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When booking a flat on Airbnb one might have the following interactions with the host:

  1. Write an introductory text about yourself and the trip

  2. Confirm that the place is available on the dates you've selected and book

  3. Arrange a time for the host to give you the keys

  4. Meet the host and exchange pleasantries

  5. Talk to the host throughout the stay (e.g. in some cases they live next doors)

  6. Arrange to return the keys and leave the flat

If I travel to Egypt or Japan, I will of course enjoy these interactions, as this gives me plenty of time to talk to a 'local'. However if I travel to a city close-by (e.g. to Berlin from Prague), I'd rather treat the apartment as a hotel and have zero chit-chat, if possible.

So what's the absolute minimum etiquette one is expected to follow when booking a place on Airbnb? Perhaps there's something in their terms of service that mentions it?

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    Is this really a problem? I had several Airbnbs in Budapest and various places in Israel just the last two minutes and with several I swear I spent less than five minutes. One I had an hour long chat because I thought the person interesting... – chx Feb 9 '16 at 22:04
  • @chx I've used it in Israel and Thailand a few times, and every time I've spent more than an hour online (writing information about my trip, negotiating arrival times, etc.) and offline (the host checked in to make sure everything is okay, offered food, needed to take something from the flat, etc.). I very much liked it, but I wouldn't want the same treatment if I go to Berlin for work. – JonathanReez Supports Monica Feb 9 '16 at 22:09
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    If you want a hotel, book a hotel, jeez... – fkraiem Feb 10 '16 at 0:05
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    @fkraiem hotels are often more expensive, especially when booking for more than 2 people. And I don't think there's anything wrong (from the perspective of business) to try and shorten the transaction costs by as much as possible. – JonathanReez Supports Monica Feb 10 '16 at 0:08
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    If you want cheap, buy a tent. – WGroleau Feb 10 '16 at 4:06
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I assume as you are saying "book a flat" you are booking the whole place to yourself and you don't expect to share the accommodation with your host when you are there. So your problem is, to put it bluntly, getting rid of the host after she has made her introductions.

In my experience (principally in France) most hosts do not really want to talk to you after they have provided a quick tour of the place and an explanation of the building's security quirks. They really just want an idea of who is in their house, and then they want to go back to whatever it is they do. Often I have found the task is delegated to a neighbour rather than the real host, who is even less interested in you.

As another commenter mentioned, this is five minutes. Sometimes I spend longer at hotel reception desks than this.

If you really are anxious to be left alone, one strategy is to mention politely that you have some pressing engagement. Perhaps you are late to meet a friend in town, you want to get to the museum before it closes, you need to be up early, or you have some work to complete before a client meeting.

My feeling is that most hosts are using Airbnb as a business, not a way to make new friends---but this perspective is limited to Western Europe, it might be wrong elsewhere.

  • What about the places advertised as "instant booking" (marked with a star)? If you tried them, was your experience any different? – JonathanReez Supports Monica Feb 10 '16 at 2:43
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    +1 If you can't cope with 5 minutes' polite conversation with someone who is trusting you to not wreck their house, you shouldn't be using AirBnB. Every time I've rented a "whole apartment" airbnb, it's been 5-15 mins useful, valuable conversation about the apartment, local area, transport system, etc, with an equally valuable subtext of both parties establishing that they're both trustworthy and respectful. – user56reinstatemonica8 Feb 13 '16 at 17:55
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From my limited experience, I think you can tell from the descriptions and reviews if it is likely to be that kind of experience. The Asian ones I've used were very definitely treated as businesses and you never saw the host- maybe you see their hired cleaning help.

Where it's a more personal experience (eg. Mexico), I have enjoyed the odd brief interaction and didn't feel it was intrusive. I don't spend a lot of time with online interactions if it's a brief stay- I assume their main concerns are that my story hangs together as to why I'm there (a couple days for a Photonics conference, for example) and that I don't look like the sort of person that will do hard drugs, have a party and trash the place or whatever. A few sentences should both suffice and set the tone.

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We booked many flats in AirBnb. We didn't meet all of the hosts. Sometimes they just give you a password to unlock the door or a friend will bring you the key (normally not too chatty, because they just want to leave you the key and go). Reading the reviews you can find these people. But it is not easy I must tell.

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