The dos and don'ts of Airbnb

Booking advice for first time guests 

5 minutes

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Considering a stay at an Airbnb on your next holiday but not sure how it works? Travel journalist Helen Ochyra asks the Airbnb experts for the inside info.

  • Don't hesitate to put yourself out there
  • Make the most of the hosts' insider info
  • Get inspired to stay with Airbnb on your next trip

Your home away from home is just a click away.

Going abroad? It's never been easier to live like a local. 

If you don't know much about Airbnb, it's the trendsetting travel app that lets you host other users, or be a guest in their homes.

Holidaymakers can search a huge variety of private rooms, flats and houses around the world using Airbnb, but people are much more likely to host you if your profile's looking tip top.


1. Perfect your profile

You're selling yourself here! Although Airbnb pulls a profile pic and some basic info through from Facebook, you can add plenty more. Fill in the 'describe yourself' box and make it snappy and fun to stand out.

2. Dream big (or at least quirky)

This isn't the time for a bland hotel - Airbnb is about staying somewhere you otherwise couldn't. Windmills, castles and treehouses are all available, so push the boat out (yep, there are boats too) and book something different.

'In Spain we stayed at an old farmhouse with its own traditional yurt, all the way from Mongolia. It took an ordinary weekend to a whole new level,' says Esme Fox (@EsmeFox), travel writer and regular Airbnb guest.

3. Check out your host

Your Airbnb host could be your new best friend, especially if you book a room in their house rather than an entire property, so do some research. Read reviews from previous guests and hunt down your host on social media to see if you've got anything in common.

'We booked into a shepherd's hut in the South Downs which was owned by famous clergyman Peter Owen Jones. He had just finished writing a book on walks in Sussex so we had a sneak preview and got to try out one of his favourite routes, says Lottie Gross (@lottiecgross), a former web editor for Rough Guides.

4. Read the small print

Some Airbnb properties have set rules – a maximum number of guests for example, or a strict cancellation policy. Check the full listing with an eagle eye and be aware that hosts can back out of bookings too. As things do sometimes go wrong, it pays to be protected against any holiday mishap. 

'It's important to read all the information on the listing. For instance, many hosts don't offer stove privileges and some hosts living in drought areas don't offer laundry privileges,' says Susan Douglas. 


1. Let someone else book for you

Airbnb is about getting personal – hosts accept guests based on what they write on their request to stay. So tell them you love the theatre, or that you're excited about visiting their hometown because your grandmother was born there. And don't let anyone book on your behalf – your host will expect to find the person they accepted standing on their doorstep, not anyone else!

'The more info you give, the better, so a relationship is started before the guest even books in. It also helps with security,' says Airbnb host Petra Shepherd (@petra_shepherd).

2. Be afraid to ask

Hosts sign up to Airbnb because they're, well, hosts. They love to show guests around their neighbourhood – even if remotely. Many provide a folder of information on places to eat and visit and, increasingly, a digital guide to the area, through an app such as Pearlshare. 

'Airbnb guests are looking to live like a local and, when surveyed in London, over half of guests visited local businesses based on their host's recommendation. Having a guide is an easy way to improve guests' experience and earn higher ratings,' says James O'Day, co-founder of Pearlshare.

3. Ignore problems during your stay

There's a major benefit to the Airbnb focus on building relationships: a complaint will generally solicit a solution. Don't leave complaints to the end of your stay - bring up problems as they arise so your host can fix them. 

4. Assume you know the house rules

You're not staying in a hotel, so you'll have to deal with things like recycling and washing up – perhaps in a different way than you would at home. Bear in mind that your host will review you, so ask for the house rules and stick to them.

'We recommend you communicate clearly with your host, read their house rules carefully and enjoy your host's home as if you were staying with friends,' says James McClure, UK and Ireland general manager at Airbnb.


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All content is approved by our in-house advisory board of experts.

For more travel inspiration, follow Helen Ochyra on Twitter (@helenochyra) and Instagram.