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Airbnb is transforming the travel industry one vacation rental at a time. If you haven’t jumped on the Airbnb wagon yet, you absolutely should! For those that don’t know, Airbnb is an online accommodation marketplace where regular people rent out their spare rooms, spare homes, attics, garages, tepees, boats, etc. to travelers from all over the world. The accommodation ranges from really cheap and basic to incredibly glamorous and unique. (A few nights in a castle in England anyone?)

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We first tried Airbnb in 2014  during World Cup in Brazil and after saving over $2.500 in accommodation costs, we basically stopped using hotels altogether. We’ve rented Airbnb units all over Australia, in South America, in Europe, and in Asia. Some for just 1 night, others for up to a week at a time. For the most part it’s been wonderful experiences with thoughtful and caring hosts whose places were often the highlights of many of our trips. But as luck goes, there’ve been some not so great experiences as well.

Enjoying a cup of tea on the terrace of our Airbnb in Yarra Valley, VIC, Australia
Enjoying a cup of tea on the terrace of our Airbnb in Yarra Valley, VIC, Australia

We’ve learned a few things about scoring great Airbnb accommodation. So we wanted to share a few tips that we picked up over the last few years of Airbnb’ing around the world.

Adjust Your Expectations

Airbnb accommodation is not a hotel, so whatever amenities you are used to having in a hotel room will not necessarily apply to an Airbnb rental. Remember that in many cases the place you are renting is actually someone’s home.

You will be sleeping in someone’s bed, showering in their shower and eating at their table. Don’t expect toiletries in the shower, and for your host to act as your personal concierge. Know that sometimes the place will feel “lived in”. There might be kids toys in the rooms and photos of the family all over the walls. It adds a certain character to the place and definitely feels like you are immersing yourself in local life.

Kids room in the 3 Bedroom Apartment in Brasilia
One of our Airbnb apartments in Brazil was clearly a family’s home. This kids bedroom filled with toys and kids books was where we slept during our stay.

With that said, you will undoubtedly come across some amazing rentals that come with the hotel’s luxuries plus more! A lot of places where we stayed at had a huge library of books and brochures with activities to do in the area, which was incredibly helpful when it came to planning out our days. A few of the places we have stayed at came with a full hot breakfast. We are talking about eggs, bacon, avocado – the full monty! We’ve also been treated to Port, local wine, cheese, sweets, and of course some great tea! It’s such a small touch but something you would never get in a hotel. Keep an eye out for these amazing hosts by following our next tip…

A few of the places we have stayed at came with a full hot breakfast. We are talking about eggs, bacon, avocado – the full monty! We’ve also been treated to Port, local wine, cheese, sweets, and of course some great tea! It’s such a small touch but something you would never get in a hotel. Keep an eye out for these amazing hosts by following our next tip…

Do Your Research

There are now over a million Airbnb properties in 190 countries around the world. The chances are that when you first search for accommodation in a particular city you’ll likely find hundreds, if not thousands of results. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the available choices, but don’t worry, it’s equally as easy to narrow down the options.

Narrow down your search. Do you want a private room? An entire place to yourself? Or a room in a shared house? If you are traveling with a group of friends or as a couple, you might want your own space, but it could be just as fun to share the space with others. Getting a room in a shared house means that you’ll inevitably have more interaction with the host.

Select your price range. Set your budget at the start of the search and you never have to deal with finding a great place that you just can’t afford.

Look through photos. Beware of listings that only show 1-2 photos of the property. It’s not to say that it will be filthy and not what you signed up for, but the chances of the place not meeting your expectation could be much higher.

Entrance into our apartment building in Leblon, Rio de Janeiro.
Entrance into our apartment building in Leblon, Rio de Janeiro. This image was what attracted us to the listing, luckily the place looked just as good inside!

Read the Reviews

Reviews are an incredibly important part of the Airbnb community and are really what makes Airbnb the awesome site that it is. Reviews are left by real travelers, just like you, who have previously stayed at the property in question. They are real and honest and shine a light on the true value of the property you are looking at. Read them! They are often chock full of information about the host, the amenities, strength of wifi signal, and any issues and inconveniences you might find while staying at the place.

We always choose properties with lots of great reviews. They give us confidence that the property will meet our expectations and that the photos will match the reality.

Watch Out for “Hidden Fees”

There are a number of “hidden fees” that you should keep in mind when searching for accommodation on Airbnb. The price that you see in the search results often doesn’t include a service fee (could be anywhere from $5 to $30 or more), and a cleaning fee, so be sure to click on each listing to see the final price and compare it with other lists before you book.

Living room in 3 bedroom apartment in Brazilia
Typically, the bigger the place, the higher the cleaning fee.

Choose “Instant Book” vs. “Request to Book”

Booking policies on Airbnb vary depending on the property. Some properties will require you to “Request to Book”, which gives the host the option to decline your request. Sometimes these bookings will even ask you to put down your credit card so that funds can be withdrawn as soon as the host approves your stay. It’s tedious and you often have to apply to each property one at a time before you can find a place to stay. Having to wait for approval from the host adds time and complexity to your accommodation search, so avoid it if you can!

“Instant Book” options are just like booking a hotel online. You book, you pay, and your reservation is confirmed within minutes. No need to worry about whether the host will like your profile or if they will label your group of friends as a party crew who are not welcomed at their property.

Ask Questions Before you Book

If you are wondering about wifi in the property, proximity to a certain location, tips on visiting the city, or anything else related to the property itself, don’t hesitate to ask the host directly.

Airbnb cabin in Yarra Valley, Australia
Airbnb cabin in Yarra Valley, Australia

At the bottom of each listing, you’ll find the button to “Contact Host” that will allow you to send a message prior to booking the place. Right beside it, you’ll find the host’s response rate and response time, that will give you an idea of when you should expect a reply. Hosts with 100% response rate and short response times are the best and serve as another great sign of a good Airbnb listing.

Keep Communicating After You Book

Don’t forget to keep the lines of communication open after you book. Remember, Airbnb is not a hotel, so there will be no reception and likely no one to greet you upon arrival.

Contact the host to advise them of your arrival time and arrange where and when you can pick up the keys. Be sure to keep your host posted if you are running late, or not planning to show up at all. It’s common courtesy.

View from our Airbnb accommodation in Noosa, QLD, Australia
View from our Airbnb accommodation in Noosa,  Australia

Ask Your Host For Tips

Locals know the best spots, so don’t be afraid to ask your host for recommendations in the area. We always rely on hosts recommendations and always ask them for their “must-see” sights and good restaurants in the area.

Be opened to hanging out with the host

If you are staying in a shared house make it a point to spend at least a bit of time chatting with your hosts. Some of our favourite Airbnb experiences have been the ones where we got to hang out with the hosts and share travel stories over a glass of wine.

Are you an experienced Airbnb’er? Share your Airbnb tips with others in the comments section below.

If you haven’t given Airbnb a try yet, now is your chance. Sign up for Airbnb and you’ll get a discount of up to $35 on your first stay, no matter when you choose to book!


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