The Dos and Don'ts of Using Airbnb

New friends, local culture, and tree houses—Airbnb has it all.

A bedroom like one you might find on Airbnb is seen here.
Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

Popular among travelers looking for a break from bland hotels, Airbnb has taken the travel world by storm with millions of people choosing to book through the home-rental and listing site. Airbnb’s are available just about anywhere you can imagine, from the biggest cities to off-the-beaten track rural places throughout the United States. “Rooms” range from a converted school bus in Salinas, California to apartments for a family of four in New York City to tree houses in Vermont. Airbnb guests also often get the added bonus of interacting with their host who has insider tips for the area and getting a taste of the local culture that can be hard to find as a tourist on a short stay.

However, showing up a stranger’s home can be a bit awkward at times. Should shoes be taken off at the door? Is it necessary to leave a tip for a particularly nice host? Airbnb can be more complicated than just booking and showing up at a hotel, so to help out the hesitant traveler, we’ve talked to expert Airbnb hosts and users to give you some basic dos and don’ts to make your home-stay-home more comfortable.

DON'T Search Using Your Travel Dates 

Although it may seem pointless to look at Airbnb’s that are blocked off during the days you need, setting the site’s filters with “check in” and “check out” times can limit your search results and hide listings in the area. Many hosts, particularly those with desirable spots, block off days that aren’t actually booked just to limit the number of requests they have to deal with. If you fall in love with a booking that is blocked off when you need it, it's worth a shot to message the host and let them know how much you love their home, apartment, tree house etc.

Give a few details about yourself, like why you're traveling and what you hope to get out of your trip. Many host Airbnb because they love interacting with people from all over, and will often open their doors to you if you are friendly and excited to be traveling.

DO Get a Verified ID badge from Airbnb

When you stay in an Airbnb, the host is trusting you with their home and giving you access to their personal lives. To make the situation more comfortable for everyone, it’s a good idea to get a “verified ID” badge through the site. Getting a badge might mean uploading a photo of your driver's license, passport, or other government-issued ID or connecting your profile with your Facebook account, and providing an email and phone number. Depending on where you are in the country, some hosts might even require you to have a badge before booking with them.

If the person feels a little more secure, they are much more likely to be more open with you during your stay.

DON'T Accidentally Book an Illegal Airbnb

Because of its popularity, many cities are cracking down and limiting the number of Airbnbs that are allowed to operate in an area. For example, the city of San Francisco currently requires hosts to register with the city or face a hefty fine. If your host is closed down after your booking is made, you risk ending up without a place to stay and scrambling for last-minute accommodations. Always check on a host's profile in the "house rules" section to see their permit credentials. If they're not listed, reach out and ask about the city’s regulations for short term vacation rentals.

Sometimes destinations can be too good to be true, and it never hurts to double check with your host before finishing the booking.

DO Make Sure Y ou Know What Kind of Situation You A re Getting Into

Many Airbnb’s are shared spaces, meaning the host still lives in their home while you are visiting. You might share a bathroom with a host for example, while others will leave during your stay and let you have the run of the place. If you are paying for a single bedroom in a home, don’t automatically assume you can use the kitchen as well. Make sure you communicate with your host beforehand to ask any questions about the shared space you may have. Same goes for house "rules." Loud music and parties are generally not welcome, so talk to the host before you arrive about any expectations they may have for you.

Do Communicate With your Host About Your Arrival

This may seem obvious, but it is easy to get caught up in the excitement of planning a trip and forget the about the details. Communicate with your host about your travel plans and what you need to know to access your accommodation. If door codes or hidden keys locations are needed, write them down somewhere you know you won’t lose them. Your host might also have tips for how to get through the city to their home from wherever you are traveling from. 

Don’t Act Like You’re Staying in a Hotel

Part of the fun of staying in an Airbnb is getting to know your host and their neighborhood. They will likely enjoy sharing their tips for places to eat, see and avoid, so if they are open and chatty with you, it is well worth your time to reciprocate and hang out for a little while. Some hosts even offer a welcome drink or meal – just another perk of getting off the beaten track at large hotels!

On the other hand, while the majority of hosts do want to get to know you, some may not so be sure to be conscious of the signals your host is giving off. They might be swamped at work or have a busy weekend themselves and not have the time to talk with you. It is rare to find an unfriendly host, but if you do find yourself with one, don’t overwhelm them with your presence. 

Do Thoroughly Vet Your Host

 Airbnb users have the option to review a host after their stay. These reviews can reveal a lot about the location and it is always a good idea to take a thorough look before making your decision. Airbnb offers a free professional photo service for hosts so don't judge the listing just off the photos. Reviews are a great way to get a sense of how closely the host’s matches what you actually get. A good indicator of a great property that is worth your time and money how many reviews it has. If there are at least 10 reviews, it means people liked the spot and the host enough to take the time to write a positive review.

Don't Forget to Say Thank You 

If a host goes out of their way to make sure you have a great visit, or you just have a truly good time with them, it is not out of the ordinary to pick up something small (think pastry sized) while you're there to thank them. Tips are not recommended or suggested and can make for an awkward interaction, so stay away from leaving cash behind. Airbnb is a great way to make connections with people from all over the world, and it can't hurt to make sure they had as good an experience with you as you did with them.