Living like a local has never been easier. There are all kinds of sites like Airbnb out there offering you the chance to stay in local homes, quirky places and other unconventional sleeping quarters — all much more exciting than a hotel.
Here are just a few places where you can find your dream accommodation, be it a hilltop villa in Italy, a chic New York City apartment, a traditional ryokan in Japan or a cozy chalet in Whistler.
Are vacation rentals safe during COVID-19?
Vacation rentals are generally safe to stay in during the coronavirus pandemic, as long as you’re following CDC social distancing guidelines. For extra precaution, look for rentals that offer self check-in, to avoid physical interaction with the host.
Vrbo is one of the best options for safe vacation rentals during COVID-19, because it provides hosts with a guide for enhanced cleaning protocols, including step-by-step instructions for sanitizing between guests.
If you’re worried about the safety of a vacation rental during COVID-19, check the policies posted online by each provider to understand exactly how they’re responding to the pandemic.
What should I know about Airbnb and other homestay sites?
Are sites like Airbnb legal?
In the United States, renting out your home on platforms like Airbnb is generally legal. However, if you live in an apartment complex or are a tenant rather than an owner, the landlord or building management may not allow you to rent your unit out. There are also some cities that have banned Airbnb to protect hotels, so do your research before you travel.
As the laws are constantly being changed, it’s important to double check with your local jurisdiction if you have any doubts.
If you’re looking to book a stay in an Airbnb, it’s also good to know what the laws are where you are, especially if you’re booking a stay overseas. Laws differ from destination to destination, so it’s important to check whether renting out someone’s home for profit is legal for them to do without a license. If you’re contacted by the host and they tell you anything that raises a red flag (like for you to pretend to be their relative and not a paid guest), tell Airbnb and try to get your reservation canceled and refunded.
Some cities where it’s recommended to double check local laws are Barcelona and New York City (Manhattan, specifically). Other destinations, like Santa Monica (Los Angeles) and Berlin restrict Airbnb-style listings to only offer a room in someone’s home rather than an entire home.
Are sites like Airbnb safe?
Just like hotels, listings on homestay sites get reviewed by previous guests, which are usually clearly displayed on each listing. The rating (usually out of five or 10) and the number of reviews are clearly listed.
For example, on this listing on Homestay, the host has an average of 5/5 based on 39 reviews. The green badge on the upper right corner means the host is verified by the company. When looking for a place to stay, find a host that has a higher number of reviews – it will also likely mean they’re a more experienced host.
Similar to the green badge used by Homestay, Airbnb has “super hosts”, who have received five stars from at least 80% of their guests.
It’s also recommended to check the area that you’re staying in. Check online to see how far the stay is from the attractions you’d like to visit and check out Google Maps’ street view function to get a feel for what the local area is like.
How do you pay for your stay?
Most sites act as a middleman between the guest and host and allow you to pay for your stay through their platform. This is also the safest way to pay, as it will offer a secure payment system and you’ll get a confirmation screen or email stating you’ve paid.
Like hotels, some prefer you pay upfront when you make the booking, while others you’ll pay for closer to your stay date.
When you pay upfront, it may take a day or two to process your booking as the host needs to accept your request to stay before your card is charged.
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Each site like Airbnb has its own distinct flavor, whether you’re looking for entire vacation homes or just a room to borrow. After securing a spot to rest your head, find the cheapest deals on flights.
Alex Keshen is the global travel publisher at Finder and has been living, breathing and, of course, writing about all things travel for more than 10 years. She has a Bachelor of Journalism from Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada and has appeared in Travel Weekly and the Huffington Post. A master of maximising her annual leave and finding the best bargains around, she can’t remember the last time her backpack weighed more than 10kg and is happy to share her tips and tricks to help you travel better.
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