Five tips for Airbnb novices

The outside of Airbnb offices.

The outside of Airbnb offices.

I recently used Airbnb for the very first time and not only did I have an interesting experience, but I would recommend the service to those looking for accommodation as an alternative to staying in a hotel.

What Airbnb essentially is, is a casual marketplace for those looking to rent out a room – or an entire home – for a specified period of time. It’s popular with holidaymakers on short breaks, but longer-term lets are available.

A reminder as to what Airbnb is

A reminder as to what Airbnb is

I'd wanted to try it for quite a while. I don’t mind the box room over a flashy hotel and, as am a student, sharing amenities isn’t a new thing to me.

Maybe I’d want a hotel on more of a beach holiday, but on a city break all you need is somewhere to rest your head at night – and Airbnb has plenty of options for that.

But there are a few things you should consider before diving headfirst into becoming the latest in a long line of Airbnbers.

1) Search for a verified member and read their reviews

Proceed at your own caution. The obvious drawback with Airbnb is that you don’t already know who you’re staying with.

There’s a certain level of trust you have to have in order to stay in someone else house that you’ve only connected with over the Internet before, but verification and customer reviews of any Airbnb host are important in determining whether your host is safe, or not.

Hosts can be verified in several ways, including having verified identification and confirmations via email address, phone number and social media sites.

You can also generally gauge how good a host and the accommodation is by reading the reviews and references they’ve received from others who have stayed with them. The more positive reviews, the safer it’s likely to be.

2) Get yourself verified

Whilst it is good to find a verified host, it also works in your favour to get your own profile verified. This is pretty simple, and all can be done sat behind the computer.

If you are verified, there’s more chance a host will accept your booking and be more comfortable hosting you. It works the same way if you’re looking to host yourself.

Identification verification can be done via webcam, although if your webcam isn’t a high-enough quality then use your phone to take an image and upload it that way. Mobile and social media verification can also be done almost instantaneously.

3) Compare Airbnb prices with hotels and hostels

Airbnb isn’t the be-all and end-all when it comes to booking accommodation. After all there are hotel and hostel sites to explore.

There are good deals to be had on Airbnb, and there are rooms and sometimes even whole houses and apartments on offer for reasonable prices. However, it is worth covering all bases and searching other places before completing the booking process. Try Booking.com, Hotels.com, LateRooms and Hostelworld, too.

4) Find out exactly where you’re staying

One problem I encountered on that recent trip was finding out exactly where our host’s house was. Fortunately, my Maps app on my phone bailed me out. But it’s best to have a printout of directions, or screenshots on your phone, and know exactly where you are going.

Not all hosts live right in the city centre, and so some travel on the other end might be involved. If this involves public transport, find out exactly where you’ll need to go and at what times the transport will be running at.

5) Speak to your host beforehand

If there are things you’re unsure of, provisions that will need to be made on your stay, or if you just want any pointers or suggestions for the place you will be visiting, then make sure to have a chat with your host before you go.

Airbnb has its own messaging service and app, meaning that communication is really easy.