How Does Airbnb Work?

What travelers and hosts need to how about how Airbnb works

A woman staying in an AirBNB apartment while travelling.


Airbnb was founded in 2008 and has since become one of the most-popular accommodation alternatives to the traditional hotel for both business and holiday travelers.

Through its online website and apps, Airbnb gives almost anyone the ability to rent out a property from a single room to an entire building without the need for them to establish their own registered accommodation business. Conversely, Airbnb also lets users search its database of properties to book accommodation.

Since its launch, Airbnb has expanded beyond its initial accommodation rental service, now referred to as Airbnb Homes, to include Airbnb Experiences and Airbnb Restaurants.

How Does Airbnb Homes Work?

Airbnb Homes is what most people think of when thinking about Airbnb. Property owners, referred to on Airbnb as hosts, can list a room or an entire property on the Airbnb Homes database which can then be rented by other Airbnb users. Airbnb users who use the service to rent location are called guests.

Airbnb Homes website.

Listing a property on Airbnb as is completely free and hosts can specify their own rates and minimum stay requirements for guests.

For example, a host may charge $80 per night for a one bedroom apartment but could require that all guests stay for a minimum of three nights. Hosts can also prohibit smoking or pets and can even place restrictions on noise levels after a certain time.

All details and rules for each Airbnb property is listed on its individual listing page on the Airbnb website and apps.

Airbnb processes all bookings and payments and charges a flat 3% fee for each stay. Hosts are covered for up to $1M in liability insurance and property damage.

Guests on Airbnb are charged anywhere from 5 to 15% for each booking depending on the overall cost. Typically, the more expensive a booking is, the cheaper the fees will be.

How Does Airbnb Experiences Work?

Airbnb Experiences, as its name suggests, is a service for booking experiences run by locals. These Airbnb Experiences are fairly varied and can range from photography and cooking workshops to personalized tours and wine tastings.

Airbnb Experiences on the Airbnb website.

Airbnb Experiences hosts can set their own prices, hours, and locations though each proposal must be manually approved by Airbnb staff before it is listed on the Airbnb apps and website.

Like Airbnb Homes hosts, Airbnb Experiences hosts can place limits on their event to make it more cost-effective for them to put on and also to improve the quality of the experience for the guest or guests. A haunted house tour of a city may be limited to after dark, for example, while a backstreet bar tour could require a minimum number of people to book as the experience would be more fun with more people.

Airbnb Homes, Experiences, and Restaurants all feature a user ratings system which allows those who have made a booking in the past to write a review about it and give it a score out of five stars. These ratings and reviews can be viewed by anyone on the Airbnb apps and website and are worth having a look at when comparing different listings.

Airbnb Experiences hosts get to keep 80% of the money earned from each booking while Airbnb takes a 20% fee for facilitating the booking process and promotion.

How Does Airbnb Restaurants Work?

The Airbnb Restaurants branch of Airbnb launched in 2017 and is basically a restaurant booking service integrated into the main Airbnb apps and website. The addition of Airbnb Restaurants to the Homes and Experiences services allows Airbnb users the ability to book accommodation, experiences, and meals all within the same service with the same account.

Airbnb Restaurants on the Airbnb website.

This trio of services have basically made Airbnb a one stop shop for casual and business travelers with almost all major travel needs being met by the one company with the exception of travel itself.

Unlike the Homes and Experiences services, Airbnb Restaurants isn't powered by Airbnb itself. Instead, Airbnb Restaurants is powered by Resy, an established restaurant booking service.

What is Airbnb Airways?

In early-2018, comments made by Airbnb founder, Brian Chesky, hinted that the company could be persuing its own airline ambitions in the near future. Many have taken to referring to this potential future project as Airbnb Airways or Airbnb Airline but it has yet to be officially announced and is mostly purely speculation.

Airbnb does have a partnership with the Australian airline, Qantas, which grants members of the Qantas Frequent Flyer program 1 Qantas Point per AUD $1 spent on Airbnb bookings. New hosts can also earn 20,000 Qantas Points for their first property listing.

Why Do People Like Airbnb?

People who use Airbnb generally tend to like it because it can typically be much cheaper than booking accommodation in a traditional hotel. Given that the majority of Airbnb locations are average apartments or houses, most of them also offer a more authentic living experience for international travelers and are also much more private than a hotel or hostel.

Are There Airbnb Fees?

Signing up for an Airbnb account is completely free, however, making an Airbnb Homes, Experiences, or Restaurants booking will incur the initial base cost plus some additional fees.

Fees will vary depending on the booking and will be displayed during the reservation process.

Booking accommodation on Airbnb does not require a security deposit up front. Instead, a security deposit fee can be requested by the host within 14 days of the guest's stay if they suspect that the guest damaged property or belongings during their stay. Such a claim is made through the Airbnb service and photographic evidence is usually required.

What Payment Methods Does Airbnb Accept?

Airbnb acceps debit and credit cards, Alipay, Apple Pay, Aura, Elo, Google Pay, iDEAL, Hipercard, PayPal, PayU, Postepay, and Sofort Überweisung.

Airbnb doesn't accept paymeny in the form of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin or Ripple.

Is Airbnb Safe?

Because the majority of Airbnb locations are properties owned by individual hosts, many of them lack the security of hotels which are typically equipped with security personnel, several levels of room access, and security cameras. Many Airbnb locations are essentially average apartments or houses and they should be thought of as such when considering a stay.

Each individual listing on the Airbnb website and apps will mention what security features, if any, the location possesses.

Airbnb property listing on Airbnb website.

Some safety-related features to look for when making an Airbnb booking are:

  • The part of town where the building is located.
  • If there's separate entrances for the building and apartment.
  • If there are smoke detectors.
  • If the building security that can be called upon in case of an emergency.
  • If the host lives nearby and can be called 24/7 in case you need them.

What Does Airbnb Mean?

When Airbnb first launched in 2008, it used the name, AirBed & Breakfast. The company name was shortened to Arbnb the following year.

The bed and breakfast part of the name is pretty self-explanatory but the meaning of the air part understandably causes a lot of confusion. Many people assume that the air in Airbnb refers to traveling by air or in an airplane but it's actually a reference to the early concept of AirBed & Breakfast by its founders, Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia, that focused on guests sleeping on air mattresses in a host's living room.

The Airbnb company logo is called, Bélo. While it sounds like a word borrowed from a foreign language, it's actually just the shortening of the two words, Belong Anywhere.

What Airbnb Smartphone Apps Are There?

There are free official Airbnb apps for both iOS and Android devices. The Airbnb iOS app supports iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, and the Apple Watch while the Android app supports Android smartphones and tablets.

Both apps can be used by hosts to create and update listings and communicate with guests with the built-in messaging system. Guests can use the Airbnb apps to search for Airbnb Homes, Experiences, and Restaurants, make bookings, communicate with hosts, and view locations.

The Airbnb website is also optimized for mobile devices so can be viewed on smartphones, such as Windows Phone, that have no official Airbnb app.