Why not mix up your hostel stays with renting out apartments, or even houses for a group of you, and at an affordable price. Airbnb lets you do just that.

If you haven’t heard of it, in a nutshell, the site allows stand up citizens to advertise their rooms, flats or even whole houses for the travelling community, at cheap rates. 

While even the biggest technophobes (Mum and Dad) are capable of using the site, here are a few tips to really get the best out of the new-and-improved couch-surfing concept. 

Complete your profile

Obviously, you want the ‘hosts’ to have filled out their listing with as much information as possible, right? Well the same goes for you. These are normal people inviting you to stay in their homes, so tell them a bit about yourself! Hosts understandably have the right to deny a booking, so the more honest information you can provide, the better. 

Somewhat ingeniously, hosts can actually post reviews on guests too. So if you have stayed somewhere and are (very) sure you were the perfect guest, make sure you get that review to boost your chances of getting your ‘first choice’ accommodation.

Communication is key!

The whole Airbnb concept is based on digital chat. To ensure your experience is the best ever, make sure you reach out to a host first and foremost.Remember, this isn’t Booking.com – just because a property is listed, doesn’t mean it is actually available on the dates you need. Send the host a message, nicely introducing yourself, what you’re doing in their neck of the woods and see what’s available. Link it to your banging, complete profile. How could they say no?

Also, you have the right to know what you need to before committing, so if you have any questions, just ask! For example, a common piece of information missing are flat numbers. Addresses are given, but often end up being apartment blocks… lugging luggage up and down stairs is the last thing you need after a long train, ferry or flight (especially if you’ve flown Ryainair).

Finally, get several contact details from your host, and in return, supply accurate details of your arrival. These people have a life and can’t drop everything just for you. Give them prior warning and you won’t be waiting on a doorstep at midnight, in the middle of Paris, wondering if you’ll have to sleep outside. 

Look for live-in hosts for a local experience 

Travelling alone and need a buddy? Or even just to gain some local insight knowledge, Airbnb is awesome for finding places that come equipped with your very own tourist information centre. For live-in hosts, entertaining us globetrotters is a passion. They want to show off their local cities and are proud to act as ‘guide’. Local knowledge is priceless so take advantage and pick their brains! It’s also a better conversation starter than talking about the weather… all important for getting your personal Airbnb ranking up where it belongs.

Check, check and re-check

Throughout the booking process, check everything. Read the entire listing carefully before sending the host an embarrassing message asking something that is clearly right in front of your face. Check the price – is it per person or for the whole room? Does it have all the amenities you need? Confirm the address – Google map it and make sure it really is “5 minutes walking distance from the train station”. 

Without a doubt, read the reviews! We live in a world where no one buys anything without considering someone else’s experience first. And when living in a stranger’s home, most of us need testimonials confirming the host is not a creepy, potentially dangerous, psychopath. Read the reviews carefully so you can feel confident in your booking. But in saying that, also keep an open mind. For example, don’t necessarily consider a “Wi-Fi wasn’t fast enough” comment to be a reason not to book. 

While living in a stranger’s home might be intimidating for some, Airbnb is a truly legit option for the travelling-on-a-budget community – the perfect way to experience the world with a little bit of comfort and local insight, but without the hotel prices.

Got any expert tips of your own? Embrace the sharing culture of Airbnb and let us know in the comments section below.