Airbnb Tips: My Tips for Using AirBnB in Southeast Asia, Europe & Beyond

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As more people travel for longer periods, I get more requests to talk about tips for staying at Airbnb in Southeast Asia. They also ask about tips for Airbnb in Europe and Airbnb in Mexico. Airbnb in the USA and Airbnb in Latin America as well.

Here’s you’ll find my tips on using Airbnb in Southeast Asia and beyond. These Airbnb tips are designed to help you find the place you want and save you money. Take these, use these, and if you think something’s missing, let me know? Have you used all of these Airbnb tips?

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Tips for Airbnb in Southeast Asia & Beyond

Southeast Asia offers a tantalizing array of options for accommodation. There are five-star suites in the jungle to dirt-floor shacks on the beach. Accommodation in Mexico, Spain, the EU and Eastern Europe has its own range of post to Spartan as well. Somewhere amongst these, you’ll find a variety of vacation rental services.

At present, Airbnb is the 800-pound gorilla of them all. I’d like to relay a few things that I’ve learned about getting the most out of the service. Below I’ve listed up our tips for Airbnb in Southeast Asia, Europe and beyond.

When I first wrote this post back in 2014, we had already experienced some interesting situations using Airbnb in Malaysia. Since then, we’ve used Airbnb in Japan, Spain, Mexico and Indonesia.

Have you thought about Airbnb in Southeast Asia rather than hotels? Out of all our experience using Airbnb Southeast Asia, we’ve used Airbnb in Malaysia the most. Overall, we’ve had a good experience just about everywhere we’ve been. We’ll happily use it again.

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Is Airbnb Safe?

One of the most common questions about using Airbnb in Southeast Asia and other locations is this: Is Airbnb safe? Just like Uber and other “disrupting” technologies, there are stories of where things go horribly wrong. In the case of Airbnb, I’ve read of people showing up to a completely different house. Some people have had a host cancel at the last-minute. They had to scramble to change plans with little advance notice.

These things have happened, but is Airbnb safe? I think so, but I’d suggest following the Airbnb tips I list out below, and talk to others who have used Airbnb in the country you’re planning to visit.

Interested in Staying Elsewhere? Read More ACCOMMODATION POSTS

The Benefits of Using Airbnb in Europe, Southeast Asia, and other Locations

There are pros and cons to using Airbnb. We love everything from camping to luxury hotels, but apartment rentals are probably our favorite type of travel stay.

Why? Well, the main reason is money. Staying at an Airbnb in Japan or Europe can save heaps of cash. Using Airbnb in Southeast Asia or Mexico is also budget-friendly. However, we’ve saved the most money using Airbnb in Japan and Spain.

Specific cities include:

The savings come not only from the per-night costs. For example, day-to-day expenses, such as food and laundry are also dramatically reduced. We always rent an apartment or house with a kitchen and a washer. Being able to cook some meals and wash your own clothes can save hundreds of dollars a week.

Another great benefit of Airbnb rentals over hotels is the local connections we’ve made. In some places we’ve stayed, we never met the owner. Instead, the keys are in a locked box outside the door and were given the combination by text or mail.

In contrast, at other places, we’ve met and enjoyed the company of the hosts, and they’ve given us great tips on what to do and where to eat.

Finally, we like Airbnb for families because it feels more like home. The kids often have their own rooms — as teens & tweens, this is becoming more important. What’s more, we can maintain routines like working, homeschooling and eating together. This is crucial for us when traveling for longer periods.

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Airbnb Isn’t a Hotel

When using Airbnb in Mexico, Europe or elsewhere, remember that this isn’t the conventional accommodation model. Realtors and small businesses are now in the game, but most Airbnb hosts are regular people. They have a place and want to make some extra money.

Sure, there are some unscrupulous scammers out there. Yet if you follow my Airbnb tips below, then you should be able to avoid them.

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Airbnb Tips 1: Search

Once you’ve decided to use Airbnb and know where you’re going, the first thing to do is search the site for options in your destination.

How Many Reviews is Enough?

Is Airbnb safety is a big concern, then only consider Airbnb hosts that have lots of glowing reviews. The Airbnb platform also has something called a “Superhost.” This is an Airbnb host who consistently gets high marks from guests. Superhosts also often goes out of their way for guests. I think it takes a lot to become a superhost, because there are so few of them.

Regardless, as a general rule, I’d stick with Airbnb hosts that have lots of reviews that are positive, detailed and recent.

Start Your Search Broadly

One of the great things about using Airbnb in Europe and elsewhere is that you can refine your search. Not only can you select how many beds, bedrooms, and bathrooms you have. You can also filter by amenities, by neighborhood and more.

That said, I’d start your search broadly. Add every housing requirement at the onset and you might miss out of a great Airbnb place that actually meets your needs. Here are a few examples:

Beds vs Bedrooms

Search for a 3-bedroom place and you’ll produce one list. Search for a place with three beds and you’ll produce another. Depending on the age and size of your party, this can make a difference. For example, when we used Airbnb in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, we had a hard time finding a 3BR place in our range. Then we switched it up to three beds and we had many more choices.

Internet, Wifi & Laptop-friendly workspace

You may see these three options in the amenities filter on Airnb. Some hosts click one and not the others, which means they won’t show up in refined searches. Try one or the other and see what you get.

If internet is important to you (it is to us), then you’ll see more on that later.

Washer or No?

One of the great things about using Airbnb for families is that we can do our laundry ourselves. Why? Because we make a lot of dirty laundry. Sending your laundry out in places like Japan and much of Europe is very expensive.

Having said that, laundry services are not expensive everywhere.
Places like Thailand and Mexico have local laundry services that are very reasonable. We never did laundry in Chiang Mai (Thailand), in Ubud (Bali) or in Puerto Escondido (Mexico). It was so cheap to have a local service do it for us.

Number of Adults & Extra People Fees

Some Airbnb rentals are designed for a specific number of people. However, lots of places can accommodate more people using couches, sofa beds and other places to sleep. Some places charge an extra fee per person. Some don’t. These fees can range from a few dollars to much more. If you

One of the most important things I’d recommend for traveling families is to start your search by counting only the adults and teenagers. Don’t count your youngest ones just yet. That may limit the houses and apartments available to you.

Some holiday rentals allow babies and school-aged children to stay for free or at a reduced cost. Chances are better if they sleep in the same bed or on a sofa. Searching this way usually yields a larger list of accommodation to choose from. Keep in mind that some places may not allow children at all — free or otherwise. It’s better to start with a larger list and whittle it down according to your needs.

Check for Weekly/Monthly Discounts

If you’re considering staying in an Airbnb longer-term, then look for weekly/monthly discounts. Even if you’re planning a 6-day or 27-day trip, try adding on a few days to reach a full week or month.

I’ve seen monthly discounts as much as 75%! Not often, but still. And 20-40% discounts for a month is common enough to make it worth your time to check.

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Consider Cleaning & Service Fees

For short stays in an Airbnb the cleaning and service fees can add up. These are decided upon by the hosts and can vary widely. Add these on to a 2- or 3-night stay somewhere and it can make a difference. More than once we’ve stayed somewhere that was more per-night but had less additional fees and it was cheaper.

These are a few examples of how to save money and get the best place using Airbnb in Southeast Asia and other parts of the world. There are more, but the basic idea is to simply play around with your options, especially is money is an issue.

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Airbnb Tips 2: Contact

Once you’re interested in a particular Airbnb apartment, use the “Contact Host” button and write them directly.

Introduce Yourself

Write a friendly introductory mail before anything. I tell them a little about us and our travels. I also mention how we’ve been using Airbnb in Europe, Southeast Asia and other parts of the world for years. Near the end, I ask if it would be ok for me to send some questions in a follow-up mail.

Sure, it’s easier to simply click the “book it” button just like a hotel website. But present yourself as a fellow human being (with a family) and not just some faceless customer. The owner is more likely to rent to you instead of other potential renters asking for the same place at the same time. It also might pave the way for a discount (if there are no other takers) or other potential benefits.

For example, we stayed at this apartment in Batu Ferringhi for the entire month. We established a relationship with the owner. As a result, we felt more comfortable asking her to replace a dull kitchen knife and a few other things related to the apartment.

Another example: because of our correspondence, she knew that we were home-schooling. She told us about the Distance Learning Program at the international school where she worked. This played a huge role in our time in Penang, and was one of the reasons we came back.

So write your host and introduce yourself. Once they reply, I write to ask follow-up questions and confirm the apartment details.

Ask Specific Questions

These follow-up questions are important for us. Why? Because we get to find out more about both the accommodation and the owner. We often stay at an Airbnb for weeks or month. These questions help us understand what the landlord would be like to deal with.

WIFI and/or Internet

One of our most important issues with staying in an Airbnb is fast and reliable internet. The host may have checked the box saying they have wifi. That may be true, but if it’s important to you, have them confirm this, and ask for proof. We ask the following questions:

  • Is there a data cap? Some places have very fast wifi but after a specific amount of data is used, it gets really slow.
  • What’s the download speed? The most important one for watching videos, listening to Spotify and downloading files.
  • What’s the upload speed? Not as important to everyone, but if you use Skype, use cloud-based backup services or upload videos to Youtube, this is crucial.

We (humbly and politely) ask the host to use this Speed Test and then tell us what both upload and download speeds are. Either they tell us, or we ask for a screenshot, especially if we’re planning to stay for a week or longer.

Appliances and Amenities

Now is the time to confirm everything that your Airbnb host has to offer you. Double check to make sure everything works. Ask if the stove, the washer and whatever is in good working condition.

This will sound silly but ask about the basics. Will the apartment have garbage bags, toilet paper, and clothes hangars? Have them confirm. This is very important with Airbnb in Southeast Asia, but it can be useful elsewhere as well.

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Airbnb Tips 3: Final Research & Double-check

Airbnb isn’t the only house/apartment rental service out there. In fact, many of the same rentals on Airbnb can be found on Wimdu, Flipkey, and others. Look at sites like Booking.com as well. They’re mostly known for hotels, but they have some great deals on apartment rentals as well.

Many Airbnb hosts use all these services, and occasionally the same place is priced differently on each.

When staying in an Airbnb in Southeast Asia, is often turn to Google maps to look at the neighborhood. I’m mainly looking for proximity to (smelly) wet markets and noise. Temples and mosques can have music, chants or calls to prayer at times when I like to be asleep.

Exact addresses are not given on Airbnb, but you can ask the host about it. They won’t always tell you, but if you ask nicely and they’ve already got to know you, they might.

Check if the owner is experienced with long stay traveler

If you plan to rent for weeks/months like we have, try to find out if the owners have experience with tenants like you. In fact, try to understand exactly what kind of tenants they are used to — and what they may be expecting from you.

Pictures can be deceiving

We learned this the following month when we moved into a large place in Georgetown. My family was visiting arriving for the Christmas holidays and we wanted everything to be sorted before they arrived. This is the place here, and it looked just like the pictures: clean, bright and spacious.

However, when we arrived and opened the kitchen cabinets, there were no dishes, pots or pans. The two-eye stove was cut off, and we were told that we could use a hotplate to boil water.

Not all wifi is created equal

Through our correspondence, they had agreed to install wifi for my work. They did, but we soon discovered that the data limit was so low that I had to top it up after every Skype call. Our data plan was more like a pay phone than an internet provider.

We spoke to the owners about it the very first day. Initially, they seemed suspicious of our motives. Eventually, they relented. I was furious at first, but then it dawned on me that they’ve never dealt with travelers like us before.

Different guests, different travel styles

I began to piece it together: before us, almost everyone who had stayed with them had been weekenders and food tourists. They would show up on a Friday, eat out for every meal (Penang’s great for that), and then leave on Sunday.

They didn’t need wifi. Didn’t need a frying pan, either. And apparently, they didn’t even need clothes hangers (there were only six in the entire house) because they never unpacked.

At first, the landlord was extremely wary of us — why so many demands? I could hear her say to herself — but eventually, she understood where we were coming from just as we came to our own realizations about her.

It all worked out in the end. The Airbnb host supplied us with just about everything we asked for. This took a week of back and forth to finally get what we needed and save all the face that needed saving. Now the place is set up if you’re thinking about it giving it a whirl. We’ve broken them in. You’re welcome.

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Conclusion: Tips for Airbnb in Southeast Asia & Beyond

Using Airbnb in Southeast Asia can change the way you travel Using Airbnb in Japan, Spain of the rest of Europe can change the way to spend. Do you have any experience using Airbnb? Any tips for using Airbnb you could share? Tell us in the comments!

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Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links. That means that if you buy something, book a hotel or rent an Airbnb in Southeast Asia using one of my links, we might get a small commission. You pay nothing extra, so don’t worry. Also, everything you see here is just my personal opinion. I only recommend places, activities, and gear that I believe will genuinely help my readers. We loved using Airbnb in Southeast Asia, Airbnb in Japan, Airbnb in Europe and Airbnb in Mexico. We hope that this will help you choose wisely when using Airbnb in Tokyo, Airbnb in Malaysia, Airbnb in Spain and anywhere else you choose to go.

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