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Airbnb in Switzerland: the pros and cons


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Airbnb in Switzerland

Airbnb enables home owners to rent their property to tourists. You’ll be staying in a private Swiss home, room or apartment.

Swiss hotels and official holiday rentals are regulated and classified by tourism organizations. Airbnb’s are not.

Airbnb is widely available in Switzerland. You can have a great stay there, but there are possible disadvantages too. Learn how to find a good property before you book. If you’re in doubt, consider alternatives.

The pros of Swiss Airbnb’s

  • You’ll be living among locals. If you have regular contact with your host or neighbors, you can get a feel of Swiss life and culture.
  • Your host may give you interesting insider tips.
  • Airbnb can be cheaper than hotels and holiday homes.
  • Airbnb is increasingly popular, in Switzerland too. So there’s plenty of choice.

The possible cons of Swiss Airbnb’s

There can be disadvantages to staying in a Swiss Airbnb. A good price and quality aren’t guaranteed, there can be legal issues and the Airbnb concept is controversial for locals.

Possible disadvantages for you as a tourist

  • Airbnb’s can be relatively cheap, but they don’t have to be. High prices are not uncommon.
  • You may have less privacy than in a hotel or holiday apartment.
  • There’s no reception and there are no other services as in hotels. In case of problems, there won’t be staff at your disposal. The owner of your rental property might be hard to reach.
  • Hosts can cancel your reservation, usually up to 24 hours before the rental period starts. Hosts have to prove that they’re not able to host, or that they expect their guests to break the rules. The booking platform will decide if the cancellation is reasonable.
  • If there is a local guest card for discounts or free traveling, guests should get one. In reality, a host may not comply to such formalities.
  • There is no official Swiss organization that checks Airbnb’s or provides a third party for guests to complain. It will depend on your host whether guidelines for safety, hygiene and comfort are met. This is different for many other types of Swiss accommodation. Examples:

Rules and legal issues with Airbnb in Switzerland

Airbnb rental is legal in Switzerland. It falls under the Swiss “Subletting Act”. This causes ambiguities. There have been attempts to reform Swiss law on Airbnb to create more clarity for hosts and tenants, but without results so far. So there can be legal issues, for example:

  • Swiss Airbnb’s are regulated not only by national law, but also by cantonal and local rules. The result is that regulations differ from town to town. For example: it differs whether or not hosts need a hospitality or gastronomy license, and how many days a year they can rent their property.
  • If the host doesn’t own the property but is a tenant, he should ask permission to the landlord. If this isn’t done properly, the Airbnb rental is illegal.
  • Hosts should report their guests and pay tourist tax to local authorities. A few Swiss towns have now made clear arrangements: tourist tax is automatically paid when you book a property online. But in most Swiss towns, hosts are still responsible for collecting tax. If they don’t do this properly, this can get them and their guests in trouble.
  • There's the risk of scams, for example when people try to make money by listing non-existing properties, low-quality accommodation, or properties they don’t own.

Airbnb disadvantages for Swiss locals

The concept of Airbnb is controversial. There are disadvantages for Swiss locals:

  • It can be annoying for neighbors of a rented property to have different people living next door every couple of nights. Unfortunately, some tourists ignore the house rules and make noise. There's no supervision like in a hotel.
  • A large offer of short-term Airbnb rental drives up rental prices.
  • The concept makes it more difficult for Swiss residents to find long-term rental properties.
  • In areas with lots of Airbnb’s, locals can feel hindered by tourists, especially in high season. In low season, such areas can look empty and feel like ‘ghost towns’.

How to check if you'll rent a good Airbnb

This is what you can do to find a good Airbnb in Switzerland:

  • Check where the property is listed. Listings at multiple well-known booking platforms are a good sign. Fraudulent hosts will quickly be exposed by disappointed guests and it's not likely they advertise on major platforms in that case.
  • If you’re looking for a genuine local experience, check if the property is personally hosted. Sometimes, apartments hosted by companies are listed on Airbnb platforms too. This can still be great accommodation of course.
  • Check if and how the Swiss tourist tax will be collected.
    • If your hosts collects tourist tax, it means he’ll report you as a guest to the local authorities and that you’re entitled to local guest cards (if available). Learn more about tourist tax and guest cards here.
    • Hosts with illegal or low-quality properties are likely to avoid reporting their guests and collecting tourist tax.
  • Compare reviews, preferably on multiple platforms.
    • Check if they seem honest and genuine.
    • Lots of extremely positive reviews written in similar style can be a red flag.
    • Find out if the booking platform only allows reviews after a reservation. This partially prevents fake reviews.
  • Consider the platform you use when booking. You’ll find Airbnb’s on several booking websites.
    • Check terms and conditions. Find out about cancellation options.
    • Check if your payment is safely processed.
    • Find out if a help center is available, and if you’ll get support and refunds in case of a bad experience.
    • Learn when and how to file a complaint in advance, so that you can act immediately if necessary. You often have to report a complaint quickly after check-in.
    • Some platforms perform an automated risk analysis of properties and hosts before listing them.
  • Contact the host before you book, if possible. Ask for clarification if you have questions. Assess the friendliness, completeness and overall level of the host’s answers.

Airbnb, hotel or holiday home in Switzerland?

A Swiss hotel is best if you appreciate privacy and additional services. Holiday homes and apartments offer privacy, guaranteed comfort standards and the ability to cook your own meals. Airbnb’s can be charming if you want to get in touch with locals and if official classifications are not your top priority.

Reasons to choose a hotel

You’ll have a lot of privacy in hotels. In many cases you can check official classification standards (from 1 to 5 stars), so you’ll know which level of comfort to expect.

There are additional services such as breakfast, room service, luggage storage, daily cleaning, a reception and staff to help you out with issues.

If you like to dine out, hotels are a good choice too.

Reasons to choose a holiday rental

Holiday homes and apartments are great if you appreciate privacy. You can rent a detached holiday home or an apartment with your own entrée.

You can cook your own meals, so you can save on costs of dining out. You’ll have a flexible daily schedule, as there are no fixed breakfast or dinner times.

In most cases, these rentals have an official classification (from 1 to 5 stars). You'll be sure about the comfort level.

Reasons to choose an Airbnb

Airbnb’s can be charming if you want to get in touch with Swiss locals.

They can be a good choice if official classifications and guaranteed standards are not your main priority. If you feel fine with positive reviews and find a trustworthy host, you can have a great match.

Sometimes, Airbnb’s are relatively cheap.

Alternatives to Airbnb

If you are interested in affordable accommodation, there are a lot of budget hotels, (youth) hostels and campings with rentals.

If you prefer to stay in a private home, you will find plenty of official holiday homes in private property. The owners often live in the same house on a different floor, so the feeling of staying among the locals still applies.

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