One of the best ways to have an authentic stay while traveling is to book a room or apartment from Airbnb. Airbnb is an online marketplace for short homestays and experiences. Locals list a room or apartment on Airbnb for travelers to book. Visitors can have a more personalized, home-feeling stay and get local tips for their stay.
Airbnb is suitable for travelers looking for an authentic experience while traveling because it gives travelers various accommodation types at varying price points. Airbnb has over 2.9 million hosts worldwide, so you will likely find what you are looking for almost anywhere in the world. However, it’s not without its own flaws.
Airbnb has received some negative feedback in recent years for inflating rental markets in large US cities and offering subpar accommodations across the board. High cleaning fees and other hidden costs are common when using Airbnb. There have even been some horror stories of guests being locked or kicked out of their rented accommodations.
Let’s get into the pros and cons of Airbnb and see if it’s worth using on your next trip.
Pros and Cons
- Convenient and easy to use
- Wide variety of accommodation types
- Flexible policies
- Free to use
- Offers experiences and accommodations
- Potentially problematic for local rental markets
- Potentially dangerous or inconvenient for travelers
- Hidden fees
What is Airbnb, and how does it work?
Airbnb is an online marketplace where hosts post their rental properties, and users can rent them. It is available as a website and an app for Android and iPhone. Travelers can browse various types of properties worldwide and request to stay or book immediately in some cases.
Types of accommodations
With Airbnb, there are plenty of different types of accommodations to choose from, which is one of the aspects that makes the platform attractive to travelers. Here are some common types of accommodations you’ll find when using Airbnb.
Some hosts choose to rent single rooms in their own homes. If you say in a single room, you can expect the host to be present in the house with you, but usually, the room has a lock on the inside and outside of the door for extra security.
This accommodation type is sometimes subject to strict check-in/ out policies due to the host being home. Some single rooms come with an ensuite private bathroom, and some don’t, so checking the listing thoroughly before booking is essential.
In recent years it has become popular for hosts to rent out each room on the property and stay off the property themselves. If this is the case, it’s important to be prepared to share the common spaces with other renters.
Some hosts will rent entire units or apartments on Airbnb. This can be a host’s apartment in a home or an apartment unit in a building. Buildings are becoming increasingly irritated with Airbnb and have often created policies stating that tenants will not rent their units on Airbnb. If you are booking a unit in a prominent condo building, research that building’s tenancy policy to ensure you don’t encounter any issues with your stay.
Entire apartments often come with all the amenities in a suite-style hotel room, like a tv, coffee maker, private bathroom, and living room space. Some hosts keep food in the units for guests to make their own breakfast.
In some cases, hosts will rent their entire multi-room home on Airbnb. This is an excellent option for big groups of friends or families traveling together. Guests will have access to the whole house and property during their stay.
Most hosts will only rent their homes to people who have previously used Airbnb and have good reviews due to liability issues. Often entire homes have rigorous cleaning and check-out instructions to follow that incur hefty fines if not followed.
Airbnb has one of the best selections of unique accommodations compared to the other top hotel booking sites. Here are some examples of truly unique accommodations you can find on Airbnb:
- Cottages and Cabins
- Tiny homes
- Shipping container homes
- Yurt, Teepee, Dammusi, Ryokan, Minsus, Cycladic, Trulli, and other culturally specific homes
- Historic homes
Airbnb has lots of great features on its website to help you search for the perfect property.
Airbnb has convenient property and experience type filters right at the top of the website, so you can search for any type of property you are looking for. To further refine this search, add dates, amount of guests, and location in the regular search bar. You can also filter by price, number of rooms, amenities, type of property, and more!
When searching in a specific city, search by map to get the perfect location.
How do I use Airbnb for the first time?
Using Airbnb can be intimidating if it is your first time renting someone else’s home, but it is quite simple. Here is how to use Airbnb for the first time:
- Sign up for Airbnb using your email
- Create your profile. Make sure to upload a clear profile picture and fill in details about yourself to help potential hosts get to know you better.
- Verify your identity.
- Begin searching for accommodations in your desired city.
- Once you find a stay you are interested in, click reserve. Sometimes, the host may have to approve your stay, but this should only take a few hours.
What happens after I book?
After you book, whether it was an instant approval or your host has confirmed your stay, you are ready to pack your bags! The host will send you a message with the full address and check-in instructions.
Check-in is one of the most complicated things to get used to when using Airbnb for the first time because it varies with each host. Sometimes the host will be there to greet you and give you the key upon your arrival, although this option is becoming less popular in favor of keyless check-in.
More often than not, the key to the home will be in a lock box near the door, and the host will give you the lock box code closer to the date of your stay. If there is no lock box mentioned in the posting, the host likely has a keypad handle on their door. In this case, they will give you the code for your stay the night before check-in.
If your host is there to greet you, they will go over the house rules and how things work in person. If your host is not there, there will likely be a physical house manual for you to review or a digital manual under your booking in the Airbnb app.
Be sure to follow the host’s instructions on where to leave the key (if any). Someone might come so you can hand it over or you might be able to simply leave it somewhere. A good gesture is to clean up after yourself and not leaving trash lying around.
What should I know before staying in an Airbnb?
Guests using Airbnb should know their rights as a renter and have read Airbnb’s policy as well as the policy and procedure for any unit they rent. Airbnb, as a company, is notoriously hard to get a hold of in case of an emergency and often favors the host regarding issues.
If you have an issue with your unit, document it fully with pictures, videos, and text conversations with the host.
What else does Airbnb offer?
Airbnb now offers experiences where locals can list a type of tour in their city. Often times experiences cover touristy areas in a specific city, like a walking tour, but sometimes hosts offer unique one-of-a-kind experiences, like a cooking lesson in their own home.
You can book experiences through the Airbnb website or app, and the host will message you a time and place to meet for your experience on your day of choice. In my experience, this is a great way to see a city like a local would, without the tour guide feeling. It feels more like a friend is showing you around. Great for tour-reluctant travelers like me!
Airbnb vs Hotel vs Renting
Airbnb’s are individually owned and operated units, each with its own unique rules and regulations. It acts as a third-party platform for people to list their units and guests to rent them. Airbnb does not own any units.
What’s the difference between Airbnb and a hotel?
All rooms in a hotel are owned and operated by the hotel, with uniform rules and regulations across individual hotel chains. Some independent hotels have slightly different rules and limitations but mostly follow the same script.
What’s the difference between Airbnb and renting?
Renting an entire apartment requires a lease that is drawn up by a landlord, and usually lasts from 6 months to a year. Rent is then paid monthly to the landlord instead of nightly like a hotel or Airbnb.
How long can you stay at an Airbnb?
Airbnb has listings allowing short- and long-term rentals, anywhere from one night to multiple months. Be sure to check each listing to see if it is short- or long-term.
What are Airbnb fees for guests?
Guests have to pay various added fees when booking an Airbnb, and exact amounts vary by host. Airbnb charges a service fee appropriate taxes, and hosts charge an additional cleaning fee on top of the nightly rate. These days, more often than not, these fees are quite high and might make renting Airbnb more expensive than hotels.
Do I need a credit card for Airbnb?
Yes, you must have a valid credit card to rent an Airbnb. Visa gift cards or Visa debit cards won’t work.
Is Airbnb bad for the rental markets?
Airbnb has been reported to be a huge factor in rental prices skyrocketing. The housing demand is inflated by the supply of units being rented on Airbnb instead of being rented to long-term tenants. This increases the cost of units significantly, making it harder for long-term renters to find a place to live.
This is especially an issue in major cities worldwide as high prices push working-class people out of cities. This isn’t so much of a problem in rural areas where hosts are renting their cottage or second home.
Does an Airbnb Host stay with you?
Sometimes, the Airbnb host will be in the same home as you but not in the same room. If you see a listing that is not an individual room with a lock, report it to Airbnb.
Is breakfast included in Airbnb?
In my experience, most single rooms don’t include breakfast, but in a few cases, I have had a host make me breakfast. Be sure to check the listing to see if breakfast is included!
What is the cleaning fee for?
The cleaning fee on Airbnb is so the host can deep clean the unit after it was rented. It is up to the host to choose how much to charge so cleaning fees can range from $20-$200.
Is it cheaper to use Airbnb or a hotel?
In the past, Airbnb was a great option because it was cheaper than hotels. This has not been the case in recent years with increased cleaning and service fees and general price hikes. In my experience, it’s about a 50/50 chance you will find a hotel room that is cheaper or similar in price to an Airbnb.
Is Airbnb safe?
Yes, despite horror stories of rentals gone wrong in the media, Airbnb is generally regarded as safe. I have been using Airbnb for seven years and have never had an issue.
My personal experiences aside, guests have reported some safety issues like broken or malfunctioning door locks and even hidden cameras in the rooms. Another safety issue for women travelers is hosts can list places in their homes with no doors or locks, like a living room or den.
If you’re going to travel alone and are concerned about safety, ask first before you book. Some accommodations might provide auto-locked doors without any lock mechanism inside so hosts can enter whenever they want even when you’re inside. That is not good either.
Are you supposed to clean an Airbnb?
Some Airbnb hosts will ask you to remove bed sheets or place towels in a laundry basket, but generally, there should be little to no cleaning done by the guest. If you have made a huge mess, it would be a good idea to clean it as best you can to avoid extra cleaning fees. Check each listing individually to see each host’s cleaning policy.
Can you book Airbnb for a few hours?
Airbnb’s are unavailable for hourly use, although you can pay for an entire night and not use it for the full allotted time.
Can you book Airbnb and pay later?
Airbnb has various options for payments when it comes to booking. You can pay a specific amount upon booking, and the rest will be charged to your credit card at a later date, or you can choose to pay the total amount upfront.
Can I pay for Airbnb with cash?
No, Airbnb does not accept cash. If you find a host is requesting you to pay any extra fee in cash, report them to Airbnb.
Can you pay monthly on Airbnb?
You can pay monthly on Airbnb for extended stays. Here is how it works
- Pay one month’s deposit upfront. The payment is held by Airbnb until 24 hours after your check in.
- Second month payment is charged to the same card, one month after check in and each additional month after.
Can you leave food in an Airbnb?
It is a good rule of thumb not to leave anything behind on purpose, but if you happen to forget food in the Airbnb, send the host a message to let them know it’s in there. They will either leave it for other guests to use if it is not perishable or remove it.
Similar to other competing platforms, Airbnb does have its pros and cons that can make or break the platform depending on each individual user. Despite the higher prices, some users still choose to book with Airbnb because of the homely feeling or the variety of unique accommodations.
Even though the platform has its flaws and misuses, it’s still a great option for those looking to have an interesting and unique stay during their travels.