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Airbnb has revolutionised travel. It makes it easy to find apartments (or rooms in people’s homes) around the world, providing a cheaper, more comfortable, and more interesting alternative to hotels. We love it and stay in Airbnb apartments often.
Why We Love Airbnb
- Saves Money – An Airbnb apartment is almost always cheaper than a hotel or hostel private room in developed countries—we use it frequently in Europe and North America. We’ve rented an apartment in Paris for £40 ($60) and Istanbul for £23 ($34) a night. It’s less good value in developing countries like Thailand where a basic hotel room will probably be cheaper and you’ll find better apartment rates locally, although the range and prices are improving.
- Convenient – The Airbnb website is easy to use and it’s much more convenient to book in advance than search around when we arrive in a new place.
- Access to a Kitchen – We get sick of eating out all the time so we love having a kitchen to cook for ourselves—it’s healthier and we save money.
- Affordable Monthly Rates – We do rent on Airbnb for short stays but the best deals are on month-long rentals. It’s the only apartment site we’ve found where the special month rate most hosts offer comes up in the search results. The same applies to weekly rates too.
- Ideal for Digital Nomads – When you are working as you travel Airbnb is much better than a hotel. You get a quiet place to work, more space, better facilities, and it’s easier to feel at home.
- Explore Interesting Neighbourhoods – Renting an apartment is the best way to live like a local, and it gives you the opportunity to stay in less touristy parts of town that don’t have hotels. We loved staying in the Hawthorne neighbourhood in Portland, close to many fantastic independent cafes and restaurants.
- Meet Locals – You don’t always meet the host if you rent a private apartment, but they are often a great source of local knowledge and will provide tips on the best things to do and eat in the area. Our host in Granada was wonderfully welcoming and not only stocked our fridge before we arrived, but also brought us homemade soup a couple of times.
- Discover New Places – If you are flexible on your location you can find bargains on Airbnb. When we wanted to spend a month in Tuscany, Italy we searched for an Airbnb in the whole region, rather than just a well known city like Florence or Siena. We ended up with a two bedroom apartment for €567 a month. Not only was it cheap but it was a short walk from Montecarlo, a tiny but stunning hill town that tourists rarely visit—we’d never have found it without Airbnb.
Some people worry about safety and problems when renting from a stranger but we’ve never had any issues. It’s best to rent from a host with lots of positive reviews, and read the reviews carefully for any potential issues. You can also contact the host to ask any questions and get to know them better. We occasionally rent places without reviews if we find a deal and the photos look good—it is a risk but has always worked out well for us.
How to Rent on Airbnb
Create An Account
First you need to sign up to Airbnb using your email address or with Facebook or Google. If you sign up using this link you’ll get $25 (£17) off your first stay: www.airbnb.com/c/emcneaney. The Airbnb coupon code will automatically be applied to your account so all you have to do is a book a place to stay (the minimum spend for the coupon is $75).
Next create your profile. Make sure you at least include a photo and some information about yourself. Remember that hosts are letting strangers stay in their home so they’ll feel more comfortable knowing a bit about you.
How to Search
On the Airbnb homepage choose your location (city, region, or country), dates, and number of guests.
You’ll get a list of options which you can refine by choosing Entire Place (for a private apartment/house which is what we do) or Private Room (in a shared house). You can also move the price slider down to your budget, and click on More Filters for options like number of bedrooms, amenities, and neighbourhood.
If you can’t find anything for your budget then try searching for a Private Room instead which will be in a shared house. We’ve never done this but my mum has and enjoyed getting to know the hosts—they even made her pancakes for breakfast.
Choosing An Apartment
You can then browse through the listings, look at the photos, read the reviews, and check the location on the map at the bottom of the listing. You won’t know the exact address until you book but you get a rough area and can always ask the host more questions. In big cities there is often a neighbourhood summary next to the map and you can click through and read the neighbourhood guide.
You should check the total price as Airbnb fees and sometimes a cleaning fee are extra. I also look at the host’s profile and their response rate—if it’s low it might be an indication that they aren’t very active on Airbnb.
If you don’t want to make a decision right away you can add the place to a wish list.
If you are interested in an apartment contact the host first (there’s a button by About the Host) before you request a booking. Have a few options and don’t assume you’ll get your first choice—places aren’t always available even if the calendar says it is. Now is the time to ask if it’s available and any other questions you have such as public transport options, WiFi speeds etc. You can also try negotiating the price but I’ve never had any luck with this—it might work best for longer stays.
Once the host has confirmed availability they’ll pre-approve you and you have 24 hours to book. Payment is taken in advance by credit card and you’ll be emailed the confirmation with the address and more details. You can see the cancellation policy in each listing—usually you can cancel up to a few days in advance and get a refund minus the Airbnb fees.
Keep in Contact
Once you’ve booked get in contact with the host to get directions and arrange a check-in time. Unlike hotels you can’t just turn up at any time as the host needs to be there to meet you (unless they have a lock box to store the key which is much easier). Stick to the arranged time as much as possible and let the host know of any delays.
Leave a Review
After your stay make sure you leave a review. Be honest about the pros and cons of the place as it helps others make a decision. The host will also leave you a review but you won’t be able to see each other’s reviews until both have been published.
If you own a home you might want to consider becoming an Airbnb host. You could either rent out your spare room or your whole home while you are away. A number of our friends do this and you can make a good amount of money and even fund your travels.
Our Favourite Airbnb Apartments
Here are links to some of our favourite Airbnb rentals:
- Portland, USA – A sunny, comfortable one bedroom apartment in a cool neighbourhood.
- Sebastopol, USA – Gorgeous two bedroom house with a huge garden in a peaceful setting close to wineries.
- Granada, Spain – Modern one bedroom with a patio, lovely host, and ideal location in the historic El Albaicin.
- Istanbul, Turkey – Affordable studio with a massive terrace and convenient location.
- Paris, France – Cute studio in untouristy Belleville.
- Mexico City – Spacious, artsy one bedroom apartment in a central location.
- Montecarlo, Italy – Simple two bedroom apartment in the Tuscan countryside.
Our next Airbnb stay will be four days in a Williamsburg apartment in New York City next month—we’ll let you know how it goes.
Airbnb is our first stop for accommodation these days. It’s not the only way we rent apartments—you can read about the other ways we find apartments here—but it is our favourite, with a wide range of options all over the world and great prices.
If you want to give Airbnb a try remember to sign up using this link to get $25 (£17) off your first stay (and we do too, so thank you!).
Are you looking for Christmas gift ideas? See our 47 Useful Gift Ideas for Carry-On Travellers. They are ideal for travel lovers who want to pack light and include something for every budget.
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