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A beginner’s guide to Airbnb

You’d like to spend your next vacation in a mansion with infinity pool or on a houseboat overlooking the river Seine? No problem with Airbnb. Our travel blogger Lena Geeler has put together a quick guide to Airbnb for anyone who hasn’t used the platform before.

I’ll be honest: I wasn’t sure what to make of Airbnb until a few months ago. Do I really want to spend my holidays in someone else’s flat without the comfort and security of a hotel? Or as my boyfriend put it: «What if the host has installed cameras everywhere and wants to film and murder you?».

It might feel like venturing into the unknown, but I did it and it wasn’t disappointed. If you’re new to Airbnb, here’s a quick guide to finding the right place to stay and enjoying a great time.

Your profile

Before you can book your first stay with Airbnb, you’ll need to set up a personal profile. Make sure to choose a friendly profile picture and describe yourself in an authentic and honest way. Potential hosts will judge by this information whether they accept your request to stay in their accommodation. Airbnb will go through a few security checks before your profile is accepted: You’ll be asked to upload a picture of your passport and will be taken to a tool that takes a selfie of you, which is matched with your passport. Further, you’ll have to provide your mobile phone number and your e-mail address. This information isn’t public; only your first name, your picture and your description can be seen by others.

Choose a room type

Airbnb offers the following types of accommodation:

Entire home: You’ll have the entire home or apartment to yourself.

Private room: You’ll have your own room and access to a few more shared rooms.

Shared room: You’re sharing your accommodation with others.

It’s important to select the type of accommodation you want or you might be in for a surprise when you arrive.

Read reviews by previous guests

If the place you’ve chosen isn’t completely new to Airbnb, too, there are bound to be reviews by previous lodgers. Personally, I always go by these reviews, as they are honest and offer valuable information.

Check the location and neighbourhood

You’ve spotted a bargain? Take a look on the map to find out if it’s in a central location and easy to access – if you don’t want to end up out in the sticks. If you’re looking to stay in a city, you can even select the district. Again, reviews are great to find out how convenient and safe your accommodation’s location and neighbourhood are. The exact address is only revealed after you’ve booked the stay.

You can’t always book instantly

Unlike booking a hotel room, you can’t book every Airbnb room instantly, but have to wait for the host to confirm that the dates are free. However, this usually doesn’t take more than a couple of hours. Accommodations that can be booked instantly are marked with a small lightbulb.

The price depends on the number of guests

The more guests are staying in an accommodation, the more it will cost. You should therefore enter the number of guests when you start searching, to see what the total price will be.

Check additional costs and the small print

You’ve found your ideal place to stay? Great! Don’t forget to read the small print and check the addition costs before you make your booking. An Airbnb service fee as well as a cleaning fee are added to the cost of your accommodation. You’ll see an overview of all costs before you confirm your booking.

Only pay via Airbnb

It might be obvious, but it’s always worth mentioning: Only pay via Airbnb. If you’re approached by the host, offering you to pay directly to avoid Airbnb fees, decline the offer. You’d breach the terms and conditions of Airbnb and put yourself in danger of falling victim to fraud.

Stay in touch with your host

Contact your hosts as soon as you’ve made you booking to let them know when you’re planning to arrive and find out about check-in and check-out times. Stay in touch and let them know if you’re running late or have changed your plans.

Check-in and check-out

There are several ways to check in and out with Airbnb. You always need to contact your host to find out if your accommodation has a concierge, a door code or if you’re meeting your host in person to hand over the keys.

What if you need to cancel your vacation?

Some hosts are flexible and will only charge the Airbnb service fees if you cancel on short notice. Others have a stricter policy and you might have to pay the entire price. The host’s cancellation policy is mentioned in the accommodation overview. To see an overview of the cancellation process and costs, click on “Cancel” on the profile page. Keep in mind that your host can rate you and might give you a bad rating if you cancel on short notice.

Although this almost never happens, it’s also important to remember that bookings can also be cancelled by the host. In this case, Airbnb makes sure you get your money back. For last-minute cancellations, Airbnb even help you find a new accommodation, give you a voucher or a contribution towards your new accommodation.

Airbnb has a Resolution Centre

Your stay wasn’t as pleasant as assumed? Your host cancelled the booking on short notice? No matter what went wrong, you can always contact the Airbnb Resolution Centre. They assist you with any issues related to your booking, as for example making sure you get your money back in the event of fraud. Your host may also contact the Resolution Centre if you cause any damage you’re not willing to pay for or if there’s any other matter you disagree on. If their terms and conditions are breached, Airbnb has the right to deactivate your or any host's account.


Lena A.N., Zürich

Along with a great love for vegan food and football, running my blog is what I’m truly passionate about. I write about everything that makes girls’ eyes light up: travel, beauty and lifestyle.

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User fajan

Der Imperativ von "vergessen" muss "vergiss" heissen.