When it comes to choosing the right Airbnb it can seem like it’s hit and miss with getting it right. It’s really not. It only takes a little bit of work to find the right place that works for you. Having used Airbnb for the majority of the 7 month trip that I’m currently on, I’ve picked up on a few things that have helped me avoid any uncomfortable or unpleasant situations. I haven't had a bad experience with Airbnb (touch wood) because I follow three simple rules every time I choose a place.
Now, this has absolutely nothing to do with choosing the right location, amenities, etc...that should be self explanatory. This is about choosing the right host, with the right personality that will make your stay amazing. That’s what Airbnb is supposed to be about, creating an alternative experience, seeing a place like a local and feeling at home when you’re traveling. I mean, why go through all the trouble when you can just stay in a hotel and be done with it if it’s not going to be an incredible experience?
1. READ THE REVIEWS
It’s not some hard or difficult formula, it really all comes down to taking time to read the reviews. All of them. They're there for a reason and it really does help in making the final decision. What type of experience can you expect during your stay? How much interaction will you have with the host? How easy was the check-in process? How clean was the place? You get a feel for what to expect from the reviews.
If the host has less than 5 stars in all categories you need to know why. To be honest, when I’m scanning through the listings, I rarely even bother to stop at hosts that have less than perfect ratings unless the location is right, it’s well below my budget and I read each review. Sometimes people can leave reviews that are irrelevant, petty, nitpicking or they just need to find something to complain about. If 98 of the 100 reviews are positive, the place is in the location I need it to be in, fits all my other criteria, the host fits the bill, I’ll go for it.
One of my best stays ever was in a very simple room, with only a bed and a wardrobe in it. No decoration at all. Why did I choose it? Because the hosts had perfect reviews. They were absolutely incredible people, had a nice profile, they loved hosting, it was in the prefect location and the price was right.
2. READ THE ENTIRE LISTING
This will tell you important things about what to expect regarding house rules, description of the property, security, guest access, if there's wifi, cancellation policies, amenities, if breakfast is offered and what to expect in general. For example, I saw a review for a place that I chose to stay at where someone complained about not having wifi, it was plainly stated that there was no wifi in the listing. Why would you book a place that has no wifi if you need/want it...then complain about it in the review?
3. READ THE HOST PROFILE
There are plenty of incredible hosts out there that really take what they do seriously, it’s their business and they care about the experience they’re creating for people. I haven’t had a bad stay with Airbnb yet because I take the time to make sure I choose the right host. Let’s face it, the pictures can be beautiful, the place can be well designed, in the perfect location, be within budget and the host can be terrible. The point is, make sure that the host actually cares about the business they’re in…hosting travelers. You want to spend your money with someone who goes above and beyond to create the perfect experience for you.
IMPORTANT TIP: At the end of the host profile under the "contact host" button is the response rate and response time. These should be "100%" and "within the hour", respectively. Period.
The host should be easy to get in touch with. If the host is away, they should have other people there to help you. And you will need them for something. Guaranteed. I stayed at one place where the front door lock was very tricky to open. I couldn’t get the door back open and the hosts had left that bit of information out when they were showing me around. They lived downstairs from where I was staying, so I just went down and knocked on the door to tell them the problem. Easily sorted.
At another place, the host was away, but had someone else taking care of everything for them. I followed the directions for checking in, but there was no answer when I rang the front door bell. Sent an email to the host and they responded instantly. The person letting me in didn’t hear the bell, but the host called them. I was let in within literally 5 mins of contacting the host.
Traveling can be very stressful in itself and the last thing you want is added stress where you lay your head at night. Use your best judgement, if you don't like the look of the listing, reviews or host profile, don't book it. Move on to the next option.
If you have any other tips for choosing a place, please share in the comments. Happy travels!