Have you ever heard of Airbnb before? Of course you have! With around 150 million users, Airbnb has soared in popularity in recent years for travelers and even businesses. We’ve been traveling abroad for more than a year and have stayed in countless Airbnbs. We love this service but it’s by no means perfect. That’s why we’re sharing our honest review of the pros and cons of Airbnb for guests!
To give you an idea of our experience so you can put some trust in our words: we’ve used 32 Airbnbs just in the past 14 months. It would be even more than that but we found other cheap ways of travel like TrustedHousesitters to help lower accommodation costs in expensive destinations.
So, we’ve averaged just a little more than 2 Airbnbs per month. Granted, we stayed at some Airbnbs longer (30 days) and some for a very short amount of time (just 1 night).
Since we teach English online and travel, internet speed and privacy and accuracy from the Airbnb host is vital. We’ve only used 32 Airbnbs the last 14 months but we’ve contacted hundreds of hosts.
We’ve seen a lot of good and some bad using Airbnb throughout our travels so let’s take a look at our pros and cons!
Pros of Using Airbnb
Airbnb Reviews Accuracy
Arguably our favorite part about Airbnb is the review system. Users can leave feedback on everything from the accuracy of the hosts’ description of the homestay to cleanliness and location.
Then, of course, there are the actual user reviews left by guests who have stayed in the Airbnb. These are so so helpful!
For instance, if a review for a place we’re interested in talks about the internet speed or a nearby grocery store or nearby public transport, it’s very reassuring to hear!
We can say that almost all of the reviews we’ve read for our homestays have been super accurate. Granted, you will find that one person thinks walking into the city center is “20 mins” when it’s more like 30-40 minutes but that’s why it’s vital to read a lot of the reviews!
If you’re reading differing information in reviews then you might want to check a different Airbnb. Consistency across reviews is a positive sign!
Pro Tip: If you booked an Airbnb far in advance you may want to revisit the reviews as your check-in date gets closer. We had a 2 day stay booked in Split, Croatia at an Airbnb in the old town. About 4 days before check-in we wanted to look at the listing again and lo and behold there was a new review about how the guest had thousands of dollars and some valuable items stolen from their Airbnb. That’s pretty alarming!
The fact that the Airbnb was locked and there were no signs of break-in was cause enough to change our minds. But it also turns out that some of the stolen items magically reappeared after the cops were called. That gave that guest, and us, plenty of evidence to think the host was the thief.
We immediately called Airbnb, explained our concerns, and were able to change Airbnbs. We were refunded and booked a new Airbnb. That’s a huge win, seeing as how our laptops are how we work and we don’t want them stolen!
Meet a Local Host
Nothing’s better than arriving at your Airbnb and your host giving you a warm welcome. In addition to greeting you, your local host can provide some awesome tips, especially budget-minded ones.
Some Airbnbs have self check-in so you don’t actually meet the host upon arriving. However, you have their contact number and our experience has almost been perfect with hosts responding to our questions.
Whether it’s local restaurants, public transport, or a question about the homestay itself, our hosts have generally been great at responding and given us tips we otherwise wouldn’t have known.
There are always a few bad apples in the bunch but we’ve never had a true negative experience with a host. Rather, we’ve had a few absolutely incredible experiences that we’ll never forget.
There are three hosts that we love the mosts: Bali, Vienna, and Palermo. They provided us with local food, some from their own garden. One even bought us coffee and talked with us about life in general. These places really felt like home to us.
It’s hard to imagine feeling so welcomed and part of the household in a hotel with other tourists. So this is a huge pro to staying in an Airbnb!
Stay in a Local Area
Hotels are mainly in the touristy area and there are many Airbnbs located there too. However, being a guest in an Airbnb allows you the opportunity to stay in a more local area of town.
Not only is this cheaper (woohoo!) but you get to live where the locals live.
We have lived outside the city center in almost every destination and in hindsight, we wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. It can be a pretty tough experience, like staying in a suburb of Taipei and being the only foreigner in sight and not being able to read Chinese. But the benefit of that is having to communicate with people from a different country who don’t work for a tour group.
They’re just going about their daily lives and you get to (respectfully) be part of it. That’s why we love Airbnb! From Taipei to Bucharest to Sofia to Palermo, we’ve seen a side of the city we never would’ve if not for using Airbnb.
Amazing Support Team
We have nothing but good things to say about Airbnb’s customer support. They’re kind, quick to respond, and have helped us get out of bad situations.
Whether the internet isn’t as fast as the host led us to believe or we need to cancel because our host is being accused of theft, Airbnb has been so helpful!
Plenty of Places to Suit Your Needs
There are a handful of options for guests when it comes to searching for homestays on Airbnb.
What are the types of places you’ll find?
Private room, entire place, shared room or hotel room (smaller hotels/B&Bs/hostels can list on here too).
So, what kind of Airbnb are you looking for in your travels?
We almost always have to choose the entire place, unfortunately, because we teach English online while traveling and need the space and privacy so our classes run smoothly.
But on days off or other scenarios, private rooms are a fantastic way to visit a destination, especially when you’re on a budget.
Remember us mentioning how meeting a host is a definite pro of Airbnb? Why not stay with a local and they’re right there. Again, read the reviews and do your research first!
Obviously, Airbnb has several options for travelers and their accommodation. That includes solo travelers, business travelers, couples, families, or even large groups.
It all depends on your situation, preference, and budget!
The Price is Right
More times than not, we find cheaper prices on Airbnb than we do on hotels. That said, a lot of factors go into that statement.
Firstly, we typically stay for a long amount of time in Airbnbs to capture the “weekly” or “long term” discount which, depending on the host and their policy, can be hundreds of dollars off.
Secondly, we try to stay away from the city center. Prices will drop the further you are from the hot spots. Again, if you’re close to public transport or walking distance isn’t too bad, then staying further out is a big bonus!
On the flip side, if we have a short stay in a city, like we had 2 days in Bratislava, then we try to find a compromise on price and location and maybe stay more central.
If you stick to these two ideas, staying long term and at a distance from the center, you’re going to find Airbnb prices to be very budget-friendly, especially if you don’t mind having a private room with your host.
You Have a Kitchen!
Ok, if you stay in a private or shared room, you may not have access to the kitchen. It depends on the hosts’ rules.
However, if you stay in an entire place, odds are you’ll have a kitchen!
Kitchens are an amazing amenity to have while traveling, especially on a budget. We cook a lot of meals in because it’s healthier and cheaper. This allows us to spend more when we try the local cuisine!
Traveling throughout Europe and a few countries in Asia, we can definitively say that a kitchen is one of the best pros about Airbnb.
One really cool thing about Airbnb is all the unique accommodations they have listed. Anything from yurts to bubble rooms to castles, if you can think it up they probably have it! If we didn’t have limitations due to teaching English online then we would happily try out these accommodations.
But, of course, these are going to be more expensive than typical Airbnbs. But hey, if you want to splurge on a sweet villa on a vineyard in Italy then we say go for it!
Great for Larger Groups
Airbnb allows you to search for places based on how many guests there will be. So, if you have a trip with a group of friends or your family, you’ll likely have no problem finding an Airbnb that can accommodate everyone (as long as it’s less than 16 people).
We used this feature when traveling with friends in Verona, Italy (there were 12 of us in one Airbnb) and family in Baska, Croatia (a toddler, a baby, and 6 adults in one Airbnb).
Cons of Using Airbnb
Ok, we just really raved about Airbnb. But now let’s talk about some faults of using Airbnb and how it’s not always a smooth ride.
Amenities (and Pictures) Aren’t Always What They Seem
But the listing said there was a washer?
Ok, so we’ve totally arrived in an Airbnb, expecting the washer to be in the room because the listing said there was a washer. Turns out, it was downstairs, then exit the building, turn right, and you’ll see a laundromat. Oh yeah, and this laundromat actually only dry cleans and it’s $3-5 per shirt. WHAT?!
Yeah, so that happened in Tirana, Albania. While we actually loved our apartment and location, the washer thing was pretty annoying. We were staying for two weeks and that laundry is a ripoff!
Our point here is that even though the Airbnb host lists something in the description, it doesn’t mean it’s true. So, if you are ever in doubt, please contact the host and ask! Then if they do mislead you (it can happen) you have proof in writing that the Airbnb host did so.
Of course, sometimes you won’t know the problem until it’s too late, like we did in Tirana, and you’ll just have to deal. But hey, our bed was comfy, the kitchen was nice, and we had a cool view. It made up for the washer problem. Plus Tirana is awesome!
Don’t think your Airbnb is exactly like the pictures either. There have been many times where the pictures made the place look bigger and nicer. However, we’ve had Airbnbs where they’re much bigger than the pictures looked! So, be prepared for a little deviation when it comes to pictures.
There are hosts that give you every single detail about the listing and they are amazing!
Then there are hosts who either have the smallest amount of information or no information at all. They also don’t provide many pictures or it’s so many pictures of the same thing. Who knew there could be so many ways to photograph a bed?
This can be so frustrating when you’re trying to find the perfect place. You look at a listing and there’s nothing to read about the space. If the Airbnb is still on your radar, reach out to the host for clarification!
Being the First Guest
Who wants to be the first to use an Airbnb that has just a few pictures and not a lot of description? Not us!
We’ve only booked Airbnbs without reviews a couple of times during our travels. For the most part we’ve had great experiences (and even a discount most of the time) but before booking we always check to see if that host has other reviews. Whether that means reviews from other listings they have or from their own guest account through Airbnb.
It can be nerve-racking to book a place and not know if it’ll actually be like it is in the listing. It’s one of those moments where you need to weigh all the pros and cons about the place. Location, price, amenities, etc…
The pro of being the first guest to stay in an Airbnb is getting a discount. Some hosts offer a promotion for guests to come stay so they can get reviewed and noticed. This was the case in Sanur, Bali where we got an extra 17% off just because we were one of the first guests. It was amazing, by the way.
We can’t tell you how many Airbnb’s we’ve stayed in where basics like dish soap, toilet paper or hand soap were scarce or non-existent.
This lack of basics can be very annoying, especially if you’re only staying in that Airbnb for a couple days. You’ll have to request these things from the host (hopefully they’re quick) or go buy some.
In most cases, we usually just buy some because we need them sooner rather than later. If this happens to use, we privately message the host when leaving a review to make sure they realize.
Some hosts can have very vague check-in instructions or they require you to contact them for check-in. If you’re traveling abroad like us and don’t want to pay for a phone plan in your destination then this can be very frustrating. Some hosts don’t understand that no phone plan means no way for us to contact them without wifi.
We’ve been pretty fortunate with mosts hosts telling us the wifi password for a nearby place or being at the Airbnb at the pre-chosen time of our arrival. If you opt-out of phone plans and want to avoid standing out in freezing cold or blistering hot weather weighed down with bags then be sure to get clear and detailed directions from the host before you arrive. Check with them to see if there’s a doorbell or a wifi network.
There’s nothing like standing in the streets of Budapest on the day after Christmas without a way to contact your host. Needless to say, it was cold. We didn’t have a phone plan yet, having just arrived, and we explained that to our host beforehand. Apparently he didn’t realize what that meant so we had to walk to a McDonald’s (luckily it was open!) to get wifi and contact him.
This is a new one and we haven’t experienced it yet and hopefully we never do. This is a very rare occurrence so don’t think it’s going to happen to you! But it seems like every few months there’s a new article out about how guests discovered a hidden camera in their Airbnb. It’s relatively uncommon to find out you’ve been secretly filmed but it’s still a risk with Airbnb and other rental websites. Here are some good ways to check if your Airbnb has a hidden camera.
Summary of the Pros and Cons of Being an Airbnb Guest
It’s our goal to make this post about our Airbnb experience as informative and helpful as possible. We hope it’s helped answer some questions you had but if you have anything to add or ask don’t hesitate to comment or contact us!
Happy travels! We hope your Airbnb is awesome!