In one of my last articles, I talked about backpacking and staying in hostels. Yet hostels aren’t the only option for accommodation when backpacking or travelling on a budget. Couchsurfing is an idea and a website that’s taken off in recent years. Couchsurfing is for travellers who want to meet new people and perhaps save some money on accommodation. Members contact each other through the website to host and stay on each other’s ‘couches’ – even though they’ve never met in person. Does this sound sketchy? Well hear me out!
Couchsurfing is open to everyone. You sign up as a member, and create a profile, outlining your location, hobbies and interests and couch availability. If you can host guests, you list the details of your ‘couch’ (guestroom, couch, floor, etc) and where you’re located. If you’re travelling, you can set your couch availability to so. Surfers then do a search in the city they’re travelling to and send requests to potential hosts in the city to see if anyone is available to host them during their travels. Surfers can set filters on the search to find hosts they would be more compatible or comfortable with (like English speakers or female hosts) and then read their References, or the reviews other couchsurfers like friends or previous surfers have left them. This way, surfers can sift out anyone they feel might be unsafe. Upon seeing the request, hosts can then decide if they are available to host the surfer, assessing their profile in a similar manner. If a host offers to house the surfer, then they can make plans to meet up when the surfer arrives in the host’s city.
You don’t have to be able to host people to couchsurf. Although it’s great to give back, you can always list your couch availability as ‘coffee or a drink’, and spend an afternoon with travellers showing them around town. And the same goes for hosting: if traipsing the world isn’t in your near future, hosting visitors from all corners of the earth is a great way to meet other people and learn about different cultures. It’s one way to ‘travel’ without leaving your own city.
What do you think?
Does couchsurfing still seem sketchy? Or is it something you would love to try? In my next articles, I’ll be talking more about how to make a profile, how to surf and host, and my own experience couchsurfing. Let’s hear your thoughts below!