How To Use Airbnb
For those travelling solo on a budget, Airbnb can be a good alternative to pricey hotels, especially during peak seasons. It is also a good way of meeting locals. If you're unsure how to rent an Airbnb and have not used the booking platform before, here's my Airbnb review for solos and how to save $20 off your first stay.
What is Airbnb?
Founded in 2008, Airbnb is now one of the most recognised trusted communities to book a place to stay. What makes it different is that it connects travellers to unique travel experiences and it isn’t just restricted to spare rooms in local’s houses. You can now stay in villas, castles and even find penthouses for rent within your budget. Plus you have the opportunity to stay away from the tourist areas with a local who can give you inside tips for their city or town.
I use Airbnb solo travel nearly every time that I travel. I've booked rooms in Europe, during my three months in the Caribbean and South America, and also in West Africa. Something I have noticed more recently is that more traditional accommodations are now joining the platform. Before it used to be just local’s advertising their spare rooms but now you’ll find all kinds of accommodation from BnBs to hostels advertising on there. Find out how to use Airbnb as a guest below.
Airbnb vs Couchsurfing
Couchsurfing is one of the alternatives to Airbnb. It is a way of meeting locals and is more sociable. You don’t have to pay to stay over in someone’s house and although I have used it in the past, you can feel indebted to your host because you are staying with them. If you prefer your own space then I definitely recommend Airbnb accommodation.
Why Use Airbnb?
Sometimes when you travel solo it can be a bit lonely especially if you choose to not stay in hostels. Booking a room in someone’s house gives you access to a local who knows the area and can give advice. Some will even arrange to pick you up from the airport for an extra cost or include breakfast and evening meals for a surcharge.
When I was in the Caribbean, Airbnb was one of the cheapest options for some of the more expensive islands. For example, the cheapest hotel in St Barths on booking.com was £256 (it is an exclusive island popular with celebrities), but cheap Airbnb had a room for £65. A huge saving! You can also use it in areas that aren’t that popular with Couchsurfing. I travelled to French Guyane which isn’t a country that promotes tourism. Couchsurfing hosts hadn’t been active on their profile for two months so I wasn’t confident that they wouldn’t reply within the following week that I was travelling. In this case, Airbnb was a good alternative and I knew that I could book somewhere with 24 hours.
You can either share a room, book your own room or even have a whole apartment to yourself. If you are staying somewhere for a month you can get a cheaper rate than a daily rate. I stayed in Medellin in Colombia for 6 weeks and paid less. This also applies to Airbnb weekly rates too.
Cons of Airbnb
They do add on a service fee so if you’re booking a cheap hostel, for example, check another site like Hostel World to compare the cost without the booking fee. You can still get a few strange properties on there. I always go with my instinct but if someone hasn’t got a review or just two reviews then I generally don’t book them. Also if they don’t have an image of themselves either.
If you’re worried about who you are staying with, you can see the photo of your Airbnb host so you can always pick a property hosted by a woman or couple if you feel more comfortable.
Is Airbnb safe for guests?
Just as properties get reviewed, so do you. Your behaviour as a guest will affect the review of your host. This obviously won’t affect you if you’re staying in a hotel where you are just a number and you have virtually no interaction with the manager of the hotel who will merely put “Lisa was a quiet guest,” for example.
Each time you stay somewhere you’ll receive a review from your host. Airbnb doesn’t allow you to see their review until you’ve written yours. The worst you can get is that the images of the room may be slightly smaller or the layout different to what you expect. With images taken from the corner of the room, they can make rooms look a lot bigger than they are but generally, the description is correct.
It’s easy and the budget scale helps to whittle out the rooms which are out of your travel budget. Don’t do what I do and scan all of them because you will find some amazing properties that you just can’t afford to stay in. Once you set up your payment details it saves it so that you can book each stay and not have to input your card details again. You find accommodation that you like and request it. Hosts are meant to get back to you within 24 hours to confirm the room.
Why I like Airbnb
I’ve stayed in guest houses, hotels, penthouses and hotels and made friends with some of the locals whom I stayed with. You can ask your Airbnb hosts questions before you stay there and ask about safety for women in the area that your accommodation is in. If you are unsure which host to choose, one of my Airbnb tips is to check reviews from other women who have stayed there to be sure that you find the right one for you.
My best experience with Airbnb
During Christmas and New Year in Panama City, I needed some time away from the busy hostel and booked a room in a penthouse on the 36th floor in Panama City for 2 nights. Being only £30 a night for a double room in the most amazing apartment overlooking the sea and the city skyline, I stayed for two nights and made full use of the indoor gym and the amazing views. My hosts invited me to everything including a New Year’s Eve party at a private party in a hotel. I am still friends with one of them now and am so grateful for them taking me under their wing whilst I was solo in Panama over the festive season and didn’t know anyone.
How To Use Airbnb
Airbnb is really easy to use. Just join as a member, search for accommodation, contact the host and then wait until they accept you. You do pay a service fee to Airbnb but they do have more than 800,000 listings worldwide.
It’s so easy to create an account and if it's your first time using it, sign up here and you’ll receive $20 free credit off your first Airbnb booking!
When I first began using Airbnb they were not the easiest company to contact but I'm happy to say that since then they have dramatically improved their customer service. They have articles on the site to general questions but if you can't find the answer that you need contact them through this page to get a timely response.
If you have any questions, feel free to comment below.
MY TIP – If you have a spare room in your house or apartment why not rent out a room on Airbnb and make yourself some extra cash? You can even rent it out when you’re away travelling solo and put the money towards your next trip.