How to get the best out of self-catering accommodation

Travel Helpdesk: Conor Pope’s advice on how to avoid being conned, find the best location, ensure a glowing host review, and get the best alternatives to Airbnb

Don’t limit yourself. There is a temptation to just search Airbnb when looking for a nice place to stay at home or abroad. Don’t give in to that temptation. While Airbnb will certainly give you a sense of what is on offer, it is not the only game in town. Have you heard of, for example? Or Cast your net wider and has tens of thousands of houses all over the world, while is also worth a look. In short do your research. You’ll be glad you did.

Don’t get conned. No matter what platform you are on, criminals will be there too and there is always the danger you will be scammed. If you are on a well-established platform you have a degree of protection, but only if the transaction and the communication is conducted on the actual platform. Be very, very suspicious, when it comes to self-catering, if anyone you are dealing with asks you to communicate away from the platform or offers you a discount if you pay via bank transfer. The moment you send money to a person renting a property directly, you are leaving yourself open to being scammed.

Research the areas you are hoping to visit. Look for accommodation where local people live, rather than in tourist hotspots. In Rome, for instance, you could probably find a nice apartment near the Spanish Steps or the Piazza Navona, but you will pay dearly for it, while a nicer apartment in the likes of Testaccio will not only cost a fraction of the price but allow you to live more like a local and feel super smug at the same time.

Do your homework when it comes to public transport and supermarkets. An apartment near a metro or underground and within walking distance of a decent supermarket will save you both time and money.


Keep the lines of communication open. Don’t be afraid to ask the person renting the accommodation questions about where you are going to be staying. Most people are nice and like to offer advice and help. Not only will a good relationship with the accommodation owner or manager help you find out what’s what ahead of time, it will also increase your chances of getting a positive review after your stay. And who doesn’t like a glowing review!

Always ask for early check-in and later check-out. Generally speaking, people offering self-catering accommodation are more flexible when it comes to letting you in and kicking you out. As long as it has not already been occupied by someone else on the day you arrive, or booked for the day you leave, they will most likely let you check in early and check out late because they know it will help them get a positive review. There is no harm in asking.

Be sound. Leave the accommodation as you found it and be positive in your reviews of the accommodation. Even if things were not exactly as you had hoped they’d be, you don’t want to come across as mean-spirited in your reviews.

Conor Pope

Conor Pope

Conor Pope is Consumer Affairs Correspondent, Pricewatch Editor