We live in a world of what-ifs. How safe is it to stay at a seaside bungalow in Thailand? Common sense, rule number 1 in a range of decisions, might apply when trying to experience Couchsurfing too.
Although A World to Travel editors have diverse ideas about Couchsurfing, I particularly have been in love with it for a long time. Though it is not what it used to be (unfortunately, the business has corrupted a bit the first idea and now it is more about a huge social network where people look for sex and money more often than it should be), it remains an awesome resource when traveling. In my experience, if you are careful enough, you should not face dangers.
Are you sociable and want to share your travel experiences with others like you? You are welcome to join! No money is required to set up your account and in less time than you imagine, you could be changing the way you travel forever.
I started using CS back in 2008. Many CS friends in Lisbon, Berlin, Toronto, Lanzarote, and other places later, I feel it was one of the best decisions I have ever done about traveling and I am still using it these days. Whether you offer/are offered some land to pitch a tent, an old couch, or a whole bedroom; the main idea is to let someone stay for free overnight. Mainly two nights is better than one (when you barely have time to get to know each other or share quality time). More than three or four nights might also be too much. No rules apply here and you will have to discuss it with your guest/host.
Some of you may wonder if the free accommodation is what made me start using it. It is not. Perhaps, in the beginning, I was more aware of how short my budget was but definitely, I chose it because, as a solo traveler, you are never alone if you do not want to!
FIRST STEPS TO BE HOSTED
- Register, take your time to build an interesting profile, and look for some people you already know (Facebook for instance) to get some worthy references.
- Interact with the community. There are endless groups where activities, gatherings, and more are discussed daily. Socialize!
- Be responsive. If someone contacts you with a genuine interest (beware of spam!), please ensure you answer them back. Especially if you have a couch request. Those numbers are likely to be shown in your profile and you do not want to be the guy who just answered 10% of requests.
- If you are in need of a couch, research and do your homework in advance. For those future hosts consideration, read their profiles and references. See if you could get along before sending a massive request to everyone in Kathmandu. Make your request unique, honest, and personal.
- If accepted, let someone else know where are you going and keep a backup plan just in case.
- Remember you are going to someone else’s home and behave like that. Open your mind (if you are not ready for different ideas, you better stay home) and do not misuse or take advantage of your situation (ask for things if needed, do not take food from the fridge unless it is offered to you, be polite..)
- Give something back. Karma fan or not, you should offer something to your host in exchange. They took the time to answer your request, getting ready a place for you to sleep and probably spend some of their valuable time with you while visiting their hometown so, although it is not mandatory, there is a non-written rule in CS saying you should share something. Cook dinner, bring something to drink or eat, teach, help them with the practice of your language, sing, play an instrument, dance, whatever! Do yourself a favor and do not just rest all day long on their sofa like a useless freeloader. There is nothing worse, believe us.
- Leave everything as you found it or better. Easy, isn’t it?
- Write a fair reference in their Couchsurfing wall after you leave their place. Chances are you will also get one!
- Host if you have the chance to. If not, change your status and offer yourself as a local who travelers can contact whenever they are near you. There is much more CS than sleeping!
FIRST STEPS TO HOST
- If you want to welcome somebody, pretty much you should follow all the steps above. Plus..
- Make an effort to offer a nice place to sleep. You are not asking for anything in exchange, we know, but cleaning and tidying up a bit will not hurt.
- Contact details are important in case something goes wrong. Almost in every CS experience I had, a phone was used beforehand.
- If you are able to, take out your guest(s). Spending money is not necessary, neither are activities out of your routine. You would probably enjoy something like that too. I was invited to electronic music festivals in Berlin, discover the surroundings in Nova Scotia, party in the Canary Islands, gardening in France, and endless Couchsurfing gatherings among many others!
Are you part of Couchsurfing? Is Couchsurfing safe in your opinion? How have your experiences been so far? Let us know in the comments below!
This is very intriguing to me. It kind of reminds me of my hitchhiking days back in the 70’s. For the most part, I met some really nice people that only wanted to help me with a ride, but there were times when my gut feeling said, “Don’t get in the car”. With proper research and caution, I think this could be a wonderful experience for travelers. Great blog
Thanks for your comment! Although I don’t hitchhike anymore these days (after a few weird experiences that I could definitely write about in the future..), good times were way superior in number.. and yes, common sense applies there too!
I actually signed up for a couch surfing account some time ago but never got around to using it.
I used Airbnb for the first time last year when me and my friend went to Barcelona for a week – best decision we made and it beats hotels and hostels any day!
We paid around £17 a night and had our own room in his apartment in El Born (best part of Barcelona, hands down), he even gave us a phone so we could contact him anytime, made us a meal when we left and advised us of the best places to eat and of things happening in the city.
I can’t see that using the couchsurfing site would be much different really, so I say go for it, it’s definitely an experience and a chance to meet some interesting people!
and we have never got to use AirBnB! Twice we tried, twice we couldn’t have an approval on time.
We should definitely exchange experiences 🙂
Yeah I guess it all depends on how much notice the host needs, but I’d definitely say give it a go sometime 🙂
I’ll have to try out couch surfing at some point too, now just to plan my next trip!
Very helpful post! I’d like to link it on my blog someday.
Please, go ahead 😉 Thanks for your comment!
We will be getting started with Couchsurfing next month actually, we did try to be as cautious as possible finding our host. Of course there is a risk on everything, but we also need to trust someone at some point.
We’ll see how we do with our first experience CS
I’m sure it’s going to be a great and life-changing experience! Let us know how it goes 🙂
Couchsurfing is not as safe as it needs to be. There are privacy issues on the site itself, and major security holes that have yet to be addressed.
It is possible for a person to create a series of false profiles and have them serve as references for one profile, to make that profile look very legitimate. Then that person can receive a hosting request from another user and lure them into a compromising situation (or dangerous situation) where the guest feels totally safe and secure based on the references.
Unfortunately, the community leaders who helped turn the site into what it is (or I’ll say “was”) have been ignored (or had their profiles deleted) by CS corporate (yes, surprise, its a corporation) when they tried to have their concerns and complaints heard. I fully expect that my profile will be deleted for participating in online protest as well, but sometimes you have to stand up for what’s right.
A lot of the CS veteran community is apparently migrating to BeWelcome.com… I’m not familiar with that site, but I guess I’ll be moving over there as well. At any rate, for anyone still wanting to use Couchsurfing.com right now… proceed with caution, meet in a public place to make sure they are who they say they are, and definitely have a plan B.
…y para los 2.951.593 miembros y cerca de 200 paises representados, registrados en 2011, el mundo debe parecer más pequeño…
el crecimiento es exponencial, a menudo en detrimento de la calidad..
you are right. The growth of CS is skyrocketing little by little and quality might be compromised..