Location, location, location
There's a lot of choice in Paris: around 65 000 Parisian homes up for grabs on the website, more than anywhere else in Europe, so take your time to find the accommodation that suits you best.
“The most important thing is to choose a flat in Paris that is where you want to be”, said Roman, a worker in the sales department of BnBLord, a company that helps Airbnb hosts manage its properties.
Before you book, think about what you want to get out of your Paris trip. If you mainly want to visit the sites, then you'd be best to rent a place around the 1st arrondissement. This area is close to many of the city's most famous museums and Notre Dame cathedral. Staying in this area means you'll barely have to take the Metro other than to see the Eiffel Tower or Montmartre.
But touristy areas are often expensive, and can be very busy in the day but quiet at night and devoid of native Parisians. Again, it depends on what you're after. The Eiffel Tower's 7th arrondissement for example is beautiful and grand with wide open spaces leading from the Seine. It's also close to the Champs Elysée. If it's grandeur and calm you seek, it's great. In the same vein, the 8th and 16th arrondissements have beautiful architecture but are also very quiet.
If you're after a more lively Parisian experience, then search for flats around the Marais district, in the 3rd and 4th arrondissements on the right bank of the Seine. The area is central, and you'll still be able to walk to Notre Dame cathedral and the banks of the Seine. The line 1 Metro runs through the Marais and will take you to many of the city's major tourist spots.
For another lively (but touristy) experience in central Paris, browse around the 'quartier Latin' district in the 5th and 6th arrondissements. The area has great bookshops and cafés, and many of the capital's art galleries.
If it's a thriving nightlife and more authentic Paris experience you're after, the 10th, 11th and 18th arrondissements are for you.
(Young Parisians gather for picnics and drinks along the Canal Saint Martin. AFP)
The 11th borders the Marais and attracts a young and cool crowd. The 18th includes the Montmartre area dominated by the Sacré Coeur and has scores of restaurants, bars and nightclubs. Once you get off the beaten track, the streets of Montmartre feel like you're in a village and you might well find a great flat to rent there. But the area also has some grittier parts to it, such as around the Metro station Barbès-Rochechouart and La Chapelle, so bear that in mind when searching for accommodation.
The 10th and 19th arrondissements include the bars along the Canal St Martin, Bassin de la Villette and Canal de L'Ourq in the north east of the city. If it's a warm evening then head here to see how Parisians like to picnic. And these areas are within walking distance of Gare du Nord wich is great for those coming to Paris via train or plane.
As in many other places, prices for flats vary considerably in Paris depending on location, size and the type of place you are looking for.
If you're on a tight budget, you could either rent a room in someone's apartment or narrow your search down to the cheaper districts. The 20th arrondissement in the city's northeast has a good number of cheap offers, with prices ranging from 30 to 70 euros per person for the night. The area is pleasant and generally lively and is a good base to see how Parisians live their day to day life.
(Street art in the 20th arrondissement. Photo: AFP)
Other cheap alternatives can be found in the quiet 13th and 14th arrondissements, south of Paris, with rooms costing around 40 to 70 euros per night and entire flats costing around 150 euros. Again, these districts are still central and lively with all the amenities you'll be wanting in Paris: cafés, restaurants, markets, parks and cinemas.
The most expensive areas of Paris are the 1st, 7th and 8th arrondissements with prices ranging from 100 to 200 euros per person for one night.
Check the description
It sounds obvious, but don’t book a place before you've read the description and looked through all the reviews. Sometimes, crucial points such as how noisy a place is are buried away in the comments.
Make sure clear photos of the accommodation are up on the website, especially of the showers, toilets and kitchen area. It's always suspicious when hosts don't post photos of their property and all the crucial rooms inside it. If there's only a picture of a nice view of the Eiffel Tower, unless it's obvious the picture was taken from the flat, nothing proves it was unless you ask.
Some places in Paris can be very small and are not always comfortable or convenient.
Many of the city's older apartment blocks have tiny studio flats on the last floor (these 'chambres de bonnes' (see below) are where the maids who worked in the larger flats below used to live). Some descriptions such as 'cosy', or 'charming' may be alternatives for 'tiny' or 'pokey', so bear that in mind. In these places, the toilets are sometimes outside on the corridor and shared with other neighbours, as are the showers. If you think this might be the case and it bothers you, check with your host.
Read the house rules
If it says no smoking or no pets, don't puff or bring your cat. Paris is a very dense city, and flats and living spaces can be small. If you have rented a small flat or a room in your host’s house and end up annoying them (or their neighbours) you may end up getting a bad review (which is something you'll want to avoid, especially from an angry Parisian!).
“A good indicator of the quality of the place you’re considering is to see if your host is a “Super Host”, explains Pérol. “To become a Super Host is not easy, it means the host has a good profile and has many glowing reviews. When you see a ‘Super Host’, you can be sure that you won’t have any problems at all”.
Key questions for your host
If you are travelling with children, it’s best to check with the host if the apartment is kid-friendly: is there storage for your pram? Is the place big enough? Is there a lift? Is it big enough? (see pic below) Are there parks nearby where your kids can play?
(A typically tiny Paris lift. Photo: Steve Foster/Flickr)
If you are with an elderly relative or are elderly yourself and have problems walking, again it’s important to check what floor the accommodation is on, and crucially – as written above – if there is a lift. Many of the older apartment blocks don't have one and walking up narrow stairs all the way up the to the eight floor can be exhausting.
If you need Wi-Fi, make sure it is available. Some hosts may say there is internet but this could just be the city’s public internet service which doesn’t always work very well.
Beware of scams
There have been reports of credit card scams and fake listings on the platform so always make sure you go through the proper channels when booking. As a basic rule, always start your search by going straight to the official website: https://www.airbnb.com/.
Don't book anywhere else than on the Airbnb website and if a host asks you to pay in any other way than through the official channel (on another website or directly into his or her bank) don't.
“When a payment is made to a host, AirBnb follows the transaction to ensure everything is ok,” explained Airbnb spokesman Aurélien Pérol. “If you book somewhere else other than on the website, we will not be able to provide any assistance”. He recommended customers always call the Airbnb assistance number if there is anything they are uneasy about or if they have a doubt about something (France:+33-184884000, in UK +44 203 318 1111 and US: +1-415-800-5959).
Use your instinct: if you spot anything that seems out of place or weird, act on it. For example, if there are lots of spelling mistakes on the rental's description page or in the notes you exchange with your host, check that the property is a proper listing (by reading the reviews and making sure that you're still on the official website for example).
Hidden camera check?
Smile, you're being filmed…There's no need to get paranoid but stories of hidden cameras being found in rental flats aren't very pleasant but they are very rare and they can happen anywhere. And it's not linked to Airbnb but any rental platform.
Most Airbnb flats are safe and are run by helpful hosts but if you do feel that something is a bit off or you just want to check the flat for your own peace of mind, do it.
Perhaps a more important thing to check is the toilet door.
That might sound like a strange thing to do but we know of one poor chap who came to Paris for a weekend and spent far too long locked in the tiny, airless, windowless, typically Paris-style toilet of his Airbnb flat. He was eventually set free after being rescued by tooled-up local locksmiths, much to his relief and that of his Airbnb host.