First-timer tips for private lodging

Image courtesy: ©Jonathan Smith/Lonely Planet

Save on accommodation by renting an apartment, spare room, sofa or even a tree house

The world of accommodation has got a lot bigger with the advent of online (and mobile) booking services for privately owned spaces. For first-timers the choice can be bewildering.

Travel writer Andy Murdock explains that it’s key to know what you’re getting before you go to avoid any unpleasant surprises. ‘In many cases, a host is inviting you into their home. Other times, the rental is handled by an agency listing a standard vacation rental. Each experience will be very different.’

Just because a calendar looks open, it doesn’t necessarily reflect reality, Murdock explains. ‘Hosts aren’t always fully on top of their calendars, and they will often want to ensure there’s a good fit before accepting your booking. Whether you’re talking about Airbnb, Couchsurfing or any of the social accommodation communities, you should have a proper profile on the site that shows who you are, and be sure to tell the host what brings you to town.’

Murdock also recommends opening up a dialogue before booking. ‘Ask any questions you need. This back-and-forth also helps build confidence on both sides.’

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Picking your first rental

The more you use private lodgings, the better you’ll get at picking places that are right for you. For your first foray, be sure to choose somewhere that has experienced hosts and has been well reviewed.

Pay close attention to location. Private homes are often some distance away from main tourist sites. This can be a huge positive, giving you a local’s view of a city often missed by travellers, or it can be a huge headache. Understand the lay of the land before booking.

Budgeting

Pricing will vary, but, in terms of value, bear in mind that private homes often come with features you could never find (or afford) in a hotel: full kitchens, multiple rooms, laundry facilities, free internet access. You’ll also pay a premium to have the place to yourself versus sharing with the host or other guests.

The ability to self-cater can be a huge money saver, particularly on longer trips. It’s also a great way to learn about a city or neighbourhood – a visit to a local grocery never fails to be interesting.

Local politics

As private rentals have become more popular around the world, some cities have welcomed the new options for travellers, while others – particularly large cities with limited housing – have pushed back. Be aware of the local policies before booking a room.

This excerpt has been taken from Lonely Planet’s Best Ever Travel Tips.