As a globe-trotting copywriter, I often spend a month or more in interesting cities abroad, combining sight-seeing with writing work for clients. As long as I have reliable WiFi, a quiet place to work, a comfy bed and a kitchen, I’m pretty happy.
Not all overseas accommodation is digital-nomad friendly, however. Youth hostels can be overrun with noisy party people, dorm rooms offer little privacy, beachside huts may not have Internet and neighbourhood cafes can be distracting. Paying to use a co-working space isn’t always ideal, either: as a freelancer pursuing an independent lifestyle, do you really want to be plonking yourself down in a crowded office, even if it’s in an exotic location?
Airbnb is a perfect solution. In most parts of the world, it’s a breeze to find a place to stay that ticks all the boxes for privacy, comfort, decent Internet and a much cheaper price than you’d pay for a hotel. But as a digital nomad, what should you look for when choosing an Airbnb apartment?
Check Reviews and Photos Carefully
One of the most useful Airbnb features is the review system. Try to pick places with plenty of reviews so you get a better idea of past users’ impressions of the apartment, location, host communication, etc.
Avoid any place with less than a 4-star rating. Check what people are saying about hot water, sleep quality, night-time noise and lighting. If it’s on the fourth floor, is there an elevator? Is there a shower or just a bathtub?
As a laptop-toter, pay special attention to review comments about the quality of the WiFi and the comfort of the bed. A well-equipped kitchen with a full-size fridge can make a huge difference to your comfort level too and save you money during long-term stays.
Posed photos of digital nomads often show them working poolside or from a beach hammock but in the real world, most serious work is done indoors—and for that you’ll want a proper table and chair, preferably within reach of an electrical outlet. Check the photos: if the only available seating is a couple of precarious bar stools, give it a miss.
Stay Longer and Pay Less
Many Airbnb apartments offer a weekly and/or monthly discount, so work out your dates to take advantage. By staying 31 days instead of 27, for example, you might end up saving hundreds of dollars on the overall price. I’ve used this trick to keep my daily rate below $40 per night in several cities around the world.
Investigate the Neighbourhood on Google Maps
You can ask a potential host as many questions as you like before committing to a reservation. Try to find out what floor you’ll be on (the higher the floor, the less traffic noise), what the building security is like and how far you’ll need to walk to get to grocery stores, butchers, fruit shops, shopping centres, a gym, bus stops, taxi ranks, etc. Having your own washing machine isn’t essential but sure makes life easier.
Asking lots of questions is also a good way to find out how well a host communicates—which is important. Sometimes the language barrier means you’ll both be using Google Translate to message each other, but that’s not a problem.
Selecting an apartment just outside a city’s main tourist area will usually work out cheaper—and is likely to be quieter, too. Every city has its trendy districts and its dodgy ones, so do your homework. You can rent a single room in someone’s occupied home or have an entire apartment (or house) to yourself for the ultimate in privacy.
Enjoy Your Stay!
Reviews work both ways, so make sure you behave yourself and look after the place you’re staying in. Depending on the individual apartment and length of stay, refund policies will vary, so always understand how much (if any) money you’ll get back if you’re suddenly forced to cancel.
I’ve had nothing but positive experiences with AirBnB for many years now, but disputes sometimes occur. Airbnb is quite good about stepping in to help resolve any issues.
Being a freelance writer means I can take my business ‘on the road’ whenever I like—and Airbnb has made the accommodation side of things so convenient that I now rarely use anything else—it’s all too easy!