Couchsurfing has come a long way. Back in the day couchsurfing meant desperately phoning friends in the hopes of sleeping on a beat-up old sofa. Today couchsurfers travel to exotic locations, sleep in comfort and even enjoy high end amenities – for free! Couchsurfing has become a popular method of saving some cash on vacation, especially in Europe where the phenomenon has really taken hold.
The couchsurfing revolution began with Couchsurfing International, a non-profit corporation dedicated to connecting would-be couchsurfers with hosts. Through their website – couchsurfing.org – the organisation has connected thousands of travelers with couches across the world.
What’s so great about sleeping on a couch?
Couchsurfing is much more than just scoring a free place to crash. It began as a tight knit community of a few thousand people and developed its own etiquette based on respect, generosity and the travel bug. Couchsurfing grew massively in the late 2000’s and has expanded to around 5 million users – but much of the community charm remains. Couchsurfers and hosts are fun loving, kind hearted adventure seekers – great people to meet on vacation.
Hosts often offer to act as tour guides giving you a more authentic experience. Couchsurfing makes for a one of a kind vacation unlike anything offered by a hotel or resort.
No couch needed
Accommodations are as varied as you can imagine. Ranging from a good old fashioned couch to a King sized suite to your own private pool house. It all depends on what hosts are offering and if you’re lucky enough to be accepted by them.
How does couchsurfing work?
Would be couch surfers and hosts can register for free but do have to pay a $25 fee in order to use any of the sites services. Registration generally involves providing your name, gender, location, age, and photos of yourself as well as the accommodation you are offering.
You can decide how much or how little information you want to give. Keep in mind that since couch surfing relies so much on trust it’s better to provide more information. Without photos or a sincere description you might find it hard to convince a stranger to let you into their home!
Once registered you can surf for hosts by name, age, location and gender. And there is a lot of choice available. According to Couchsurfing there are hosts in 250 different countries and territories representing more than 97 000 towns.
When you find a host you trust offering the type of accommodation you want in the right location, send them a Couchrequest. It may take a while for a host to respond and sometimes they won’t respond altogether. Thankfully you can send Couchrequests to more than one host at a time.
If you’re really short on time you can put out an open request or a last minute request. This will notify all hosts in the location you need accommodation, but you can’t be as picky – beggars can’t be choosers!
When a host does accept your Couchrequest just make sure that they know exactly when you’ll be arriving and then pack your bags! Remember, Couchsurfing started out as a tight knit community and certain etiquette is still a major part of the Couchsurfing experience. First, no money is exchanged except to cover food or other expenses. Second, be polite, courteous, friendly and respectful. A stranger has just been kind enough to let you in their home – don’t treat it like a hotel room with maid service. Third, a small gesture (making dinner, cleaning up or helping out) or a present (like a bottle of wine) is a great way to express your gratitude.
Is couchsurfing safe?
There is one question that inevitably arises when talking about Couchsurfing: is it safe? Most couchsurfers will say yes but it is always good to take precautions. Most important is to read the profile of hosts before you send them a Couchrequest. The Couchsurfing website has a lot of space devoted to feedback, so make sure you take into account what other surfers have to say. If possible contact your prospective host over Skype or the phone so that they can be vetted.
Tell friends and family the details of where you’ll be staying and even consider posting this info on social media like Twitter or Facebook.
As always, trust your gut. If worse comes to worst then spending a few extra bucks on a motel is preferable to putting up with a host that makes you uneasy.
Watch this video for some tips coming directly from experienced couchsurfers:
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