Airbnb is an organisation that now has over 2 million property listings in 191 countries, and it seems to be the new hit way to get holiday accommodation sorted. If you’re behind the times and haven’t heard of it, Airbnb is the best-known in a new swathe of holiday websites; which allow people to list and book accommodation all over the world, ranging from whole houses to boat cabins. The website is not for hotels or hostels, but unique properties with a personal touch (be that a good or bad thing). A property could only be available for a few weeks a year when the hosts are on holiday, or it could be up for rent all year round. Regardless, more and more people all over the world, including my parents, are deciding to plan their holidays using Airbnb.
Clearly, this platform has many positives: diverse properties and prices, a quirkiness which hotels are usually devoid of and an impressively efficient service. However, as Airbnb confesses, ‘trust is what makes it work,’ and when trust is needed there is an inherent risk. I have used Airbnb in several countries and had only good experiences; but there is always that flicker of worry before arrival that the host will be a bit weird, or the property will be in a dodgy part of town. In light of that risk, here are a few ways to make sure your time in an Airbnb is as worry free as possible.
- Be a detective
The website is designed to put people at ease, boasting various ways in which you can investigate the host before arrival. The first thing to do is make sure you read the reviews before you book: if they suggest that there were no problems with the host or property, then this is a good sign. If not, then it’s probably time to pick from one of the other 2 million properties. Secondly, utilise the messaging service that Airbnb provides in which you and the host can communicate prior to arrival without giving them your personal contact details. It’s a good way to find out a bit about them, and vice versa, so that you don’t feel like you’re going to be hosted by a complete stranger.
- Don’t go without saying goodbye
As with any trip, make sure you tell friends and family that you’re going away. Give them the address of your Airbnb, because it’s always reassuring to know that someone knows where you are (especially when travelling alone).
- Get to know your destination
Before you book the property, do some research in its location, learning a bit about the country and area that you’re going to. The FCO recommends that you read up on the local laws and customs of your destination before you travel, so use their website to find this information and more. Once you have familiarised yourself with general information about the country, which will help you fit in and avoid making faux pas, research the town or region that you’re going to before booking a property. Don’t simply book somewhere because it’s in the city you want, check which part of town it’s in; that way you don’t end up in a dodgy area that won’t be very nice after dark.
- Trust your instinct
If you have second thoughts about the hosts or property during the reservation process, you can contact Airbnb directly and they will help you cancel it. This means that you don’t have to go, just because you’ve booked it.
- Don’t go uninsured
I can still never understand why anyone would leave the UK without travel insurance, but leaving all your luggage in someone else’s house should be an even greater incentive. Make sure you take out comprehensive cover, which includes damage/loss property and medical expenses, enabling you to relax whilst away in the knowledge that you’d be covered if a negative situation did occur. For all the information you need about getting the right travel insurance, hit www.gov.uk/guidance/foreign-travel-insurance.
For more information and travel tips, head to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office website