This post is not sponsored by Airbnb, and all opinions expressed here are my own. I just love it that much!
The ability to rent apartments for short amounts of time has revolutionised how we travel.
Once it occurred to us that we weren’t limited to staying in hotels or hostels everywhere we went and realised that short-term apartment rentals were indeed quite a sustainable way for us to travel, we suddenly found our ideal travel style: stay in a city for a month, work from the coolest cafés, take in some sights, do a couple of day trips, buy food in the supermarkets, have friends over for dinner, repeat.
Of course where you’re looking to rent will influence which websites are best to find apartments (for example, in South America we used a variety of different means to rent the places we stayed in), but arguably the most well developed, user-friendly place to start your search is Airbnb.
It’s always my first stop when I’m looking for apartment options and I could easily spend a couple of hours just browsing through the many gorgeous apartments listed for my ever-expanding wishlist of places to spend a month.
Airbnb can be used to rent whole apartments or houses or just a room within someone’s home. In this post, however, I’ll be focusing solely on renting a whole place, meaning your interaction with your host will be limited to initial emails and perhaps a meeting when you arrive and leave to hand over keys.
1. Set up your profile
Airbnb gives you the ability to do a one-step sign up with either Facebook or Google+, making it a very quick process. You can, however, sign up directly through their website to keep it separate from your social media accounts.
Once you’ve signed up, it’s a good idea to have a picture and some basic information about you on your profile to let potential hosts know that you’re an actual human being. This isn’t Couchsurfing, though, so hosts are unlikely to reject or accept you based on what you say about yourself on your profile, so don’t worry too much about this.
Sign up with this link to get €20 off your first booking!
2. Search and filter
Before you actually start searching, spend a little time thinking about what it is you’re looking for in a property to rent. What are the absolute essentials for you? After the basic search of typing in a destination, selecting dates and number of people staying, you can filter for more specific facilities. Just click More Filters below the search field.
I always filter for the following things: entire place, wireless internet and kitchen, but other things may be important for you. Perhaps you need a place that is handicap accessible, with free parking if you’ll be arriving by car or a property where smoking is permitted. You can even select for places with a pool, doorman or where breakfast is provided.
You can also adjust the range of prices you’ll be shown to filter out the really expensive or cheap ones or just to narrow your options, if like me, you have a tendency to look at places that are more expensive than you can justify or really afford!
3. Contact hosts
Once you’ve found a couple of places that meet your requirements and that you like, it’s time to start writing to the hosts. If there are references left by other Airbnb users, read through them first to see if there have been any recurring issues that you may want to ask about.
If you’re planning to stay for longer than say, a week, and the host only lists a per night price, you are in a pretty good position to negotiate for a lower price. I do this simply by asking what their best price is for the period I wish to stay, and usually (especially if I’m renting for a month) I get a discount. In general, our aim is to get our accommodation under £20 a night (total, for both of us) wherever we are.
In doing this, consider what it would cost you to stay in a hostel for the same period, for example. If the cheapest hostels are charging €6 for a dorm bed in a room with five other people, it’s unrealistic to expect to get a modern, one-bedroom apartment which you’ll have entirely to yourself for less than this.
Try to negotiate fairly, and do not expect hosts to bend over backwards to accommodate your budget to the penny, as they have to pay Airbnb fees at their end, as well as all the regular costs of running the apartment as well as possibly a management and cleaning fee.
It’s a good idea that your initial message to your potential host include the following:
- A brief introduction of who you are and why you’re travelling to that place
- What you like about their apartment
- Any questions you have to clarify anything that wasn’t made clear in the profile (are there doors between the rooms? is the wifi fast and reliable? is it quiet at night?)
- The exact dates of your stay
- Your means of transport and approximate arrival and departure times
4. Reserve and pay
While Airbnb does give you the option to request to book places straight away without contacting the host (and then gives hosts 24 hours to accept or decline your request), I recommend always contacting them first in order to check if indeed their place is available (some hosts do not update their calendars very regularly) and what the best price they can offer is.
Once you’ve agreed on the dates and price with your host, you can book the apartment directly in the chat. For this, you must have a card you can use for online payments, and you will be charged immediately and will receive an email confirmation.
When this stage is completed, you’ll also receive the full contact information of your host (email, telephone), including the full address of the property you’ve rented, usually with directions on how to get there.
5. Be a good guest
While you’re staying in your rented apartment, please be a good guest! Be considerate of the neighbours, who are probably locals who live there all year round and who have to endure tourists like you coming and going every few days or weeks next door.
Some Airbnb rentals will include a cleaning service, though most don’t, but the place should be equipped with cleaning supplies. Clean up when you make a mess, and be respectful of the apartment in general.
You’re not usually expected to clean the bedsheets or towels you used before you leave, but it’s a good idea to leave the place in a similar state of tidiness as it was when you arrived. This way, you’ll likely get a good reference from your host, which other future potential hosts will see, and be more inclined to accept you as a guest.
6. Leave a reference
A few days after your rental is over, you’ll receive an email from Airbnb asking you to rate your experience and leave a reference for your host. It only takes a couple of minutes, but it’s worth it to help Airbnb continue functioning.
Don't forget, if you've never used it before and want to sign up, use this link to get €20 off your first booking! We'll get something too if you use this link, but it definitely won't cost you any extra.
Would you add any other tips? Have you had good or bad experiences using Airbnb?