We’ve been using Airbnb for several years now, but haven’t gotten around to writing a good review. Probably because we’re busy travelling. That’s a good excuse though. We’ve stayed at around 50 Airbnb apartments and would like to share our experience.
If you’re unfamiliar with the site, Airbnb is a place where private home owners can rent out their properties (usually apartments) to travellers. It gives hosts a platform to earn some short term rental income and travellers the chance to enjoy the comforts of a private home.
Finding a place
Airbnb has properties available in pretty much all major cities around the world. The search function is easy enough to use, and works basically the same as the popular hotel sites.
You can search by map or by list, and have lots of filters like price, housing type, amenities, neighborhood, host type (more on that later) and plenty more.
We’d like to show you an example of our recent Airbnb booking which was on our trip to Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. For this particular booking, we set the filters to apartments costing less than $80 a night with two bedrooms, internet, laundry and two bathrooms. There was a good number of results, and we used the wish list function to bookmark around 5 or 6 places which looked good and were within our budget.
Securing a place
Once we had a shortlist we had to decide on one to book. This is usually a tough choice in places where there are lots of hosts as they really do try to compete with each other. Our priorities here were location, price, and amenities, in that order.
Two of them did not have any reviews from previous guests and the hosts didn’t have any reviews either, so from a safety perspective we disregarded them from the get-go. That left with us with around 4 properties to choose from.
Here’s a free money saving Airbnb tip. If you found an apartment without any reviews, check if the host has any other listings and if they have any reviews. Sometimes hosts have several listings for the same apartment or they can be a superhost with many listings. I would totally trust a superhost, even if a listing doesn’t have any reviews, those guys know what they’re doing and they strive to provide the best Airbnb experience ever. You CAN save money by booking listings with no reviews. Just be very careful, check first:
- They must be plentiful and good quality
- Other listings by the same host
Now, Airbnb also has an “Instant Book” function, where you can simply book using the online reservation system and secure the place instantly at the listed price. However, if you plan on staying for more than a few nights, you have a bit of bargaining power. I’ve noticed a lot of places on AirBnB are not heavily booked, so, at least when we were looking, supply seemed to outweigh demand. Therefore we decided to get in touch with each of them, and see if anyone could offer us a better price.
To do that we simply used the “Contact host” option. You can find this option at the bottom of each listing.
Our message was along the lines of, “Hello, we’re a group of four people arriving in Playa in a month and need a place to stay. Could you possibly offer us a better rate if I stayed for two weeks? Our budget is around $70/night”
We got a response from one host literally within minutes. Their listed rate was $80, but was happy to give us $70 per night for the two weeks. That’s a 15% discount just by asking! We accepted immediately and we arranged a check-in time that would suit us both. It really was that simple.
(As for the other hosts, one got back to us the next day and counter-offered, one said she couldn’t lower their rate and one didn’t reply at all).
Payments and fees
Airbnb allows to pay in the currency of your credit card or any other currency, but in order to do that you need to choose the correct country when you add a credit card to your account.
It’s kind of a hack but It’s really easy, you just choose the country of the currency you want to pay in. For example, if you have a European USD card you can choose USA as the country of the card and you will be charged in USD. Otherwise you’ll be charged in EUR and will pay a hefty exchange fee.
Free tip: Pay closer attention to the fees that hosts charge like the cleaning fee or other fees not related to the standard Airbnb fee. Some hosts can offer a low price on the apartment but hike up their fees so you can easily be better off booking a better more expensive apartment but with lower fees.
In the end though, we’re quite happy to pay Airbnb a fee for their service.
Our place was what we expected. The photos were accurate and the place looks even better than the photos. You can’t describe the feeling of happiness when that happens. You just feel like you’ve struck gold. and the apartment was clean with all the amenities promised. Here’s what $80 a night gets you in Playa:
As for the process, the host simply gave us the address and a time to check-in, we met in the lobby at the scheduled time and within 15 minutes we’re all settled. If we needed anything (like towels, sheets, barbeque set), we just sent her a quick text message or email and it was all taken care of. It’s all very fuss-free without any filling of forms or paperwork (as Airbnb keeps all that stuff on their system).
Once our stay was over the check-out was just as easy. We just left the keys on the table, closed the door and left.
Airbnb definitely has our tick of approval we definitely will be using it in future for all our travelling. It’s not exactly ideal for super budget travellers, as dorms and even private hostel rooms are likely to be cheaper (although you can find those on Airbnb as well), but for those who want a bit more privacy and flexibility it’s definitely a better option than hotels.
Also, we’d like to note the quality of Airbnb support. They have your back no matter what happens. During the years we’ve been using Airbnb we’ve had very little issues but as nothing is perfect some hosts we’re not very honest and we had to contact the support. All the issues were resolved almost instantly and the people who work in the support are a super nice bunch.
A few tips and things you should know
- Always make sure you check the reviews of the apartment and host.
- Always check you host’s fees, like cleaning, etc.
- Be mindful that when you make a booking, Airbnb will pre-authorise your credit card and charge a security deposit. If anything happens to the apartment while you’re in there, like, say, you leave the shower on and flood the place, Airbnb will be able to charge it to you. Before you can make a booking they also will require a photo/scan of your ID to verify your identity/account, and I assume they do the same with hosts. It’s bit of a fuss but a good sign that they take security seriously.
- Be respectful to the neighbors and to the host. Take out the trash, keep the apartment in good condition and be nice and polite.
Keen to try Airbnb?
If you’re interested to try Airbnb on your next trip, you can get a free $40 credit for your first booking by signing up through our referral link.
Have you tried Airbnb? What did you think? Let us know in the comments below!