8 Tips Learned From One Year Living in Airbnb’s

by Stephanie Walsh · 12 comments

in The Digital Nomad Life, Travel Tips

airbnb tips to save money

One year living in Airbnb rentals. Yep. One year, seven countries, and twenty-two Airbnb’s!

We’ve learned a lot of useful tips during the last year that can really help you to save money and find the best deals on your next Airbnb apartment. With Airbnb, we’ve been able to get our own private apartment everywhere we go, avoid committing to long-term contracts or being stuck in one place for too long, and we haven’t paid a single deposit or bill in a year!

The best part of living in Airbnb’s is the complete freedom to move from place to place without ever committing to a city, neighbourhood, or even a country. We even move from Airbnb to Airbnb within a city to enjoy living in different neighbourhoods.

I can understand why this lifestyle may seem like a nightmare to some people; you don’t own anything, the places you stay are never ‘yours’, and, if you’re us, you’re basically staying in someone else’s home on a full-time basis. But these things are not issues for us. To me, there’s no difference in staying in a hotel, where you’re also sleeping in a bed that has been used hundreds of times, and you’re also just ‘renting’ the space but can never actually make it your own.

Airbnb apartment tips for digital nomads

One of our fav apartments, in Romania. 🙂

Essentially it boils down to freedom vs. ownership, and of course both of them require compromises, but we choose freedom, as always. 🙂

So what have we learned from one year living in Airbnb’s? Let’s get down to it with our best tips for booking an Airbnb anywhere in the world:

1. Commit For Longer, Pay Less

If you commit to a longer stay in an Airbnb, you can often save money. Airbnb offers hosts the opportunity to provide weekly and monthly discounts to their guests. This means that if you book for 7 nights instead of 6, or 1 month instead of 3 weeks, you can actually save money. As digital nomads, you have the freedom and flexibility to do this, and it can pay off in massive savings in the long-term.

Nightly rates on Airbnb are often very expensive, even if they are still cheaper than hotels, because Airbnb suggests a high market rate to hosts when they are creating their listing. This means that almost every listing in a city charges around the same price. However once you move into the weekly or monthly rate, it becomes much better value.

Granted, staying in an Airbnb is almost always way more expansive than renting a local apartment, but for us, finding a local apartment that accepts short term leases of 1-3 months is time consuming, very difficult, and not always possible if you don’t speak the local language. Yes, you end up paying more for an Airbnb on a monthly basis compared to a local apartment, but getting a fully-equipped apartment without signing a contract, paying a deposit, paying any bills or committing to 6 months or 1 year is totally worth the extra costs. In the end, without these added extras, it can even end up about the same as a local apartment.

2. Negotiate, Always Negotiate

If there’s one tip you should take away from this post, make it this one. We’re always so surprised to hear from friends that they never negotiate or ask the host for a discount. Some people don’t even know that you can message the host before requesting to book! So….always negotiate; it work’s a treat! We’ve gotten discounts on about 90% of the places we have stayed by simply asking for one! It’s really that easy. Just let the host know that you are interested in staying at their place but you would first like to know if it’s possible to get a discount. I usually write something like the following:

Hi Jim,

My name is Stephanie and I’ll be visiting Bucharest for 1 month in August. I think your place looks great but I have some questions before proceeding with the booking:

1. How fast is the Wifi? We work from home so it’s important that we have good Wifi.
2. Can you provide a discount, since we will be staying for one month?

Thanks!
Stephanie

How much of a discount can you expect? That depends, but we have gotten some fantastic discounts in the past, sometimes even 40% or 50% off the original price. Normally, however, expect between 10-20% off. Most hosts offer weekly or monthly discounts anyway, but if they don’t make sure to ask them. Remember, they’re much better off having a paying customer than an empty flat, so it’s in their best interest to offer you a good price

Airbnb tips to save money

Contact the host before you book to ask for a discount!

PSST! If you like this article and do not yet have an account with Airbnb, use my code for $39 USD/€32 EUR off your first booking!

3. Confirm Facilities

You probably noticed that in the above template I ask about the speed of the Wifi. For some reason very few hosts put the speed of the Wifi in the description of their listing, yet it’s a very important facility for modern-day travellers. As digital nomads, we work from home a lot so fast, reliable Wifi is very important to us. We always ask about the Wifi speeds before booking, or we ask them to confirm the speed if they have mentioned it. You’d be surprised to learn how many apartments look really modern yet they have just 5MB/S internet…not cool.

Another thing we look for in the photos is a good, well-equipped kitchen. We’re not on vacation, so we don’t eat out everyday. We work from home a lot and that means we cook at home a lot too. A well-equipped kitchen is so important yet it doesn’t have to be anything extravagant. All we really need are basic cookware & utensils.

An added bonus is a good table for working at. Why is it so hard to get a table right? I know most people in Airbnb’s are not there to work so I guess that’s why we’ve experienced so many bad tables…Round tables, glass tables, wicker tables, wobbly tables, tables with raised edging so when you’re typing your wrists are constantly rubbing off the edge….the list goes on. A simple, square, sturdy wooden table would be great…thanks!

4. The Fee Is Variable…WUT?!

Yes, that’s right; Airbnb uses different rates for different accounts and my hypothesis is that they give active users better rates on the service fee. Both Andres and I have a profile with Airbnb but we always book on his profile so we can accumulate our reviews in one place. However once when I logged into my Airbnb by mistake, I noticed that the price of the place we were about to book had gone up. After investigating, I realised that they were charging me a higher service fee than Andres. It was not a lot, but if you’re booking a place with a high cost, it can make a difference. My only conclusion is that they must provide Andres with their lowest rate since he has booked so many places with them; kind of like a rewards program.

Digital nomad Airbnb tips

Digital nomad hard at #werk in Budapest...on yet another weird table.

5. Use The Filters & Map

Airbnb is notorious for ‘hiding’ the better value listings in their search. It’s not a very user-friendly website in the first place, although they have improved it recently. If you have a lower budget, make sure you use the price filter to reduce the nightly rate and watch dozens of listings magically emerge from nowhere.

Also when you move the map even just a millimetre, new listings will appear. So if you think you’ve exhausted all your options from the map, just move the map and I’m pretty sure you’ll see new options appear.

With that in mind, don’t let their sales-y tactics scare you into making a rash decision. Whenever we look for a place, it always says only ‘3% of listings are available for those dates’. Yeah, ok, Airbnb, I know what you’re trying to do but we’ll take our time.

Naturally, if you book far in advance you’ll get a much better deal, but we always book only 1-2 weeks in advance, and it has never prevented us from finding a good place at a good price.

6. Review The Reviews

Like many review sites, such as TripAdvisor, you need to know who to listen to and who to ignore. Airbnb’s review system is really good, and it’s one of the most important ways of assuring that you are booking a good apartment with a trustable person. However ,sometimes you’ll notice a bitter person in the reviews who has tried Airbnb for the first time, expecting a 5* hotel, only to find that they were ‘tricked’ into staying in someone’s house! The horror! You’ll recognise these people for their petty complaints, exaggerated language and general bitter disposition. If every other review of the listing is glowing and positive, it’s usually a sign that they made the reservation with completely unrealistic expectations, so you shouldn’t let their review sway your opinion too much.

7. See The Exact Address Before You Book!

This might be a bug (oh hey @Airbnb!), but if you contact a host about their listing, and then go to the Inbox in the Dashboard, you can see the real address for the listing in the snippet just below your message, but not when you actually go into the message.

Airbnb tips for Digital Nomads

If you go to the Inbox you can see the address of the Airbnb listing before you book!

So it’s a good chance to check out the listing on Google Maps & Street View before making the final booking. But you didn’t hear it from me though… 😉

If you like this article and do not yet have an account with Airbnb, use our code for $39 USD/€32 EUR off your first booking!

8. Don’t Pay Outside the System

Overall we’ve not had any major problems with the 22 Airbnb’s we’ve stayed in over the last year. And it may seem counter-intuitive to tell you to always pay inside Airbnb’s system, when their fees are so high, but just do it. Here’s why:

Airbnb’s customer service, in our experience, is excellent. We once booked a place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The listing said it had WiFi and the host even confirmed this before we arrived, but unfortunately when we got there the WiFi wasn’t working. To be fair, the host did everything she could to try and fix the problem but we were still left without WiFi for a couple of days….not a good problem for a digital nomad. We told Airbnb about the issue, and they immediately provided us with a $200 USD refund and offered to reimburse us for coffee expenses if we needed to go to a local coffee shop to work. Wow! That was when we were sure that it’s always worth it to pay inside the platform, despite the temptation to save costs on those fees. You don’t travel without travel or health insurance, so why not insure yourself for your accommodation too?

***

So there you have it! Some of our best tips after living for one year in Airbnb’s. We hope this both helps you to save money and encourages you to try the service if you’re still hesitant. It’s really been nothing but great for us!

 

If you have not yet created an account with Airbnb, please use our code for $39 USD/€32 EUR off your first booking! When you book a place of $77 or more, I will also receive $31 credit at zero cost to you. I’ll consider it a thank you for saving you money with my tips. 😉

PS: This post is NOT sponsored by Airbnb, but the website has (clearly) become a huge part of our lives in the last year, as we’ve traveled through seven different countries using their service. We’re not here to comment on the role that Airbnb plays in the hospitality sector; that is a battle between the company and various governments. We just love the website and appreciate that it has allowed us to travel easier and more conveniently since we became full-time remote workers.

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Frank November 7, 2016 at 5:23 pm

Good tips! We have been using Airbnb now for the best part of 3 years as we’ve been travelling full-time. I’d say that 95% of our experiences have been very good and can’t imagine life without Airbnb.
A couple of things: 1) never noticed that little snippet containing the address under the name. That’s really good. Location is everything. 2) I haven’t needed Airbnb’s help much. But I’m a bit surprised you say it’s excellent. I wish, for one thing, that they had an email address somewhere. How the heck do you get in touch with someone if there’s an issue? They’ve done everything to hide it…I once contacted them but I had to do it through twitter and then they sent me an email address. I think that’s really bad…especially if there’s a last minute problem and you need to contact someone fast. Am I missing something?

Otherwise we practice all the same techniques as you. Useful post!
Frank (bbqboy)
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2 Stephanie Walsh November 7, 2016 at 5:42 pm

Hey Frank! Good to hear from you again and that’s awesome that you guys have used Airbnb for so long and have had mostly positive experiences. You’re right, contacting them is actually a huge pain and they purposefully make it very difficult to contact them by email. Unfortunately the one time we needed to contact them we also had to keep digging and digging into the site to find it. As far as I know, you need to keep selecting “I Still Need Help” when they offer you other solutions until it eventually brings you to a contact form and once they reply you can keep it to email.

I also found the following phone numbers after a quick search:

“We try to keep our phone lines open for guests and hosts with urgent situations. Please reach out to us via email if possible. +1-415-800-5959.
+1-855-424-7262 (toll-free)”

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3 Frank November 14, 2016 at 9:07 am

Good to know about the numbers.
When nothing else works, reply to their tweets on twitter. When companies make it hard for you to contact them, that’s what I do. They hate it and will usually give you an address so that you contact them privately.

Frank
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4 Michael Woods November 9, 2016 at 2:15 am

Thank you for the tips you shared,make sure to remember all of these!

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5 Travel ETA Australia February 15, 2017 at 1:33 am

Great tips Steph. Your post is such a money saver. Thank you for sharing.

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6 oliver May 13, 2018 at 12:39 am

Sometimes when i book airbnbs they already have monthly discounts should I still ask for a discount?

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8 Lanna August 2, 2018 at 3:52 am

Thanks for the tips! I usually take Airbnb now instead of booking hotels in my trip!
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