Is Airbnb safe? That’s Air Bed N’ Breakfast in case you’re wondering. ;)
This is the first question that always comes up every time I share with friends that we’re using Airbnb when I book our accommodations abroad. There are concerned looks and valid doubts. I totally get it. I initially had my hesitations, too.
What if the place doesn’t look as good as it’s advertised in the listing? What if the owner is grumpy and strict? What if our things get stolen? Or the place gets broken into? Or the owner is psycho?
BUT what if you get a chance to experience a chic apartment in Paris? Or a really, really nice comfy bed and sheets (better than in hotel) in Bruges? What if you meet a cute little toddler to play with in a condo in Melbourne? What about a spacious room near the seaside in Reykjavik? Oh, and that delicious stroopwafel as a gift from your host in Amsterdam? Yum!
These are just some of the little things (we experienced) that could add up to a great journey.
From a third world culture perspective, we are often told not to talk or make friends with strangers. To always keep our guards up and be wary of people coming to us randomly (even when they seem nice). And that’s for a good reason.
Growing up in Manila, I have experienced and witnessed a lot of bogus tactics myself – scam, robbery, abduction and drug trading. Safety is a real world matter. So renting out your own space to a complete stranger is not really a well-accepted concept or idea in our nation.
However, I do believe that given the right circumstances and security precautions, Airbnb is a great way to connect travelers with locals with a spare room to rent. It is way better than a hostel, and yet cheaper than a hotel. We have already made use of the Airbnb service several times to book our accommodations in Australia, Taiwan and Europe. Sometimes we book an entire home/apartment, other times we get a private room. I’m all for comfort and privacy so I don’t see myself choosing a shared room (like a hostel) though Airbnb also provides that option.
In our experience, we have never been disappointed. More often than not, the listing goes beyond our expectations. We get to chat with our local hosts (even for a short time) and get insider tips.
So is Airbnb safe? Based on experience, my answer is YES! It’s one of the ways to get more value from your money. But I also don’t discount the fact that some misfortunes can happen. (It can actually happen wherever you are, even at home, right?) Don’t let that keep you from enjoying your travel.
I highly recommend doing diligent research and taking note of the following tips on how to make the most out of your Airbnb adventure.
BEFORE THE TRIP
#1 Read the customer reviews.
Just like as you would when choosing hotels, read the reviews from past travelers. The Airbnb community really provides helpful and detailed evaluation of their experience beyond the words ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Discern positive from unfavorable comments and check for red flags.
#2 Identify your non-negotiables.
Do you require a laundry washer? A queen-sized bed? One reviewer mentioned that the room is perfect but there’s no warm water in the shower, will that be fine to you? Little things matter! Name them to make sure that your stay will be comfortable.
Listing down your needs will also help to lessen your options until you get close to your ideal accommodation, whether that means renting the entire home, living with the host, or sharing with other travelers.
#3 Communicate to the host.
Always ask questions or contact your potential host before booking. This way you can get a feel of their personality and establish a relationship before your arrival. The Airbnb mobile app and website have a built in function to directly send them a message. Use it. Remember that you are a stranger to them, too, so they are probably just as cautious as you are.
Ask about your non-negotiables. If they say you can wash your clothes, do they provide the detergent, too? Is there also a dryer? Will you be allowed to bring food in the room? Or use the kitchen? Find out as much as you can and know exactly what you’re getting into.
#4 Ensure that the Host’s ID is verified.
Check out your host’s profile in Airbnb to confirm if he/she has a verified ID. Airbnb introduced Verified ID to highlight hosts that have their photo ID uploaded and also provided more information of them by confirming their social media accounts and other personal details. Generally, hosts that make that extra effort are usually serious about creating a safe and enjoyable experience for their guests.
#5 Have a backup plan.
Things happen. It’s always good to be prepared and have important contact details on hand (a friend’s or family’s number, emergency numbers) in case things go askew.
DURING THE TRIP
#6 Check out the place.
Hosts usually provide a detailed instruction on how you can find their property. If you found it exactly as what is listed on Airbnb then good for you. If not, it’s either you choose to stay or find a new place. This is unlikely to happen though, unless you really feel uneasy… which brings me to the next point.
#7 Trust your instinct.
If you don’t feel comfortable at all, find someplace else. Use your backup plan!
If it’s something negotiable, talk to your host and maybe they can work something out (like if the room has poor lighting or the locks do not work). Otherwise, you can always contact Airbnb to state your concerns. If they are reasonable, you can get your money back.
#8 Always bring valuables with you.
If you’re worried about leaving your precious loots at home, always carry them with you (mobile gadgets, passports, money, cameras). You’re going to use them anyway as you explore around.
I’m not really cynical, and I personally don’t bring a lot of valuables when I travel. Yep, I know the drill! But if you want extra security, keep locks on your bags to discourage curious hands. It always pays to be careful.
AFTER THE TRIP
#9 Clean up!
I know that the cleaning fee is already inclusive of your Airbnb payment. But in respect to your host (and as a responsible traveler), at least wash the dishes if you used them. Or pick up the empty bottles, plastics or used napkins and place them in trash bins. You don’t have to make it spotless clean but don’t leave the place inappropriately messy either.
#10 Leave an honest review.
Help the next traveler and leave an honest, transparent feedback regarding your experience. Remember to always address negative or sensitive comments with kindness and professionalism. Your reviews will let other travelers know what to expect. It will also be easier for them to make informed decisions when choosing where to stay.
You have an option for either a public or private review. I usually state the pros and cons in my public review. Then, I send a private constructive review to the host to improve their listing or their service. Or most of the time, I just send a genuine ‘thank you’ to show my gratitude.
There you go! Hope these tips helped ease your worries a bit regarding the entire home-sharing idea. I’m a proud Airbnb’er (I just coined that word!) and I just can’t stress enough how staying in one not just stretched our travel budget but also opened our minds.
Have your tried Airbnb before? How was your experience?
If you’re new, here’s S$27 off of your first Airbnb stay, on me! ;)