Travel SOS: Airbnb concern

Airbnb is becoming an increasingly popular form of accommodation for travellers who want to experience life “as the locals live it”. Barbara is about to use it for the first time but wonders what to do if she doesn’t like the place in which she’s staying? Lee Mylne investigates. 

Q. Barbara
On the recommendations of many friends, I’m considering using Airbnb for the first time. But it’s not the same as booking a hotel, and I’m concerned that I’ll be stuck there if I don’t like it or it’s not as it was described. What can I do, if anything, if this happens?

A. I’ve never used Airbnb but, similar to you, I have many friends who have – and I also have friends who rent out their homes on Airbnb. I’ve heard good things about guest experiences with Airbnb, but as with anything, there’s always a chance that things can go awry. But you do have some protection, it seems.

Airbnb has a “guest refund policy” and sets standards for its hosts to follow, in order to help protect guests from things such as misrepresentation, or places that are unsanitary or which don’t provide everything they promise. And if those aren’t deemed to be met, Airbnb will either provide you with a refund or “use reasonable efforts” to find another comparable place for you to stay. The amount of the refund will depend on the nature of your complaint.

But it’s more than just a case of “not liking” the place; it needs to be a serious complaint about, such as:

  • not being given proper access to the accommodation listed

  • it being misrepresented in its Airbnb profile (location, number of bedrooms, etc)

  • it isn’t clean

  • is unsafe

  • there’s an animal present that you weren’t expecting!

If you do have issues with the place in which you are staying, you should first contact the host/owner and try to resolve it directly with them. If that doesn’t work, then you need to contact Airbnb. Make sure you take photos of the place to support your claim, and lodge your complaint with Airbnb as soon as you can (within 24 hours). However, you should be aware that anything that can’t be documented (such as loud noise or bad smells) will probably mean you won’t get a refund.

Before you book, also take a look at the reviews on the Airbnb website for your chosen accommodation and see what other guests have had to say. If possible, speak to your host on the phone before you book – and go with your gut feeling about them. If anything rings alarm bells or doesn’t sound quite right, perhaps reconsider.

You don’t say where you are going (somewhere nice, I bet!), but as an emergency back-up plan you should take with you the Airbnb support phone number in that country, just in case you need to contact them urgently.

For more information about booking with Airbnb, check out

Do you have a travel question for Lee? If so, email your Travel SOS to [email protected]

Related articles:
Airbnb: does it work?
How to have a fab Airbnb experience
Can travel insurance cover Airbnb stays?

Lee Mylne has managed to combine her two passions – travelling and writing – into a long and successful career as a travel journalist. Her work is published in newspapers, magazines, websites and travel apps in Australia and around the world.

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