This post was last updated on July 17th, 2020 at 10:34 am
What is Airbnb? If you’ve never slept in an Airbnb before, we can imagine you’re wondering what you’re getting yourself into! Originally, the Airbnb website is a place where you can rent (or rent out) a house, apartment, or room from a private individual. The idea was that this was mainly done by “ordinary” people, so that you really rent a house from someone who normally someone lives there themselves, or that you rent a room while the landlord is still at home. Nowadays you’ll see that more and more professional landlords offer their Bed & Breakfast, hotel rooms, or holiday homes on Airbnb. So you can rent a house or room from a local, but you can also end up in a normal hotel.
Different types of Airbnb’s
To give you an idea of the different Airbnb’s: In France, in Reims, for example, we spent the night in a house where a woman normally lives with her child. She was not at home, so we had the whole house to ourselves when we were in Reims, but all her personal belongings were still there (think of clothes or picture frames and many other things). We immediately had a homely feeling and the idea that we really lived in Reims ourselves (it was also a super cozy house, so maybe that also helped!).
In Taiwan, we also used Airbnb a lot during our backpacking trips, but unlike Reims, we always ended up at nice Bed & Breakfasts and once at a great surf hostel. So there is no one type of Airbnb, but different homes and places to stay are offered. Other places we have used Airbnb include Christchurch (New Zealand), Bali (read our blog on Bali here), Seychelles, Budapest, Auckland (New Zealand), and Berlin.
What is Airbnb? And how does Airbnb work? We explain everything:
What does Airbnb actually mean? You probably didn’t know about the meaning of “Airbnb”:
Airbnb was first conceived by Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia in 2007, who started the company in their shared San Francisco apartment and originally called it “Airbed and Breakfast”. Another variation on the widely used “Bed and Breakfast”. They did not rent out beds, but inflatable beds. The word Airbnb is therefore partly derived from that original name. It is a combination of the word “Airbed” and the word “Breakfast”.
Now you can book much more than just an inflatable bed, for example, there are also complete villas or fantastic treehouses on the site! Airbnb was founded in 2008 and now there are more than 6 million unique places and you can rent a house or apartment in more than 81,000 cities and in more than 191 countries.
Is Airbnb reliable?
Another question we get super often: Is Airbnb reliable? It was very reliable every time we used it. So our answer is yes! The worst thing we have experienced is that we slept in a street in Porto where apparently many students went out at night who sang loudly in the street. And another thing we’ve experienced is that the room was much smaller than what it looked like in the pictures. Those photos turned out to have been taken with a gigantic wide-angle lens. Anyway, if those two things are the worst things, then it is not so bad. We always pay close attention before we book anything. We do this by always following these 3 steps:
- Read reviews to see how others have experienced it
- Have a good look at the photos (Does it look good and neat? Does it look real or photoshopped?)
- View the landlord’s profile, does he/she rent out more often / is he or she a superhost?
And what if your Airbnb is not so nice and your landlord is not reliable…
Fortunately, we have never experienced anything strange or bad ourselves, but it is of course possible that a house where you want to stay or have stayed at, was not as stated in the advertisement. It’s also possible that the landlord is not nice at all. In such a case, you can contact Airbnb, they have special customer service for this. You can find the contact form for this on their feedback page.
How does Airbnb work? How to book a nice Airbnb in 5 steps!
1. Create an Airbnb profile & receive a free voucher: The first step is: Sign up with Airbnb. And we immediately have a well-kept tip for that: Because if you sign up here you will immediately receive a US$38 discount on your first trip! Super nice right? You can register with your email address or with Facebook. You can then complete your profile. Registration is free, by the way (you even get free credit!) and you can pay after you actually book something, so don’t be afraid that you will be charged immediately because that won’t happen.
In our profile we briefly told something about ourselves, added a good and clear profile photo, a telephone number, our date of birth, gender, and where we live. Why you have to provide all this info? So that it is clear to the landlord who you are! Of course it is a bit exciting for you to rent a house from someone, but the landlord also wants to know who he or she is facing. So create a nice personal profile that shows who you are! Once you book, it is often also necessary to scan your ID or passport. Airbnb asks for this because they really want to know who you are. With this copy you prove that you are who you say you are. Airbnb does not share this copy with anyone else.
2. Look for a nice private room, hotel room, or complete home: Then the search for the perfect home begins! Enter in the search field where you want to go, with how many people and on what dates. A map then shows where you can rent places to stay. You can also enter how much you want to spend (minimum and maximum), so you can immediately filter for prices that suit your holiday. We always look for complete homes ourselves and if nothing can be found, we only look at private rooms. This is because we prefer these types of accommodation. To find the ideal home, you can enable various filters, such as:
- Type of accommodation (private room, entire house or hotel room)
- If you do not share the entire house, you rent it all to yourself
- In a private room, it may happen that there are other people in the house
- In a hotel room, you have the opportunity to sleep in an official hotel
- Rooms & beds (you can indicate how many rooms and beds you want)
- Facilities (here you can indicate whether you want a kitchen or a swimming pool or WiFi)
- Superhost (if you want to be 100% sure about your place to stay you can also filter on superhosts, these are recognized hosts on Airbnb)
- Accessibility (here you can filter how easily accessible a place is)
Why is it sometimes cool to rent a room when others may be present? Chances are you will meet locals who like to tell travelers more about their location. This gives you more of a home feeling and you get to know a country or place better.
3. Found a great Airbnb? Check the reviews: Did you find a nice place? Then check the reviews carefully! We usually scan them a bit and if there are some negative ones, we read the reviews a bit better. The website automatically translates the reviews, so you can often just read the texts in your own language. It sometimes happens that there is a negative piece, but if the majority is just positive, we often take such a reaction with a grain of salt. Especially if the assessment was a while ago because chances are that the landlord has already done something about the problem.
You can also tell from the reviews whether you are getting value for your money or whether you are paying way too much for something that is actually quite crappy. Sometimes there is also useful information about the landlord, whether he/she is, for example, very friendly or difficult to reach. So always read the reviews carefully before you book. This way you can also find out whether the ad text and photos really match reality.
4. Check the conditions and ask your host if you have any questions: It is always smart to also check the conditions of the place you want to rent. What, for example, is the check-out time? And when can you arrive? We’ve had times where the check-in time was quite late, while we arrived early. It is then smart to be in contact with the landlord. You often have personal contact via Airbnb and it is not surprising at all to present things like this, it is a lot more personal than contact via Expedia or Booking.com, for example, where you often do not even get to speak to the hotels. So if you have any questions about anything, don’t hesitate to ask.
There is also room for this during the booking process, but it is also easy afterward. In general, landlords also try to listen to your wishes. Another thing that you should look closely at is canceling. With one house it is easier and cheaper than with the other, the period also differs when you can do this free of charge. So always read carefully about cancellation policy at the accommodation that you have in mind. Usually, it is also indicated with the word “flexible” or “strict” to what extent this can be easy or difficult for a particular home. If it is flexible, you can often cancel up to 24 hours before your trip.
5. Book your Airbnb: Have you checked the reviews, contacted the landlord, and reviewed the conditions? Then you can make a reservation! You do this by once again checking the dates and the number of people and then clicking on the “Book” button. Your reservation will not be made immediately. You often get questions such as:
- Who are you?
- Who are you traveling with?
- Do you have any questions?
- What is the purpose of your trip?
Sometimes you can also book directly, but this is not possible at most accommodations. So you should know that sometimes you have to wait until the landlord responds before it is final. It is often the case that if you give a lot of information or clear information about your trip, there is a good chance that you will be approved quickly. It also helps if you rent more often through Airbnb because then they also see what reviews you have had as a tenant.
Has the reservation been approved? Then you will see the cancellation conditions again and sometimes also house rules. For example, we once got a rule that we were absolutely not allowed to throw a party at the house. This was when we celebrated New Years in Sydney. We then said several times via the contact form that we had tickets for a party and really did not want to throw a party inside of the accommodation.
How does payment work on Airbnb?
We used to pay for everything with our credit card, but nowadays you also have the option to pay in other ways: You can pay via (prepaid) debit card, Apple Pay, Android Pay, iDeal, and PayPal. Always make sure that you pay via the site itself and do not transfer money directly to the landlord, because if you pay via Airbnb, it is safe. You can also pay for your Airbnb directly via the Airbnb website or app. You just have to enter your payment details, approve the payment and you’re done.
In addition to Paypal, one of the best ways to pay is by using a prepaid debit card. This is a safe and convenient payment option. Moreover, you cannot spend more money than is stated on your card. That way you avoid unforeseen expenses and Airbnb cannot immediately deduct an amount in the event of a claim for damages. An additional advantage of this payment method is that with most prepaid cards you do not pay any exchange costs. This can quickly save a few dollars because some banks charge more than 2% exchange costs. Would you like an overview of the best prepaid debit cards for traveling? Then take a look here.
Do you want to rent out your own house on Airbnb? It works like this:
On Airbnb, you can of course rent out your house or apartment yourself. This is actually super simple and you also have to create an account for this. In the advertisement you describe what your sleeping place looks like, you add photos and prices. You can start renting out in no time.
Yes! Great! We can give everyone an Airbnb voucher! If you sign up here, you will receive US$38 in credit that you can spend freely on Airbnb. Very nice, because this way you can cheaply test out whether this way of staying overnight suits you or not.