Tips on Booking Airbnb: A Detailed Guide

There are many articles with tips on booking Airbnb around the Internet. [1] Nonetheless, most of these articles simply cover very general advice, like how to operate the Airbnb platform to make a booking. I will not attempt to do the same here. 

Rather, my aim with this article is to point out what seems to be crucial, yet subtle, things to look for when assessing which Airbnb property to choose from.

First of all, let us assume that you already have decided on all the key details of your Airbnb booking (i.e. city, dates, and number of guests) as well as selected the major filters (i.e. number of bedrooms, type of property, etc.)

Once that is done, we shall look at the details...

Just a bit bigger

I will start my list of tips on booking Airbnb with the factors that are easier to check in your listing. These are easier to check because these have a section of their own in the listing. 

1.1 Reviews

  • Read the negative reviews: Usually negative reviews are more reliable then positive ones. It is normal for someone to write a very generic positive review (e.g. “Very good host and flat” or “I would recommend”). On the contrary, if someone takes the time to write a negative review it is because indeed this person had a bad experience and is trying to portray it as accurately as possible. In other words, people tend NOT to write generic feedback, if the feedback is negative.
  • Give more credit to the reviews that are under 6 months old: The situation of a property changes over time. A problem indicated by guests years ago might have been fixed by the host. Or a new construction site might have emerged next to the property last month, making it impossible for you to sleep past 8 am due to noise. The point here is that you should always give more relevance to the new reviews, since these tend to be more informative about the current situation of the property.

1.2 Host

  • Type of host: The Airbnb host is, usually, either the owner of the property himself or a company that manages the property. It is important to establish who you are dealing with. If the host does not own the Airbnb, it will likely be harder to get juicy discounts (like the ones that I teach you how to get using my script.One method to try to assess if you are dealing with a company or an owner is by checking how many properties the host has listed in his profile. If there are too many properties then usually it is a company, not a single person.
  • Does the host live in the flat or not: There are pros and cons of staying with a host. The main pro is that if the host lives in the property, then the host is likely a local and he can give you some tips about the city. On the other hand, living with a host means you will likely need to obey all the house rules in a very strict manner (e.g. if the house does not permit guests, then you will not be able to bring people over).

1.3 Location

  • The purpose of your trip: First and foremost, you need to establish the purpose of the trip. Is it a business trip, a temporary base to stay as a nomad, or a short tourist trip? Once that is clear, you can see if the location of the property fits your needs. For instance, if you are going to a city for a business trip then probably you would like to stay near the working/conference place. If you are going to temporarily live in a location (i.e. nomad base) then it depends on you. Some people prefer more central places and others prefer more relaxed residential areas. Finally, if you are only going to the city for a few days, you should probably consider staying in the city center since the main attractions are likely around that area.

Pro tip: You can see a summary of the different neighborhoods in each city at nomadlist.com. Also, if you want to check where the high foot traffic areas in a city are, then you can look for the brown areas on Google Maps.

  • Key places around the property: Check if the area  where the Airbnb is located has all the essential places for daily living around. These include, but are not limited to, supermarkets, pharmacies, gyms, affordable restaurants, etc. You should search for these on Google Maps.

1.4 Amenities

Airbnb Amenities

Make sure you get one of this

  • Home appliances: Different people will have different needs. But, as a rule of thumb, most people would benefit from having things such as a hairdryer, washing/drying machine, wifi, fridge, and microwave on the property.
  • Check what the host provides: The majority of places will provide bed sheets. Nonetheless, towels, shampoo, and things like that depend on the property. Always check what they already offer to make sure you bring with you what they do not.

1.5 Refund Policy

  • The cancellation policy: Different listings will have different cancellation policies. These cancellations policies affect you when canceling before and after check-in. So it is always a good idea to know the specific cancellation policy of the property you want to rent. Of course, the more flexible a cancellation policy is, the better. Check out Airbnb's cancellation policy here.

1.6 House Rules

  • Always check the house rules of the property and see if those fit with what you intend to do when you are in the city. Usually, the most important house rules to watch out for are the ones related to bringing visitors to the flat, smoking, and parties.

1.7 Listing Photos

  • Look carefully: When looking at the photos try to establish which appliances and features the house has to offer. Sometimes the listing does not mention all of those.
  • The distinction between photos and reality: Usually, the listing photos portray the property quite accurately. Nonetheless, I already booked houses that had good photos but the actual place was bad and, vice versa. Try to think beyond the quality of the photos and evaluate if the place is good or not.

  • Create a mental map of the house in your head: Sometimes hosts are not very helpful in terms of taking photos that depict how the place is set up ( this might be intentional, to make the place look bigger than it actually is). You can use key features that appear in more than one photo (e.g. a wardrobe, sofa) to try to create a mental map of the house. For example, if you see the same table in two different photos taken from different angles, try to imagine how big the room is by connecting, in your head, the photos and using the table as your reference point.

  • Ask for exterior photos: Sometimes even though the place might look fine from the inside, the place might look horrible from the outside. Therefore, it is always a good idea to ask the host for an external photo of the building in which the accommodation is located.

Pro tip: Alternatively, if the host cannot provide a photo of the building, you can ask him for the exact address of the building. Then you can use Google Maps Street View function and check it out yourself.

2. Minor Tips on Booking Airbnb

Now that we covered the tips on booking Airbnb related to factors that are easier to check, I will move on to present things that are harder to check. These factors are harder to check because these do not appear on specific sections of the listing. At first glance, you might think that these minor tips on booking Airbnb are irrelevant. But, trust me, these are not. Sometimes, the small details are the most important ones.

To get this information you will need to either read reviews (use the review search function provided by Airbnb and put keywords like “noisy”, “bright”, etc.) or read the property description in the listing.

Keep in mind that, sometimes you will not be able to find this information in the listing (no matter how hard you try) and the only way to actually find out about these details is by messaging the host and asking him directly.

  • Floor number:  If you are staying in a flat, knowing the floor it is located is important for security reasons. First-floor flats in some areas and countries are generally not safe since someone can come in from the outside quite easily. Also, another reason why you should care about the floor number has to do with noise. The lower the floor, the noisier it gets.

  • Brightness: This is a problem if you need a pitch-black environment to sleep. Some places are just too bright since the curtains cannot block the sun properly. Always check if that is the case in the property you want to rent. The best place to find this information is probably in the reviews section.

  • Noise: Similar to the brightness issue just mentioned you should also assess the level of noisiness. Especially if you are a light sleeper. Check the reviews for that.

  • Lock in the room: This is especially a concern if you are renting a shared place. Sometimes the rooms do not have locks. That can be a problem if you want to leave your valuables in the room and not worry about them.

  • Number of flatmates: The number of flatmates is important. This factor will determine how busy the flat is. This is especially important if you do not have your own private bathroom. The more people, the busier the bathrooms will be to use.

  • Type of check-in: Is it self check-in or check-in with the host in person? If the latter is the case, then you will need to plan to arrive at the flat in an acceptable time. On the other hand, if the property offers self check-in, then you will have no problem buying that 8 Euros Ryanair flight that gets you to the destination at 2 AM.

  • Type of bed: This is especially a concern in Asia. But you should check if the property has a real bed or not. Sometimes in Asia, the “bed” is just a very thin mattress that is hard as a rock.

  • Getting orders: Do you want to buy things online? Check if there is an intercom or a doorman in the building. If neither exists then it will be very hard to get the things you ordered online.

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