Travel SOS: Can you trust Airbnb?

Cameron has heard a lot of Airbnb horror stories and isn't sure whether the platform can be trusted for his next holiday.

Travel SOS: Can you trust Airbnb?

Cameron has heard a lot of Airbnb horror stories and isn't sure whether the platform can be trusted for his next holiday.


Q. Cameron
I am planning a holiday next year and was thinking of trying Airbnb for the first time as I have heard you can save a lot of money. However, since I mentioned the idea to my wife, I have seen a lot of horror stories about people who have been scammed or had horrible experiences. Can Airbnb be trusted for accommodation or should we stick to hotels like we normally do?

keys in an airbnb front door

A. There are certainly price savings to be had by renting through Airbnb, but the experience is very different to staying in a hotel, so you should be prepared for fewer amenities than you get in a hotel.

Airbnb's review system is usually pretty trustworthy and if you see a lot of positive reviews for a place where you want to stay, you can usually expect that it will match what people say about the property.

Airbnb is acutely aware of some of the problems that have been reported and continuously works at ways to improve trust further.

According to the site, it is now using predictive analytics and machine learning to instantly evaluate hundreds of signals that help to flag and investigate suspicious activity before it happens.

Airbnb also advises to always pay and communicate directly through the Airbnb website or app. As long as you stay on Airbnb throughout the entire process—from communication, to booking, to payment—you are protected by Airbnb's defence strategy.

Many of the problems people encounter occur when they start communicating with their hosts directly and not in a monitored environment.

Have you rented through Airbnb? Would you recommend it to a friend?

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    21st Dec 2019
    Arrived early to Hawaii 7am host had already contacted me and ask if I could wait till 2pm before coming as was hosting others till then. At designated time no one home called bnb was informed she was admitted to hospital. Long story short she cancelled me bnb gave me 1 night to chose somewhere else it was memorial week so everywhere booked. Cost me $1000’s in accomodation reimbursed for the cancel but that was a small portion. I’m a solo traveller. I bit the bullet on big island for my next bnb experience she was in her 60’s man crazy .. weird. Haven’t done it since.
    21st Dec 2019
    After I posted a bad review of a place I stayed in the UK (backed up with photos luckily) the owner demanded I pay him a huge amount of money to 'compensate him for lost business due to the bad review'.
    I didn't pay or retract my review, but I wonder how many bad reviews are retracted under this sort of threat/demand? I travel a lot but haven't risked staying Airbnb again.
    21st Dec 2019
    You can't retract a review so don't know what he was on about.

    Because yo can't retract reviews, there would be no bad reviews retracted.
    21st Dec 2019
    That's good to know Rod63. It was a couple of years ago now, so I can't recall the full details of his demand, except it was definitely 500 UK pounds that he wanted. The demand came some time after I'd returned home.
    21st Dec 2019
    I reckon he was trying to scam you. I am glad you didn't fall for it. Did you report it to Airbnb?
    21st Dec 2019
    Yes, all through Airbnb, including the photos. My reply was roughly along the lines of "I can understand no host likes to get a bad review, but a good host would take note of the feedback and work hard at correcting the problems". I don't think I even referred to his demand for money, but thankfully I never heard another word from him.
    In case you're wondering, I did briefly raise a couple of the issues with him in person but being female, 70 or 71 at the time, and travelling alone, I didn't feel like having a major confrontation.
    21st Dec 2019
    I found Airbnb great when traveling alone as it provides interaction with locals. If you want your privacy and quiet retreat to your room hotels are better. Traveling as a couple hotels and guesthouses are the way to go.
    The Sheriff
    21st Dec 2019
    I used AirBnB extensively until a couple of years ago when they started putting excessive conditions on contracts which you had to agree to before proceeding. As well their administrative costs along with ridiculous cleaning charges escalated dramatically. Since then it suits me to stay in central chain hotels, booked directly in advance, rather than trying to get to some obscure location on trust.
    21st Dec 2019
    I prefer central chain hotels too.
    Chris B T
    21st Dec 2019
    Find somewhere else, not worth the Hassle both as GUEST & as HOST.
    Done both, NEVER EVER AGAIN.
    21st Dec 2019
    We have used airbnb for the past 5 years and had no bad experiences....we have used them in Europe and North America. We find airbnb are very easy to speak to if you need to follow up for any reason. We only ever book flexible accommodation and look for super hosts mainly. Many places are also in and I book with them as well when no suitable airbnb....again pay a bit more for free cancellation. Never had an issue with them either..
    21st Dec 2019
    My wife and I stayed at an Air B&B in Devonport, Tasmania, in September of this year. Due to my flight arriving in Launceston from Brisbane at 7.40, it was around 8.49 by the time we arrived. Booking in closed at 6 pm, but the host was very understanding, and allowed my son to pick up the keys that afternoon. When we arrived in the rooms, we were blown away by the quality of not only the furnishings, but the kitchen, and the place was spotless. The kitchen could have jumped ut of a home magazine. Not only crockery and cutlery,and cooking gear, but also spices and sauces. And this place was just a stones throw from the Mersey Bluff.And the hosts Ken and Amanda were excellent and very freindly people. This was our introduction to this concept.
    21st Dec 2019
    Yap - absolutely. definitely the way to go.

    21st Dec 2019
    I tried Airbnb earlier this year. I was not too sure about it so chose a place not too far. Just as well I did because I drove straight back home. The place looked nothing like on their website, it was a filthy dump. I got sucked in by the good reviews. Airbnb provided me with a refund but the experience put me off from using them again.
    21st Dec 2019
    This doesn't ring true, I am sorry.

    If it was a filthy dump, it wouldn't have had good reviews. Guests can be quite critical.
    21st Dec 2019
    Never used Airbnb but my son &daughter-in-law swear by them. I have used B&B, pre Airbnb, and was very satisfied. However I can recommend hostels for good economical accommodation. May have lots of young people but that's what keeps oldies 'hip'.
    21st Dec 2019
    I agree with you about hostels Eddy. Many of them even have single rooms with bathrooms so pretty much like hotels only cheaper. And the staff and other guests can be great. I found them by far the best when travelling in China. They weren't at all fazed by having a 70+ lady travelling on her own staying with them :-) England can be a problem though as many hostels won't take anyone over 35.
    23rd Dec 2019
    I’m stunned and surprised at the negative comments. We’ve been using Airbnb almost exclusively for the last 4+ years and had some excellent experiences and the worst I’ve come up against is trying to understand the hosts email directions on how to gain access to the property’s key system in the middle of the night. We’ve also used hotels too and not always had a great experience or a room that was up to the level of our expectations. I’ve used Airbnb in Australia, Bali, Paris, St Petersburg, Bucharest, Budapest, Barcellona, throughout Croatia, all through UK and I’ve just booked 5 locations in Italy for a trip early next year. I’ve got a set of criteria for selecting properties that helps me form a short list and if I need more information I email the host before choosing. I also spend time thoroughly reading comments over the previous 12 months which gives me a feel for the accuracy of the listing, how the clients felt about the host and anything else to consider about the listing and often get some great hints and tips for the area. A note to bear in mind on the comments is that both the host and the renter must post a comment before the comments are published and neither can see the others comment until that happens. Yes, as a renter, you are also evaluated for the benefit of the hosts. There are differences in how hosts handle the access which have pros and cons for each such as in most of Europe the host will meet you at the property for a hand over of the keys. They then show you through the property while explaining how to use the appliances (very handy if the instructions are in a foreign language) and tell you about the area, restaurants, sights, how to get around etc. Many act as a pseudo travel guide and offer assistance with information (if you want it) throughout your stay. The downside to this is coordinating your arrival time with the host. In the UK and Australia they mainly use key lockers so timing your access is no problem but the personal touch is lacking. Probably one of the most important things to remember is that, like hotel ratings, even a 2 star hotel can have terrific reviews but if your taste is for 5 stars you’ll be unhappy in a 2 star even with awesome reviews so it’s important to choose a property that, in the photos, looks and feels like it fits you and then the majority of the comments back it up. If you get that right the monetary saving can be substantial in comparison to hotels with the added advantage that you can get a place with a kitchen so you don’t have to eat in restaurants or cafes for every meal and a washing machine which not only saves the cost of expensive laundry services or washing items in a sink or bathtub but reduces the amount of clothes you need to take. Lighter luggage is always a bonus. We also find that you feel more like a local than than a tourist which adds to the enjoyment. I think we’ve done it too many times to put it all down to good luck so for those of you who’ve haven’t tried it don’t be put off. Spend the time to research suitable properties and with the dollars you save stay longer so you can travel more leisurely and really see the world.

    24th Dec 2019
    I find it is cheaper to stay in youth hostels or caravan park cabins.
    24th Dec 2019
    Have used Airbnb, Homeaway and other sites for many years to book self-catering accomodation usually for a week at a time. Wouldn't stay in hotels for any longer than a night or two. Occasional problems getting keys but honest confusion. Much easier than the old way of perusing paper catalogues. Used to dislike Airbnb because of the fees, but have seen some properties on several sites & Airbnb usually isn't the most expensive. They are probably more transparent about their charges.
    25th Dec 2019
    We arrived late in the afternoon & the downstairs self-contained basement had leaves all over the floor. We told the owners (who were living upstairs who said "we cleaned the floors" but when they came down to look, realised they'd leaf-blown the driveway & blown all the leaves inside.
    We went out for tea with family before my niece's wedding the next day & got home about midnight. Woken before 6am next morning by a toddler's walker screeching across the floor upstairs. It sounded like a train. Back & forth & back & forth, in between yelps of pleasure from the toddler. The thought of the second night staying there again was just awful, but the hostess had left for the rest of the weekend leaving her husband to attend to the toddler & us.
    We went to the lunchtime wedding & came back later in the afternoon, only to find rat poo in the bowl of blueberries.Of course there were rats - the leaves blew in so why not rats? No-one home upstairs so we packed up the car & went out for tea that night. Luckily, my niece's house in a nearby town was vacant so we stayed there.

    That said, I've stayed in really nice places with great amenity, costing more of course.

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