Guide to Airbnb for first-timers

What is an Airbnb?

Airbnb is an online marketplace that connects people who need a place to stay (guests) with those who have space to rent (hosts). It’s essentially a peer-to-peer platform for short-term rentals, offering an alternative to traditional hotels. Here’s a guide to Airbnb.

What does Airbnb mean?

Airbnb literally stands for “Air Bed and Breakfast,” referencing the company’s origin of offering air mattresses in a spare room as an alternative to traditional hotels.

However, today, Airbnb has evolved far beyond its initial concept.

How to use Airbnb 

Step 1: Create Your Profile

Before diving into the search, craft an informative Airbnb profile. This acts as your introduction to potential hosts and helps them decide if you’d be a good fit for their property. Include a clear profile picture, a short bio about yourself, and any relevant travel experiences.

Step 2: Search

Finding your dream Airbnb is all about using powerful search filters. Here are the key filters to consider:

  • Price Range: Set a realistic budget that aligns with your travel goals.
  • Location: Search by city, neighborhood, or even specific landmarks to find a place that’s central to your desired activities.
  • Number of Bedrooms & Guests: Ensure the space can comfortably accommodate everyone in your travel group.
  • Property Type: Choose between private or shared rooms, entire homes or apartments, or unique spaces like cabins or boats.
  • Amenities: Narrow down your search based on must-have amenities like wifi, a washing machine, or a pool.

Step 3: Dive Deep into Listings

Don’t just rely on photos! A detailed description is crucial for understanding what’s included in your stay. Look for information about amenities, access to specific areas (like a backyard or balcony), house rules, and parking availability. Scrutinize the photos: a good number of high-quality images will give you a clear picture of the space’s layout and condition. If the photos seem limited, don’t hesitate to message the host for more.

Step 4: Read reviews

Reviews are a goldmine of information! Take the time to read reviews left by previous guests. They offer valuable insights into the host’s communication style, the property’s cleanliness and accuracy as depicted in the listing, and the overall experience you can expect.

Step 5: Communicate with the Host

The host is your gateway to a fantastic Airbnb stay. If you have any questions about the property, amenities, house rules, or local recommendations, don’t hesitate to message them.

Step 6: Understanding Cancellation Policies

Before booking, familiarize yourself with the host’s cancellation policy. This will outline how much notice you need to give and any potential cancellation fees you might incur if you need to change your travel plans.

Step 7: Booking and Payment

Once you’ve found the perfect Airbnb, booking and payment are conveniently handled through the secure Airbnb platform. You can use most major credit or debit cards to complete your reservation.

Step 8: Guest Verification

For added security and peace of mind, Airbnb requires guests to verify their identity through a government ID or social media connection.

By following these steps and leveraging the wealth of information available on the platform, you’ll be well on your way to booking a fantastic Airbnb stay. So, pack your bags, embrace the unique experiences Airbnb offers, and get ready to explore the world in a whole new way!

Airbnb Payment Methods

Airbnb accepts a few different payment options, but some of them are dependent on where you live. Payment options that are available worldwide include any type of major credit card, as well as pre-paid credit cards. Most debit cards can be processed using the credit option, too. Other payment options that are location-dependent include Apple Pay, Google Pay, and PayPal. If you are staying at an Airbnb in Brazil, China, India, Italy, Germany, or the Netherlands, you can check with Airbnb to see what other payment options are available to you. No matter which payment option you choose, you must understand that you will be paying for your Airbnb prior to your arrival. The money will be taken out of your account immediately instead of when you arrive to check in.

Before you make your reservation and provide payment, it is always an excellent idea to check out the cancellation policy of your potential Airbnb. Some hosts are more lenient than others when it comes to cancellations, while a few will not give you your money back unless you cancel well in advance.

This is a good time to check to see if you will be responsible for any extra charges before or after your stay. A few hosts will require a security deposit just in case there is any damage to the property during your visit. Others will require a cleaning fee at the end. There are not many times when you will receive a refund for your Airbnb rental. That is why you must take the time to do your research prior to booking a stay. However, there are times when everything looks amazing and you make the leap, only to find out things are not as they appeared upon your arrival.

Here are a few reasons when you might manage to get a refund from Airbnb:

  • An amenity that was promised to you within the pictures and listing is not there when you arrive.
  • The number of bathrooms or bedrooms doesn’t match the listing.
  • There wasn’t enough clean towels and bedding for the number of people on the reservation.
  • An animal was on the property and you were not aware of it prior to your arrival.
  • The Airbnb is unsafe, not clean, or is hazardous in any way.

Airbnb prefers that you resolve these issues with the host. However, if you cannot, you are welcome to contact them directly.

If you do not qualify for a refund, you can at least leave an honest review about the property and host on the Airbnb website.

Airbnb tips for guests

In addition to the tips provided above:

Understand the check-in/check-out time

Ask questions if you need to divert from those times before you book. Some hosts may not allow late check-out/early check-in or may charge a fee. Work it out before booking because it’s not like a hotel where you can change the day of your arrival.

Pay attention to the payment and cancellation policy.

When you book an Airbnb, you pay instantly. Cancellation varies per host. Read up on the different levels from flexible to super strict.

Download the Airbnb app so that you can communicate with your host as you travel.

This is especially key when traveling internationally and you need to communicate with the host. You can also look at other ways to communicate while abroad with your host. Most have the WhatsApp app, but the Airbnb app should be sufficient. For safety and tracking purposes, it’s best to communicate in the app.

Look up the best route and mode of transportation before arrival.

This is especially important for international travel. Check to see if the host has suggestions or transportation options. Our host in Havana arranged for a taxi to pick us up.

Check out the guidebooks for travel tips for different cities.

Airbnb has guidebooks for various cities and provides you with things to do per destination.

Fill out your profile in its entirety and complete the verification-verified tasks.

This will help hosts get to know you better and increase the chances of your booking being accepted. As I mentioned earlier, I struggled with booking an Airbnb in my hometown. I’ve never booked an Airbnb in the States.

Review the response time and rate of the host to get a good sense of their communication.

When you’re traveling or have questions before booking, it is always nice to have someone who is responsive.

Always Alert the Host to Issues that Come Up

You should always let your host know if an issue arises while you are staying at their property. This will allow them to fix it while you are there instead of reading about it in your review once you are back home. Most Airbnb hosts will do everything they can to ensure the happiness of their guests because they depend on the income. Plus, they love sharing their home with people from around the world!

Airbnb Reviews

My first attempt at Airbnb was an interesting one. I signed up and attempted to try a local Atlanta property for a staycation. Most responses included something along the lines of “not available” for one night or to people without reviews (history). I was a little turned off by the responses and became discouraged when I read about incidents where hosts discriminated against travelers.

I decided to give Airbnb another chance during my international trip to Italy. Using an Airbnb in Rome was significantly cheaper than hotels in Rome. The hotels were $ 250+ a night for a decent and well-located room, and I managed to get an amazing Airbnb for much less. I found an Airbnb property close to the Colosseum that was within my price range. Plus, I also received a discount for my first stay by using a referral promotion of $25 off. The total for 2 nights came to $251.

Guide to Airbnb
Our street in Rome

Here are a few photos from the property I stayed at in Rome. It was perfect for our needs (2 people) and right across from the Colosseum. Some of the photos are directly from the Airbnb website. I arrived late at night and it rained the whole time, so I was not able to capture great pics.

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One full bed

The host, Valenita, was very friendly and very patient. I enjoyed my stay, and the setup was a perfect base for us to explore Rome.  Here’s what I learned during my first stay that you can use to help you book an Airbnb. I felt safe during my Airbnb stay. Since my Airbnb stay in Italy, I’ve stayed in Airbnbs in both Paris and Havana. After Paris, I would not use Airbnb again. There were multiple issues regarding the hot waters for showers.

I am definitely more open to Airbnb now. It saved us a ton of money in Rome and Cuba, and I felt right at home. Check out more tips on Rome and Cuba! I hope you found this guide to Airbnb helpful!

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Guide to Airbnb for first-timers

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