Couchsurfing isn’t just an activity. It’s a movement. People from around the globe are joining in on this travel phenomenon. But is it something that is right for you? This guide should help you to better understanding what couchsurfing is, who enjoys it and what the pros and cons of it are. Sit back and enjoy the ride.
What is couchsurfing?
Couchsurfing is a method of traveling that allows you to find free accommodations at destinations all around the world. You link up with people through online interaction. They offer their space to you at no charge. You arrive and take them up on their offer. It can be a terrific way to keep your travels affordable. It also allows you to meet local people when you travel so that you can get the inside scoop on what to see at your destination.
Is it safe?
The number one question that people ask about couchsurfing is whether or not it is safe. The answer is that it is generally safe. You do always take a risk when you choose to stay in the home of a stranger. However, the couchsurfing community is a strong community filled with people who are genuinely interested in sharing positive travel experiences. The CouchSurfing website uses a voucher and verification process to help guarantee the safety of the process. Additionally, you can learn a lot about your hosts from the information that they share on their online profiles so you can get a good gut feeling about who to stay with.
Who does it?
Couchsurfing is done by a community of people who all share some common interests: travel, meeting new people and sharing the travel experience with others.
People who go couchsurfing tend to be:
- people who want to travel at a low cost
- people who are willing to be flexible about where they stay
- people who are comfortable staying in someone else’s home
- people who enjoy getting to know the locals when they travel
- travelers from all around the world
There is a stereotype that couchsurfers are typically college-aged. It is certainly true that a lot of young people in their late teens and early twenties are interested in couchsurfing due to the low cost and the opportunity to meet people when they travel. However, there are people of all ages (including families) who couchsurf when they travel.
People who host couchsurfers tend to be:
- people who enjoy traveling themselves, often they also do couchsurfing when they travel
- people who love to share their homes and entertain others
- people who enjoy the city where they live and want to tell other people about it
Who doesn’t enjoy it?
Couchsurfing isn’t right for everyone. You may not enjoy this method of travel if:
- you enjoy a lot of privacy when you travel. The level of privacy that you get at your host’s home varies a lot from host to host. In some cases, you will be sleeping in a living room or sharing a room and may have no real privacy. In other cases, your host may give you a private space and lots of time to yourself.
- you love plush amenities. Again, this is going to vary from place to place. Some hosts offer amazing rooms. Other times, you’ll literally be sleeping on the couch. If you like hotels with spas and five stars then you may not find couchsurfing to be right for you.
- you enjoy familiarity. Part of the adventure of couchsurfing is that you never know quite what to expect from your host or your experience. However, this doesn’t suit everyone. If you like to stay at familiar hotels where you know what to expect then couchsurfing might not be for you.
If this sounds like you then you may want to get a hotel instead of couchsurfing.
An alternative to couchsurfing
There is an alternative that lies in between couchsurfing and hotel rentals. That is the option of renting out someone’s room or home at your destination. You can rent a private room in someone’s home or an entire home while they are away. You do pay for the room but the price is usually lower than that of a hotel. You get to meet your hosts and get some insider tips on your destination but you maintain a higher level of privacy. If you’re new to couchsurfing and aren’t sure that it’s right for you then going this route might help you to make a more informed decision about couchsurfing.
Reasons to get a hotel instead
Couchsurfing is a wonderful experience. It allows you to meet new people and to stay for free in their homes during your travels. However, there are some reasons that you might want to foot the bill for a hotel instead. Those reasons include:
- There is no awkwardness at a hotel. Couchsurfing can be awkward if you don’t mesh well with your hosts or simply have a different personality from them.
- You’ll have your privacy. You won’t have to come home at the end of a day of sightseeing and then make conversation with someone if you don’t want to.
- It’s slightly safer. Couchsurfing is considered safe but you do take risks when staying in the homes of strangers. The risk to your personal safety is lower at a good hotel.
- Many of the same benefits. A benefit of couchsurfing is that your hosts can tell you what to see in the city but a good customer service person at the front desk of the hotel can do the same thing.