally, regardless of race, religion, sex, or other factors. Once you agree, your account is active. You also have the option to sign up through Facebook or Google.

Use This Link for Airbnb with my link for $45 CAD off your first trip.

Airbnb needs to make sure you are a legitimate individual and that you are not simply going to rob a great deal of Airbnb’s. You have to make a user profile with all your details and validate yourself using a driver license or Passport. 

Remember, this really is to ensure you are a real individual! Your user profile is also for the host. They would like to know what sort of individual is about to rent their Airbnb.

Please make sure you fill everything out in as much detail as possible to increase your chances of being accepted by hosts. 

Research And Booking

 I want to show you how to research and book your Airbnb accommodations.

1. Pick your location and dates

You will need to know where in the world you are going and the dates so that Airbnb can show a list of the available properties on those dates.

2. Pick how many guests

Note that some properties have limitations on how many people can stay there if you’re renting an entire house.

3. Pick your house type

The great thing about Airbnb is you have a vast choice of options.  These options include just renting a room within a house or most of the time you can rent the entire house! 

If you want even cheaper accommodation you can find that by picking the shared room option.  If you are traveling with someone then you might be better to rent an entire house as that is usually cheaper and you get a private house to yourself.

4. You can also adjust the price to suit your budget

This way you only see the properties that you can afford!

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What To Look For In An Airbnb

Once you have found a few Airbnb’s that stand out to you, you should investigate them more.

1. Check the facilities

This is important!  If you need WIFI then make sure they have it.  Do they have parking on site?.  If you need to do laundry, then make sure there are appliances, so you can do that.  Whatever it is you need in a house, make sure they supply that for you! 

2. Check the check-in time!

Make sure that you can check in at the time you want.  Some hosts have limitations on when you can check in and it doesn’t always suit.  So, to save yours and the hosts time, make sure you check this before applying.  If it doesn’t say, then just ask the host when you send them a message when you apply.

3. Check the host

Make sure the host is verified and looks legitimate.  Although Airbnb checks that for you it’s still important to cover yourself.  The best way you can do that is by checking the reviews.  If they are new to Airbnb, then check their description and how often they respond.  If there is a no response rate, then that’s a sure sign they are probably not going to reply to you!

Once you have found a suitable property you can then send a request to the host for your dates you want to stay.  Sometimes they have a book instantly option where Airbnb will book instantly like other booking websites.  Other times you have to be approved by the host first.

If you have to be approved then make sure you leave them a nice message explaining who you are, why you want to stay at their property and that you’re excited to stay in their accommodation.  The more detail the better so the host can get to know you and you will have a better acceptance rate.

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I’VE APPLIED, NOW WHAT?

Now you wait!  The hosts have up to 24 hours to accept.  When accepted your card will be charged and your booking will be confirmed.

Once the host is accepted they will get in contact, so you can sort out the keys and where/what time to meet.  It’s that easy!

YOUR END OF THE DEAL

As an Airbnb guest, you must be respectful to the host and to his/her property.  After all, it is their house so make sure:

  • You don’t destroy or damage anything on the property
  • Be considerate of the neighbours, no wild parties
  • Don’t go using their food or looking in their private cabinets.
  • Treat the place how you would like your house to be treated, it’s as easy as that.

WHEN IT’S ALL DONE…

You will be asked to leave a review of the property and the host. Make sure you do this as it helps towards not only their ratings but yours as well.  Be honest and take the time to leave a thoughtful review.  Remember to say thank you to your host for letting you stay at their place and also remember to grab your Airbnb coupon!

Things To Watch Out For In Regards To Airbnb

1. Check your settings

The first thing you to want to do when you begin your search for an Airbnb rental is to make sure your settings are correct.

First, put in how many people you will be traveling with so you don’t book too many or too few beds. You may notice that the price may increase with the more people in your party. The big thing here is determining if you want an entire place, private room, or shared room.

2. Set the dates

This is your chance to set the dates you need. Many hosts will offer discounts for stays longer than a week, and if you’re staying longer than a month you may also see a discount. Airbnb automatically includes this discount in the final price.

3. Check the location

Many times when you start playing with prices and getting pickier with your Airbnb rental Airbnb’s website will automatically widen your location search. So, pay special attention to the map and location details of the places you are looking at so your rental is exactly where you want it.

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4. Decide if you’re okay with a cleaning fee

Many Airbnb hosts add a cleaning fee to their rental. I’ve seen cleaning fees range anywhere from $5 to $85 per stay. This one bothers me a bit, as I don’t like paying a $50 fee for a one to two night Airbnb rental. Longer stays are easier to justify a cleaning fee, and it all depends on the total price a night.

5. Make sure there are reviews

Just like buying a product off of Amazon, make sure there is at least 10 or more reviews on the location. 

But keep in mind that if it’s a new location added to the Airbnb system, you could find a gem to write about after your stay.

6. Read the reviews

If you have found a place with a lot of reviews, read all of them to make sure you are covered. Sometimes a negative review sandwiched between positive reviews can be overlooked.

The bad thing I’ve found about Airbnb is that the review system is a little manipulative. With Airbnb, you often have face to face interactions with the owner – which is great – but it means that people are less likely to leave bad reviews and notes when they should be made. It’s hard to meet a friendly person and then complain about things that should be noted.

Also, Airbnb gives the host the option to review guests it means that guests are less likely to complain when they feel they should. I ran into this situation recently where I wanted to complain about my stay, but knew the host would return a bad review of me afterward.

7. Look for a Superhost

Most of the times when I am booking an Airbnb, I switch on the “Superhost” function when searching. Superhosts have to maintain a high response rating, be an active user, glowing reviews, and never cancel on guests. Super hosts generally charge more for their status but you get what you pay for.

8. Check the cancellation policy

If you think there is any chance your trip could fall through try to book a place with a flexible cancellation policy. Many hosts have a non-refundable cancellation policy and if you book one of these and have to cancel Airbnb will not be on your side when it comes to a refund.

9. Message the host before you book

I like to message the host and tell them about myself, why I am traveling there, and any details about the trip. I am doing this to make sure the host is responsive and personable. It also helps answer any important questions regarding our trip.

Airbnb
Hector Cave House Santorini Photo Credit: Airbnb Click Picture To Learn More

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.

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Hector Cave House Santorini Photo Credit: Airbnb Click Picture To Learn More

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.

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.

I briefly went over this at the beginning of this post, but I just wanted to make sure you are prepared for your stay.

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. 
  • 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

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.

REMEMBER IT’S NOT A HOTEL

Most properties on Airbnb are not corporations, 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.’

HOW TO BE A GOOD GUEST

Water, electricity, and gas can be expensive so please respect any requests to turn these off when not in use.

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.

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:

  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 give 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 Airbnb Support Centre, where you are prompted to open a ticket.

REQUESTING A REFUND

Ultimate Beginners Guide To Airbnb – 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

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Photo Credit: Airbnb

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.

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

Airbnb Discount

Wondering how to get the Airbnb discount? Simply create an account with the link provided here.

Airbnb frequently changes the amount they discount for first-time bookings so you will have to check to see how much they are offering off this month!

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