Our complete guide to Airbnb + your free Airbnb coupon!
Using Airbnb for the first time and not sure how to get started? We’ve got you covered. Here’s a complete guide to Airbnb, include a free airbnb coupon for your first stay.
We'll be honest here - despite being avid travellers, we were NOT early adopters when it came to Airbnb.
In fact, it was only midway through our round-the-world trip two years ago that, after three months of intense travel (most of which also coincided with three months of parasitic food poisoning... thanks Giardia!) we decided to splurge and book an Airbnb in Bangkok to recuperate.
We absolutely loved it.
It's fair to say that Airbnb has changed travel. Out with the overpriced hotels, and loud, smelly backpacker dorms, and in with that chic downtown apartment in the hipster district, that generally ends up being about the same price.
The sharing economy is all about sharing, and AirBnb has helped a generation of travellers experience something more than just a hotel room; it's provided a home away from home.
To us, travel is all about real life experiences; finding that quaint cafe or bar, mingling with locals, shopping at local markets; all without feeling like you're just 'another' tourist - and so often, Airbnb is often a facilitator of those experiences by placing you right in the heart of a thriving local area and encouraging you to 'live as the locals do'.
We totally get that the thought of booking a strange apartment in a city you've never seen Airbnb can be a little daunting, and for those long-time users, there are still a number of handy hints and tips to help you get the most out of your stay.
That's why we've put together our comprehensive Airbnb guide (with a free Airbnb coupon) - to help you have the most authentic, enjoyable experience possible.
OUR AIRBNB GUIDE - EVERYTHING TO KNOW WHEN BOOKING WITH AIRBNB
WHAT IS AIRBNB?
Airbnb originally started out as a way for its founder, Brian Chesky, to earn a little extra money by renting out his couch in San Francisco. It's since morphed into one of the leading online marketplace for renting or sharing accommodation or experiences.
The premise is simple; have extra space in your house, and a passion for meeting new people? Open your doors to the global travel community, and rent out a bed, a room, or an entire home to travellers seeking an interesting, authentic way of exploring the world.
Airbnb created opportunities for homeowners and renters to generate income where they couldn't in the past and opened many new doors for worldly travellers. It also eliminated the friction of travel, creating a platform to book and pay online, all through a slick website and app.
The too long / didn't read of it? For those travellers wanting a home away from home or an authentic travel experience (like us!): Airbnb is brilliant.
WHY SHOULD YOU USE AIRBNB ON YOUR TRAVELS?
#1 - IT'S GENERALLY CHEAPER THAN HOTELS AND EVEN HOSTELS
In our travels, we've almost always found Airbnb cheaper than other alternatives, including dorm beds. This is especially true when you consider that Europe's hostels are ridiculously expensive, and generally start at about £20 for a bed in a freaking dorm room!
In our opinion, hotels are overpriced and bland - we honestly just don't get any excitement when checking into a hotel regardless of how nice the reviews may be online.
#2 - THERE'S FAR MORE INCLUDED
Hotels and hostels often give you a bed, a bathroom (sometimes shared), and a few other bits and pieces for your stay. With an Airbnb rental, you've automatically got more inclusions just by virtue of staying in a proper home, including a fully equipped kitchen (in most cases), bathroom, laundry facilities, and our personal favourite: our own space.
#3 - IT'S GREAT VALUE FOR MONEY
When we were in Paris over Christmas, we paid about £40 a night for a gorgeous little one-bed apartment in Canal Saint Martin. It was light, bright, and had the kind of marble spiral staircase you dream of when you think of a cute Parisian apartment building. When we were researching where to stay, hotels were listing rooms upwards of £110 a night, and that's only looking at the very, very budget end of the equation.
If you think about it, you can get your own home/apartment for the cost of a dorm bed (and sometimes even less), with all the inclusions listed above. You can also save money when you're there by cooking your own meals.
#4 - YOU CAN LIVE AUTHENTICALLY
Our favourite part of Airbnb is living like a local; assimilating into a local community that we otherwise would never have got to experience. Local markets full of character, thriving corner pubs, and buzzing hipster cafes... perfect.
#5 - YOU CAN MEET LOCALS
In Sri Lanka, we stayed in many Airbnb homestays, and met some of the most welcoming, hospitable people you can imagine. From fresh fruit left at our door to delicious home-cooked traditional meals; these local interactions made our time in Sri Lanka SO much better than we ever could have imagined.
HOW TO USE AIRBNB: A GUIDE
SET UP A PROFILE (AND USE OUR AIRBNB COUPON)
As with most apps and online platforms these days, the first thing you'll need to do set up is your profile. It's pretty easy and Airbnb will take you through the process step by step.
You'll need to add basic information, such as your name, date of birth etc. photo ID, email address and phone number, a profile photo (make sure you look nice!), and linking your social media accounts (Facebook, Google, LinkedIn). Finally, confirm your account through your email address and your account should be ready to book.
If you've not got an Airbnb account already, use our Airbnb coupon for up to £40 off your first booking.
SEARCH FOR ACCOMMODATION + LOCATIONS
You've signed up to Airbnb... now what?
Use the search function to look for properties in the destination you're wanting to visit.
You can use the filter function to narrow down your search options, including dates of travel, guests, home type (whole property or private room), price range, trip type, facilities, and instant book. Accommodation options can vary greatly, ranging from an entire property to sharing a room. We often prefer to go with 'entire property' due to our style of travel (i.e. running a business on the road) - if your budget allows it does give you some extra privacy and space!
Once Airbnb has provided a list of properties that match your search query, you can begin your quest to find the perfect property.
Use the 'wishlist' function to add properties that are of interest, and then begin to whittle down the options. The best way to do this is via location and reviews. We often look for properties that are visually appealing, are close to town and have easy transport links.
As the properties on Airbnb vary a lot, so too do the amenities of each. It's really important you check the amenities and facilities listed on each property thoroughly.
Some facilities may be interpreted very differently, such as kitchens (where some people believe a microwave and a sink are a fully-fledged kitchen), so read the property description carefully, and look at any photos to confirm the description.
Key included amenities we always search for are kitchen facilities, wireless internet, and if possible, laundry facilities.
If you're unsure of the facilities, you can directly contact the host to ask any questions. Don't be afraid to clarify what 'small kitchenette' really means.
Once you've chosen your ultimate list of properties, it's time to read the reviews. Reviews are a great way to understand whether the property you're looking at is exactly what you're after.
Obviously, look out for positive reviews and don't fret too much if there's a negative review or two (some people can be very fussy).
Do, however, fret if there's a range of mostly negative reviews, and steer clear if there are more negative than positive!
It's obvious but choose a property that fits all your criteria with great reviews, and you really will enjoy your Airbnb experiences.
CHECK THE PRICE
The price that you see after you've added in all of your filters may not be the final price you end up paying, as hosts often add extra fees to cover essentials like cleaning and concierge services. Always make sure you look at the final cost on the left-hand side before you book.
The total cost of the property also depends on how many guests are staying, so make sure you select the correct amount of guests when booking.
REQUEST A BOOKING
So you've found your perfect property? Brilliant. Now to book it.
It's very easy to book - just click the 'request a booking' button on the right hand side of the webpage.
The next step is to add a little more information about yourself, and why you'll be visiting. It's always nice to engage with the host at this point, so maybe drop a compliment about their place and why you've chosen it. Once you've submitted the booking, the host will generally then receive a notice to confirm your booking.
Generally, it's a quick response and the property is booked, however, in a small amount of cases, you may miss out. Jump to your next option and try again.
Some properties do have an 'Instant Book' function which means, you guessed it, you can book it immediately.
NOTE: Your credit card is not charged until the request is approved.
Once you've been approved for your Airbnb accommodation, you'll find all the information you need under the 'Trip' tab, including check-in instructions, transport options and any other important information the host may deem necessary.
At this point, your credit card will be charged.
It's worth noting that you should only ever pay directly through Airbnb. This is to cover you (and the host) if any issues arise.
The check-in process is generally very easy (and even more so now with many Airbnb concierge services).
Your host will send you through a detailed check-in process, including maps, directions, and any foibles the property may have. The check-in process will generally include the following:
Notifying your host your expected arrival time so they can be there check you in
Providing a code for a lock-box
Organising a key pick up from an agreed drop-off off point
At this point, communication is key, so if you're delayed, or even lost, get in touch with your host and let them know. They can either make alternative arrangements or help you out with how to get there.
WHEN YOU'RE THERE
Our general rule of thumb, whether it be a hotel, hostel, or Airbnb, is to be a respectable human being. Remember that with Airbnb, you're staying in someone elses property, so treat it as you would treat your own.
These are a few simple rules we follow:
Be considerate, of the property and its neighbours
Respect the locals, and the local environment (ie. don't take long showers when there's a drought)
Clean up and leave the house as you found it
Keep the noise down, especially in stairwells and if the walls are thin
Don't throw parties
If you're staying long term, you'll be responsible for your own housekeeping (unless otherwise arranged), such as washing sheets and towels. We always try to book a property with laundry facilities for this reason.
WHEN YOU'RE FINISHED
Unfortunately, your time on holiday is done, which means you'll need to check out of your Airbnb. Fortunately, similar to checking in, the procedures are pretty easy to follow. Your host will send you check-out details (or they can be found in your Airbnb profile), which for the most part will involve leaving the keys inside the property for the owner on their return. Alternatively, you may be asked to drop the keys off to a concierge or add them back to the lock-box.
As we mentioned above, try to leave the property as you found it - it's the right thing to do!
LEAVE A REVIEW
Reviews are what make Airbnb such a trustworthy platform, so it's important to leave a review, good or bad, for your host. Let them know what you loved about the property, be it the location, communication, or the property itself, as well as providing constructive feedback if necessary.
The host can also leave a review for you, which future hosts may use to judge whether you're a suitable tenant for their home.
CANCELLING YOUR BOOKING
There may come a time where you need to cancel your booking (this happened to us recently in Paris), however, cancellation policies differ from host to host.
Airbnb allows hosts to determine their cancellation terms through three standardised policies (flexible, moderate, strict). Each is enforced by Airbnb to protect both the hosts and guests. Those renting a property long-term (28 nights or more) will fall under the 'Long Term' cancellation policy.
If the cancellation policy is 'flexible', you may only need to outlay the Airbnb fees, however, if the policy is strict, you may need to pay a large amount of the total booking fee. In all cases, cleaning fees will be refunded if the reservation is cancelled before check-in.
In our experiences, properties which are highly sought-after often have very strict policies, whereas the standard, everyday style properties will have much more flexible policies.
Make sure you read the cancellation policy on your chosen property before booking.
PORTO INSPIRATION: PORTO'S MOST INCREDIBLE AIRBNB'S TO STAY IN
AIRBNB TIPS AND HACKS
GO THE AUTHENTIC OPTION
Over the last three years, we've seen the rise of Airbnb conglomerates; companies which buy up city apartments and convert them into Airbnb rentals to leverage the huge revenue opportunities.
In some instances, like Porto, where the property is cheap and insanely beautiful, whole buildings have been snapped up by developers to become Airbnb rentals.
This is causing huge issues across many cities around the world, where locals, in some cases, are being evicted from their homes by greedy tenants looking to make a quick buck, or are being locked out of the property market altogether.
Not only do we disagree with this style of Airbnb, we also find them devoid of any life. It's not really possible to gain that 'authentic' feeling in a new city when your surroundings are reminiscent of a homogenised serviced apartment.
In our opinion, it's best to search out an authentic Airbnb option - the home or private room that is clearly that of a local homeowner.
How do you find such gems? When searching the Airbnb platform, look at the pictures, read the reviews, and don't always chose the scandi-designed hyper-slick apartment. You never know, you may choose the property where an Italian grandma may just pop around with your dinner, or in our case, where our Croatian host gave us a local jam to take home.
COMMUNICATION IS SUPER IMPORTANT
We can't reiterate enough how important communication is to ensure you have an easy, seamless stay. Hosts are generally very accommodating to guests, so any issues you may have, let them know.
Fortunately, the app and 'messages' tab makes communication between yourself and the host very easy, so it shouldn't be too hard to resolve an issue.
LOOK OUT FOR WEEKLY/MONTHLY DISCOUNTS
We recently rented an Airbnb property for six weeks on the island of Hvar, which came with a 70% discount due to the longevity of our stay. This made the property extremely affordable and provided a stable income for the host, so it was a win-win. Always check to see if an apartment is offering discounts for long stays, or last-minute accommodation.
Planning on hitting up a festival in Budapest and want to book an apartment with a group? Now you can split payments for the property of your choice. It makes sorting out payment far easier.
The payments can be split up to 16 people on a single booking. If friends do not pay within the 72-hour window, there is an additional 24 hour grace period, after which the hold is released and those who have paid will be refunded.
CONSIDER AIRBNB EXPERIENCES
Airbnb experiences are a pretty new addition to the Airbnb eco-system and are activities designed and led by inspiring locals. They go beyond typical tours or classes by immersing guests in each host's unique world.
We did one recently in London, where we learnt about the history of East London and gained a new appreciation of our favourite London hood.
YOUR FREE AIRBNB COUPON
Save up to £30 ($45) instantly on your first booking by using the Airbnb coupon code below!
It's super easy - all you need to do is sign up to Airbnb, add the Airbnb coupon code and bang, you've got yourself £30!