Couchsurfing: a different way to see the world

Couchsurfing

Land in a foreign country, knock on a stranger’s door and settle down into… his couch! This is roughly how couchsurfing works. Thanks to Internet, this new way of travelling has been expanding: on hospitality exchange networks, millions of members are willing to welcome into their homes travelers seeking accommodation. All this for free. Couchsurfing is much more than just a way to travel cheap everywhere in the world. Couch after couch, you discover new cultures by meeting and exchanging with the locals. Take a closer look at this increasingly popular way of travelling.

Staying on a local’s couch

Couchsurfing, a growing trend, offers a double benefit : cultural immersion and money saving.

Inexpensive travel

For many travelers, staying in a hotel isn’t very convenient: accommodation often is costly, impersonal and in lack of convivial atmosphere. Couchsurfing, an alternative option to traditional tourist accommodation, is becoming more and more attractive. The web is the place where people offer sofas: whatever your destination is, you will almost always find a member of a hospitality exchange network who is ready to let you sleep on his couch without asking for anything in return. With couchsurfing, travelling on a small budget isn’t a myth.

Meeting locals

Deciding to couchsurf isn’t simply about choosing low cost travel. Meeting people and experiencing a foreign culture by briefly living with a local is a big part of the adventure. Unlike wwoofing, repaying favors is not an obligation but exchange is usually what makes a couchsurfing experience successful. Sharing a meal or a recipe, showing a city or a region, talking about a meaningful trip abroad… There are many ways to make couchsurfing worthwhile for host and surfer.

To couchsurf, get networking!

With over five million members, couchsurfing.org, founded by Casey Fenton, an American, has become the most popular couchsurfing community. To find a couch, you need to be a member of a hospitality exchange network.

Who are the couchsurfers?

They are young, they are everywhere!

  • More than two thirds of the couchsurfers are under thirty.
  • There are active members (hosts and surfers) of the Couchsurfing community in 207 countries and 97,000 cities.
  • The United States, Germany, France, Canada and England are the five countries in which there are the most couchsurfers. But one can also find couchsurfers in more unusual locations, such as Greenland, Easter Island or Mongolia.

Finding the right sofa

Would you like to try surfing on couches? To find a sofa anywhere on the globe, you only need to join a couchsurfing community. Once you’ve done this you often find free accommodation in no time.

Filling out a profile
Membership is free but you need to share enough information to make your profile appealing and trustworthy. Uploading a picture is a must. Also say if you are willing to host surfers and what your conditions are, talk about what you are interested in, describe your personality and list the countries you have been to… As a beginner, you don’t want an empty profile.

Finding a host
Dublin, Sydney, Santiago… In most big cities, many hosts are ready to unfold their couch, lend you a mattress or even let you sleep in a guest room. Selecting the hosts you might want to stay with is the tricky part. Before sending a “Couch request”, check figures and references. How many surfers did the member already host? What did the people think of their stay? Where would you sleep? To make sure you have accommodation when and where you want, get in touch with several members several weeks prior to departure.

Couchsurfing tips

To avoid unpleasant experiences while travelling on the cheap, there are a few precautions your will need to take. You must also leave knowing that staying with a local means sharing.

  • Select your hosts carefully: choose members with detailed profiles and pay attention to the messages surfers post about the host. Some members may be vouched: this means they are especially trusted by some of the couchsurfers.
  • In three weeks you will be spending four nights in Dublin, on Matt’s couch. Before you meet, communicate with your future host frequently. To couchsurf, you need trust on both sides.
  • Don’t set off for adventure without a suitable travel insurance solution.
  • Bring a small gift for your host and/or offer to cook a typical dish people appreciate in your country.

Don’t act as if you were staying in a hotel: do the dishes, change the sheets… The only things you want to leave behind you are… good memories!

To find out more about couchsurfing:

Find your couch on one of the main couchsurfing communities: Couchsurfing or Hospitality Club.

Date of publication Mar 8 2013

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