If you haven’t stayed in an Airbnb yet, you need to give it a shot! It will change your travel habits for the better.
After using Airbnb for years, I couldn’t recommend it more highly. I’ve stayed in high-rise apartments in Buenos Aires, a hobbit home with a hot tub in Ecuador, a colonial mansion in Havana with to-die-for verandas… and everywhere in between. I’ve never had a bad experience in an Airbnb – Ever!
I’ve met some incredible locals using Airbnb, gotten some recommendations that have made my travel that much better, and definitely saved a ton of money over staying in hotels. Steal my simple but fool-proof tips to make sure your first experience using Airbnb is a great one!
1. Consider Different Types of Stays
Contrary to what many first-time users believe about Airbnb, the platform hosts more than just spare bedrooms for rent. You can truly find every type of accommodation on the platform these days (even Airbnb private islands!), with all degrees of privacy.
The types of listings you’ll find on the platform are divided into these categories:
- Entire Place
- Private Room
- Shared Room
If you’re interested in staying in a private room or shared room rather than an entire place, you’ll want to read the listing closely to see whether or not you’ll have access to a private bathroom or common spaces like the kitchen or living room.
Airbnb has even begun allowing certain hostels and boutique hotels to book using their platform, and I’ve seen multi-room homestays using the site for a while now.
All these options are perfectly fine, and I’ve stayed in most of them as an Airbnb user before – just make sure you know what to expect before you get there! You don’t want to assume you’ll have the place to yourself only to realize you have to share.
I always start by searching for all accommodation types in the area I’m interested in staying.
You may find a steal of a deal for an entire house even though you thought your budget would only allow for a shared room… it has happened to me before!
2. Check the Reviews
I only ever choose a rental that has at least 7-10 detailed positive reviews. The more happy customers who took the time to write a review, the better – especially when it comes to looking for an Airbnb.
Staying in places that have a good quantity of positive ratings and reviews has been one of the most important things that I think has allowed me to have such a positive experience on the platform. Don’t skip this step, and don’t fall in love with the pictures or price of a listing before you do!
Airbnb as a platform takes seriously the task of making sure that hosts and guests verify their identity and that the listings are described as they actually are.
However, I always like to rely on the experiences of others as an added layer of verification – more so than I probably would if I were staying in a hotel, eating in a restaurant, or anything else.
3. Check Prices on Other Platforms
Okay, does this recommendation defeat the purpose of this article? Recommending that you, maybe, book something that isn’t through the Airbnb platform?
Many hosts that rent properties on Airbnb (especially, I’ve found, in Cuba) also have their rental listings on sites like Booking.com or through booking partners on websites like TripAdvisor, allowing you to check rates listed on several different booking sites at once.
Not all do, but many do.
In my opinion, it is worth checking out the rentals listed on these properties as well to see if you can get more bang for your buck from these sites.
Even if you can’t find a better deal, you may be able to see other reviews, or users own photos, as well, which may be able to help you make a decision about where you want to stay.
4. Message the Host Before You Book
Most Airbnb listings tend to be quite detailed and complete due to the requirements of the platform, but you may still have questions.
Many users don’t know that you can send a message to Airbnb hosts they are considering staying with before they book a stay.
If you have any questions about the booking, are unsure about certain details, or need special considerations I recommend taking advantage of this option!
5. Know Your Check-in Procedure
In the same vein as my last recommendation, make sure you know exactly what you’ll need to do to check-in. If you’re traveling internationally you may not have internet or phone access to your host when you arrive, so it’s important you verify beforehand.
Will your host be at the door waiting for you?
Do you need a code for a keypad on the door?
Is the key under the mat?
Take care to get these details from your host prior to arriving!
Another good tip is to message your host again a few days before the reservation starts, just to go over any remaining questions or receive any information you might need for check-in.
I recommend asking your host for a local phone number, and make sure you have the exact address and any distinguishing exterior details about the place you’ll be staying.
Make sure you have the Airbnb app downloaded ahead of time to facilitate communication, but also, have these details saved in your phone as a screenshot for quick and easy access if you don’t have internet when you arrive.
6. Check the FINAL Price
Sometimes some Airbnb listings can be sneaky with their advertised prices, I have to say.
You’re likely to see a nightly rate before you click to the listing, but your total payment will include additional fees for cleaning, and fees charged by the platform as a portion of the room cost.
These charges can either be minimal, or they can blow your budget out of the water – it all depends on the listing. Make sure to plug in your dates as you’re browsing and look at the total cost before breezing ahead to check-out….you may want to keep searching!
Did you know that sometime it can be cheaper to book MORE nights in an Airbnb than you need?
Check out potential discounts that listings offer for staying a week or even a month – it may actually save you money to book out the space for longer than you need!
As a traveler I can’t gush about Airbnb enough… as I said, I have never had anything other than a dreamy experience with an Airbnb.
Staying in rentals has allowed me to have some incredible, more local, and connected experiences to places I’ve visited, and save a lot of money off of accommodation expenses as well, which has allowed me to travel longer and better.
Carley Rojas Avila is a bilingual New York-based travel writer, editor, content marketer, and the founder of the digital travel publications Explorers Away and Home to Havana. Carley is an expert on all things Latin America, the Caribbean, and Cuba, having lived and worked in four different countries in the region. Her writing has appeared on the Associated Press wires and in Travel + Leisure, Yahoo, MSN, Euronews, The Weather Channel, and more. When she's not writing about her travels, find her front row at a Bad Bunny concert, befriending street cats, and taste-testing every pizza in Havana.