How to Avoid Hidden Fees on Airbnb
Since signing up for AirBnb, I've stayed in several apartments in Biarritz, London, Berlin, Amsterdam and Prague. While it's saved us a bundle over a hotel in London for example, airbnb has a way of nickel and dime-ing you that can really add up.
First off, the price advertised might not be applicable for the days you'll be traveling, especially if you're booking your June stay in February. You'll see the correct price as soon as you inquire about the available dates, so this isn't really a hidden fee, but it's a bit of a sneaky trick to get you interested.
Right up front, Airbnb gets a chunk, something like 7%, that's right there on the top of the page.
But there are a variety of standard and not-so-standard fees and costs that can sneak up on you, like:
- Cleaning fee Sometimes this is listed as part of the service, but we've come across one posting that wanted 20 euro in cash, thereby dodging the Airbnb cut.
- Fee for extra guests While it makes sense to pay a little extra to fit a fifth person into a single flat, it's a little sneaky to charge extra for the second person in an apartments that's advertised as sleeps two. Sometimes the extra person will have to sleep on a sofa rather than an actual bed so you end up paying more for the privilege of kipping out on an air mattress.
- Kitchen completely empty - When we were in London, we rented a great apartment, except no one was actually living in it and there were absolutely no cooking basics, like oil, so we had to go find a store and essentially stock the kitchen before we could cook a meal. Also, we ran out of toilet paper before our stay came to an end.
- Parking - Some garages in cities can be over 20 euros a night, and not everywhere has a designated parking space.
- Extra on Transport - if you stay too far away from the center city or the area you're primarily interested in visiting, you might find yourself having to buy a transportation pass for everyone in your party, especially since you don't know for certain where the apartment is.. An amount which could make your cheaper Airbnb apartment cost more than a hotel closer to the center.
- We found the following three from a single apartment in France:
- A Cash deposit (300 Euro for foreigners, which also means you have to leave when he's available or you'll never see it again)
- Must pay for water (4-10 Euro)
- Must pay extra for linens (10 Euro)
- A few apartments in Rome all hosted by the same person were only available if you booked a tour with their company as well. This is against aribnb policy and the apartment postings were taken down shortly after.
A few other surprises to watch out for:
- It can be tough to tell from photos whether you'll be in an apartment, or a one room efficiency. This doesn't always matter, but if you're traveling with a group it can be a bit of a shock to discover you're all sleeping in the same room, and it's the same one where you cook and watch TV at that.
- Sometimes a space can be advertised as a 'Full Apartment' when they mean you get a room and full access to the rest of the apartment with the hosts living there, rather than the whole apartment to yourself. I think this is just a misunderstanding and/or language issue, but it's something to look out for.
- Sometimes, airbnb will reutrn results very far from the city you listed. For example, we're interested in going to Copanhagen for a weekend, but when we search for apartments in Copenhagen, we get hits as far as Malmö.
- Wifi isn't standard, and sometimes a kitchenette is just a microwave stacked on a fridge.
- Some apartments allow smoking, a huge deal breaker for me.
Based on the last year or so of using airbnb, I've found that over all it's a great resource for travelers, but there can also be a lot of surprises hidden in the reviews. Often I'll find a bunch of cool looking apartments, excitedly send them all to my husband, who then goes through them, checks the dates, how far they are from the center and reads the fine print and reviews. Out of the 8 or 9 I send him we're lucky if there are two decent options left, for example:
We were briefly considering an apartment in Rome until my husband checked the reviews and saw that someone wrote how dark the apartment was. Then we realized none of the photos had any windows in them.
I got pretty excited when I found a reasonably priced boat to stay on in Barcelona, complete with a little kitchen! Luckily, my husband read through the fine print: There was no toilet on board.
So have you tried Airbnb before? any horror stories? tips? anecdotes? leave them in the comments and I'll add the best ones to the post (linking to you of course!)