Going for a holiday? Need an apartment? If you’ve never heard of Airbnb yet, I strongly recommend to check out this great rental apartment service! We’ve been using Airbnb in our travels for the last 6 years and stayed in more than 30 different apartments. I can honestly say, that we had problems only with 2 apartments and we received a full refund and great customer support from Airbnb.
So, in my opinion, if you choose your accommodation correctly and pay attention to the “right” things and important details, there is a little chance of finding yourself in an ugly or dirty apartment that will ruin your holiday. In this post, I’d like to share with you our experience and give you valuable tips on how to rent a holiday apartment on Airbnb and not get disappointed.
Make Use of Filters. Basic Requirements
Good online services and mobile applications, whether it’s a booking platform or an online store always have filters. I always use filters when creating a short list of apartments for further choice. You can choose an entire place, a private room, or even a shared room. I always check boxes on how many bathrooms or bedrooms we need, and what kind of property type it should be.
I prefer to use the price range option as well from the beginning, to narrow down the options and not to waste time scrolling through the apartments that I won’t be able to afford anyway.
You can also choose a language that your host needs to speak, like that you’ll eliminate apartments the hosts of which don’t speak your language. I never use this option as most of the hosts we’ve encountered always spoke at least a bit of English, so it was never a problem.
Accessibility filter: I’d use it only if you really have some certain requirements that must be met. I personally never use this filter. However, I always check in the description of an apartment or in guests’ reviews if there is an elevator in the building and what kind of entrance a hallway has. You never want to end up with heavy luggage climbing up steep stairs in darkness – and it easily can happen if you rent an apartment that is located in some old building in the very centre of some European city for instance (even if the apartment is newly refurbished and looks very modern). Especially, if you have kids, or you are pregnant or you have some injury or elderly people with you, make sure to ask about an elevator in the building, because you never know what expects you.
Make Use of Maps. Choosing Location
You can choose an apartment right from the map on Airbnb. There is a “List” view and a “Map” view. You can click on the “map” and see all the apartments offered in a city or a specific area. Note, that the location of the initial map that you’ll see when searching for an apartment is more accurate than the one you’ll find in the apartment’s description. Once you open an apartment’s page you’ll only find a map at the end of the page with a circled out area of where the apartment is located. You’ll receive an exact address only after you book the apartment. So if you are interested in a specific street, make sure to check it on the main page during your search.
Use the map to make sure you choose an apartment in the location that is right for you. If you don’t have a specific location in mind, make sure you google about the city/town beforehand to choose a good and safe area to stay in.
In case you are planning to eat out all the time, find a place that is close to restaurants and cafes, if you are planning to cook, see that there are some convenience stores or supermarkets around (sometimes guests mention this in their reviews). If public transport is important for you, make sure that the apartment you are going to rent is in a walking distance to the closest bus/metro/tram stop.
Amenities and Facilities
Using the filters offered, choose amenities and facilities that are important for you: WiFi, a washer, a dryer, a hairdryer, air conditioning, heating, etc. Pay attention to “Heating and A/C” options as sometimes they say “heating” and it can be “A/C” with a heating option. It can be pretty uncomfortable if you are going to a country where it’s cold inside, air conditioning might bother you, as it dries the air out and doesn’t give enough warmth, compared to central heating. If a room temperature is something that you are sensitive to, make sure to pay attention to this.
If you travel by car, always ask a host about parking. Sometimes they mention parking on site, but it’s not necessarily a free parking space, it can be some expensive private parking around 700 meters away from the apartment, or parking on a street (if you are lucky to find an available place).
If you are going to cook during your holiday, check the box “kitchen” but then see properly the photos and read guests’ reviews to be sure that the kitchen is well equipped and suitable for proper cooking.
Rating and Reviews
Always look at the rating of an apartment! I don’t even consider apartments 4.5 star. Only if It’s a last minute booking I might go for 4.5 star, otherwise – it’s always 5 star rated apartments. Why is this important? Even a 5 star rated accommodation might give you some problems or little things that you won’t like, let alone a 4.5 or 4 star. The thing is that in general people tend to look very positively on things while they are on holidays. They might be so happy to walk around a new beautiful city, to eat out in nice restaurants, to be out all day, that when they come to the rented place, the only thing they want is to sleep.
So, many people, unless they spend more time in a rented flat, might overlook certain details and only speak about the location, or parking, or design of the apartment. Also, different people have different standards of cleanliness. So, what is spotless for one, can be dirty for you. Therefore it’s important to choose 5 star rated accommodation, as it already doesn’t give you 100% 5 star quality, since it all depends on different people’s perception; but for sure it gives you more of a guarantee to get a good quality apartment compared to an apartment that guests already complained about something, therefore rated it lower than 5 star.
When checking reviews, search by keywords that are important for you: e.g.: “noise”, “quiet”, “clean” etc. I wouldn’t recommend renting an apartment without comments. Of course, it can be a case that the property is new, and nobody stayed in it yet; you can always check it, hosts usually say from what year the apartment is on the market. Some hosts would have more properties with reviews and you can check reviews of other properties, just to have an idea of how the host takes care of them. Or you can contact the host and see how he speaks to you and ask him why there are no reviews. Otherwise, I wouldn’t recommend renting a flat with no reviews, unless you are in a desperate situation and you urgently need accommodation.
Superhost and Instant Booking
To be honest I don’t really like the option of Instant booking. I know, it’s really convenient. It means that whatever you see in the calendar is up to date and you can clearly see the availability. What I don’t like about it, is that if a host is ready to accept any guest in his/her property, it might mean nothing, or it might mean that the host is not really into it, he/she doesn’t really choose the guests, and doesn’t really care about what kind of people are going to stay in the apartment, he/she most probably isn’t even around, and there is someone who manages the property and sometimes not very successfully. Of course, it’s not always a case, but it can be, so you have to be careful with that.
If I see that an apartment offers an instant booking and I really like the apartment and I like the reviews, I always message the host before I book. I see how the host responds to my message: if he is polite and properly answers my questions. I always contact the hosts before booking an apartment, even though with the instant booking option, you can book right away. However, I do it to see what kind of host I am going to have, what is his/her attitude to this business and to the guests, therefore projecting how the host might behave in case of potential problems.
Superhost. Everyone wants to have a “superhost”, I know. Even I tried to choose a “superhost” in the beginning. But, a “superhost” doesn’t always mean that your host is going to be super good. The thing is that sometimes, hosts are really friendly, really talkative, they can make you feel like they are your friends. Then they leave the place, you stay in the apartment and find that something is wrong with it.
Not every person will call and tell their “new friend” that he screwed up and that there is this problem in the apartment. Some people will leave not saying anything, and won’t even mention it in their review. Then due to the personality of such “superhost” an apartment will have a really good rating, everyone will praise it and the host will become a “superhost”. So, just keep in mind that “superhost” doesn’t always equals “perfect apartment” and a super host. It’s great to choose this option, but it shouldn’t be blinding you and raising your expectations.
In fact, I told you that in all these years we had only 2 problems with Airbnb accommodation, and one of them was with the Superhost’s apartment. I think he was so used to the constant praise coming from his guests, and apparently, no one ever complained about anything. So when we arrived and found the apartment really dirty and told him about it, he dealt with it as a superhost, yes, he gave us a full refund.
But then, he went ahead and wrote a really unpleasant review about us, basically, in other words saying that we lied and that the apartment wasn’t dirty, and we did it only for the sake of getting a refund because we are bloggers and probably we like traveling for free. So you get an idea of how fake a superhost can be. Again, it’s not the rule, it’s a possibility, just make sure that you check everything properly and don’t just rely on the “superhost” status, expecting, that your accommodation will be perfect.
Photos are Important
Pay attention to photos. When a host sets a featured photo of his property and he chooses a photo of the city (or main city’s attraction), but not of the apartment, normally such apartment won’t be good. I usually don’t even open such apartments, I just ignore them, as this rule never lets me down. A featured photo of an apartment is a photo of the city = shitty apartment. However, there is always an exception, I don’t argue that.
Too many detailed photos (that look pretty) and not so many room photos can say that the apartment isn’t good (unless you are renting in Japan, as they love taking photos of each little detail, but then you’ll have properly taken photos of the rooms as well). So basically in such cases, hosts try to achieve an image of a really nice apartment, that they thought about all the details and everything looks so beautiful. Don’t get deceived by that. You need to see how rooms look, what size they are and how the furniture is, but not what kind of flower is standing on a bedside table that you can’t even see properly.
Make sure you check all the photos. Some listings have old photos that were taken by the hosts, they would be at the very end and in the front, you’ll see professionally taken photos. Take a moment and see the old photos, as those will give you sometimes a better idea of the property. I worked as an Airbnb Photographer and I know how sometimes I had to make the place look much better on photos than it actually was. So if you see too much of white color in photos or too saturated and too sharp photos, you can assume that in reality, the lodging isn’t that bright and new looking, its look is enhanced on the photo.
Rules and Policy
Always read the rules of an apartment. Whether it’s a smoking or a non-smoking lodging, whether pets are allowed, parties, kids etc. We never stay in apartments where smoking is allowed because we aren’t smokers and choosing an apartment where people smoked before might bring you a lot of problems, as you’ll feel the smell for sure and it will bother you.
Also, I eliminate the apartments where pets are allowed, because you can never know where this pet was walking around (can be a table and a bed) and certain things in the apartments are not washed after each guest. So being quite obsessed about cleanliness I make sure I check this information. Don’t get me wrong, I love pets, but when I travel, I prefer to have as clean conditions as possible as you need to feel comfortable and at home when you are in a foreign place. By the way, if you are allergic to pet’s fur, you might want to avoid such properties as well.
Check the cancelation policy of an apartment you are going to book. Some properties have a strict policy, meaning, you won’t be able to get a full refund in case you need to cancel. There is a moderate policy and a free cancelation policy. Read properly before you book your accommodation.
Airbnb Customer Care
I am sure you won’t need it and your holiday will be perfect (if you follow all my tips 🙂 ), but just in case, you should know that reaching out to customer care isn’t a problem. You’ll have to call and speak to someone. They will always help. If you have any problem with the apartment, make sure to take the photos of it and try to call the customer care while you are still in the apartment. It might be a case that you fix the problem you faced just speaking to your host, but sometimes the host can’t do anything and you have to call the customer care. The possibility of you needing to call is very-very slim, but you should know, that it’s possible and if you are having a problem, there are people who’ll help. Tested!
There is a new service on Airbnb – “Airbnb Plus” – verified homes. I haven’t tried it yet, but from what I see Airbnb select properties that have only 5 star perfect reviews, the hosts of such homes are supposed to be very responsible and attentive to the details. Such properties have to provide extra comfort and they are noticeably better designed than others. You might want to check this new service out. I will do for sure!
If you are after a really nice apartment, always book in advance, as all the nicest places are normally gone at least 2-3 weeks before the date. Sometimes we urgently book an apartment even a couple of days before, but it takes a lot of time and luck to be able to find a nice place. Especially if you are going during the high season, or to a very popular destination, or on the opposite, to a very remote place, where options can be very limited.
I tried to think about everything and give you as many details as possible. Make sure to use all my tips and your holiday will be just perfect!
If you are new to Airbnb and don’t have an account yet, you can use my link to sign up and it will give you up to $30 off your first trip with Airbnb. If, after reading my post, you decided that renting a hotel room is a better option for you, after all, I suggest to use the Booking.com platform, it’s one of my favorite services for booking hotels.
Have you ever used Airbnb service? Share your experience in the comments below! I am very curious!