If you are used to more traditional accommodation options, there are some things about staying at an Airbnb that can take you by surprise. Not necessarily because they are bad but because you haven’t thought things through. Here are five Airbnb tips to help you have a successful first-time stay.

Book your Airbnb sooner rather than later

The best places book out quickly, sometimes 6 to 12 months in advance, so do your research early and get in quick. Look for accommodation with good transport options that are close to the attractions you want to visit. It is not worth saving $10 a night if you end up spending the same amount (and all your time) getting where you need to go each day.

Think about safety too. We stayed at a beautiful – and very affordable – Airbnb in Rome that was perfectly safe during the day. However, you wouldn’t want to walk around the area at night. This came as a bit of a shock when we arrived. Fortunately, it wasn’t a problem as we had no evening sightseeing planned. However, if the same thing had happened at our Airbnb in Paris, it would have been a major issue as we had booked in loads of night time activities.

Know the rules

Check the rules at each Airbnb before you book as they are all different. Check in and check out times can vary significantly and it is unlikely you’ll be able to store your luggage there if you have a late flight, something we learned the hard way in Paris. Some Airbnb accommodation options, especially the fancy ones, can have a large bond which must be paid at the time of booking. This means you could be out of pocket for an extra $500 or more in addition to your accommodation fee.

It’s also important to understand that an Airbnb host can cancel your booking at the last minute (although I am sure they try not to do this). If this happens, you get a full refund but there isn’t much else you can do about it, except scramble to find alternative accommodation as quickly as possible.

Communicate with your Airbnb host

One of the great things about Airbnb is that you are dealing directly with the host. Yes, this can sometimes have its problems, but mostly it is a good experience. Check out the host’s profile and feedback, both good and bad, and read the comments and ratings they have given past guests. Do they seem warm and welcoming?  This is particularly important if you are staying in a room at their house rather than renting a whole apartment as you could be spending quite a bit of time together.

Check your host’s response time before booking

It can be wise to check out your host’s communication style early, even before you book, so you can get a feel for how responsive they are to your queries. Remember that a long response time if you are asking a question before you book could mean a similar long response time if there is a problem while you are at their apartment. If something important like the toilet stops working while you are there, this can be a major issue as there is really only one person who can help – and that’s your host.

Embrace the experience

At an Airbnb, you are often right in the heart of a city’s urban hub, in an area that caters for locals rather than tourists. No stay is the same and that is part of the charm of an Airbnb experience. You get to stay in a genuine home in a town or city that’s sometimes very different from your own. Embrace the experience – and be willing to forgive the occasional glitch – and you will enjoy it much more.