Airbnb is an amazing invention and we have used it 12 times in Europe. Basically, you rent someone’s flat while they go off on holiday or stay with a friend. Reading the reviews is crucial, however until recently Airbnb’s reviewing policy was a bit loose – so it is always best to contact the host yourself before booking to get a feel for the situation. There are some hosts who put their rental properties up on the website – we have been mostly disappointed when staying in these properties.
If the host lives in the apartment there is a better chance that things are looked after (and you won’t have to clean the shower drain yourself – ugh). If it is a rental property try to discern how many properties the host owns, if it is only one or two and the host is local, chances are good that the flat will be lovely and similar to staying in a hotel. We had great experiences staying in several properties that were owned by locals but not lived in. “Owned by a local” is key – if the owner lives in another country and only has a friend or employee to look after the rental property chances are that it won’t be up to standards.
It is much more fun to stay in a lived-in apartment anyway… One place we stayed in had a pile of beach goodies (snorkels, floaties, beach pads) that we were instructed to use as our own. Also, there will be a kitchen full of spices and such so you don’t have to invest a small fortune in cooking essentials.
Email the host first before submitting the booking request – the website puts a hold on your credit card for every booking request. It takes several days for the hold to clear up if the request is denied.
Change the currency on the website to the local currency and let your MasterCard/Visa handle the transaction fee, it tends to be cheaper.