A Beginner’s Guide to Airbnb

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First things first. What is Airbnb? How does it work?

Airbnb lets you rent someone’s home — that’s the simple explanation. Instead of booking a hotel when you’re traveling, you can use Airbnb to find accommodations in the place where you’re going.

Will I be renting a room or an entire home?

You can choose. Some Airbnb hosts will let you rent their entire house or apartment (great for privacy) while some just rent out their rooms (great for interacting with the local owners or other travelers). You can adjust your search settings to show only the type of accommodation you want (more on this later).

Is Airbnb better than staying in a hotel?

It depends. In my experience, Airbnb is the better option under certain circumstances:

  • When you’re traveling with a group, especially a family with kids. Lots of hotels don’t have family rooms, so you’re forced to book two rooms or more; either way tends to be pricey. Hostels/dorms are great for a group of friends but might not be ideal for young children or for those who don’t like having to share bathrooms with strangers. With Airbnb, you can rent a child-friendly home with two or more bedrooms and a living room.
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  • For last-minute accommodations. Sometimes — like Sinulog in Cebu, or cherry blossom season in Kyoto — hotels can fill up really fast and the only ones left that have room for you are way over your price range. I’ve often found that Airbnb can be a lifesaver (or at least a budget-saver) in these instances.
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  • In some cities, like London or Tokyo, hotels are just ordinarily expensive — even during off-peak times — and renting out a room or an apartment through Airbnb can prove to be a cheaper option. It’s worth noting, though, that Airbnb can also be more expensive in certain areas so take the time to compare.
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  • Long-term stays. If you will be staying in a particular place for longer than the usual holiday, you might want amenities not usually offered by hotels — such as kitchen utensils/equipment, washing machines, a living area for entertaining guests, gym/pool access, etc. — but are part and parcel of a home listed on Airbnb. Many Airbnb properties also offer substantial discounts if you stay for a week or more. Note: for longer stays, you might want to check if the owner will have someone come in to clean the property (and if yes, how regularly) or if you have to do it yourself, as you might not want to spend precious vacation time vacuuming.

How do I book?

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First of all, you should have an Airbnb account. If you don’t have one yet, it’s best that you create one now so you can follow along as I go through the steps for booking.

To create an Airbnb account, click on the photo below. The link will take you to the Airbnb sign up page. If you sign up using that link, you will get credit (usually $20) that you can use when you make bookings. (I’m also theoretically supposed to get the same amount of credit when you make your first booking — at no extra cost to you — but I haven’t been receiving additional credit lately, so I don’t know if it still works. Either way, you will definitely get your $20 credit. Of course, if you don’t like receiving $20 worth of credit, you can also sign up without using the link, it’s up to you.)
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Once you’ve signed up, you can perform a search on the Airbnb home page. Enter your destination, check-in and check-out dates, and the number of people who will be staying in the property.
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Airbnb will then show you all the properties — apartments, houses, rooms, etc. — that are available in your chosen location during the dates you specified.
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You can use the “More Filters” button to narrow down your search. For example, you can specify that you only want to see entire homes or private rooms — leaving “Shared Room” unchecked if you don’t want to include rooms you might have to share with strangers — that are within a price range of PHP 440 to PHP 5025 per night, have Wi-Fi and air-conditioning, and allow young kids to stay. Click “Show Listings” to apply those search filters. You can also use the map to narrow down the search to only those properties that are in a particular location, like if you’re going to Tokyo and want to stay within a reasonable distance of the Shinjuku train station.
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From the search results, click on the ones that appeal to you to see more information about them. Take note of the details — especially the check-in and check-out times and the amenities — and scroll down to read reviews of guests who have stayed in the property. (Always read reviews!) Once you’ve decided which property you want to book, click on the “Request to Book” button and follow the instructions. (Some Airbnb properties will even let you book instantly, without having to request permission from the owner.)
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And that’s it!

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When I started traveling I usually just stayed in hotels or inns, but after having great experiences using Airbnb in Singapore and Cebu, I now make sure to search Airbnb whenever I plan my trips. It feels like having your own home wherever you are in the world and lets you live like a local even in a foreign land.

You can read about my Airbnb experience during the Sinulog festival in Cebu here.

 


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A Beginner’s Guide to Airbnb
© Small-Town Girls, Midnight Trains. All rights reserved. Contents verified as of 30 March 2016.

 

 


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