How to Choose a Good (and Safe!) Airbnb
Signing up for credit cards through partner links earns us a commission. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. Here’s our full Advertising Policy.Update: One or more card offers in this post are no longer available. Check our Hot Deals for the latest offers. Airbnb is a great choice for folks who prefer a local feel when they travel, or want to explore off the beaten (tourist) path. It’s also ideal for longer stays, like a couple of weeks (or more!)
Folks might not like that some Airbnbs only have a few reviews, unlike the thousands of reviews you can find for hotels.
But there are still ways to find a great place where you’ll feel welcome and safe. Here are my tips!
Link: Sign-Up for Airbnb (Get $20 toward your 1st stay of $75+)Airbnb lets folks rent out their home, or a room in their home, to guests.
Airbnb also has a presence in places where there simply aren’t hotels, like above the Arctic Circle in Norway. If you’re planning to explore, or visit a place far from the normal tourist sites, check Airbnb to see what’s available!
How to Find an Airbnb
Get started on the Airbnb website.
Airbnb makes it easy to jump right into listings. Enter where you want to visit, your dates of travel, how many are in your party, and click “Search.”
On the next page, you’ll see lots of listings (hopefully!). For example, I searched for places to stay in Akureyri, Iceland, where there are not many hotel options.
But, I found 81 listings on Airbnb! You might want to stop in Akureyri if you’re driving the Ring Road around Iceland, or if you want to visit Iceland’s “Capital of the North.” It’s very close to the Arctic Circle, and there’s lots of culture and activities to enjoy!
To find your spot:
- Use the filters to choose from entire homes, private rooms, or shared rooms
- Use the sliders to adjust your price range
- Click around the map to find a place close to where you want to be (near the highway, near the water, close to a friend or family member, etc.)
- See how many reviews the host has for the listing
Once you find a listing that meets your criteria, look at the reviews. Read how other travelers describe the place. Is it cozy? Warm in winter, and cool in summer? Is it close to attractions? Do they mention difficulty finding the place, getting the Wi-Fi to work, etc.?
Most importantly, the reviews give you a chance to see that others have had safe visits, which gives you peace of mind.
But What If There Are No (Or Few) Reviews?
Don’t worry. When hosts open up new listings, they need someone to take the 1st plunge!
As an incentive, they’ll sometimes price their rental far below market rates to gather positive reviews. The host will want to make a good impression on you, so you’ll often get great service by being 1 of the 1st stays!Check if the host has reviews for other listings. Click their picture to view their profile page. If they have other listings with positive reviews, you are most likely in good hands.
But if the host is brand new to Airbnb, you might want to ask questions to clarify any concerns.
If the host is communicative and prompt, you might decide to accept a discounted stay to be the 1st (or among the 1st) to stay with the host. See how you feel, and remember, don’t do anything you aren’t completely comfortable with!
Other Things to Consider
Airbnbs are NOT like hotels. They are just like their name implies, BnB’s…bed and breakfasts! Your only point of contact is your host, the person who put up the listing.
So you’ll want to make sure this person is fair, honest, and reputable.
You’ll also want to know the place you’re booking is a good fit for you. So there are lots of things to consider or ask about, like:
- Are there stairs, or an elevator?
- Who should you call if something breaks, or needs service?
- Are linens and towels included?
- What else is – or isn’t – included?
Also consider that locals might have a different view of certain things. For example, if you want to know how fast the internet is, that’s relative. Other countries don’t have the high-speeds of the US. Ask for a screenshot of the internet service from speedtest.net if you must have fast internet service.
If you’re going to a country without clean drinking water, ask if the host provides water, or if you need to get your own. If there’s a pool, ask if they use chlorine in it.
Does the host offer airport pickup and drop-off? If you’re going to a small airport, lots of hosts will be happy to meet you when you arrive.
For longer stays, ask what’s included in the kitchen. Is there a microwave? Are there pots and pans? A fridge?
Be sure to look at the pictures carefully and closely and assume they are taken in the “best case” scenario. Piece together the living area based on the photos, and pay close attention the bed or mattress to make sure it isn’t too thin.
If you’re allergic to animals, ask if there are pets on the property. And if you’re allergic to scents or chemicals, ask what cleaning products are used, or if candles are burned in your room.
You can find more filter options on the listing page by selecting “More Filters.” There, you’ll see if there’s a washer and dryer, if you can smoke, if the place is wheelchair accessible, if it’s family friendly, has cable TV, etc.
Use the filters! Find out exactly what’s included, and what is NOT.
And, if you have any questions, no matter how silly they might seem, send the host a message. A good host will be happy to explain anything you don’t clearly understand.
It will also make you feel safer and more comfortable about the place you will potentially book.
Remember that both hosts and guests (especially hosts) go through a verification check of their IDs. And those are kept on file. It’s a huge measure that adds a lot of safety to the process.
Airbnb is a fun way to travel and explore new places!
Be sure to read my tips on how to negotiate a better price on Airbnb!
And, if you have lots of AMEX Membership Rewards points, you can redeem them for Airbnb gift cards!
Bottom LineAirbnb is a fantastic way to travel, especially to areas without hotels, places removed from tourist destinations, or for longer stays.
If you’re new to Airbnb, you can sign-up using my link to get $20 toward your 1st stay of $75+! And before you book, be sure you ask your potential host questions so you feel comfortable and safe. Always check the reviews to make sure there are no red flags.
Airbnb has a secure system in place, but as always, do what’s best for you. If you’ve had an experience with Airbnb, please tell us about it in the comments!
Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)