The 7 Questions You Need To Ask Your Next AirBNB While Working In A Foreign Country
After donating everything I owned 4 months ago and booking myself a one-way ticket to Asia, there are a few things I have learned to ask a host before booking a long stay in an Airbnb. Especially when you are a working professional.
So far on this trip I have stayed in around almost sixAirbnb’s and I usually try to do longer stays of four weeks or more when possible. I do this to minimize how many times I have to pack, and to receive a good discount for the long stay. However, if I don’t ask these 7 questions before, I usually end up really regretting it.
I’ve been happy with most of my stays and spending in a range of around $400–750 or so per accommodation on a month stay either through Airbnb or finding locally. This is a budget that will get you a decent 1 bedroom and above a hostel within the countries I have visited including Singapore, Bali, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Although the saying of you always get what you pay for, it’s a little hard to say in the Airbnb world with traveling to different countries. They are all so different in what that type of budget will get you and a few other factors such as if you are booking in high season or low season.
1.Screen Shot of WiFi Speed Test: Have you ever seen Will Farrel’s meme “Don’t marry a person until you’ve been around them with slow internet — then you see who they really are”. It’s such an accurate truth, having slow internet is the worst especially if you are doing a lot of online work that requires uploading or video conference.
You don’t even want to know yourself and who you really are with slow or non-existent wifi.
All you simply need to do is ask the host to send you a screenshot of their WiFi. Then you can figure out if the wifi is going to be at a suitable speed, if you need to get a wifi booster, or if you need to find a different place / it’s not worth it. If they can’t provide this, book somewhere else — trust me.
Do make sure that everything is taking place over the AirBNB messaging — this is documentation of what the host is promising to provide and if they don’t when you arrive, you have a better chance of being able to cancel the reservation with more ease.
If you are really sold on the place, but wifi is the only thing stopping you then you can buy a sim card with data which is generally pretty cheap. Ask your host about this and seek out other expats in local Facebook communities. (i.e. Chiang Mai expats)
2. Is this the room/apartment I will be staying in? I had always assumed that the rooms listed on Airbnb were private residences. However, I have soon realized this is not the case. There are a lot of hotels and guest houses on it, at least within Asia, and the room you thought you were getting is completely different than the one you signed up for.
I learned this one in Chiang Mai after booking the room specifically for the lighting because I needed to get some videos done with a blank wall. The pictures were nice and bright, and no hint of darkness.
Turned out they had about 10 different layouts, all with different window configurations. My dark room was not displayed within the pictures on Airbnb, and remained dark with very dim lights throughout the day. The walls were paper thin as well, so it wouldn’t have worked out anyway to cut videos. Luckily I found a private co-working space to get them done, but just be aware that often you won’t get the same room you thought from the pictures.
This isn’t just limited to a commercial building, this also goes with residences in apartment complexes. They will sometimes use the apartment complex’s photos and you will arrive with completely different furniture than what you were expected.
Another instance in Chiang Mai, my friend and I were booking an apartment and thought the pull out couch would be sufficient and comfortable. When we arrived, it was clear that the couch was different and not possible to sleep on. We ended up booking an additional room.
3. How noisy is the area and the room? The noisiest Airbnb I have stayed in so far was in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh is just loud in general, but this apartment in particular was obnoxious. There was a new bar that just had opened two nights before I arrived.
Every single night was filled with loud amplified Karaoke music until 12am. The other neighbors also decided they wanted to compete and would have their own party just down the street as well. Then the street lady would blare something through her megaphone in vietnamese every morning around 8am.
It would be one thing if there was loud music playing through closed windows, but this particular apartment had a gap between the outside door of the balcony to the bathroom. Meaning, there was no way to seal off this Karaoke music from the outside(which I absolutely hate karaoke music by the way). I was miserable, and unfortunately had booked an entire month as per the usual.
Learn from my lesson, ask about the noise and if it isn’t suitable, then it will be documented and you would have an easier time for moving out before the end of your reservation and getting your money back.
4. Check to see if it’s legal for Airbnb
In Bangkok, I arrived at an apartment that had huge red signs everywhere telling me in English that it was illegal for tourists to do short term sits at these buildings. A bit unsettling, because I have watched one too many episodes of locked up abroad and try to be on my best behavior in any foreign country now.
Some countries are against the use of Airbnb as they see it as a competition to the hotel and tourist industry. Thailand is a place that Airbnb is illegal which I had no idea when I booked. With this apartment, you couldn’t even get into the building unless a long term resident was coming out. I would have to wait on a couch in the lounge area before the good graces of someone decided they wanted to enter or leave. It was pretty uncomfortable!
However, not really knowing how to book any other way, I booked my next 3 stays in Thailand through an Airbnb.
5. Read all the reviews g I’m sure this is one of the first things you have done, but still felt I should point it out. If there are no reviews, I personally would not feel comfortable booking more than 10 days. I go by a lot of what the people have said while taking into account everyone’s comfort levels are different.
Most of the time I can sift through and decided if they are a “Karen” who wants to speak with the manager and complain about the tiniest things, or if the complaints seem pretty valid and are repeated.
I generally will never book something with less than 4.6 stars.
6. Ask for a Google Map Pin and Confirm You Can Pull It Up With Grab / Uber: Airbnb doesn’t give an exact location until booking. If you ask for the pin, you can navigate a little more knowingly on how to manage your expectations. The map feature in Airbnb is limited, and there have been a couple times I tried to use it (and with limited wifi) and it got me lost for over an hour.
Having the Google map pin will also help you input this into a Grab or Uber app. Test this, and confirm with the host that the address is correct. Grab doesn’t always like to pull up some addresses. I once had a Grab drop me across the city and very far from my Airbnb.
A quick tip on finding out if it you’re in an area with more westerners or in a more touristy area (if that’s what you are looking for) is to check out and see if there are co-working centers nearby. If yes, then it’s probably in a more popular area, but not always!
7. If there is something that you feel you need that isn’t out of the ordinary — just ask.
I’ve got three big requirements when I travel — I need quiet, a small desk, and wifi. If they don’t have that going on, then I can’t stay. I’m a night owl who often works into the late nights, and I need a desk where I can use my laptop and a mouse for creative work.
There have been a couple of places that did not have a desk, and I asked for it. They are generally alway really great at providing you with extra furniture, so go for it. Ask before booking so you don’t have to deal with it during your stay and minimize hassles.
Although you might have already thought to ask a couple of these, when I first started out I was willing to go with the flow but I soon realized that with the wrong accommodation this will impact your productivity and experience. Make sure to get all of these things sorted through the chat and before your arrival so you can have a smoother experience, and have the documentation you need if things go South. Keep the lines of communication going with your host.
Happy travels, and please let me know if I’m missing something that would be both helpful to me and the readers!