Is Airbnb Legit, Safe and Reliable? An Honest Opinion

Last Updated: April 12th, 2024

Disclosure: WayToStay is reader-supported. If you buy a product we link to, we may earn a commission. Learn More

As probably the most famous and popular holiday rental website, Airbnb has quickly become a household name around the globe. However, between rising house costs, cities banning Airbnb listings, and suspect key exchanges, is Airbnb safe? Let’s dive in and find out more.

Is Airbnb Legit?

By and large, yes Airbnb is legit. The site does what it can to vet its users and hosts to lessen the chances of scam listings and fake reviews.

The only way you can leave a review is if you’ve completed a booking, and while this isn’t impossible to fake and repay under the table, it is a complicated step to take to fill your listing with fake reviews on a large scale.

This together with the machine learning that Airbnb is using to spot scam listings and it’s desperately trying to become more reliable and legitimate. Of course, there are still plenty of scam listings and fake reviews, so it’s always best to be cautious.

The other thing to keep an eye on is Airbnb Licenses. Many cities require holiday rentals to register with the local authorities as it’s a business and tourism premises. Some cities have banned Airbnb altogether and some are operating without licenses. Technically, doing this is illegal, so where you can, ensure that you’re renting in an Airbnb-approved city and that there’s a license number somewhere on the listing.

Is Airbnb Safe to Use?

On the whole, the website and company itself are safe to use. As with many online travel agents (OTA) or listing marketplaces, it comes down to the individual users and hosts rather than the site itself.

Airbnb does vet and run background checks on both its users and hosts, and has started using AI to try and spot scam listing patterns on its site. These are great steps to take, but as with any online travel agent or listing marketplace, you need to do your due diligence.

Is the Airbnb website safe?

A-Person-Using-Airbnb-Webiste-On-Laptop

Yes, the Airbnb website is safe. They have a secure payment system that is protected and uses various credit and debit cards, as well as PayPal. If you’re being asked to pay outside of the Airbnb platform then it’s likely that it’s a scam. This is also against Airbnb’s hosting terms, so it’s worth flagging.

There’s also a protected messaging platform within the Airbnb app, which means that you do not have to give your phone number or email to your hosts if you’re not comfortable. Many people opt to use WhatsApp when they arrive in the country as it works off WiFi or data, but it’s not necessary with the message alerts through the Airbnb app.

When it comes to hosts, you can now set up automatic messaging for your check-in and check-out processes, as well as any booking messages, which saves a lot of time, and a lot of copying and pasting. This also means that you can keep all your messages in the Airbnb app where they’re safe and secure.

YouTube video

Is Airbnb covered by ABTA?

No, Airbnb is not covered by ABTA or ATOL protection. This is because each host can obtain individual holiday letting licenses depending on the country or city that they’re in. Usually, this is a short numerical code that you can check against the city’s database to see if they’re legit or not. You can normally find these at the bottom of the listing description, but if you’re unsure, you can always ask the vendor.

Is Airbnb reliable?

This is a pretty big question. Airbnb’s reliability depends on the actions of the travelers and the hosts. By and large, Airbnb is reliable. Many people have used this site repeatedly without issue. Of course, there are always exceptions that ruin the party for the rest of us.

On the host side, there are always going to be scam artists that use fake photos or locations and try to leave you high and dry. They are in the minority, but like with any site like Booking.com, VRBO, or eDreams, it happens. It’s not just holiday rentals that this happens to, there are plenty of fake hotel and aparthotel listings out there, so if it looks too good to be true it probably is.

That being said, Airbnb has taken steps to find and eliminate scam listings using machine learning and AI. This combined with background checks and government ID checks for all users and hosts does mean that scams are often less likely than on other holiday rental sites.

If you’re a host and you’re unsure about renting out your place or room, there have been a few cases of “party house” incidents. This is where a group rents out a home and then posts an open invite to the Airbnb for an all-out rager. However, Airbnb has removed open invites on its trips to help prevent this in the future.

Is Airbnb safe?

A-Woman-Give-A-Key-To-A-Female-Guest

Again, this is a big question, but on the whole, yes Airbnb is safe. Depending on your host, you’ll either have minimal contact with them or you’ll meet them for a key exchange and be taken to the apartment when you arrive. Of course, try and keep all communication in the Airbnb app as well as all the payment information, just in case.

Key exchanges

Nowadays, the majority of key exchanges are done without the host being there. Through key safes and changing codes, hosts don’t need to physically greet guests. They can just message the key safe code along with the check-in instructions and you’ll get in without much trouble.

As the majority of Airbnb hosts are either travelers themselves who are renting out their own places, or they have multiple accommodations to look after, this is much more convenient for everyone involved. If you do meet up with your host, make sure it’s well-lit and there are people around. Treat it like a first date and don’t go to a second location or meet in a dark and secluded spot!

Personally, I’ve used Airbnb all around the world and I’ve only met a host once and that was because it was a historic, shared building so there wasn’t a good place for a key safe. You can see what the check-in situation is going to be on the listing or in the reviews if you prefer a contactless check-in.

Background checks

As I’ve mentioned, Airbnb conducts background checks and insists on Government IDs from both its users and hosts. This is an added level of verification and safety that doesn’t exist on other OTA and listing marketplace websites like Booking.com or VRBO. This is a great step toward ensuring there are fewer scam accounts on the website and that fake reviews are kept at a minimum.

Guest rooms

If you’re just renting a room and the host is still in the property, this can feel slightly weirder than if you’re renting a full property. It’s often a lot cheaper, which is great, but I’d recommend thoroughly reading reviews and chatting with your host before you arrive. You don’t want to feel uncomfortable on your vacation or feel flat-out unsafe.

I’d sadly say that this goes for double if you’re a solo female traveler. As one myself, I always take extra care if I’m going to be in a shared dorm or shared accommodation with people I don’t know, especially if I’m staying on their property.

Is Airbnb Cheap?

Young-Tourist-Couple-Arriving-Holiday-Home

Originally, Airbnb was a great option because you could save a lot of money and get a more authentic experience than staying in a hotel or resort. However, that’s no longer the case. According to recent studies, hotels are becoming more competitive and cheaper than Airbnb.

With a combination of pricey licenses, rising housing costs around the world, and extra fees that are added on, it’s hard to match the lower rates of the bigger hotel chains and resorts. If there’s a big group, Airbnb can often work out cheaper per person, rather than booking a block of hotel rooms, but it’s worth doing the comparison.

However, if you’re someone who likes to chill out at your holiday rental or come back for a siesta, you might prefer the extra personal space you get versus a hotel room. If you’re a solo traveler, then unless you’re just renting a room rather than a whole property, you’re probably better off in a hostel or hotel.

Finally, the longer you stay in an Airbnb, the cheaper it gets. Airbnb offers percentage-based discounts if you stay longer than 7 days. These percentages creep up if you stay for an entire month, so booking longer stays definitely has its benefits here.

How does Airbnb make money?

Airbnb primarily makes money through commissions. While listing your property is free, any bookings are subject to a 3-5% commission. This might not sound like a lot, but with the sheer number of bookings on the platform each day, this soon adds up!

They also make money off different fees and services such as Airbnb Plus, Airbnb for Work, and other boosted factors. Add in the included up to 20% fee that travelers pay, included in their overall rate, and Airbnb has several ways of making money.

I should mention that the guest service fee ranges from 0-20% and this depends on the price, location, and duration of your trip. As a general rule, the higher the price of your booking, the higher the fees.

Cleaning fees

Okay, so probably one of the most disliked parts of the Airbnb process has to be the cleaning fees. With many hosts leaving extensive check-out instructions including putting the bins out, stripping beds, and generally tidying up, having a cleaning fee on top seems like an insult.

On average, the cleaning fees are around 25% of the reservation fee which can feel like a lot. While listings don’t have to include cleaning fees, and many choose to absorb the fees in their reservation costs, it can be an annoying extra fee on top.

Airbnb says that they’re taking steps to minimize these fees or to include them as part of the total fee so that you don’t get enticed by a low per-night rate, only to get stung with cleaning fees. They’re also suggesting that if you charge a cleaning fee, then the extensive clean-up requests on check-out should be waived, but that’s down to the individual hosts at the end of the day.

Is It Possible to Get a Refund from Airbnb?

A-Stylish-Living-Room-With-Wood-Floor

Yes, it is possible to get a refund from Airbnb. There are varying refund levels depending on your host and your booking situation. The scale is flexible, moderate, firm, strict, non-refundable. The more restrictive your cancellation policy, the more notice you need to give the host to get your money back.

You can cancel your booking in the Airbnb app or on the website if you need to, and if it’s within your cancellation period, you should get your money back. Sometimes you will lose the service fee or cleaning fee, but this depends on the timeline and your cancellation policy.

Non-refundable rates

Some properties will offer discounted non-refundable rates alongside more flexible rates. This is to ensure that if the host cancels last minute, they’re not left with an empty place and no money to show for it.

If the host cancels the non-refundable stay, you will receive your money back minus any fees. This is the same as any other cancellation as the hosts are fined fees for cancelling which get higher the closer you get to the booking. They can also lose SuperHost status or face bans if they repeatedly cancel bookings.

What happens if a host cancels on Airbnb?

If a host cancels on Airbnb, you should receive a refund. While refund timescales vary, you should receive your full amount back minus service fees. If your host cancels within 48 hours of your stay, Airbnb will also help you find a replacement stay in a similar area and price range.

As someone who has had this happen, I can say that Airbnb customer service in this instance was actually pretty good. They identified and facilitated a new booking quickly and effectively. The only thing is that you do end up being out of pocket as you have to pay for the new booking and your refund from the cancellation won’t have hit your account yet. This can be really annoying.

Is Airbnb Customer Service Good?

A-Vintage-Room-Interior-Decoration

One thing that I have learned over the years, is that customer service scores on sites like Trustpilot are full of unsatisfied customers. Happy customers or just content customers rarely take the time to write a review, so I always take them with a pinch of salt.

The role of an OTA

The thing is Airbnb is just a marketplace. So if a place isn’t as advertised or you can’t contact your host, you need to contact Airbnb within 72 hours of the problem arising, otherwise, you won’t get a refund.

If you can’t get into your accommodation and Airbnb support cannot get hold of the host either, they should be able to help you find alternate accommodations. The same goes for if the host cancels the booking last minute.

However, there is a limit to what Airbnb can do as the properties aren’t theirs and if something isn’t up to standard but isn’t super bad, they’re unlikely to do anything about it.

Multiple channels

With chatbots, easy pathways to speak to actual human support through their app messaging service, or phone-based customer service, there are plenty of ways to get in touch. Airbnb also offers 24/7 customer service so it doesn’t matter where you are in the world, you can get in contact with them.

In my experience, wait times have been minimal – as in under five minutes, but at peak times, such as during the holiday season, the wait times may be longer.

Final Thoughts

A-White-Holiday-Villa-Exterior

So, all in all, Airbnb is safe to use. While there are some issues around hosts canceling bookings, scam listings, and rising prices and fees, the site is trying to remove these as quickly as possible. As with any online travel booking site, you need to do your due diligence.

Remember

  • Double-check your cancellation booking tier before paying
  • Don’t pay or communicate outside of the app if possible
  • Contact Airbnb with any issues within 72 hours of arriving at your Airbnb or them occurring
  • Keep an eye out for Airbnb license numbers

Have you used Airbnb before? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

About The Author

Rebecca Crowe is a freelance content writer who specializes in writing about travel, food, drink, and adventure. She specializes in budget and adventure travel content and can usually be found climbing some rocks, eating some tacos, or waiting around at the nearest airport. Her best budget travel achievement was spending a weekend in Paris with Roland Garros tickets for under £150, although she's always on the lookout for even better adventure and travel deals! If you want to keep up with her next adventure, check out her website at Wandering and Wine.

Join our list

Subscribe to our mailing list and get interesting stuff and updates to your email inbox.

Thank you for subscribing.

Something went wrong.

Enter your email and get this picture and description straight to your inbox

🔒 We don’t spam or sell emails. see our privacy policy
Picture of Rebecca Crowe

Rebecca Crowe

Rebecca Crowe is a freelance content writer who specializes in writing about travel, food, drink, and adventure. She specializes in budget and adventure travel content and can usually be found climbing some rocks, eating some tacos, or waiting around at the nearest airport.

Her best budget travel achievement was spending a weekend in Paris with Roland Garros tickets for under £150, although she's always on the lookout for even better adventure and travel deals!

If you want to keep up with her next adventure, check out her website at Wandering and Wine.

Read More From Rebecca Crowe
Send this to a friend