Airbnb has, in recent years, become one of the go-to websites for travellers seeking an alternative to the usual sterile atmosphere offered by hotels. It’s also become a way for those with spare rooms in their homes to earn some extra income on the side — or even live off rentals entirely.
Yet, most guests and hosts will tell you that they’ve had both good and bad experiences thanks to the short-term rental platform, whether it’s because of unexpected changes in availability or rowdy guests. To help you become a better guest/host, here are some tips — from personal experience and at the recommendation of the Internet — to elevate your Airbnb game.
1. Keep Your Expectations In Check
This might be a bit of a no-brainer, but always check out photos of the place you’re interested in renting before actually handing your cash over. And by checking out photos, I don’t mean just looking at how pretty the property is. Instead, try piecing photos together to create a mental image of the place, so you’ll know how big/small a space to expect, and won’t be disappointed when you arrive.
Speaking of photos, it’s easy to manipulate them, so to avoid scams, look for photos watermarked with Airbnb’s logo to ensure that you’ll get what you paid for. The watermark indicates that photos have been taken by professional photographers from the Airbnb team, so those are more likely to be true-to-life.
It’s also important to remember that properties listed on Airbnb are not hotels, so don’t expect the same level of service and facilities that hotels provide. Most importantly, don’t treat your hosts like they’re service staff — or worse, tip them — this is likely to offend them and increase your chances of getting a less-than-desirable experience.
2. Check For Hidden Costs
Apart from the nightly rates that you pay to stay at your hosts’ homes, there are a couple of additional costs involved when you make a booking. These include extra guest fees, local taxes and currency exchange fees (which consist of a 3% conversion levy). Hosts may also choose to charge you a one-time cleaning fee, and prices for this varies from host to host.
I once tried making a booking for a beautiful, minimalist home in central Japan, only to find that the cleaning fee made up a significant proportion of the overall cost. The option was promptly dropped from my Wish List.
Such hidden costs are usually indicated only after you enter your travel dates, so it might be a good idea to check on them before getting in touch with the host. This will save both you and the homeowner a lot of time and effort.
3. Avoid Apartment Hopping, Where Possible
Renting on a weekly or monthly basis often works out to be cheaper than booking single nights. If you’re not planning to spend too much time in your room/apartment, consider staying in one place over the course of your trip, rather than moving every other night. This will save you some money, which you can then spend on seeing the sights or eating more delicious food.
4. Make Use Of Discount Codes
A simple search on Google will throw up a large number of discount codes which you can enter when making reservations on Airbnb. Some of these — like savingstory.com — are country specific, which means you’ll only be able to use them if you’re coming from certain countries. Occasionally, Airbnb also partners up with brands like DBS to offer discounts when you pay with particular credit/debit cards. If you’re a fan of travel blogs, keep an eye out for promo codes that these bloggers sometimes share with their followers.
Airbnb even has their own rewards system, where, by referring others to the platform, you get entitled to discounts regardless of whether you intend to rent or host. More information about this can be found here.
5. Listen To The Advice Of Your Hosts
In some countries, it is not exactly legal for homeowners to lease out their property on short-term bases. Given that platforms like Airbnb only started gaining traction in the last few years, there is still a lot of grey area involved in the leasing of private homes.
If you’re staying in properties located in these countries/states, it is likely that your host will remind you not to go around telling everyone about that good deal you got off Airbnb — and in the interests of ensuring you have a bed to sleep in during your trip, it’s probably a good idea to heed their advice.
1. Get Your Home Photographed Professionally – For Free
If you’d like to rent out your home or spare room, but don’t think you’ll be able to do your space justice with your amateur photography skills, Airbnb has got you covered: they can send professional photographers to your home to help you take photos of your space — for free.
Even if your camera skills are stellar, there’s no harm in trying out this service, if only to earn that Airbnb watermark on the top right-hand corner of all your photos — this’ll not only give you better photos to put up online, but make your home appear more credible to guests.
2. Improve Search Rankings
Every website and online platform knows the importance of getting themselves listed at the top of the Google search rankings, and this applies to homes on Airbnb too. To move up the ranks, take note of these factors: ratings, response rate, and photos.
If you’re just starting out as a host, one common piece of advice that other hosts have is to price your listing slightly lower than others offering similar spaces. This will help you secure your first guests, and when they begin giving you (hopefully) good reviews, you’ll then be able to gradually get higher up on the search results.
3. Don’t Send Out Lengthy Emails With Tons Of Rules To Follow
This is a true killjoy. The last thing a guest wants to do is sit and read through a 10-page long list of rules and regulations they have to follow when bunking in at your place — and most won’t do it anyway. This happened to me once, and you can be sure I never quite made it past the first couple of paragraphs.
That said, it is important to be firm in listing out culture/country specific etiquette that visitors should observe. If you’d prefer your guests to remove their shoes before entering your property, for example, state it clearly and politely in your email — most will be glad to oblige.
What you should include, though, are things like a map of the surrounding area, and a helpful list of restaurants your guests might like to check out. Little tips like these make all the difference.
4. Stay Contactable
This is especially important on the day that guests are due to arrive at your property. Nothing is more disorienting than being in a foreign place, lugging around a 23kg suitcase and not being able to find your apartment. Or worse: finding your apartment, and then realising that you’re stranded outside in the snow with no keys — and no way of contacting your host.
5. Be Present
No, I don’t mean you should hover over your guests as they explore your home — rather, it might be a good idea for you to be around to receive them when they arrive, if possible. It’s always nice for a guest to be able to put a face to the person they’ve been liaising with over email.
True story: Japan has a pretty complex recycling system, one which I’d never willingly be part of if I had my way. But our host took the trouble to meet with us and gave us a tour of his apartment, and even offered us ice cream, so we were more than happy to help him out with the recycling.
As frequent guests and hosts on Airbnb will tell you, the platform is really about giving you an experience rather than a simple place to sleep in, so when in doubt, keep that in mind when travelling or renting.