Everything you need to know before booking airbnb accommodation

Last Updated on November 27, 2020 by queenie mak

I started using Airbnb three years ago because I was travelling a lot more and needed to find a way to cut back on my expenses.

Enters Airbnb. Instead of living in hotels, you can live in someone’s home when you are travelling. Not only do you save money on accommodation, but you can live like a local and experience a more authentic way of travelling. You also have access to all the facilities of a home like a living room, kitchen and a washing machine!

Founded in 2008, Airbnb is a company that has millions of accommodation listings worldwide spanning over 191 countries. There are options to rent a shared room, private room, entire apartment, a whole villa, an RV, a houseboat, a treehouse, etc.

And if you are someone who likes to travel slow (like me) or living a digital nomad life, Airbnb is a great option for a long-term stay. Depends on the host, they might even offer a weekly or monthly discount.




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How to Book Airbnb Accommodation

The actual process for booking Airbnb accommodation is quite simple. If this is your first time booking, spend some time browsing through the website. The help section answers a majority of the questions you may have. From how to book your trip, to payment questions, and everything else in between.

As mentioned already, the booking process is simple. Here is what I do to book Airbnb accommodation:

  1. Browse through the listings for a specific location (and filter it further by selecting the types of home, cost, and anything else that is important to you i.e. you put a filter on listings that have 2 beds, etc.)
  2. Save the listings I like in a list
  3. From the saved list, pick one I like the most and/or fit my criteria the most
  4. Secure the booking by credit card payment
  5. Make sure to get all the relevant information on the Airbnb, ie. a special instruction to get the key, address to Airbnb, how to get to your Airbnb, etc.


If you are not part of Airbnb yet, please use this code to claim $35 for your Airbnb first time discount. You will receive $35 credit when you book first Airbnb accommodation over $75 (before fees and taxes). And because this is part of Airbnb’s referral program, I get $20 credit as well. It is a win-win situation!




How to Select the Best Airbnb

It sounds like a pretty simple process. Browse, choose and book.

For your first booking, it might take you a bit of time to book as you may browse through the website and understand how the site or the whole process works.

I must admit though; there are days where I would spend hours browsing through thousands of listings (okay, it may not be thousands but sure feels like it!). And because I travel about eight months in a year, I am always looking for accommodations wherever I go. Therefore, I try to streamline the booking process as much as I can and sharing the tips with you.


Here are some things I always do when it comes to picking the best Airbnb accommodation:

1. Look through all the photographs

Photographs are everything! The more relevant photos, the better. I always scan through all the pictures before booking. And I also pay attention to the quality of images as if it has anything to do with the condition of the home. Ha!

Sometimes when there are too many listings, I only look at the first photo and make a judgement base on the first photo. After all, it is the first impression you have of the accommodation so it must represent it well.

Furthermore, I always look for a photo of the bathroom and the toilet specifically. For me, all my best Airbnb memories included a clean bathroom and a modern toilet. Ha! I’m not even joking. This is just my quirk (and maybe you will have yours too!)




2. Browse listings with filters

It can be overwhelming browsing through all the listings. By using filters, you can further narrow down your options.

When it comes down to browse all the listings, make sure you know exactly what you want. For example, if you are looking for an entire home, with at least two beds and in the price range under $150, then adjust the filters that will give you the results you want. There are many filters under “more filters” so adjust them accordingly.

For me, I always adjust filters for “home type” and check off “entire home” and “private room” and indicate a price range in “price.” Then I browse through the photographs of potential options and look for a proper bed, clean bathroom (and toilet), kitchen, table and chair (because I work remotely and that is one thing I really need).


3. Location/neighbourhood

Part of the process will require you to know a little bit about the place you are going to. Is there a specific neighbourhood you want to be in? Does it matter if the Airbnb accommodation is close to public transit? Is it near a subway stop? Is it in the centre of all the attractions you want to visit? And is the apartment in a safe area? These are all the questions you want to ask yourself first.

Generally, I pick an Airbnb accommodation base on three things: the general comfort of the home, price and location. The first two items are already mentioned above. In addition to the point above, knowing which area you want to stay in is important. If you know where you want to stay, then browse the listings in that area.



4. Read the description in each potential listing

Read the description carefully and make sure the accommodation is offering everything that it says it would.

For example, if the listing says it has two beds, then look for photographs and see if there are actually two beds or one bed and a sofa bed. Sometimes it is all in the details.


5. Read reviews and ratings

Reviews and ratings are very important to the reputation of the listing. These are the unsolicited opinion from travellers who genuinely want to give an honest opinion of the accommodation they just lived it. And I read the reviews and ratings for all the listings I am interested in.

Personally, I give a review each time because I want to help other people in selecting an Airbnb that is right for them. Typically, I give details of the space, the communication process with host and anything else that is exceptionally good (or bad). If your accommodation is truly exceptional, let it be known. And if it is the opposite, let it be known as well. Try to list the facts instead of emotions so others can decide on actual facts rather than an opinion.


6. Ask questions

If you are not clear on something or have particular questions, ask the host to clarify. Click “contact host” in the listing about halfway down.

And always communicate with the host via the Airbnb website because all your communication correspondences are in the same place and if anything happens, i.e. if you have to escalate an issue, Airbnb can see the communication between you and the host and try to rectify the problem.




7. Plan as early as you can

There are perks in planning ahead when it comes to booking Airbnb accommodation. As soon as you know your travel dates, start researching! You will find lower prices and more choices if you are booking in advance. There’s no right or wrong timing, but if you take advantage of booking early, you will have more options for what you want to spend.


8. Understand the cancellation policy

You should always be mindful of the cancellation policy of all your Airbnb bookings.

If you are unsure of your travel plans, book an Airbnb accommodation with a flexible cancellation policy. So if you have to cancel, you will get all your money back minus some fee. Check the specific cancellation policy for more details.

And if you have to book a long-term stay (i.e. more than 28 days), the cancellation policy automatically defaults to long-term, meaning if you cancel your reservation, you are required to pay the host 30 days following the cancellation date or up to the end date of the original booking.

Typically, I do not cancel any of my bookings. But there was an odd time that I had to cancel. Initially, I booked an apartment for the month (i.e. 30 days), and I thought the cancellation policy is flexible. When I decided I was going to leave the country a bit early and wanted to change my booking, it was only then I realized the flexible cancellation is switched to the long-term because I booked it for more than 28 days. It means I couldn’t get my money back. Lesson learned.

When you book a long-term stay, be confident that you will stay and not cancel the booking.





What if Something Goes Wrong during Your Stay

Usually, nothing goes wrong. I’ve had many good experiences with staying at Airbnb’s all around the world. 

I did have a few odd issues but nothing regarding my safety or anything like that. 

However, when you have an issue, communicate it to your host and see if you can come to a solution together. Try to come up with a solution together first. 

And if you and the host cannot come to a common ground, you have the opportunity to escalate it to Airbnb. Escalation is the last resort to solving your problem. In this process, make sure you enter all the information Airbnb would need to know regarding your issues and provide proof (i.e. photographs) if you have any. 

The escalation process can take some time. It could take up to several weeks. I escalated three times in the past with Airbnb and had positive results for all three. One of them included an apartment with cockroaches. When I saw the first two cockroaches, I immediately killed them (sorry!). And all the other subsequent cockroaches, instead of getting rid of them immediately, I grabbed my phone and took photos of them instead. Ha! Then I got rid of them. So, photographs are important if you want to provide a complete story of your side. 


Does this help you navigate the world of Airbnb? I hope so! And if you like this informative post, share it and pin it!



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About Author

Hi, my name is Queenie, and I've been a solo traveller for 18+ years and currently based in Hong Kong. Follow me on my adventures through Instagram and my blog!

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