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Assessing the Risks Behind the Viral TikTok Airbnb Hack 

 August 5, 2023

In this article, Cottagely collaborates with travel expert Joshua Rasia to give expert advice on holiday cancellations.

The allure of travel hacks is not lost on anyone looking to save some money during their vacations.

A recent video by TikTok user Anna (@annathingbutanimals) has been garnering attention for exactly that reason. In the video, Anna reveals her strategy that has purportedly saved her thousands of dollars while travelling. But as enticing as her method may sound, it also comes with considerable risks.

@annathingbutanimals I also secretly do this when my friends stay at an airbnb too. I could legit open a travel agency at this point #travelhacks #travelhacking #cheaptravel #budgettravel #savingmoneytips #travelhacking101 #cheapairbnbs ♬ original sound - Anna - Vegan Group Travel

Anna's TikTok travel hack is straightforward yet unconventional: whenever you stay at an Airbnb, save the host's phone number. It doesn't matter how long the stay was, or the location, from 'Jason, Airbnb, Lisbon' to 'Antonio, Airbnb, Mexico', she advocates keeping a record. She shares that some hosts own multiple properties and would prefer renting to someone they already know and trust.

On planning her next trip, Anna goes through her contacts, finding any previous hosts in her destination area. She then reaches out to them directly, bypassing Airbnb's platform.

"Hey, it's Anna. I stayed in your Airbnb on 2nd May. Loved it. Coming to Rome this time, wondering if you have anything during this time."

But it doesn't stop there. Anna negotiates the price directly with the host, offering to pay them 70% of their listed price in cash. During off-seasons or last-minute bookings, she sometimes even negotiates down to 50% of the initial price. Anna claims that this hack has never failed her, and she's managed to save $500 just in the past month.

Risks involved

While Anna's strategy may seem attractive, particularly for those looking to budget their travel, it's crucial to understand that this approach bypasses the safeguards provided by Airbnb and comes with potential risks.

Already in the comments of her TikTok video, several users have pointed out that there are considerable risks involved in this hack.

Here are some concerns presented in the comments:

"Aren’t you not covered if anything happens if you book off Airbnb? Too risky for me"

"This is a good idea but I heard a girl that did similar recently and the host accidently double booked the place and she was really stranded."

"But then you have zero protection or contract if you pay cash and don’t go through the Airbnb website. That seems sketchy."

"Ok but how do you know they won’t scam you and say you can pay cash but then your reso wasn’t booked and now you’re stranded with no where to stay"

Given these concerns, we collaborated with travel expert Joshua Rasia to share expert advice on the risks of using this AirBnB hack. We researched risks involved and Joshua pointed our several concerning facts that might not immediately come to mind when considering this hack.

Loss of Booking Security

Without an official booking confirmation from Airbnb, there's no guarantee the host will uphold their end of the deal. You could potentially find yourself without accommodation at the last minute if the host decides to rent to someone who books officially through Airbnb.

From Joshua’s point of view as a travel expert without a booking guarantee a lot of things can go wrong:

"You could either arrive there and not find your room as they might have booked someone else last minute who pays more than you to start with."

"If you are lucky and find effectively the room available at the discounted price mentioned, let’s say unfortunately you get damages on any of the values you carry with you during the trip there’s nobody that is going to assist you with that as the booking wasn’t done through an official application but just via message. This would even lead to bigger problems for disputes over damages to the room as you don’t have any confirmation on that."

Potential Financial Loss

Paying the host directly, especially in cash, opens the door for potential scams. A host could take your money without providing the accommodation, and without Airbnb involved in the transaction, there would be no way to claim a refund.

Joshua commented: "Rarely as it can be, from my personal travel experience both in Europe and Asia, paying with cash can lead to some dodgy situations out there. Nobody can confirm to have received cash from for the accommodation, they can come in the middle of the night and pretend you leave the room while you don’t have anything to confirm that you paid for it."

"If something doesn’t seem fine with your room there’s no chance to get your money back as Airbnb is not protecting a trip that wasn’t booked via the app and done directly from your message. In a few words, the saving that you might make isn't worth the risks connected to it."

Lack of Assistance During Your Stay

Airbnb offers AirCover for guests. If you're unable to check-in, if your listing is significantly different than advertised, or if there's a serious issue with your accommodation that your host can't resolve, Airbnb will help.

They can assist you in finding a similar place at comparable pricing or give you a full or partial refund, depending on the circumstances. By booking directly with the host, you risk missing out on this essential safety net.

"I had a pigeon once entering through a broken window while traveling in Delhi. God knows what could have happened if I hadn’t stayed there with the host living below me, who changed the room immediately. But even other times, in Italy you can have issues with hot water and while in the summer it might not be a problem in the winter it is. If you stay with your host without a reservation he has no responsibilities nor he has to assist you with that", Joshua said.

Risk of Account Suspension

Airbnb can suspend or delete accounts that violate their terms of service, including making deals outside their platform. Engaging in this travel hack might limit your future access to Airbnb properties worldwide.

"While it might not sound as serious as it is losing your account for breaching regulations can lead to a full suspension of your access to Airbnb which leads to a loss of your potential great deals within the app all around the world", Joshua advices.

Compromised Personal Safety

Airbnb implements safety measures like host background checks and property safety guidelines. If you choose to bypass Airbnb, you lose these safety assurances and potentially expose yourself to risk.

As a travel expert, Joshua has seen a lot of these things happening and hosts who aren’t reliable:

"Airbnb continuously checks the background of all of them, assisting in keeping a high level of safety for the guests staying at the accommodation. If you, however, book directly with a host, you don’t know what can happen as they might look to take advantage of you, organize a drink with a friend, and so on. It might be enjoyable but you don’t want to expose yourself to unnecessary risks while abroad."

Potential Legal Repercussions

In some jurisdictions, it might be illegal to rent properties outside of approved platforms. Engaging in such activities could potentially expose you to legal action.

Joshua commented: "As a Travel expert, I always remind travelers to not get involved in potential legal actions as they not only have their holidays but even their return home. These issues can lead to a lot of expenses and a few months of lawyers and stress. Do not take this for granted and be careful where you book your Airbnb, but most importantly, book it throughout the platform."

In conclusion, while Anna's TikTok travel hack may seem like a clever way to save money on travel, it's essential to be aware of the risks. Using established platforms like Airbnb provides important protections for both guests and hosts, which can make your trip smoother and safer.

Joshua Rasia

With over 11 years of experience in the hospitality industry, I have honed my skills in customer service, team management, and operational efficiency. As a digital nomad, I have embraced a lifestyle of remote work and exploration, traversing 7 countries to immerse myself in diverse cultures and adapt to new environments. Along this journey, I have mastered 7 languages, fostering meaningful connections and enabling seamless communication with individuals from different backgrounds. These collective experiences have enriched my global perspective, instilling adaptability, open-mindedness, and cultural awareness, all of which contribute to my ability to thrive in dynamic and cross-cultural settings.

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