Airbnb has exploded since it was first founded in 2008, and now includes over two million listings in nearly 190 countries. As of 2016, there were over 300 different listings for Airbnb rentals in London to choose from, and that number is climbing by the minute.
Airbnb allows users to search for cheap accommodation in the city of their choice, which range from luxury apartments and homes, to just a simple room in a basic apartment. With an average cost of £80 a night, staying in an Airbnb in London can help you save a ton of money on accommodation costs, especially considering that the cost of a hotel in central London is well over £150!
Ranging from luxurious bedrooms with a balcony to a small room in an attic, or even just a couch or mattress on the floor, London's Airbnb listings come in all shapes, sizes...and costs. Some Airbnb locations in London are a stone's throw away from the city's most popular tourist attractions, while others may be located on the outskirts of the city yet offer everything from a fully-equipped kitchen to a small garden, or even stunning views of the London skyline.
If you're planning on staying at an Airbnb during your visit to London, here are some things to keep in mind:
A rough guide to using Airbnb in London
There are countless perks to using Airbnb in London, with the most notable being how much you save on your total accommodation costs, and being able to use a fully-equipped kitchen and cook your own meals at home.
Once you've entered in the city you want to visit in Airbnb.com's search engine, you can use the map to pinpoint a specific location, and sort through the listings according to price, location and facilities, (like free wifi, air conditioning/heating, etc.) Each listing should specify more details about the room, flat or house, such as whether you'll be sleeping on an actual bed or a pull-out couch, or whether you'll be sharing the home with the owners or other renters.
Before deciding on a place, it's always a good idea to write the owner and ask them questions such as how long it will take to walk to the nearest underground station, if you'll have your own set of keys, whether there's a lock on your door (if it's a shared listing), and whether you can make tea or coffee in the kitchen. Some listings have different cancellation policies, so it's always good to read the fine print before you make a final decision. Normally each listing has a list of various rules such as whether or not you're allowed guests or pets, whether alcohol is allowed on the premises, and if there's any quiet hours.
Each user will have to write a reservation request to the host, who then decides whether they want to accept your request or not. (Normally the rule of thumb is that if their response takes longer than 24 hours, you should probably start looking for another place). Once your host accepts your request, your credit card will be charged (which includes the total rental cost as well as a 6% to 12% Airbnb fee, as well as a possible security deposit or cleaning fee), all of which should be stated clearly in the rental listing. Once your credit card is accepted, you and the host can then arrange a meeting time at the property on the date of your arrival.
Once you arrive at the location, the host will normally show you around the room, flat, or home and explain how everything works and where to find certain things. Sometimes hosts provide free maps to every guest, and will give you some great advice on what to do in the surrounding area, or where to find the best pubs and restaurants nearby.
Although the host normally cleans the room and/or apartment after you check-out (that's what the cleaning fee is there for, after all), it's always polite to do a quick clean up before you leave to be respectful. Also if any items were broken during your stay, you should replace them or at the very least give the host money to replace the items.
Where to find Airbnbs in London
Luckily there are Airbnb rentals scattered all throughout London, ranging from private bedrooms in London's touristy areas, to your own private flat outside of the city centre. If you have a specific area or location in mind, you can always use Airbnb's map view function so you can zoom in and see exactly where the listings are located, as well as the nearest tube, bus or train stations/stops.
But of course the cost and overall experience of using Airbnb in London boils down to where the listing is located. If you want to stay in an area that is close to London's many attractions and museums (like Soho, Westminster, Notting Hill, Mayfair and Marylebone), bear in mind these listings tend to be more expensive – even if you're sleeping on a futon mattress in a shared apartment!
Meanwhile, you could easily find the perfect listing in neighbourhoods like Shoreditch, Clapham Junction, Hoxton and Bermondsey for half the cost as one in Soho or Westminster (sometimes as low as £20 per night). As a matter of fact, sometimes the cost of renting an entire apartment in these neighbourhoods is around the same as renting a futon bed in the more touristy areas of London!
There are a ton of listings located near Covent Garden, Tower Bridge, Piccadilly Circus and Oxford Street which range around £60 to £80 per night, but if you're looking months in advance you could possibly find something for as little as £40 a night (if you're lucky). The more touristy neighbourhoods of London also tend to have the most luxurious listings on Airbnb (such as luxury studios or bed and breakfasts), which normally cost around £80 to £100; however, by choosing a single private room in Brixton, Greenwich or Southwark, you could save up to £50 per night (or even more!)
How to stay safe when using Airbnb in London
All Airbnb hosts are required to enter their identification details in the website, (which is normally via a scanned identification) as well as their verified phone number. Normally reputable hosts will have reviews written about them on their profile, as well more information about themselves which each user can scroll through. Each listing should also have photos of the property, as well as more information on what to expect once you make your booking; (the more information the better).
And perhaps it may go without saying, but try to read each and every single review before you make your booking. Sometimes past users will mention whether the host gave them the “creeps” or if they thought the listing was in an unsafe neighbourhood, and in that case, you should make the booking at your own discretion.
You could always contact the host before you make your reservation and ask them for more information about how safe the area is, for example asking them whether you should take a taxi home at night, or whether it would be safe to walk around the neighbourhood alone.
And last, but certainly not least, even if a host has a ton of positive reviews, if your instinct is telling you not to trust this person, then always go with your gut. Although 99.9% of the time Airbnb is a safe option in terms of choosing accommodation in London, it's always a good idea to be attentive to even the most minor details before you make a final decision.
For more information on how to stay safe when using Airbnb in London, read the “Trust & Safety” section on Airbnb.co.uk