I love Airbnb.  It has something for everyone’s travel style and budget.  You can book a luxury villa for a group of friends, a studio apartment for you and your significant other, or a room in someone’s house.  You’re essentially renting from another person instead of a business or hotel chain, so there are a lot of other factors you have to consider that may keep people who are on the fence from taking the plunge.  Airbnb has policies in place to protect both hosts and guests, but here are a few things you may not know that can make your search (and your stay) a little easier.

Try To Book a Listing With at Least 5 Reviews

I don’t like to be the first to try anything.  I let others try it first, so I can get feedback on their experience.  So while it may be tempting to book that beautiful studio apartment for $40/night in Brazil,  I like to see a handful of reviews to confirm that the listing is as it appears in the pictures and the description.  I prefer to book with Superhosts, who have consistently high ratings.

If a Host Implies That They Cannot Host You After Accepting Your Reservation, Do NOT Cancel For Them

I once had a host text me less than a week before my stay to tell me that she was no longer allowed to list her apartment on Airbnb. Funny how her property is still listed to this day, but I digress.  I asked her several times to officially cancel the reservation, but she ignored me for days.

Hosts will try to force you to cancel, because Airbnb penalizes hosts for canceling reservations.  I didn’t want to risk forfeiting my payment in case she tried to claim me a no show, so I submitted a cancellation request on Airbnb.  When a guest puts in a cancellation request, the host has 48 hours to cancel the request or confirm that they can still host you.  If they cancel or do not respond within 48 hours, you will have the option to either book another property using your refund, or have the entire amount refunded to you.  Airbnb will often offer a small credit for the inconvenience.

Your Review of Your Stay Will Not Be Visible to the Host Until They Submit Their Review of You, and Vice Versa

This way neither of you has to worry about receiving a bad review in retaliation for being honest.  I like to leave honest reviews, and point out things that may have affected my decision to book had I known them beforehand.  I shouldn’t have to worry about the host leaving me a nasty review out of spite.

Also note that you can only leave reviews for a host after you have completed a stay that has been booked on the Airbnb site.  So you can trust that the reviews you see are from real people who have actually stayed at the property, and not a bunch of friends leaving fake reviews to help out a buddy.

Do NOT Handle any Transactions Outside of the Airbnb Site

Airbnb will never ask you to pay for anything outside of the site or via email.  If you receive any requests to do so, report it directly to Airbnb.  You are not protected over any disputes you have over money that was not exchanged via the site.

Do Your Due Diligence

Familiarize yourself with the neighborhood you’re booking in, both before and after you get a physical address.  You don’t want to book a stay to find out that it’s miles away from anything you’re interested in.  Thoroughly read the listing and the reviews, and even ask the host for a nearby landmark if you need to check it out on google maps (you often won’t get an exact address until you book, but most hosts mention the neighborhood in their listing).

Make sure you know what will and won’t be provided;  some hosts don’t provide things that most of us would expect, like soap and towels.

Another thing worth noting:  If you don’t want to share the place with the host or other guests, make sure you choose the Room Type of “Entire home/Apartment”.  I’ve heard of a few people who did not bother to read the listing thoroughly and ended up surprised to find out that their host or other guests would be sharing the space with them.

What about you guys?  Do you use Airbnb or any other peer to peer sites?  How was your experience?  Post it in the comments!