Before You Book an Airbnb in Europe, Ask These Critical Questions
This is part two of a two-part series.
In part one I reviewed some of the important questions to ask yourself before you start your search for an Airbnb accommodation. Answering these critical questions will make the process of finding the right European stay a whole lot easier. Now in part two, I’ll show you how to dig a little deeper to ensure your accommodation has all the amenities you need. The goal is to find a good match between your needs and what an accommodation delivers and to minimize surprises. So ask yourself these questions:
What features do you need in an accommodation to feel comfortable?
As described in part one, to do a basic search you’ve selected Stays on Airbnb.com, entered your Dates, number of Guests and Type of place. Now select More Filters and scroll down to Amenities. Click on Show all amenities and you’ll find an array of features to filter for.
Here are some of the main requirements you may want to select:
Wifi: This is a critical one for me as I’m working while I travel. I also double check each accommodation’s listing under Amenities to be sure it says: “Wifi: Continuous access in the listing.” Check reviews for any comments or issues with the Wifi.
Kitchen: Be aware that “kitchen” could mean a microwave and electric kettle. Rooms don’t always include access to a kitchen. Do you plan on cooking full meals? Check the photos to see exactly what the kitchen layout looks like. The accommodation listing will include further details in the description or under Amenities when you select Show all amenities, then look for Dining.
Washer and dryer: These are two different filters, as it’s quite common in Europe to have a washing machine, but no dryer. Check the accommodation listing under Show all amenities to see if the washer/dryer are in the accommodation or in a common area.
Free parking on premises: You’ll find the checkbox for this search criteria under Facilities. This is especially important if you’re staying in a city, but even in some small villages parking can be difficult to find. Review each listing under Show all amenities for more details on parking.
Air conditioning: Thanks to global warming, the recent heatwaves in Europe are expected to continue. If you’re traveling in summer, you may want to check Air Conditioning under Amenities. Or at the least, be sure there is a fan.
Two important features you can’t search for
Each listing page provides many more features and details than you can filter for. So for each listing you’re interested in, select Show all amenities under Amenities.
Here are two important amenities to look for:
Essentials: Be sure linens and bedding are included unless you plan to bring your own. You can’t always assume these will be provided. Sometimes there is an extra cost that is not noted until you book.
Outdoor space: If I’m traveling in the south of France, Spain or other Mediterranean country, I really prefer a place with a balcony or terrace where I can have my morning coffee and work on my laptop. If outdoor space is important to you, check the photos to get a better idea of the size and type of furniture in the outside area and if it overlooks a garden, a view of the city or a parking lot.
Important features that are not always obvious
As I mentioned earlier, Airbnb does not filter for everything. And sometimes critical information is left out a listing. Here’s some questions to ask yourself as you scrutinize a listing. And if you can’t find an answer, contact the host or pick another listing.
What floor is the apartment on and is there an elevator?
Listings will sometimes mention accessibility in their description, such as the number of steps or flights of stairs, but not always. And it’s not always clear what floor an apartment resides. Unless you don’t mind climbing five flights of stairs with luggage, this is one to watch for. Remember that in Europe the first floor is one flight up. Ground floor is our first floor. If you book an apartment on the third floor without an elevator, that’s three flights of stairs you’ll need to climb.
Just because an apartment is on the fifth floor, do not assume there is an elevator. I once found myself having to climb five flights to my former monk’s quarters near the Piazza del Duomo in Milan. Luckily, I’d stored my suitcase at the train station and just had my day pack with me as I was only spending one night.
Elevators are rare in older buildings. If there is an elevator it will be listed as an amenity under Facilities. I recently had to message the host about a listing, and he let me know that the apartment was on the fourth floor without elevator. Glad I asked!
In 2018 Airbnb introduced over 20 accessibility filters, such as “no steps,” “wide hallways” and “roll-in shower.” If accessibility is important to you, you can add these filters to your search. Look for Accessibility under More Filters.
Bathtub or shower?
I love to have a relaxing bath, especially if I’ve been on the road for a while. Usually the only way to determine if there is a bathtub is by the photos or to ask the host.
Airbnb only has a “Smoking Allowed” checkbox for the host, so there is no “non-smoking” filter. If you want a non-smoking accommodation, check under House Rules at the bottom of the accommodation listing for “No smoking.”
How quiet is the place?
Silence is golden as far as I’m concerned. If you choose to stay in the center of town, you’ll be close to attractions, bars and restaurants, but you can expect noise during the day and possibly into the night. Or you can opt for a place further from the tourist center in a quiet, residential neighborhood.
Sometimes the host will be forthright in the description about a noise issue. Usually I discover this by reading the reviews. I recently contacted a host about the noise from a local bar and was assured that they don’t play music and the noise is minimal. A quick google search revealed that the bar closes at midnight.
I hope these questions help you gain a better sense of what you’re looking for in your European accommodation and that it makes the searching process easier. Take time to thoroughly review the listing description, read the reviews and study the photos — or lack thereof. Don’t be caught off guard expecting something from the accommodation that was clearly not advertised. The description, reviews and photos are there for a reason: to give you a clear idea of what to expect from the accommodation. With some due diligence on your part, it will be a win-win for you and your host.
I’m interested in knowing what you look for in a European accommodation. Please comment below.