Getting Started: All You Need To Know About Airbnb

And how to score the perfect holiday home.  
airbnb home
The homes listed on Airbnb are vast and varied, from quirky-vintage to hyper-modern. Scan through photos and ask your host questions to find the right rental and host for you. Photo courtesy Airbnb

There are a number of things that set Airbnb apart from a more conventional bed and breakfast. The online service connects ordinary people who want to rent out their homes for a short term, with travellers looking for accommodation. Hosts range from students who are willing to let out their bedrooms for some extra cash, to individuals who have spare apartments or holiday homes that could be put to better use, or simply people who enjoy the company of travellers.

How It Works

On the surface, Airbnb looks like a regular online B&B search engine, just with prettier pictures. The basic algorithm is largely the same: pick a destination, pick travel dates, and hit the search button. However, the search can be further refined based on the kind of travel experience you’re looking for.

airbnb city street art

Before browsing stay options, narrow down on the neighbourhood you’d like to live in—family-friendly, bohemian, or a business district. It makes finding a rental much easier, especially in large cities. Photo Allen Lai/Flickr/Creative Commons (


What Are The Options

Shared rooms are the choice of some backpackers, while other travellers can choose from a private room in a homestay, or a entire apartment, depending on how loose their purse strings are. It’s easy to narrow down your exact requirements with the filters that accompany the search. Need a private room in a home with a strict no-smoking policy that also has a washing machine and pool deck? If it exists and is available, you will find it.

Finding The Right Neighbourhood

While travelling to a new city, it’s difficult to identify which area to stay in. Obviously, this can be overcome with enough research, but Airbnb makes things easier in popular cities by giving travellers a brief about the major neighbourhoods. Looking for a specific vibe? Use it to narrow down your search. For instance, in Paris, applying a search filter for a bourgeois-bohemian style locale with hip nightlife and popular restaurants, will direct users to listings in the artsy neighbourhood of Montmartre, which more than fits the bill.

Read The Fine Print

All listings come with a brief description of the space (and sometimes the locality) by the host, along with a list of available amenities, house rules, and user reviews. Read it carefully to rule out any deal-breakers (a shared bathroom is my pet peeve). Those travelling with heavy suitcases and booking apartments on higher floors should remember that elevators are generally unavailable unless explicitly mentioned.


    Azeem Banatwalla is a stand-up comic and humour writer. He can often be spotted scrounging for plug-points in coffee shops, or wandering sleepily through airports across the country.

Psst. Want a weekly dose of travel inspiration in your inbox?