If you are going on vacation this summer, you may have planned to book accommodation through Airbnb, Booking or HomeAway. If more and more French people are using these platforms to find a rental, there is a set of recommendations to follow to avoid mishaps. “Cases of fraudulent advertisements remain rare, but this can affect holidaymakers,” says Abritel. To be sure, a few rules of vigilance are not too much to ensure a successful stay.
In 2019, two French vacationers found themselves without accommodation after booking a ghost villa in Croatia on Booking. It was actually a false advertisement for which the two friends had paid close to 6,000 euros! To avoid this type of disappointment, it is better to take your time before booking, remember to read the description of the accommodation carefully and especially beware of too tempting advertisements.
Favor ads with comments
The opinions of other users are serious indicators to get an idea of a property. Favor well-rated reservations, with at least ten comments so as not to take any risks. Do not hesitate to read all the comments of the hosts already accommodated on the spot, you will thus obtain invaluable information before booking. In principle, false comments are rare, since it is necessary to have booked the accommodation in order to be able to leave one. “Travelers and hosts rate each other publicly and can only leave a comment after a reservation is complete,” says Airbnb. In this way, feedback is always based on lived experiences.
Check the description of the accommodation
Are towels provided? Is the accommodation connected to Wi-Fi? Some accommodations do not always include this essential equipment. To avoid unpleasant surprises, Airbnb encourages travelers to carefully read the description of the accommodation. All the equipment mentioned in the advertisement must be present on your arrival. If this is not the case, you are entitled to file a complaint with the booking platform.
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Beware of a price below the market
If an offer is too good to be true, with a perfect location and a price well below what is commonly practiced, it could be a scam. On booking platforms, the average prices of accommodation at a time of the year are often indicated. So beware of a price that is much too low compared to the market. You can also compare against other similar accommodations in the area to see if the rates are consistent. Airbnb recommends that you be extra vigilant in destinations that are “very popular in high season and deemed to be quite expensive”.
Beware of hosts who invite to pass outside the platform
This is often how scams happen: you find the perfect accommodation, but the owner invites you to book outside the platform to avoid paying service fees. Be careful: if you book off-site, you will certainly pay less, but you will not have any guarantee in the event of a problem. Likewise, if the accommodation does not comply with your arrival, you will need to deal directly with the landlord to resolve your dispute. Conversely, a platform like Airbnb or Abritel can offer you a relocation solution if the accommodation does not suit the description of the ad or if it does not respect the security conditions.
Another pitfall: if the accommodation does not exist, like the famous ghost villa in Croatia, you will not have any possibility of being reimbursed. Again, avoid payment requests by Western Union, Moneygram or Paysafecard, which are payment methods that cannot be traced and are often fraught with scams.
Do not rush
Even if it is sometimes necessary to book a vacation at the last moment, do not follow up on insistent hosts who claim an emergency to rent you accommodation quickly. Usually, rushing is dangerous, especially when it comes to incurring so much expense. Take your time comparing accommodations and don’t hesitate to drop an offer, especially if a host is pressuring you to book. In case of doubt, Abritel advises, for example, to contact customer service.
Chat with the owner by phone
You can ask your host any questions before booking. The platforms generally offer internal messaging services, but a telephone exchange is preferable. In this way, you can be reassured about the condition of the accommodation, as well as the reliability of your interlocutor.
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Airbnb, HomeAway … 7 traps to avoid for your vacation rentals