Using torbrowser-install-4.0.6_en-US.exe installed 4/1/2015 with no modifications.

http://airbnb.com is a wildly popular vacation rental business which is illegal is many jurisdictions in California which regulate transient occupancy of rentals less the 30 days. The policy of airbnb.com is that anyone should be able to rent their house or room that wants to. To that end, airbnb.com will not reveal the address of listing making enforcement by local jurisdictions problematic.

When tor is used to access airbnb.com, the results are:

Stay tuned. Error code: 503

We’re experiencing some unexpected issues, but our team is already working > to fix the problem. We’ll be back up and running shortly.

If you need help from our customer service team about an ongoing reservation, please call us. During this time we reserve our phone number for emergency situations only, so please keep the lines open for travelers and hosts who need immediate attention. If it isn’t an urgent matter, please visit our Help Center for additional information. Thanks for your patience!

Check our Twitter account for updates. You can also swing by our blog. For urgent situations please call us

Yet, at the same time if I use regular browsers, e.g. Firefox or Chrome, the main page renders without a problem.

Question: Can web sites detect a TOR browser and then takes steps to defeat access? It appears from my effort to anonymously browse airbnb.com that such is the case. Is this a matter of configuration the Tor browser to allow certain activities such as Flash or other dangerous compromises to a browser? The fact that the error code is an http error code, e.g. 503, it suggests that something more than browser configuration is afoot.

  • I reported it as a bug to AirBNB. Someone who apparently didn't read past the word "bug" responds: > Usually if there are technical errors we have to go through the process of exclusion, the first and most important thing is to ensure you are not using any browsers such as Safari or Internet Explorer as these browsers are not compatible with our site. Airbnb site is best worked from Google Chrome on a regular desktop computer or laptop, also please ensure that you have cleared your cache and cookies prior to replicating steps. When you are ready I would like you to replicate the steps you have
    – WGroleau
    Oct 3, 2015 at 14:38
  • I know that's not really an answer, but blame AirBNB, not me. (Besides, it greatly exceeds the size limit on a comment)
    – WGroleau
    Oct 3, 2015 at 14:39
  • ....i'M having your same problem. Default entry page seems fine, but the site doesn't really work on tor; how did you solve it? Tnx Apr 30, 2018 at 17:48

1 Answer 1


First off, airbnb.com worked fine in my testing when using Tor Browser. I think it was probably a transient error in their system/a temporary spam prevention measure. To answer your question:

Yes, it is possible that websites check whether you're using Tor. The first big tell is getting a connection from a known exit node, but it's not the only thing. Just alone based on that it would be trivial to send you to any kind of error page. But it is even possible to send error pages based on detected browser configuration with little chance for you to figure out why it is happening.

  • When you concluded that airbnb.com worked fine, did you actually try a search? The default entry page shows up fine, but when I enter a city and state abbreviation, e.g. "miami,fl", the error code shows up.
    – Sam Spade
    Apr 4, 2015 at 9:38
  • you're right, a search doesn't work for me either. The answer should still stand
    – Sebastian
    Apr 4, 2015 at 14:13
  • The error is still there. I reported it as a bug.
    – WGroleau
    Oct 3, 2015 at 2:57

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