I’m a big fan of Airbnb, as you maybe already know. Actually, we rented our 11th apartment recently in Paris. Sometimes when I read discussions about Airbnb I find people who weren’t happy about their choice and had bad experience. I think it’s mostly about the process of choosing the accommodation which destines whether you’ll be content with your pick or feel horrible after checking in.
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So I wrote up how my entire process of finding accommodation on Airbnb looks like and best practice I normally rely on. I hope following lines will serve as an inspiration for you and help you choose the best place to stay on your travels.
1. All or nothing
I always go for an entire apartment, never only one room. I like to have my privacy wherever I am and also, if I were okay with sharing my bathroom with some stranger I would choose free Couchsurfing to save some money. The second reason is, you never know what kind of a person the owner might be – there’s a chance you’ll get along very well but the chances also are you won’t. And I just don’t want to take the risk and ruin my trip because of it.
2. Gimme photos, yo!
I need to see a lot of photos before attempting a booking. Preferably high quality captures depicting every room in the apartment/house. I don’t know if it’s only our thing or if it’s something coded in our genes but for me and Nerd it’s always important to have a nice kitchen and a decent bathroom. (Until I tried Airbnb I wouldn’t believe what can be perceived as a decent bathroom!) Kitchen is the place where we both like to hang out in the morning with a coffee and tea, talk while adjusting that day’s itinerary and just enjoy those quiet moments before a day of exploration begins. I also prefer to cook instead of eating out at unknown (and sometimes pretty expensive) restaurants so a well equipped kitchen is a must. Lastly, a nice kitchen just adds to the whole ‘welcome home’ feeling I like to have when returning to the apartment after a day out.
And how about that bathroom? Well, one might argue that you don’t spend there much time which is true, but poor bathrooms (without a proper shower, with mould etc) just make me feel uneasy.
3. Details are uber important
Speaking of photos, it’s super important to be wary and look at them very closely. I have a thought that sometimes our eyes see what they want to see and that’s why on photos you can overlook things you couldn’t stand if you saw them in person. Also, it’s no secret that every owner and Airbnb in the first place wants to make their apartment look as pretty as possible with a use of photographic ‘tricks.’ I guess there’s nothing wrong about it, estate agents do the exact thing all the time and it doesn’t prevent us from buying or renting from them, right? (Also, I bet hotels do the same too)
Good news is, there’s something you can do to prevent disappointment. Look for photos that clearly describe each room (ie you can see more of the bedroom than just a bed table), be observant to details and think logically about distances. That little TV you see in the corner of the photo with a bed? Look, on another picture from a different angle it’s right next to the stove which means it will be a much smaller studio than it might appear on those flattering photos.
4. Tell me where you live… and maybe I’ll rent the place from you
Be careful which neighbourhood you choose to live in. On our very first trip together (and the first time using Airbnb) we ended up in the city’s red light district. Nothing bad happened fortunately and there was also a safer way to our apartment we could take even though it took longer. Otherwise we would meet hookers and junkies along the way which wasn’t a particularly pleasant experience.
But I’ve learned my lesson 🙂 It’s always good to google a bit about your chosen neighbourhood before booking a place. Another hack is also to have a look at the streetview. How does your house look like there? How about the nearby streets and close areas? Does it look dodgy or more family-friendly? Streetview will give you a much more realistic idea so don’t hesitate to use it!
5. Watch the lingo
In addition to a detailed photo examination be aware of the lingo owners use to describe their places. It’s akin to looking for a flat to by or rent out. “Cozy” may many times mean small, while “minimalistic” can be another description of “spartan.” “Trendy area” is sometimes used to describe a part of town where you normally wouldn’t want to live. Our first flat mentioned above was also meant to be in a ‘trendy neighbourhood.’ 🙂
6. What do others say?
Reviews, reviews, reviews. They are super important, any given time. If there is even one negative review I usually back out and look elsewhere. Sometimes you can even stumble upon owners that try to argue with their guests and prove their truth in the comments. That’s certainly not a type of a person I would like to be hosted by!
There are only a few exceptions when I would consider an apartment without reviews – when it’s an area where aren’t many other options and/or the listing looks very new. But even in those cases the flat must have at least great photos (everything well documented, no blurs or low quality pics), detailed description (preferably also a couple of lines about the neighbourhood – it shows the host cares about your comfort and wants to give you as much information as possible), they also have to be verified and have other reviews – either from other listings (if they have any – in that case I check them as well to see what kind of a person I’m dealing with) or their friends.
Some other tips for securing a nice stay:
- I always use Instant Book (if possible). It’s quicker than going through messages with the owner and if we both have positive reviews there isn’t much to worry about, right?
- Always leave a review after your stay. Give something back to the community and make it easier for fellow travellers to decide whether they should book the place. No need to lie or paint things too pink – if you have negative experience, write it clearly but politely and try to be constructive. My reviews are usually highly positive but that’s just because I spend a lot of time choosing the right apartment so I’m usually honestly happy with the place we end up at.
- Sometimes the algorithm which shows you available flats for a certain date range doesn’t work right and finds you those that aren’t available. Check the host’s calendar before hitting the booking button to save you some time.
- This one goes without saying but it’s worth noting anyway – get your profile verified (if you haven’t already) and always be kind, whether in communication or while checking out from the place. In other words, build a reliable profile that says how other owners liked hosting you. This will make future bookings faster and give you better chances to book the best places.
- Another one that should be clear enough without mentioning – if anything unpleasant happens, always be polite and deal with it responsibly. Whether it’s the fact that you’re running late because your flight had been delayed or you accidentally broke something inside the apartment. Of course it doesn’t happen every time but a glass may slip you on the floor, or something similar may happen. Don’t try to cover up whatever you did. Be respectful and honest with your host. In case you broke something, like a glass for example, it’s always a nice gesture to offer a replacement while you’re staying at the apartment. But the chances are the owner will tell you not to worry at all 🙂
Do you have your own tips & tricks to secure the best accommodation, either on Airbnb or somewhere else? What is the best place you’ve lived at during your trips? I’d love to hear from you!