Airbnb etiquette: 10 tips for guests

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From sharing bathrooms to tipping hosts, we explain correct Airbnb etiquette so you can be a great guest

Throughout our trip around the world, we plan to use vacation rental site Airbnb for a large portion of our accommodation.

I have been a host for nearly three years and have developed a keen sense of what constitutes good Airbnb etiquette. Here, I share 10 essential tips so you can be a great guest.

1. Read the entire listing – and use the calendar!

Hosts enjoy helping guests find restaurants or activities that suit their tastes. We want you to have a great time in our city and of course, we want you to revisit!

What we hate is when users message us asking ‘is your place available?’ or ‘is there public transport?’ or ‘how far is the station?’ or anything that can be answered by a passing glance at the listing description.

We have spent time and effort putting together our descriptions and the calendar is right there so these types of questions can be time-wasting and frustrating.

If you need information that isn’t in the description, absolutely message the host but please read the listing first.

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2. Introductory messages: to do or not to do?

If you have a complete profile and a good review or two, there is no need to send an introductory message before you book unless the host explicitly requests one in the listing description.

If you really feel awkward about staying at someone’s place without exchanging pleasantries first, then that’s fine but don’t feel you have to do it as par for the course.

Instead, place a booking request and add an introductory note to that. This will suffice for most hosts.

3. Don’t ask to pay in cash

Yes, I know the Airbnb fee is a pain. It’s pretty hefty (for both you and me) and we’d both be richer if we did a cash-in-hand kind of deal, but please don’t ask for this.

The Airbnb fee is there to protect guests and hosts in terms of both monetary insurance and personal safety. Let’s just stick to the rules on this, okay?

4. Book quickly after your enquiry

If your host has promised to reserve your dates for a short while, or has offered you a special rate, don’t leave them hanging for hours.

Complete your booking as soon as possible. It’s obvious to us when guests have pinged off tons of emails to lots of hosts and are waiting for the best deal.

We understand and appreciate that you’re after value for money but if we’re holding onto some dates for you, it’s rude to leave us hanging.

5. Let your host know if you’re running late

Try to give your host an accurate idea of when you will be arriving. They may have plans which they have to fit around you or, if they’re not staying in the same place, they will need to travel to where they’ll be staying for the night.

As such, if you said you’d arrive at 8pm and actually it’s looking like it’ll be 10pm, make sure you let your host know. Apologise for the delay and let them know you appreciate their flexibility.

6. Bear in mind that it’s not a hotel

I don’t know about you but when I’m in a hotel I walk around in my robe feeling like a king. Everything is immaculate when I arrive and, er, less so when I leave. In an Airbnb situation, however, you must remember that you are in someone’s home.

This means that a) not everything will be as immaculate as in a hotel because people actually live there and b) there won’t be a maid cleaning up after guests.

We certainly don’t expect you to clean the place when you leave but a decent level of tidiness is appreciated – especially if you weren’t charged a cleaning fee.

7. Ask about a bathroom schedule

If you’re sharing a home rather than booking an entire home/flat, it may be that you end up sharing a bathroom. In this case, it is good Airbnb etiquette to ask if the host needs it at certain times.

Chances are, they will be working while you’re on holiday so if they need the bathroom for half an hour in the morning before work, they’ll really appreciate it if you let them have it.

8. Tell the host if there’s something wrong

If you’re unhappy with something, tell the host as early as possible. Most of us will bend over backwards to help our guests so please be honest if something is wrong. What you shouldn’t do is stay silent on an issue and only mention it in your post-stay review.

Many hosts depend on Airbnb to pay their mortgage so it’s important for their guests to be happy. By all means, mention it in your review if your complaint isn’t dealt with fairly but please don’t pretend everything is okay only to complain later.

9. Be considerate about additional guests

If you book a room for one person, don’t assume that someone else can stay with you – especially if you’re sharing the home with your host.

If it’s a long-term stay and you’ve gotten to know them, maybe it’s okay to ask if they’d mind you having a guest over.

If it’s a short stay, however, it’s a bit cheeky especially as lots of hosts charge for a second guest.

10. Leave a review (quickly)

This is an obvious one but when a host has opened up their home to you, they really appreciate it when you leave a review soon after your stay. Try to leave more than one line and include your opinion not only about the home but the host too.

If you have a complaint, then make sure you are fair and tempered in your criticism. As mentioned above, many hosts depend on Airbnb for their livelihoods so bear that in mind.

Bonus Tip: Should I tip my Airbnb host?

This question has cropped up repeatedly since we published this post on Airbnb etiquette. The short answer is no, you should not tip your Airbnb host.

Tipping is a way of showing appreciation for good service, but Airbnb hosts don’t see what they’re doing as a service as such – rather, they’re sharing their home with you as an equal.

You and they co-exist in the same space; they do not ‘serve’ you in the same way that hotel staff might do. As such, there is no need to tip them.

If you want to show your appreciation, a small gift such as a box of chocolates or even just a note would be more appropriate.

All in all, Airbnb is a fantastic way to experience new places at a fraction of the cost of major hotels. If you use your common sense and adhere to Airbnb etiquette, then you’ll find it a fantastic way to see a new city, usually at unbeatable value for money.

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