In Resources on 20/11/17
Desert house set under an early evening sky with stars. Airbnb logo appears on the photo as this is an Airbnb property

Airbnb – Beginner’s Guide for Guests and Hosts

“The more we share, the more we have”. Leonard Nimoy

For the uninitiated, Airbnb is a global website for people to rent their spare rooms, homes, villas and even castles, for short stays.

In under 10 years Airbnb has collected over 3 million listings in 191 countries with over 200 million guests. This has earned the company such delights as rave reviews, celebrity backers and lawsuits – a sure sign of success.

I first used Airbnb in 2014 and it’s now my ‘go-to’ portal for accommodation at home and abroad.  I loved the concept so much I became an Airbnb host.  Along with some fantastic experiences as both a guest and host, I’ve learnt some valuable lessons to share with you.

Airbnb for Guests

Text box Personal experience My first Airbnb experience was as a guest of Lynn’s in the Turks & Caicos Islands. A fantastic host and truly inspiring person, she has even co-authored one of my guest blogs. Top tip: Talk to your host and fellow guests, they could be the highlight of your Airbnb experience

Who is Airbnb for?

Airbnb caters for singles, couples, workers, families and groups, with all budgets and needs. I’ve used Airbnb for work trips, holidays and mini-breaks and hosted people for the same reasons and more.

As well as private or shared rooms, Airbnb now heavily features entire properties, hotels and bed and breakfasts.  Choosing the right Airbnb is part of the adventure for me, every trip I take has a different requirement and picking the right place adds to the experience.

Benefits for guests

  • Cost effective – Airbnb is typically cheaper than other portals
  • More choice– the platform includes all types of accommodation in all locations, on and off the beaten track
  • Personal service – Airbnb is widely used by individuals rather than businesses, hosts have a real interest in you as a customer and will often welcome you personally
  • Local insights – most hosts will provide transport, activity and restaurant recommendations based on their local knowledge
  • Trusted – hosts and guests rate each other, this feedback is visible on the portal for you to review before booking.  Hosts who break the rules are removed by Airbnb

How to be a great guest

  • When booking, summarise the reason for your stay – this helps the host understand what your needs might be
  • Some listings are, effectively, hotels with all the accompanying services such as a 24 hour reception desk and room service. However, some are within the hosts own home.  These offer different service levels, so pick what works best for you
  • Confirm a check in time asap so your host can arrange their diary around it. If you are unavoidably delayed, let your host know
  • Be clean, tidy and respectful of house rules. This will earn you a great review and encourage more hosts to join, which in turn ensures Airbnb guests plenty of choice and availability
Text box Top tip Keep your availability calendar up to date. My friends now know that my guest room is theirs as soon as I tell them ‘I’ve blocked the dates on Airbnb’. If they ask to stay when an Airbnb guest is already confirmed, they’re out of luck!

Airbnb for hosts

Is hosting for you?

Airbnb started out as a platform for people to rent their spare rooms, although now most properties listed are exclusively for guests. I rent my spare room, so the following is based on that experience.


First and foremost, you have to like hosting people!  If you are open, flexible, don’t mind sharing your space with others and embrace the opportunity to meet new people you will probably love hosting.

To date I have hosted over 100 people including an Australian sailor, a Nigerian interviewee, a Chinese house husband, an English member of the Star Wars production crew and an Irish plasterer. I never know what I’m going to get and look forward to meeting each new guest.

Benefits for hosts

  • Extra income – Airbnb is an easy way to make money
  • Meet diverse, interesting people – guests come from all over the world, all walks of life and for all manner of reasons
  • Take part in the global sharing economy
  • Help others – provide an affordable way to visit your home town, benefiting from your hospitality and recommendations
  • Cleanliness – welcoming guests into your home is a great motivator to keep your home clean and tidy!
Text box: Personal experience    One of my guests was attending a meeting on the morning they were checking out. They left their luggage and took the keys. However several hours after check-out time they still hadn’t returned, I couldn’t reach them, and had a new guest arriving so I needed the keys back. Eventually I called Airbnb who contacted the guest and resolved the issue immediately.   Top tip: I learned to be clear with guests on check-out times, and if a problem really can’t be resolved directly, I can rely on Airbnb to help me.

How to be a great host

  • Respond to booking requests and queries quickly. Once booked, send your guest information on the check-in procedure and any important information e.g. directions and parking
  • Put a welcome pack in the room with information such as WiFi, how to use appliances, recommendations for local activities and restaurants.
  • Give a warm welcome – you are your guests’ first impression of your home. Give a tour of the areas they can use, explain safety procedures and the check-out procedure
  • Ask your guests if there’s any information they need to help them enjoy their stay
  • Following the welcome tour I offer guests a tea or coffee and invite them to use the lounge if they wish.  Some join me, some don’t, I’m happy so long as they are happy
  • Go the extra mile – as well as toiletries, tea and coffee I sometimes offer guests something extra that’s relevant to them. In the past I have printed information on a local event they were attending, and offered an airport pick-up (for a modest fee) which would otherwise have been problematic for them
A female guest with a wheely backpack being welcomed by her male host in a light, airy kitchen and diner. They are shaking hands and smiling

Personal safety and property security

I am often asked – by friends and guests – if I ever feel unsafe having strangers in my home.  The answer is no, I never have.

I doubt anyone wanting to rob or attack me would pay to access my home, via a portal that has their name, address and government ID.  However, I do have precautionary measures in place.

I have ‘instant book’ in place which allows guests to book the room immediately, but only if they meet my criteria – no children, maximum 2 guests and Government ID verification.

I check everyone in personally, if a guest doesn’t ‘seem right’ I can ask them to leav, although this has never happened.  My guests have been lovely and I’ve really enjoyed meeting the diverse range of people who have stayed with me, some of them have even become friends.

As a precaution against snooping I lock away confidential documents.

For more information read Airbnb’s approach to building trust between guests and hosts.

So you want to host? Here’s where to start

  • Look at other listings in your local area, similar to yours for room size, facilities and price. Use this as a guide to making your room ‘guest ready’, and setting a competitive price
  • Decide on your rules such as whether you allow children or pets, the check-in and check-out times you can offer, and use of communal areas. Airbnb talks you through the set up process and your settings can be edited in future as you learn and adapt
  • Create a comfortable guest room – the investment in a good mattress, bed sheets and towels pays for itself in the long run. My guest room has a wardrobe, drawers, bedside table, bedside light and mirror.  There are also a few books, though I was careful to leave out inappropriate titles such as ‘Room’ and ‘Evicted’!
  • Stay connected. Airbnb send notifications of new bookings or queries via email, text and/or through the app so you can respond immediately, wherever you are.

And finally…

Learn as you go, tweak your listing as you learn what works for you, and have fun with it!