When you are travelling for long periods of time, the cost of accommodation can be expensive. Even staying in budget hotels or hostels in popular destinations can add up rapidly. If you want to get the most out of your money and travel for longer, Couchsurfing is the perfect option to stay in a new place for free, meet locals and add something different to your adventure.
What Is Couchsurfing?
Couchsurfing is a free website where travellers and locals can connect to provide or find free accommodation on ones couch. Couchsurfers usually come from a different country to the host.
Intrigued? This is how it works…
Being a host is the best way to start your Couchsurfing journey. Make a profile and follow the instructions. You can write a detailed description of where you live, where your guest will sleep and what days you prefer to host, for example weekends. Your profile will appear when people search for a couch in your area. Once this is completed, it is time to wait for a request and start hosting people.
As a host, you will welcome Couchsurfers into your home and provide them a place to sleep. As the name suggests, your main responsibility is to provide a couch. In nearly all cases you gain more than you give, such as a new friend and an insight into another’s life. Your sole responsibility is providing a place to sleep, whether that be a couch or a spare bed, but if you want you can provide much more such as showing your guest some local spots or simply sharing a meal. You decide who you want in your home and set the rules in advance, such as whether your guest can come and go freely, or if you prefer them to be in your house only when you are.
Hosting is the best way to start your journey so you can accumulate references. References are the most important part of Couchsurfing. They are written by people who have met you or stayed in your home, and will show others what kind of person you are and whether you are a good host or surfer. References are important because without them, it can be more difficult to find a place to Couchsurf as people don’t know how well they can trust you.
When it is your turn to make a request, make sure you have a detailed profile and some photos of yourself. For example, if someone requests to stay at my home with no photos and very little information, the chances of a reply are extremely low. It is important to provide a solid, friendly introduction of yourself so people want to meet you. Read the hosts profile thoroughly and make sure your request is clear.
As well as hosting and surfing, you can also find nearby activities and hang outs for locals and travellers to meet, whether it be a party, dinner, night out, coffee or language exchange. These are a great way to meet others if you prefer to stay somewhere, but still want to get involved. I met up with some couchsurfers in Madrid in Spain for a wonderful afternoon of pub and tapas crawling.
I have met some really great people through this website. It has connected me with travellers from all corners of the world including Germany, France, Sweden, Italy, Guatemala, Chile, Spain, Israel, Canada and Japan, just to name a few. Many have Couchsurfed my home and I have made lots of like-minded international friends, abroad and in my city. In Europe I have visited many of the same people, and received accommodation in their homes as well as the comfort of having local friends to show me around.
Can Anyone Do It?
Yes, of course! But let me be honest, this isn’t for everyone. You do need to have an open mind and it can be a bit nerve racking going to stay in a strangers home. At the end of the day, you are getting a free nights accommodation or alternatively helping someone out.
Is it Dangerous?
Just like everything else in life, you need to use your common sense. I personally wouldn’t stay alone with a male I’ve never met, unless they had exceptional references from other solo females. The website provides a background check for a small cost if you are hesitant. Make sure you chose a profile with good references, clear photos and ask for a phone number or a Facebook page you can check out (or creep) beforehand so you can be certain they are who they say. These days technology makes it quite easy to see what is real and fake. Also let a friend or family member know the address you are staying at.
Some people are skeptical about Couchsurfing because it is such a strange concept, but as long as you use your common sense, it really is such an awesome website to connect likeminded travellers. Be specific with what you expect as a host or surfer and most of all smile and enjoy making international friends.