The obsession with local travel experiences has made the home sharing site, Airbnb very popular among travellers. As a host and frequent user, I’m a big fan of the website. For travellers, staying at an Airbnb listed property can mean getting local advice and invites, stays in residential neighbourhoods (out of touristy areas) and sometimes lower costs.
But the site has faced some scrutiny too: untidy places, sexual harassment, and recently, blatant host discrimination. In response, Airbnb has taken steps to address these serious concerns, including banning hosts who don’t reflect the company’s values and meeting with civil rights leaders. The ugly truth is that these issues are not Airbnb-specific and I’ve faced each of these, to some degree or another, at hotels during my travels too.
So, rather than focusing on issues that can, unfortunately, happen anywhere, here are four things you can do to increase your chances of choosing an awesome house and host with Airbnb:
1. Decide how much privacy you need.
Are you someone who likes to be alone most of the time? Or do you like having random chats in shared spaces? Based on your wants for privacy, you’ll search for a private room or entire space. Personally, I enjoy the random chats and encounters, so I usually go for a private room in a shared house or apartment with another woman, or couple.
2. Check those reviews.
This is an obvious one, but what exactly should you look for in reviews? To begin, I usually only consider places that have at least 5 reviews, anything less and it’s too tough to judge. When reading through the reviews, look for patterns. If multiple people complain about dirt or noise or an amazing host, it’s pretty safe to assume some truth. As a solo traveller, I pay special attention to the reviews of other women, especially around safety.
3. Confirm amenities.
Most Airbnb properties provide basic amenities, and the site actively encourages hosts to meet its high “hospitality standards.” However, I always confirm that the ones essential during my stay are listed. For example, wifi is crucial for me to work and easy access to a laundry facilities is needed since I’m a light packer and wash frequently.
4. Send a message to get the vibe before you book.
This is probably the most important step in the process. I always send a message to potential hosts before booking, even if the Instant Book feature is available. I do this to introduce myself but most importantly to get a sense of who the host is based on their responses. Do they take a day to reply? This tells me that if I need them in a pinch while in their space, I may have to wait. Are they friendly and welcoming? This certainly doesn’t guarantee anything, but it can be a good indicator of things to come.
I’ve noticed online chatter from people who are discouraged from using Airbnb due to recent reports and I think that’s a mistake. There are always going to be bad apples out there but I believe they represent the minority on the site. Personally, I only know of glowing experiences from other travellers and I’ve never once had a negative experience. If you do end up in an awkward, questionable, or unusual situation, Airbnb is known for making things right, but the potential for an awesome time is far greater.
Have you used Airbnb? What has your experience been with the platform?