(Read more about AirBnB after the jump!)
Via Frugal Traveler Blog on NYTimes.com:
(AirBnB is) a Web site started in 2007 that connects budget travelers with locals who are offering anything from an air mattress in their living room to a private bedroom in a luxury loft — for a fee.
There are more than 900 AirBnB listings in New York. Indeed, the site’s strengths are in major cities — 247 listings in the Bay Area and 181 for Paris — but it spans 90 countries in all, so if you need an oceanview apartment in Rio de Janeiro ($170), a pied-à-terre in Shinjuku ($90) or a whole house in rural Ghana ($86), you’re in luck. Just sign up, build a short profile and contact the host with your dates. You pay AirBnB.com with a credit card or PayPal, with a 6 to 12 percent booking fee added on.
Compared with Craigslist, where the short-term rental and vacation listings can be misleading, lacking photos and frankly sketchy, AirBnB is easy and organized. (AirBnB.comwill even offer to send a professional photographer to shoot your apartment.) And compared with CouchSurfing, it at least appears more secure.
AirBnB.com handles the financial side of things, so that guests do not need to hand over cash or credit card numbers to the hosts. Also, the money isn’t released to the host until 24 to 48 hours after you check in, assuring a bit more protection if the accommodations aren’t what was promised. Hosts, on the other hand, can choose among four cancellation policies (from flexible to super-strict) to guard against no-shows. But otherwise, the service is largely silent about how to screen guests or what to do if something goes wrong.