Critical Questions to Ask Before You Book an Airbnb in Europe
This is part one of a two-part series.
When it comes to finding a place to stay in Europe, Airbnb.com is a terrific resource. Not only does it offer the best prices, but it gives you the experience of staying in an actual European home. I know sometimes it's nice to stay at a fancy hotel and be pampered, but if you want a more immersive European experience (i.e., to live like the locals) rent an apartment, house or room through Airbnb.
Wading through Airbnb.com listings can be overwhelming. How do you find the right accommodation, especially when you may be staying for a week or several weeks?
Airbnb uses dozens of filters to make your search easier. Before you start your search, ask yourself some critical questions with the goal of finding the right accommodation for you.
What type of accommodation do you desire?
Airbnb filters for “Entire place, private room, hotel room or shared room.” When I just needed a room for the night, I’ve found some great deals on hotel rooms through Airbnb. But primarily I use Airbnb for finding a house, apartment, gite or a room.
Renting a room is a great way to meet Europeans and receive sightseeing tips. But if there is a language gap, select English as a Host Language under More Filters. When I stayed with an English teacher and his family in Dinan, France it was an opportunity to learn about the community. When I stayed with a family in Tours, France who spoke no English, it was a chance to use my minimal French, although far more challenging to communicate.
How long do you plan to stay?
Choosing the best accommodation is often dependent on how long you plan to be in one place. If I’m staying for a week or more, I want an entire place to myself, and one with a proper kitchen so I can prepare meals with local ingredients. Europe has so many great farmer’s markets and perusing the aisles of foreign grocery stores is one of my greatest pleasures.
Private or shared bath?
This is personal choice. Just be aware that bathrooms vary greatly in Europe. A private bath doesn’t necessarily mean the bathroom is connected to your room. Or in some cases, a sink and shower are in your room and the toilet is down the hall.
If having an attached bathroom is important to you, study the photos, read the description and read the reviews. If it’s still not clear, contact the host and ask your questions.
How many beds do you need?
At the top of the listing you’ll see the number of bedrooms, beds and bathrooms. If there are two beds and one bedroom, the second bed is mostly likely a pull-out sofa or air mattress in the living room. Just be sure you’re okay with this setup and not expecting a thick, cushy mattress. In other cases, there may be two beds in one bedroom. Check the description and the photos for a clearer picture of the setup. If it’s not clear, message the host or choose a different home.
Apartment or House?
You can filter for this under Property Type and it’s usually listed in the description.
Will you have a car?
Many small villages are not reachable by train or bus. However, don’t let that deter you. I stayed at an Airbnb that was not reachable by train or bus. The host picked me up from the train station in a village 20 minutes away.
However, if you don’t have a car, and you plan to spend some time in a smaller village, be sure there are basic amenities within walking distance, like a grocery (or at least a weekly market), a pharmacy, bakery, coffee shop and restaurant.
On my upcoming trip to southern France this fall I’ll mainly be traveling primarily by train and staying over a week in each place. However, I’m renting a car for a week to explore the Pyrenees mountains, the Mediterranean coast of Languedoc-Roussillon and the small villages in the Tarn. During that time, I’ll be spending most of my time on the road, so I plan to save money by booking rooms instead of an entire apartment, house or gite.
Do your research
I can’t stress enough how important it is to read the listing descriptions thoroughly and study the photographs. And read the reviews. They can provide additional information about the features and quirks of a place. Reviewers tend to talk about the location and how easy (or not) it was to reach main attractions in the town or the area. And again, if you have any questions or doubts, contact the host before you book.
Knowing what you want, and some due diligence on your part, will ensure that your European stay is just what you expected.
COMING SOON: In part two of this post I’ll discuss other important Airbnb filters and how to ensure your home away from home has all the amenities you need. I’ll also address some important features of an Airbnb accommodation for which there are no filters and which are not always obvious from the description and photos. Stay tuned.
What features do you look for in an Airbnb? Comment below.