How to pick an Airbnb as a female solo traveler
How to Pick an Airbnb as a Female Solo Traveler
How to pick an Airbnb as a Female Solo Traveler
Staying at an Airbnb - the perfect „in between“
Although it definitely is easier to meet fellow travelers in a hostel, you might need the solitude on the road once in a while. An Airbnb is the perfect in between. You usually will have our own room sharing the house or the apartment with the owners. Of course, that was what Airbnb was initially about. Now different forms have evolved, rental apartment companies use the platform to find customers, you may even find bed and breakfast places or unique spots you would not find o a hotel search engine site.
Airbnb connects strangers with strangers
Still, Airbnb continues to be a platform that connects Costumers with Costumers. You, a stranger, get the opportunity to sleep in someone else’s house, also a stranger, for a reasonable amount of money. A fair bargain. Sadly, as women, we need to especially be careful when it comes to picking accommodations abroad. So far I have mostly made wonderfully positive experiences when staying at Airbnb’s. However, these positive experiences are also overshadowed by some bad ones. Which is why I have some tips on how to pick an Airbnb, where and when it is useful to do so, and what you should keep in mind.
1. Read the Reviews. All of them.
This is kind of a given, but you should really read all of the reviews when booking accommodation and then judge accordingly. Was the visitor with a bad experience a woman? Was she traveling alone? And did she feel safe?
Issues about communications with the Airbnb host can occur occasionally, I would not pay too much attention to such complaints, as our interrelationship of messages consists out of subjective realities, and these realities might not always be in line. As long as most of the reviews are 100% and only one or two complain about cleanliness or communication, some organizational issues, then you should not completely rule it out. But if there is ANY complaint about the feeling of not being safe, about not being able to lock the door, or in general being uncomfortable with the way the host acted around them, especially if the guest was a woman, then that is an absolute NO GO.
Here is why: A small detour into my worst Airbnb experience.
Last summer I had just come back from an amazing South East Asia Trip with a layover in Manchester, UK. The flight from Manchester had been a crazy deal that I got with Oman Air (can totally recommend that airline). As a result, I figured I should explore Manchester for a couple of days, instead of flying home directly. After a 17 hour flight and a train ride, I knew that I would be exhausted. I had forgotten to book accommodation far in advance, which is why I was left with few options. The hostels in Manchester had horrible reviews, speaking of a very noisy, party-like atmosphere. It already dawned on me that this would not be the place to rest after my trip. Being on a budget I decided to book an Airbnb. And I found one with about 10 quite good reviews, a seemingly friendly woman as a host, not outstanding but very decent. And that is all I wanted, an affordable room to myself, nothing fancy. So I arrived at the Manchester Picadilly (Main) Station and got into a cap. The Airbnb was supposed to be in a central area. However, my cab driver kept on entering a very industrial lonely district until he finally came to a stop in front of a ground level house in a dodgy and dark alley. Not many other houses were around.
„Are you sure this is where you are getting off, mam?“, the cab driver asked one eyebrow raised in concern. I was simply happy to have arrived and that I was able to crawl into bed soon. „Yes!“, I replied, paid him and got off.
I had been told that the small foyer would be enterable without a key, where a safe would be kept that contained the key to the house. I continued pushing the door with immeasurable force. Nothing. It simply would not open. Suddenly a man, around 30 speaking only broken English, opened the door for me and complained about how I had not been able to open it. Entering the old, dark and dirty house, following the weird stranger I had no idea I was going to meet, my heartbeat fastened. Was I supposed to relax here? The man then further explained that the original host had not been in the country for half a year and that also he had no key for me and that he would have to get it copied in the morning. As I opened the door to my cold room, its window facing the front street ground level without any reasonable curtains, I noticed that the lock to my room was broken and loosely taped over. Great.
I thanked the man, closed the door and sat on the squishy bed. I could not lock the door to my room and the front door was kept unlocked in a ground level house in an industrial area in Manchester. And as every overly tired, irrational and otherwise so independent woman would do, I called my mom. The same night I messaged my original host that I did not feel comfortable there alone and that she had given me wrong information. She only replied with rage: „ Do not tell me how to set up my house, this so disrespectful.“ „Who the hell do you think you are?“. This obviously did not ease my anxieties. I spend the night with one eye open and checked into a hotel room the next day, without waiting for the man to copy the keys.
Now, when I think about it, I know that the whole situation and my feelings would have been completely different had I not been alone. With a girlfriend, I would have felt weird and concerned, but not so scared. With my boyfriend, we would not have stayed in that sh*thole in the first place. He would have turned on his heel and left. But I was alone, and that is something you DO have to take into account. It does not matter how independent you are, if you do not feel safe, then that independence disappears in seconds.
2. Do not book "too last minute"
To have the most options for an Airbnb you want to book at least a few weeks but better two months in advance. Usually, the people that are prepared to take in guests also want to plan ahead. The time in advance will give you the opportunity to not be stressed when checking out the area you will stay in, to read the reviews and ask questions about the location.
3. Message the host before booking
When it comes to messaging on Airbnb you can ask specific questions in advance, even if you have gathered most of the information from the website, and even if you can book right away without the host’s confirmation.
- How will the check-in work?
- How is the neighborhood like? More party? Quieter? More family?
- Who will be in the house upon your arrival?
- Will they provide towels?
Messaging your host before booking gives you several advantages. You will be able to determine if he or she replies quickly, and would therefore also reply quickly in case of an emergency. In addition, you can judge on the manner of speaking to you and answering your questions how determined the host is to make you feel welcomed and at home, or if for him Airbnb only means fast money to rip you off. Of course messaging will not give you hundred percent certainty, however, you will have the ability to sort out the ones that seem unprofessional, indecent, or unsafe.
4. Make sure you can lock your room
If you feel very safe and comfortable at the place you are staying you do not even think about locking your room. A lot of houses do not have locks to each and every room, which is why this point will rule out a few nice Airbnbs for you. If you want to be really safe, though, ask this question via Airbnb.
6. Do your research
In the awesome times of Google, a little bit of research only takes minutes to complete. Research the area that the Airbnb is located in and check if it is safe. Also, pay attention to the neighborhood vibe and make sure that it fits your needs. You want to go to a bar and meet some people? Pick a livelier neighborhood that is still safe. Do you want to rest? Do your research accordingly and do not always trust what hosts tell you about where they are living. They are probably accustomed to different standards than you are, which is why it cannot hurt to do your own research.
If you are the party type as a solo traveler, check out Jess’ guide on how to safely go out when abroad as a female solo traveler.
5. If you are having any issues, turn to Airbnb customer service right away, before leaving the premise
During my experience in Manchester, I left early in the morning, as I simply wanted to get the hell out of there. But that might not always be a good idea. Airbnb customer service is amazing in resolving issues for you, for them, the guest's safety has utmost priority. If you talk to them right away they might be able to compensate you for your difficulties, cancel the reservation and help you with your further stay. You want to sign up? Help me out with some credit, and you will get credit in return. Sharing is caring, girls!
Sara also wrote a post about how to pick an Airbnb, check out her tips, as well.
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