Airbnb allows people to rent their homes to other travelers, so you can either use it to rent your spare apartment or a room, or to look for accommodation in your travel destination.
What I truly love about Airbnb is that it’s full of options for both low and high end travelers, starting from rooms in shared apartments and ending with luxurious houses you can rent fully for yourself. In both cases you will be renting a place from a person (although sometimes it could be an agent managing a few homes) and you will definitely feel more local than if you were staying in a hotel, both because of the contact with your host, and the flexibility and freedom it gives you. A hotel room is almost always impersonal and not inviting to spend time in it except for the night, which does not happen with most of Airbnb places.
Same as with couchsurfing, you will need to create a profile to be able to use Airbnb. However, verification steps are much stricter, which makes the system safer, as everyone needs to prove their identity during the process and present some documents. It’s not couchsurfing though and you will be paying for staying at somebody’s couch, room or apartment. There is a service fee for Airbnb as well, so keep that in mind when you set your maximum price per night in the search system. For example, if you are ready to pay a maximum of 30€ per night, you may want to set your filter to 25€. Some places will include a cleaning fee too, which may also raise the final price per night. And, if the cleaning fee is not included, it means you will have to clean the place after yourself – remember, it’s not a hotel! Another thing you may have to pay for, especially in specific countries, is a fee for late arrival. For exampl, in my last trip to Rome I chose to stay in a hotel close to the airport for the first night, because most of Airbnb hosts charged up to 50€ for arriving after midnight. If you are lucky though, the host might leave the key in a designated place for you and you may avoid additional fees – just keep looking.
Airbnb network is based on references, so make sure that you read them before you decide to contact a potential host. Nothing is for free in it, so travelers are more picky with what they get. Therefore, you will see it reflected in references if there is something wrong with the place.
There is no need to be so personal and specific when requesting accommodation through Airbnb as in coushsurfing, but giving some information about yourself will be always helpful in getting a positive reply. If you are in a hurry to find a place to stay, look for the ones marked with “instant booking” tag – as the name suggests, you can book these immediately, without having to contact your host first.
Filters do wonders in Airbnb as well. You can really find what you are looking for if you make good use of them. For example, an apartment with a kitchen, heating, WIFI and TV, if that’s what makes a place enjoyable and cozy for you.
The map feature might be very helpful not only when you know exactly where you want your accommodation to be located, but also when you are flexible about it. Just to give you an example, when I was planning my latest trip to Lanzarote island with a group of friends, we knew that we wanted to find a place on the coast that would give us our own access to the sea, but had no specific town in mind. I simply dragged the map along the coastline and revised all the places that popped up on it. Here’s where we stayed in the end, in case you might be curious about it. The photo has been taken in our own private yard on the coast.
As compared to hotels, there is also a certain flexibility about your arrival and check-out time, although you shouldn’t count on it without checking the details with the host.
The referral system – your chance to travel cheaper
There is one more thing about Airbnb which can bring you closer to your dream of traveling for free or at least cheaper in the long term – the referral system. For every person who signed up for Airbnb through your recommendation and made their first booking of at least 65€, you are going to get a credit of 20€ for your next trip. If the person who signed up through your recommendation hosts another person in their apartment, you are going to obtain a credit of 65€. At the same time, the people you have invited are also going to get a credit of 35€ for their first trip.
If you haven’t yet used Airbnb, you can sign up and claim your 35€ credit through this LINK.
Taking all the above into account, Airbnb is one of the accommodation booking sites I use the most. Except for one single time when we were offered a different place to what we had initially booked, it was always accurate and I find it extremely convenient.