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You might already use Airbnb to find accommodations when you travel—a house for you and your friends on holiday, a studio apartment for a short business trip. Now you can use the site to book activities, too, such as pub crawls, pottery lessons, kayaking adventures, and more. These activities are all part of Airbnb Experiences. Here’s what you need to know about them, whether you’re looking to book something fun to do on your next vacation or create a side hustle to make some extra cash in your hometown.
I’d be remiss not to mention upfront that Airbnb is a controversial service. It’s been slammed in the past, rightfully so, for taking way too long to confront the problem of racist hosts. (Even with policies in place, racist incidents continue.) It has also worsened the affordable housing crisis in many cities. More recently, the company took heat for allowing hosts to have undisclosed security cameras. And sometimes, Airbnb is just plain weird. Airbnb Experiences has its share of flaws, too, as you’ll see. Here’s everything you need to know.
What are Airbnb Experiences?
Airbnb Experiences are single-day tours, classes, workshops, guided walks, and other kinds of events that you might typically book through a tour guide company. They include food-walking tours, surf lessons, dance classes, home-cooked meals, or even photoshoots with local photographers.
Experiences are never more than one full day. Usually, they last a few hours.
Don’t confuse Experiences with Airbnb Adventures. Adventures are similar but they have multi-day itineraries. Adventures include trips such as three-day safaris, overnight sailing trips, and other activities that are more like packaged tours. Adventures are more likely to include food, transportation, and accommodations in the price.
Do I need to stay in an Airbnb to book an Experience?
You do not need to rent a room, apartment, or home on Airbnb to book an Experience. You don’t even need to be traveling away from your local area, for that matter.
From Airbnb’s website, you can navigate to the Experiences section. From there, you can search for a particular destination or explore the featured options. You can also narrow your search by date, number of guests, price, time of day, and language offered by the guide hosting the Experience.
How much do they cost?
The cost of an Airbnb Experience varies dramatically depending on the location, type of experience, length of time, and other factors such as whether transportation is included. The prices are set by the host or guide providing the experience.
Here are some examples of Experiences and their listed prices as of November 2019:
- Sunset Yoga with Hong Kong harbor views: $20 per person for 1 hour
- Dublin by Bike bicycle tour: $80 per person for 3.5 hours
- Explore Nairobi National Park: $60 per person for 5.5 hours
- Pottery Lesson workshop in Santa Fe: $115 per person for 2 hours
- Explore the Hidden Gems of Iceland: $260 per person for 8 hours
How can I become an Experience guide?
Similarly to how just about anyone can list their home on Airbnb, practically anyone can host an Experience, too. Whether you and your experience meet the legal requirements for your locality is another matter (more on that in the next section).
Airbnb has guidelines and suggestions for what makes a great Experience. When you sign up to provide an Experience, you must create an Experience page. This page contains all the information about your Experience, including photos. Airbnb then reviews and hopefully approves your offering before it goes live for people to book.
According to Airbnb’s site, the company is looking for Experiences that meet three criteria. First, it should be led by someone who demonstrates expertise and has a unique perspective. Second, guests should feel like they have access to a special place or community. Third, the guests should have a hands-on or immersive experience and leave feeling with a sense of connection.
The company also explains what an Experience should not be: large and impersonal tours; an event with no clear focus; a service such as airport transportation; something that guests could easily find on their own.
Are Experience hosts licensed and insured?
Whether you’re booking a tour through Airbnb or offering one, you might ask whether Experience hosts are licensed and insured.
According to the company’s site, Airbnb says it’s up to the Experience host to know whether they need a business license, insurance, and so forth. The laws vary by area and activity.
Airbnb is completely hands-off on this matter. It puts the onus on the people running the Experience to find out what legal requirements they must meet and obtain. Airbnb doesn’t ask and doesn’t check. It may be something to keep in mind and verify with the Experience host if you’re looking to book an activity through Airbnb.
What are some alternatives to Airbnb Experiences?
Of course, Airbnb isn’t the only place where you can book tours, activities, classes, and other events. TripAdvisor also has an expansive selection of tours, day trips, workshops, and other activities. Like Airbnb, TripAdvisor aggregates tours and offerings from numerous providers. GetYourGuide and Viator are two more examples.
There are also large travel agencies that offer tours, day trips, and experiences. Some are small and focus on a particular region or activity. Others operate internationally with a range of options for everyone from pensioners to thrill-seekers. Some examples are Intrepid Travel, Collette Tours, and BeerCycling.
If you want to be sure you’re working with a verified travel agency that’s insured and uses certified guides, you will be better off booking through a dedicated travel agency or tour company. If you’re willing to gamble, you could find something unique with Airbnb Experiences… like paying $25 to have a beer with a dog.
Jill Duffy is a writer covering technology and personal productivity. She writes most often about software, fitness gadgets, and smart home devices. Her work has appeared in PCMag, FastCompany, Vogue India, The Ritz-Carlton Magazine, Prevention Magazine, and other publications. She has lived in the U.S., U.K., and India, and currently resides in Romania.