Guests and hosts share one major concern when using Airbnb and other vacation rental platforms: how do I stay safe? There is risk on both sides, especially when a guest is renting a room in a host's home. A few weeks ago the New York Times reported a story about an Airbnb stay gone horribly wrong. A guest was locked inside his rented room in Madrid by the host, who tried to force him into a sexual encounter by threatening him with knives. The guest was unable to make international calls, but messaged his mother using an internet connection so she could send help. Unfortunately, Airbnb wasn't much help and the local police line in Madrid was a recording. The guest was able to escape, but not after being assaulted.
In the vast majority of cases vacation rental is a great experience for guests and hosts alike, but horror stories like this remind us of the need to be cautious. Be smart, and use the following tips to be safe as an Airbnb guest.
How to Ensure Your Safety as an Airbnb Guest
- Rent the entire place, rather than a room in a house: There will still be a risk, but this option provides a more hotel-like experience of being alone. This is the more expensive option, but it does offer far more privacy. Most major cities will have at least a few affordable whole-place options – it just takes some searching around.
- Rent from Airbnb Superhosts: Again, this isn't a guarantee of safety, but Airbnb's strict standards on what makes a host a Superhost is an additional level of authenticity and security. Look for the Superhost badge on their profile or use the "more filters" menu to filter your search results to show only Superhosts.
- Rent from a host that uses a professional check-in or concierge company: If you're choosing to rent an entire place, try to find one that's managed by a professional management company, rather than the host or the host's family members. Having a third party involved increases the legitimacy of the rental, the security, and ensures the rental is what you think it is. Most listings won't advertise that they use a management company, but you can contact reputable companies in the area with your requirements and see if they have properties available. You'll be using their reputation to your advantage. This is also a good way to make sure your Airbnb rental is properly cleaned and supplied.
- Do your homework: The instant-book option is great for some, but it's a good idea to have some sort of communication with the person you're renting from. Communicating before booking gives you an idea as to what type of person you're renting from, can provide clues as to whether they use a concierge, lets you know how responsive they are, and opens the door to a better relationship. You can back out if the communication seems fishy to you. You can also try to find your host on social media and do a quick Google search for the host's name and address to make sure everything looks good. Our tips for avoiding an Airbnb scam are also great for keeping yourself safe.
- Always share the address, your itinerary, and a way to get in touch with someone else. Having an emergency plan is something many people don't do when traveling, but it's the most important thing you can do. Even if there isn't an emergency on your end, there might be one at home, and being out of touch can be disastrous. Make sure your loved ones know where you are and how they can reach you, especially when traveling abroad.
We've likely missed some tips, so please share them with us so we can keep this post updated. Stay safe!