Ever since I discovered AirBnB late last year, I’ve completely ditched the hotels, and hostels booking as AirBnB is exactly what I’m looking for when it comes to travelling. I love that the hosts are genuinely interested in learning more about you, and oftentimes, they tend to be experienced travellers, so they know exactly what makes or breaks an experience.
Just a side note, if you create an AirBnB account here with my referral link (or enter coupon code sl196 when you check out). You will receive $40 off your next trip and I will receive the same amount – so it is a win-win for both sides!
If you are not familiar with AirBnB, the concept is simple: For a fee, you can rent a room or an entire apartment / floor for your vacation or even as a short-term rental (meaning 1+ month). I’ve found that most hosts that I’ve stayed with are passionate travellers so they know (for the most part anyways) what makes a vacation abroad very enjoyable.
Everywhere I’ve travelled to this past year, including Europe, and South Africa, I’ve stayed exclusively at AirBnB’s and I foresee myself staying at more in the future. What I enjoy most about AirBnB is the privacy which also gives you a more intimate experience with the city you’re staying in. You get to see what kind of buildings and places they live in, which can some time repudiate a certain stereotype you may have in your mind.
You also get to experience the quirks of living in that city. For example, in Cape Town, there’s a rolling period of scheduled blackouts also known as “loadshedding”. This is done deliberately to create spare electricity for days when the city needs more electricity than the usual capacity (i.e. during really hot days when the aircon needs to be blasted)
Living in a shared space with strangers can become really tricky – from living style, level of cleanliness, and expectations. It’s really important for both sides to be respectful to ensure a good trip and experience for both yourself and the host. From my experience, here are some of my tips for a great AirBnB experience!
1. Read Their Listing in Detail and Ask As Many Questions You Have in Your Communication
Remember that time your teacher said “There are no such thing as stupid questions?” – this is a good opportunity to use it! It may sound really obvious, but take the time to read their listing with a fine-tooth comb and ask any questions you have, especially if it is too good to be true. It could be something as simple as “You mentioned there’s no air-conditioning, what is available instead?” Maybe they’ll have a fan, maybe they won’t but at least you know!
I find the messages are the best way to gauge your host / “landlord” – I am immediately taken by those who respond quickly and thoroughly, especially if they add more details beyond the questions asked. It makes them trustworthy. To facilitate efficient messaging and getting the answers I need, this is how I usually structure my first communication, I make a point of doing the following:
- Introduce myself and why I’m travelling there
- Inquire about availability
- Ask questions about their listings
2. When possible, provide details about your habits
To ensure a good experience, both your host and you should be comfortable with each other. It may sound like a small detail but if you tend to shower late at night, mention it! Remember that not every home is equipped with soundproof walls so if you like to shower at midnight and your host is already in bed, it’s just good manners to give them that heads up. While most hosts tend to be reasonable you do want be respectful of their space and routines. Yes, you are paying them money to stay at their place, but they are giving up their privacy to strangers!
3. Read the Reviews Thoroughly
I tend to go through the reviews with a fine-tooth comb as I do with the actual listing. Do a quick check on the reviewers themselves so you can best evaluate what they are saying. Most reviews tend to be skewed upwards and are extremely positive so I will usually only look for 4* or higher rated hosts.
4. Pick Up and Clean Up After Yourself
I’ve only had really good experiences with AirBnB, while some of my offline friends have sworn it off completely, or been really upset by a bad review. Based on their stories, it really sounds like a difference in lifestyle and expectations. I always leave the shared space the way I found it – with none of my stuff around UNLESS my host says it’s okay (i.e. leaving the towel to dry in the bathroom). Again, most host is reasonable but if you’re cluttering their personal space with your stuff when asked nicely not to, you can see how that will lead to some tensions.
Another thing, and this is more pertinent for the ladies, is the hair! I shed A LOT of hair because I have a mane as thick as a male lion. I know this, so I always make a point of using a tissue to pick up the my hair from the bathroom (tub/shower or sink). It’s just common courtesy and is what I would want a hostee to do if they were staying with me.
5. Confirm details in advance
Communication is key, and especially so, when it comes to confirming arrival and departure times. Sometimes, I arrive ridiculously late at night because that was the least inexpensive flight, so give your host an approximate time. If you are late, notify them asap so they are not waiting around for you all evening. Details don’t have to be limited to your arrival time or departure – it could be things like any hidden fees (not common and not something I’ve ever come across), internet limits, house rules, etc.
I’m a huge fan of AirBnB (Coupon code SL196) and foresee myself staying at these rentals in future travels. I’ve only had good stories and experiences to share, and I’m good friends with a lot of my past hosts. I also enjoyed a lot of our conversations over breakfast which tends to help us become familiar with each other! AirBnB also has a very comprehensive, and detailed “Help” section so it could be helpful to peruse if you are a first-time AirBnB user.
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