What is Airbnb? A First-Timer’s Guide

After brief negotiation, the taxi driver agreed on a price that wasn’t a complete rip-off. He was friendly in a, “I hate everything about you except your money” type of way. My bags thrown in the backseat, I hopped in the front, and we sped off. Irked at the price, but bursting with excitement about being in a new country – I stared aimlessly out the window.

IMG_8024 (1)Palm trees filled my views and soon, the stunning Caribbean ocean was mesmerizing me. Crystal clear waters splashed against the rock infested shoreline as we drove by. Twenty minutes into the ride and we made it to the city. The ocean was still stunning, but dingy hotels and shady looking locals soon shared the landscape. It was perfect.

A Perfect Airbnb Rental For Me

Eventually, we rolled into where I was staying. A charming, yet hectic part of the city filled with colonial architecture. And soon enough, we arrived at my Airbnb rental.

The old taxi driver unloaded my luggage, and I paid him before ringing the bell to the building. A crusty old man appeared a few minutes later. From Spain, he spoke little English, but combined with my twelve words of Spanish – we confirmed my rental and headed up some stairs.

The OG twisted and giggled the lock. First class accommodations this was not, but I had a feeling it would get the job done. A door opened, and I viewed where I’d be living for the next three months.

What is Airbnb?

The days of hotels are in the past. Airbnb is the present, and Airbnb is the future. Airbnb is a travelers dream. Whether you’re a nomad or looking to get away for a few weeks, Airbnb rentals are a savior. Whether you want to rent a former drug dealer mansion in Colombia or a grimey bedroom in a surf shack next to the beach in Nicaragua – Airbnb has options available.

IMG_2522What is Airbnb? In the simplest terms, it’s a way to rent houses, apartments, and rooms all around the world. According to the company, Airbnb offers a, “trusted community marketplace for people to list, discover, and book unique accommodations around the world.”

On Airbnb, a host lists their property and decides how much to charge per day, week and month. Every listing has photographs, description, location, reviews, rules and much more. Each Airbnb host is given a user profile to tell the potential renter about themselves.

Travelers using Airbnb can search through the vast Airbnb database and look at properties around the world. Entering details about when and where you’re traveling will bring up available options and exact pricing. Airbnb travelers can further refine their quest to find the perfect place by using the advanced search features on Airbnb:

  • Room Type: Entire home/apartment, private room, or shared room
  • Price: Select your minimum to maximum budget on a nightly or monthly basis
  • Size: Number of bedrooms, bed, and bathrooms
  • Amenities: A/C, TV, Internet, pool, kitchen, pets, etc.
  • Host Language: English, French, Spanish, sign language, etc.
  • Property Type: House, apartment, bed and breakfast, castle, boat, cave, etc.
  • Keywords: Dial down even more with keyword searches like, “beaches” or “close to the mountains”

And Airbnb is everywhere now. You can find over nearly 1.5 million Airbnb listings worldwide in almost 35,000 cities and 190 countries.

How Does Airbnb Work?

Airbnb is a simple, idiot-proof option for travelers. You search through their worldwide database and select the perfect lodging option for your trip. While you can search with no Airbnb profile, you need one to book a reservation.

Once you’ve created your Airbnb profile, you can start to book lodging. There are three ways to do so. You can contact the host, request to book, or in some instances – instant book.

If I’m booking weekly or monthly, I always use the contact host option. This allows you to get to know the host a bit, ask any questions you may have, and confirm the place is available for your travel dates. You can also get great deals by contacting the host, but I’ll talk more about that later.

Request to book locks you into a reservation if the host accepts. If the room is available, then they almost always will accept. Hosts must accept bookings within 24 hours after you’ve made a booking request. Travelers are not charged until the host confirms and accepts.

Instant book is Airbnb’s hotel-like option. A few clicks and you can book homes, apartments, and rooms all around the world. Instant book is ideal for short trips and last minute bookings. Once you book using this option, it is immediately official. No need for a host to confirm.

Once you have booked, you pay for the first 28 days of the reservation immediately. Airbnb holds this payment for 24 hours before dispersing the payment to your host. Hosts are typically charged a 3% service fee and guests are charged an additional 8-10% fee, too.

The Social Side of Airbnb

One of the best parts about Airbnb is the social side of the site. And by social, I’m talking more about the review aspect rather than sitting around downing cheap beers with other gringos.

Airbnb’s review system shows previous guests thoughts about a place on every listing. This ensures trustworthiness from the hosts. If a host is offering a misleading listing, a traveler will detail this in the review section. Due to the social side of Airbnb, the community of travelers is quite honest about the listing. Most reviewers will say great things about a place, as long s the listing is accurate, and everything works.

If you see a listing that has many complaints, it’s best to stay away. When an Airbnb host says the A/C or Internet isn’t working right now, it often means, “we don’t really have the amenities we advertise.” By sticking with well-reviewed properties, you will ensure any place you rent on Airbnb will be accurate.


My favorite Airbnb host ever in Cabarete, Dominican Republic.

How I Use Airbnb

Like I said, hotels are old school and out-of-date. I only stay in hotels for a few specific reasons these days. And I almost never stay in hostels anymore. Hotels are ideal for high-end luxury. Hotels work well for short stays (1-4 days). Staying in a hotel for a month? Been there and done that. It’s not that great.

I like my space. I like having my own schedule. I don’t like having to wake up before 10 AM to sneak in the free breakfast. Hell, nowadays I don’t even eat breakfast thanks to intermittent fasting.

So if I’m staying in one place for more than a week, I always try to find an Airbnb place to rent. I prefer private apartments to private rooms and rarely travel to places where I can’t afford my own place (I’m looking at you South Beach). I normally use Airbnb 95% of the time while I travel. I rent furnished apartments in locations that allow me to walk to gyms, bars, grocery stores and more. I stay in these apartments from one week to three months.

Understanding Airbnb For First-Timers

Understanding exactly how to use Airbnb or what is Airbnb should be simple now. Still, the best way to learn about Airbnb is to hop on the site and start planning your next trip. Unless all you care about is luxury, you’ll find Airbnb to be an incredible addition to your travel planning toolbox.

P.S.: If you’re an Airbnb first-timer, you’re in luck. Airbnb is looking for new travelers. Click here to get a free $30 USD for your first Airbnb booking.
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Jake D

Travel junkie turned blogger. Location independent. From the Midwest, but often based in Latin America. Big on beaches, rumba, and rum. Addicted to the gym. Committed to showing a different style of travel - one that involves actually interacting with locals and exploring different cultures.

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