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Self check in and language barrier


hi forum
I’ve just spent 15 minutes on the phone trying to verbally walk guests through finding the lockbox and getting into our airbnb house. It is dark, we have solar lights and sensor lights but to be fair it is a dark wet night. English is definitely a second language and while I provide very detailed clear directions and instructions on how to self check in these people failed epically.

Understand terms like ‘lockbox’ ‘On the fence opposite the front door’ is a challenge as it would be for me trying to check in somewhere in Spanish perhaps where I had a partial vocabulary but not a full one. My husband had to leave the room as he couldn’t believe anyone would struggle like this. They had initially bypassed the personal access gate that said ‘House & Studio this way’ and thought the padlock on a large wide gate was what they had to access. Once walking them through finding the lockbox they went to the wrong accommodation first (again right past where they were supposed to go’) and then kept saying the code doesn’t work. I then realised they had gone too far so I realise everyone looks at things differently and while I think my signage and instructions are clear maybe I need more. Everyone else has managed fine but I live 30 minutes away so didn’t want to drive down - they got in in the end. They did say it was their first ever time with AirBnB.

So what I was wondering is does anybody have photos of the position of the lockbox etc that they send with instructions or any other ideas for crossing the language barrier. I can’t see that you can post pictures on saved Messages or any messages. Is it possible?


I try and meet all my guests in person, particularly where they don’t have English as a first language - as self check in could lead to confusion.

You can definitely create a PDF with instructions and photos and send it to your guests via their Airbnb email.

Not sure why your husband felt the need to leave the room because he didn’t understand why your guests were struggling. Put yourself in their shoes. It’s hard to understand instructions in a second language, on a cold dark night, particularly when no images have been provided.


This sort of thing will ALWAYS be a problem if you do not meet guests personally, whether they speak grammatically correct English (or whatever your native language is) or not.

The only solution IMHO is a detailed, photo illustrated instructional PDF “with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back” as Arlo Guthrie once wrote in Alice’s Restaurant. Heck – I have that for the two TV controllers in out listing – saves me hours of re-programming!

If you get more than one non-native language speaker a year as guests, it would be worth you time to have that PDF translated into the most common visitor languages.


You are in the hospitality business remember?


I have ridiculously detailed instruction pages in my house manual – with circles and arrows – How to Work the Washer Dryer, How to Work the TV Remote, How to Work the Outdoor Grill (the last with little cartoon flames).


I’ve seen listings that have pictures in them. There is a local listing where they have painted feet leading to the back guest house and in the listing they have pictured it, perhaps with arrows as well. Obviously don’t post pics in the listing of things that would make it easy to ID your house and break in.


I have not used it yet. But Airbnb has a section on your listing where you can load pictures describing self check in. This is only sent to confirmed guests.


I have a PDF with photos of exactly where to park on the street. I still once had guests back down every driveway on the street until they found my place, asking as they backed down, “Is this Kona’s Airbnb?” Then moving on until they found mine, backing down and blocking my co hosts car. Idiots. Turned out to be top two worst guests ever.


Hi Helsi
Thanks for that. I try and meet as many guests as possible but like other threads on this forum they don’t always arrive anywhere close to the time they said. They had indicated 3 or 4 pm. They didn’t arrive until nearly 8pm. So at a point they have to do the self checkin.

The AirBnb email on the Air website doesn’t seem to let me attach a photo. That is when I am on their site - perhaps responding in Gmail or similar may work. I will definitely make a photo sheet up in preparation. I totally understand the language barrier having travelled prolifically myself so I do have lots of sympathy for them which is why I kept walking them through very simply on the phone for the lock box. But as it transpires the guests hadn’t even walked through the small personal access gate that says ENTER HERE and is unlocked - it just pushes open so I hadn’t for a moment realised thats where they were stuck. No-one and I mean not one of our guests to date has not managed to at least get through the gate and we have had several Asian groups through with varying levels of English. Once they were through the gate it was fine and went to the lockbox - they had understood the code etc from the detailed instructions I had sent them. I probably do sound ungracious but it did beggar belief that that is what held them up. It does serve as an opportunity to cover all bases and I will be taking photos and having the words gate, lockbox, front door translated into several languages for any future hiccup so thats a good thing.


Thanks KenH
Great idea. I have a document inside that explains various things but a photo story will be very handy. Have you had anything translated into other languages? If yes is there a website you used. I can do Google translate but apparently it’s not necessarily the correct vernacular. e.g. a lockbox as we know it may be translated as a boxed lock or a lock square. Has anyone used perhaps fiverr and van recommend a vendor?


lol indeed I guess we can’t make it totally foolproof. Always hard to see things from a zero perspective as we are all so familiar with our own properties


Will definitely check that out.
No-one has found it hard to arrive at the property so I may just put an internal picture of the yard with circles and arrows but no codes and continue with the saved response message that I send to them a few days before they arrive and refer them back to the pictures they will have got from AirBnb. I have some bookings months in advance so think its better to send them info just before they arrive - especially if they are staying at lots of places.


No kidding, I got a frantic message from a guest who thought the suite was on top of the garage and was punching the house back door schlage keycode into the garage door keypad. They were a superhost themselves and still hadn’t read the directions, or looked at the listing photos.


Hi @limetree

Not quite sure what you mean by Airbnb email?

When they book, Airbnb provides an individual email for each guest that you can use use to communicate with your guests. Have you tried this?


Not even surprised. I have hosted a few hosts and in the future would prefer not to, based on average overall experiences.


They simply did not bother to read any instructions, including those for the room. Then marked me down on check in because they didn’t read.

Bad bad bad guests. She has a super bad review from me, no one will ever rent to them.


I use this, never had a problem since. The amount of calls I had despite being the ONLY residential property on a main intersection where the bus or tram stops (unless you count the cemetery opposite), people would say ‘where r u?’


This is actually very true. There are manny validated scientific studies showing the worst people to give directions are those most familiar. So perhaps if you have a friend, unfamiliar with your property, ask them kindly to do some directions from the airport etc and then a checkin test (what they would need to know) and I’ll bet theirs are better for a tourist.


So I visited them this morning to make sure they were ok and not traumatised by last night :wink: They were really lovely - the main one is studying at a university in New Zealand and has good English for conversation and some written. Problem comes to words like gate, fence, padlock, lockbox - not common. I asked him to write it in Chinese for me for the next time I need it. He said hmmmm difficult - in Chinese we say small metal door, or for a bigger gate, big metal door - no word for gate - he thanked me for being so patient and kind on the phone and was very happy with the property so alls well that ends well.

So photos it is. I can’t find the place on AirBnB to add it. Found where I’ve been directed but no icons or menu for adding images or files. Whether our Australisian AirBnb has some differences - or whether I need to be a superhost? I can attach a file in gmail to respond so will start from there. Have had references to Google (I give them the options of using google and the directions link to our property but it is withheld by AirBnB


I would use a real live person to translate instructions and not try to depend on any software.

Words like “lockbox” are made up words that many English speakers know but not even all of them. Think of the differences in some words between British and American and Aussie. A “lockbox” makes no sense to me, and I’m a wordsmith! It is a “key safe” or “key holder” or “key container”, not a “lockbox”…

I would go to a local University and find some student(s) who would be willing to translate for you.

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