Airbnb is a travel site where people from all walks of life can list and book accommodations and experiences around the world. And homeowners can sign up to become a host and rent out a room, suite or entire house. It’s accessible to anyone with a phone, computer or tablet and an Internet connection.
Based in San Francisco, Airbnb started in 2008 when three roommates were trying to find a way to pay rent and thought renting their space online could be an easy way to get paid. Now it’s worldwide and has plans to go public in 2020.
What can I reserve or buy from Airbnb?
On Airbnb, you can book:
Booking your stay is half the fun! Choose from shared rooms, single rooms or entire spaces. Find the amenities you crave in standard homes, or switch it up and stay in a hut, castle, villa or cabana in almost anywhere in the world.
Take a simple city walk to get to know the region or enroll in a boxing class for a morning workout. Or be more adventurous with Tea with Naughty Sheep or a Prehispanic Shaman Renewal. Whatever you’re into, Airbnb has a selection of activities and experiences hosted by folks who live and work in the area.
Once you know your destination, plan your adventure with Airbnb. Choose from culinary, active, cultural, animals and boating adventures. Or let Airbnb do all the planning for you with its small group trips, with prices that include your stay, food and activities.
After you make a reservation, you’ll receive an email with details about your booking and the host’s contact information.
How do I pay with Airbnb?
How you pay depends on the country you live in and where you plan to book. In the US, Airbnb accepts:
Visa, Mastercard, Amex, Discover, JCB
Most prepaid credit cards
PayPal for stays in some countries
Expect additional fees at checkout
The price per night that’s listed doesn’t tell the whole story about its fees. Depending on the number of guests, your accommodations and other factors you could pay a service fee, cleaning fee, value-added tax and other local taxes.
These should all be included in your final amount that you pay once your host accepts your reservation request. Here’s what that looks like:
Does Airbnb have sales?
Yes. Here’s how to get a discounted Airbnb stay:
Use a coupon code. Airbnb offers discounts for first-time users and on other occasions throughout the year.
Find a property that’s been discounted by the host. Sometimes, property owners offer reduced rates to attract business. You’ll see any applicable offers after clicking into the property under Check Availability.
What sets this brand apart?
Here’s why Airbnb has hosted nearly 400 million guests since its launch in 2008:
Authenticity is easier to access.
Let’s face it — it’s easy to go on vacation and barely scratch the surface of your destination, staying at chain hotels and getting stuck in tourist traps. Airbnb flips that around to offer stays and experiences designed and led by local people.
Even if you’re simply staying in someone’s extra room overnight, most hosts are happy to engage in a chat about where to go and what will help make the most of your time.
Three cheers for sustainable tourism, and three more for making one-of-a-kind memories.
Properties almost everywhere.
Airbnb stands out for the sheer breadth of availability — 65,000 cities in 191 countries, to be exact. Got a wedding to attend on a farm in Illinois? A Cute Little Country Guest House has your name on it. Crossing the Atlantic for a weekend getaway to the City of Lights? There’s a Charming, Romantic Studio waiting just for you.
Is Airbnb illegal anywhere?
Airbnb isn’t banned completely in any cities as of this writing. However, certain cities have instituted heavy legislation to reduce its presence — primarily because property owners rent properties exclusively on Airbnb, making it harder for local renters to find an affordable place to live.
For example, in San Francisco, hosts must register with the city, reside at the property full-time, and limit guest stays to 90 days. Other cities such as New York, Santa Monica, Berlin, Barcelona, Paris, London and Amsterdam have enacted similar legislation.
If you’re looking to rent an entire property in a city with strict regulations that limit your options, check out Vrbo, FlipKey, or One Fine Stay.
It’s quick and easy to book. Find a room by navigating its geo-locator, and confirm your reservations in just a few clicks. It’s even faster with properties that allow for instant bookings.
It can be cheaper than a hotel — and even a hostel. If you’re traveling with a family of five, you could reserve an entire home for double digits in many places — think more space for fewer dollars.
Easier to connect with local folks. Ask your host about the local coffee shop, and go there instead of a big chain. If you’re hoping to brush shoulders with natives, Airbnb is an excellent choice.
Fees can add up quickly. The cleaning fee, service fee and taxes can take a super-low rate and almost double it. Tight budget travelers should remain wary until after seeing the final price at checkout.
Some experiences are better than others. Without the ease and reliability of a hotel, an Airbnb rental can come with cranky hosts, dirty bathrooms or be something that you didn’t expect. People reserve based on reviews, so be sure to leave a review if your notice something amiss.
Inconvenient check-in and -out times. Since each host sets their own check-in and -out times, arrival and departure may not be as flexible as at a hotel. Though many properties have a lock box so you can enter without meeting up with the host.
I joined Airbnb later than most, while planning a 2014 trip to a Midwestern neighborhood of few hotels. My family of three found a tidy bungalow nestled in a cool neighborhood hosted by a couple who greeted us with drinks. No better first experience.
Since then, we’ve used Airbnbs nearly exclusively in Asia, Europe and Australia — from fabulous beach penthouses and eco lodges to tiny homes and a remote converted bull barn. Each stay offers an opportunity to live like a local, adopting lifestyles in areas we might not have gained access to without the intrusion (to us, anyhow) of room service. With few exceptions, our hosts have provided a wealth of tips and tricks — and sometimes hiking passes and weather gear — that made nestling in that much easier. Sure, we’ve had a few duds, but we consider it part of the adventure of travel.
The system is intuitive, but could use one big improvement (you listening, Airbnb?): The ability to compare total costs — including cleaning and service fees — across a range of dates without needing to click into the listing details. Those fees can sometimes double the expected nightly rate advertised by unscrupulous listers.
Case study: Amy's experience
Fresh out of college and wandering through Europe, my friend and I knew that hotels would break the budget. While we opted for hostels in Venice and Florence, in Munich we found an Airbnb near the Englischer Garten, a large public park by the city’s center. The total price was about $36.30 per person, per night — including service fees and taxes. Our host was a Vietnamese graduate student studying engineering at a nearby university. He was polite and conversational but not overbearing. The private room and two twin beds that my friend and I slept in were neat and comfortable.
I’ve also stayed at Airbnbs in Nashville, Louisville, Richmond, Tampa, NYC and Minneapolis — and have no plans to engage in front desk hotel service anytime soon. The combination of affordability and an authentic neighborhood experience is almost impossible to beat.
Airbnb offers a unique, unforgettable experience — the top item on most travelers’ to-do lists. If Airbnb doesn’t have what you’re looking for, or you’d rather try something else, compare other rental sites — each with a twist.
Frequently asked questions
Superhost is a badge that Airbnb awards to stellar hosts with a solid track record. These hosts are known for quickly replying to guests’ messages, seldom canceling a reservation, and overall ratings of at least 4.8 stars from past guests.
If you’re new to Airbnb and are a bit nervous about staying in someone else’s house, look for the Superhost badge and rest assured that individual has been thoroughly vetted by Airbnb and past travelers.
Yes. Airbnb’s app has a 4-star rating in the Apple store and a 4.6-star rating on Google Play. In 2017, it was nominated for best-in-class visual design by the The Webby Awards.
It’s called Airbnb because when co-founder Brian Chesky and his roommates first started the site, they were renting an air mattress on their living room floor.
But today you don’t have to worry about sleeping on an air mattress — most properties will give you a proper bed — unless otherwise stated.
Amy Stoltenberg writes about lifestyle and money for Finder, researching the best options for shopping, banking, insurance and authentic travel experiences. After studying writing and fashion at Savannah College of Art and Design, she worked designing apparel at a corporate behemoth before opting for a career with unlimited travel time. When her laptop’s closed, she can be found wandering the streets looking for happy hour and hole-in-the-wall eateries.
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