Is Airbnb Safe? 9 Safety Tips Every Traveler Should Know

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Young woman with a suitcase arriving at her vacation rental accommodation

Better Safe Than Sorry

The promise of the sharing economy is that anyone can transform their car, summer house, or guest room into a lucrative business. But that peer-to-peer model comes with its own safety issues, in part because consumers have to trust — and in some cases live with — complete strangers. That said, Airbnb has claimed that fewer than 0.1% of stays resulted in a reported safety issue, and a machine learning study out of John Jay College of Criminal Justice found that just 6.1% of Airbnb complaints on Twitter were related to “unsafe conditions.” But the odds aren’t zero — Bloomberg has reported on a few chilling stories — so it’s worth following these safety tips.

Related: Vacation Rentals for Large Groups & Family Reunions

Airbnb Superhost Search
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Search for Verified Superhosts and Premier Hosts

Both Airbnb and Vrbo have programs that recognize top-tier hosts. Superhosts on Airbnb need at least a 4.8-star rating, more than 10 stays, a low cancellation rate, and a high response rate. Vrbo’s invite-only program is similar, rewarding highly rated hosts with the premier badge. While guests should also consider other factors — such as the reviews themselves — both designations are a sign that these hosts receive consistently positive reviews.

Related: Airbnb Rental Scams to Watch Out For

Airbnb Reviews
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Read the Reviews

Scrutinize each rental’s reviews and avoid new listings that haven’t received feedback. In the John Jay College study, the authors recommend only booking Airbnbs with 4.85 stars and up — and even then, you should read through the reviews. Airbnb's review search function, the study says, is especially helpful, as you can check for red flags like “bugs,” “noise,” “smell,” “rude,” etc. “Our biggest tip is to treat the reviews like a mystery novel," Asher Ferguson, one of the study’s authors, told Forbes. "Read every review between the lines since most people will dance around the negative experience they may have had, and then cloak it in some flowery compliments."

Related: Best Vacation Rentals With Indoor Pools

Airbnb Host Profile
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Avoid Airbnb and Vrbo Landlords

Property managers who own multiple properties are less likely to be engaged hosts, as many outsource tasks like cleaning and communication to other employees. And if you stay in an Airbnb or Vrbo, you’ll want to know who you’re talking to. On Airbnb, you can check the host's profile to see if they manage multiple listings.

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Book an Entire Place

While booking with Vrbo guarantees you’ll have a place to yourself, Airbnb lets guests stay in shared accommodations. If you want to ensure your privacy and safety, it’s worth booking a private Airbnb stay without shared common areas.

Carbon monoxide detector

Only Book Listings With Proper Safety Features

In just the past few years, Airbnb and Vrbo have seen at least 10 carbon monoxide-related deaths in their vacation rentals. While both platforms encourage hosts to install smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, fire extinguishers, and other safety features, neither enforces these requests. In other words, it’s your responsibility to ask the host if there are smoke and carbon monoxide detectors before you arrive.

NeighborhoodScout screenshot
Cheapism / Maxwell Shukuya

Stay in Safe Neighborhoods

Before you settle on a place, be sure to research the listing’s neighborhood. While checking the reviews will offer some insight, you can also use a website like NeighborhoodScout to map crime in the area.

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Share Your Itinerary

Both Airbnb and Vrbo let guests share their itinerary with family and friends. If a loved one knows where you’re staying and for how long, they can keep tabs on you to make sure your trip goes smoothly.

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Look for Hidden Cameras

Ferguson’s analysis found that there were 251 complaints on Twitter related to hidden cameras at Airbnbs, and journalists have reported similar stories. Hidden cameras can be hard to spot because, well, they’re hidden, but using a flashlight can help. Shine your light at appliances and electronics — outlets, smoke detectors, chargers, etc. — and if there’s a camera, you’ll likely see the lens’ bluish reflection.

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Document Everything

If you’re unlucky enough to encounter a rotten Vrbo or Airbnb host, be sure to document everything with photographs. “If your host tries to claim unfair damages or give a review that isn’t correct, being able to provide photographic receipts may save you a huge headache (and a lot of money). Make sure your photos have timestamps or metadata enabled,” Ferguson’s study reads.

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The Verdict

Is Airbnb safe? Is Vrbo safe? If you follow these tips and are a discerning, vigilant guest, then odds are you’ll have a pleasant trip. It’s also worth remembering that hotel rooms aren’t impervious to crime either and that there’s no perfect way to travel. Our best advice: be cautious and do your research.