RULE NO.1: READ THE RE­VIEWS

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Escape - - TRAVEL WISDOM | AIRBNB - JENNY HEWETT

From a bam­boo tree house in Ubud to an apart­ment over­look­ing Ta­ble Moun­tain in Cape Town, I’ve slept in countless strangers’ homes on my trav­els. And I’m not the only one dabbling in the home­shar­ing mar­ket as an al­ter­na­tive to ho­tels. Last year, on­line por­tal Airbnb re­ported that it ac­com­mo­dated more than 100 mil­lion guest ar­rivals and the com­pany is grow­ing so fast, it’s now worth more than some of the world’s ma­jor ho­tel chains in­clud­ing IHG and Hil­ton.

I don’t al­ways choose Airbnb over ho­tels, but when I do, I make sure I’ve done my re­search. And there are a few things I’ve learned along the way.

CHECK THE FEED­BACK

Num­ber one rule in the Airbnb hand­book: al­ways read re­views about the host and prop­erty from pre­vi­ous guests and avoid list­ings that have never been re­viewed. The feed­back, which is made pub­lic, is a good way to gauge what peo­ple have liked or dis­liked about the stay and will give you first-hand in­sight into the host’s per­son­al­ity, hos­pi­tal­ity style and the con­ve­nience and vibe of the lo­ca­tion.

OPT FOR SMALL COM­FORTS

Past re­views are a good way to find out about any thought­ful touches or ex­clu­sions that can make or break your stay. In South Africa, it’s com­mon for hosts to leave a com­pli­men­tary bot­tle of wine for guests, while else­where, tea, cof­fee, milk, bread and orange juice are more stan­dard. Many also do nei­ther.

TAKE THE RIGHT KIND OF RISKS

Ac­cord­ing to the on­line por­tal, Airbnb now has more than five mil­lion list­ings world­wide and a hand­ful of them in­clude unique spa­ces such as cas­tles, tree houses, tents, ryokans, yurts and car­a­vans. Stay some­where you nor­mally wouldn’t (as long as it has glow­ing re­views, of course).

RE­SEARCH THE LO­CA­TION

Once you’ve de­cided on an area, con­tact the prospec­tive host to ask for the ad­dress of the prop­erty and en­ter it into Google Maps. This will give you an idea of how far it is to trans­port and the ap­prox­i­mate dis­tance to land­marks and su­per­mar­kets. If you plan on hir­ing a car, ask your host whether they have a car space for you to use or easy street park­ing.

COM­MU­NI­CA­TION IS KEY

Work out how to get into the prop­erty with the host be­fore you ar­rive. If you don’t have Wi-Fi, get a SIM card at the air­port so you can com­mu­ni­cate while you’re on the way. It also pays to have the host’s phone num­ber and the prop­erty ad­dress writ­ten down on a piece of pa­per in case your phone runs out of bat­tery. If you’re rent­ing a room in a house, ask who else is liv­ing there and make sure the room locks.

BE AWARE OF SCAMS

Scams are not com­mon, but they do hap­pen. Ask your­self if it’s too good to be true. Of­ten the pho­tos will be more generic and fea­ture an ul­tra-lux­ury prop­erty, but the price doesn’t seem to match. It’s not al­ways the case, but the most ob­vi­ous sign of a scam is if nei­ther the host nor prop­erty have pre­vi­ous re­views.

PIC­TURE: AIRBNB

Airbnb of­fers ac­cess to out-of-the-or­di­nary ac­com­mo­da­tion such as this treehouse in At­lanta, Ge­or­gia.

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