Airbnb is an online platform that enables holiday goers to find short to medium-term accommodation within a framework that encourages a sense of community and accountability. If you are looking for an alternative to hotels and hostels when you are planning your next holiday Airbnb could be just what you are looking for. It offers a truly unique collection of properties and accommodation types located in some of the most sought after areas in the world, the majority at offering some of the most competitive rates in the market.
It's good to note that Airbnb does not only act as a simple platform for hosts and guests to find each other. It also acts as the go between for all monetary transactions, meaning no bank details are ever shared between guests and hosts. They also manage the damage deposits on behalf of the hosts to ensure a smooth process throughout and provide hosts a guarantee of up to £600,000 for every eligible booking through Airbnb.
Setting up your account with Airbnb
The first step as a guest is to setup your personal Airbnb account. To do this simply go to the "sign up" tab on www.airbnb.com and follow the instructions. Once this is done you can actually start searching for accommodation in your desired destination but we'd recommend reading on for a few useful tips on things to look out for on Airbnb.
It's good to note that Airbnb and hosts encourage guests to develop their profiles as much as possible. For Airbnb this helps create a greater sense of community, trust and accountability. For hosts this helps them decide if they want to accept a booking or not. Note that a number of hosts will prioritize longer bookings but might become more flexible if faced with a positively reviewed and welcoming guest.
Some of the things that are worth spending time developing include an inviting description, a welcoming profile picture, verification with official ID and social media, and ultimately generating reviews. Reviews can only be written once a stay has been completed and will only be published if the other party also reciprocates with a review. These are extremely helpful to both hosts and guests as they tend to give a more honest and unbiased account of the host or accommodation type.
What should I look out for when searching for accommodation on Airbnb?
When you are searching for accommodation on Airbnb expect to come across a whole variety of accommodation types from whole properties, shared accommodation to private rooms. Airbnb currently has over 800,000 unique listings around the world so you will very likely be spoilt for choice.
A few things to look out for when you are searching through the listings on offer are:
1. The host’s reviews. It's always a good idea to thoroughly read through the reviews and star ratings to gain a more realistic imagine of what the listing has to offer.
Look out for the things that are not mentioned in the reviews that you would normally expect from a guest such as cleanliness, location, communication, etc.
Note that a large number of properties are managed by property management agencies, you can find out if they are by clicking on the hosts profile page and checking how many listings they manage. Have a look at our listings by clicking on the link here.
2. The number of reviews relating to the property. When there is a shortage of reviews this can be due to a number of reasons. Normally it is because the listing is new and has not yet had enough time to generate enough reviews. It can also be due to bad experiences on behalf of the guests or because the owner is only listing their property for a short period of time. It's a good idea to ask these questions before finalizing the booking.
3. The host's profile. It's always a good idea to look at the host's profile to gain a better image of the person you will be dealing with. If you see more than one listing on the profile page it is very likely you are dealing with a property manager. This tends to be good news for the guests as the accommodation tends to be more professionally managed and you will have someone at hand in case something goes wrong.
The booking process
Once you come across something that you like you will be faced with one of two options depending on the host’s preferences. You will either be able to book it instantly in which case you will see a tab entitled "Instant Book". This means you will be able to book instantly without being pre-approved by the host. In the majority of cases you will be faced with the tab "Request to Book". In this case the host will want to hear a little more from you and your reason of visit before they pre-approve your stay.
It's always a good idea to confirm a few things with the host before finalising the booking. Double check the availability of the dates you are looking to book and the overall listing description so as make sure you will be getting what you are hoping to get. A few good things to ask includes access to property, the floor it is on, if there is a lift , parking, the exact location, the closest public transport, the check in and check out procedure, and make sure to bring up any doubts that you have relative to the listing.
Once you have asked all your questions and the host is happy to confirm your booking the host will pre-approve you to book. Once this is done you will simply have to complete the booking from your end and finalize the booking. Only once this is done are will you be charged for the booking.
Note that if you have only just signed up to Airbnb you will be asked extra forms of identification to prove your identity. This step does not involve the host and is only between Airbnb and the guest. Once this is done Airbnb will allow you to confirm and finalize your booking.
Once the booking has gone through you will be charged the full amount which includes the booking total, cleaning fee and Airbnb service fee. The funds for the deposit will be blocked on your account but they will not be charged until the host has made a request in case of breakages once the stay is over. Note that the deposit is fully handled by Airbnb and that any requests by hosts to pay a deposit in cash is not protected by Airbnb and maybe even void the transaction made with Airbnb.
At this point you are ready to go and will have to coordinate with the hosts on how to go about the check-in and check-out procedure.
What else should I be aware of as a guest?
If you have only just signed up to Airbnb and are looking to book last minute you will be required to provide additional forms of identification to continue with your booking request.
A large number of properties require a once-off cleaning fee. This is clearly stated in the property description at the top of the listing. This is charged by Airbnb when you confirm your booking.
Some properties charge a damage deposit. This is clearly stated in the property description at the top of the listing. The deposit is handled by Airbnb and is only charged to your card if the host makes a claim once the stay is over.
Cancellation fees - if it is the guest that decides to cancel due to some unforeseen reason the Airbnb guest service fee is non-refundable. If the reservation is simply modified and extended or shortened the service fee is simply adjusted to the new subtotal. The host has a choice of 3 options when setting up their cancellation policy.
1. Flexible - This means the guest will receive a full refund up to 1 day prior to arrival, but they will not be refunded the Aibnb fees.
2. Moderate - You will get a full refund up until 5 days prior to arrival, but you will not be refunded the Airbnb fees.
3. Strict - You will be refunded 50% up until 1 week prior to arrival, and you will not be refunded the Airbnb fees.
Once the stay is over Airbnb will ask the guest to write a review about their stay, accommodation and hosting experience. It's highly recommended to write a review and try to be as honest as possible to help the next guests make their minds up. Once your review has been sent to Airbnb the host will be informed that you have written a review (but they will not be able to see your review until they have written a review themselves). Once the host has written a review in return you will have 48 hours to edit your review until it is published.
So how much does it cost to book through Airbnb?
It is free to join and set up your guest and hosting account. You will only be charged once a booking is confirmed and the transaction has gone through. Note that all payments go through Airbnb and there is no exchange of card details between hosts and guests. On top of the rental fee expect to pay the Airbnb service fee. This is normally 12% (In the UK this is 14.4% as it includes VAT) of the booking total. This value decreases to 6% as the stay gets longer. Depending on the listing also expect to pay a cleaning fee and a damage deposit. Note that the damage deposit will only be charged at the end of your stay if breakages have been identified by the host.