8 Top tips for using Airbnb for the first time

Richard Mellor

Booking your first Airbnb stay can be a nerve-wracking proposition—so we’ve listed the key elements to look out for 

1. Destination flexibility? 

Some cities have much cheaper Airbnb stays than others. Your destination might be non-negotiable, but if you are flexible—or just geekily curious—the website Upgraded Points recently debuted an interactive map comparing typical prices in 250 global cities. 

 

2. Choose a neighbourhood 

Once that’s settled, do some destination research to settle on a chosen quarter. Cities, especially, have diverse districts, and where you’re based will wildly affect the experience you have.  

Especially key is proximity to the places you plan to visit—be they museums, bars, shops, souks or something else—or to public transport. How easy will the airport journey be? 

When you browse properties in a city, tick ‘Search as I move the map’ before zooming in on your desired neighbourhood to look exclusively at homes there. 

 

3. Decide on dates 

If you search based on specific dates, then every potential property will list its total price for that particular duration – so you have clarity from the start. 

Predictably, the best homes book up far ahead; advance notice also allows hosts more time to prepare for your stay—and arrange a few nights at their partner’s place for instance—and thus raises the odds of your request being accepted (see also Booking types). 

 

4. Use filters 

Airbnb excels at having lots of filters through which you can refine a search. Most important to decide is the Home Type: either a whole house or apartment to yourself, or a private or shared room. 

Now think about your specific requirements. How many bedrooms do you require? Is having a washing machine important to you? Or a parking space? Wireless internet’s a must, right? 

 

5. Photos  

Photographs provide an additional idea of spaciousness, style, light and lay-out, and are worth perusing.  

They also indicate how much effort a host is making. A few cursory snaps bode ill; lots of detailed views with captions are far more promising.  

 

6. Booking types 

Another filter to consider is if you want to limit your search to homes which offer an ‘Instant Book’ service – meaning that you can snaffle them on the spot. This is handy for last-minute enquiries. 

With homes available on a ‘Request to Book’ basis, the host gets to accept or decline your request to stay. That can take a day or two; it typically depends on availability (calendars aren’t always up to date) and whether the host likes the sound of your profile (see Peer reviews) or initial email. 

 

7. Review policies 

It’s also worth checking the host’s rules concerning check-in time, pets—also, if you’re allergic to cats, do they have any?—and smoking. Usually, these aren’t problematic. 

Is there a chance that your plans will change? Airbnb hosts can choose one of three standardised cancellation policies, from Flexible to Strict. The chosen policy is outlined on every home listing page. 

 

8. Peer reviews 

Here’s where Airbnb truly stands out, and the most crucial factor in allowing for confident booking. With users encouraged to review their stays (and hosts their guests), the good and bad quickly stand out.    

Read through recent reviews (if there aren’t any, move on). Do any problems recur? Is the host described as communicative, and definitely English-speaking? Are they all gushing? If so, that’s a very good indicator. Ditto a designated Superhost: someone highly rated, responsive and active. 

Look out, too, for instances of ‘The host canceled this reservation’. Extenuating circumstances can happen, but if there’s a pattern of this occurring, avoid the property. 

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