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A First-Timer's Guide To Airbnb

With over one million listings across more than 34,000 cities and 190 countries, Airbnb is the world's largest "community marketplace" to rent and find overnight accommodations. Since its inception in 2008, the privately owned company headquartered in San Francisco has enjoyed worldwide success and is now poised to surpass many of the largest and most famous hotels in just a matter of years. And it's not just rooms, apartments or homes you can rent for a night or for several days – you can rent a room in a boat or castle or even a private island! If you're curious to learn more about how Airbnb works and why it might be better than staying in a hotel, here are a few tips to get you started and how you can be a good guest during your stay.
Photo Credit: Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for Airbnb Photo Credit: Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for Airbnb
How Does Airbnb Work?

You can search for listings in your destination without having to create an account. All you have to do is visit, enter your destination, the date you wish to check in, check out and the number of guests. Within seconds, a listing of available vacation rentals will appear. You can further streamline your choices by price and room type, along with other options such as wireless internet, kitchen and host language. If you find a property you would like to book, you must then sign up, create a profile and agree to Airbnb's Terms of Service. After you book, the host has the option to accept or reject your reservation.

Related: Ask An Expert: How To Find A Vacation Rental Home

What Are Advantages Of Using Airbnb?
  • There's great potential to save money when booking a rental through Airbnb in comparison to more conventional forms of lodging like hotels and motels. What's more, many leading hotels will routinely charge for services that are typically included in an Airbnb rental such as parking and wireless access. Then there is the possibility of wasting time walking from the parking lot or waiting for valet parking, along with the added cost of tipping.
  • You can also save money on food if you rent a place with a kitchen, allowing you to cook many of your meals rather than dining out at a restaurant. By dining in, the money you save can be used towards other expenses such as attractions and transportations or even completely removed from your travel budget. Additionally, many listings on Airbnb are bed and breakfasts, with a far better breakfast than you might find in a similarly priced overnight accommodation.
  • Your living space in an Airbnb rental will likely be far more spacious than what you find in an average hotel. Depending upon what type of listing you choose, you may have use of a full kitchen versus a microwave and mini refrigerator in hotel rooms or even a furnished patio versus a locked window with a view of a back alley.
Photo Credit: Thinkstock Photo Credit: Thinkstock
How To Be A Good Guest On Airbnb
  • After signing up with Airbnb, you can start by providing an accurate description of yourself in the Profile section along with a recent photo. Follow this up with filling out as much information as you can in the Trust and Verification, such as a confirmed email address, phone number and connecting Airbnb with social media platforms like Facebook and Linkedin. You can also provide references from people you know to lend further proof you'll be an excellent guest at someone's home or property. If you're just starting out on Airbnb, you won't have any reviews from hosts but the more positive comments you receive, the more likely your booking will be accepted by a host.
  • Before booking a rental property, take a few moments to review the entire listing, including information on check and check out times, House Rules, Safety Features and reviews from previous guests. A sample set of House Rules can include a request from the host to be respectful and treat the rental as if it were your own, fees for extra guests and cleaning responsibilities.
  • After reviewing the entire listing and prior to booking it, you should contact the host. Not all hosts require an initial contact before booking but in doing so, allows you the opportunity to introduce yourself. You should also communicate with the host throughout the entire rental process, from booking the trip through vacating the property.
  • Once you've booked a rental and the host has approved your request, don't ask if it's OK to pay in cash. Some hosts who have accepted cash as a payment have run into trouble with guests who refuse to leave, which can cause a considerable amount of headache with legal fees and actions and a loss of rental income. If you make an attempt to pay in cash in order to receive a reduction in the price, your actions may be reported to Airbnb, which may result a permanent ban. All payments should be made directly through Airbnb, which clearly lists all methods of payment, including major credit cards, many debit cards, Pay Pal, Apple Pay and others.
  • During your stay, you should always clean up after yourself and make sure your living space is well cared for. If the host(s) or other guests are staying there, please be considerate of them, especially during quiet time hours and if you plan on bringing along a guest. Just prior to leaving, you should also make sure the space looks like it was when you first arrived. Remember, the review your hosts posts will reflect on your ability to stay at another Airbnb property in the future. Of course, you should also leave an honest review of the host and the property.

Related: 5 U.S. Trips For Just You And Your Dog

Randy Yagi is a freelance writer covering all things San Francisco. In 2012, he was awarded a Media Fellowship from Stanford University. His work can be found on
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