Getting Started on Couchsurfing
This year it will be three years since I joined and started using Couchsurfing.
Although the time has passed so fast, Couchsurfing has given me many great memories, experiences and friendships that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.
Throughout my decision to join, participate and spread the word about the community, there has always been an element curiosity from friends and acquaintances. It still surprises me how many people have no idea about Couchsurfing.
First of all, what exactly is Couchsurfing?
The Couchsurfing website states that:
“Couchsurfing is a service that connects members to a global community of travellers. Use Couchsurfing to find a place to stay or share your home and hometown with travellers. Couchsurfers organise regular events in 100,000 cities around the world. There’s always something to do and new friends to meet.”
Based on my experience Couchsurfing can be separated into three main areas:
After registered on couchsurfing.com, travellers can contact a host and agree to stay at their home for a prearranged number of nights.
For example, if I was planning to visit in Perth for four nights, I could search the Perth city area and the surrounding suburbs for a suitable host.
Once I have finished browsing through hosts profiles and references, there could be a few I would like to stay with. At this point as the surfer, I would then send out couch requests with the details of my trip and dates wishing to visit. If this doesn’t conflict with the host’s plans on the given dates, they may agree and let me stay.
As mention above, the host will list their couch as available for the surfer to stay on.
Once the sofa is listed, potential surfers will see the hosts profile when searching for a couch in the given city. If the surfer finds a suitable host during the search, then they may send a couch request.
For example, as a host receiving a couch request, I would check the surfer’s profile and past references to see if they would be a suitable guest for me. If they are, then I may agree to host them at my place. It’s also possible for hosts to view surfers coming to the area and invite them to Couchsurf.
If you live in a city, town or popular tourist area, chances are some events will be happening locally.
Meeting other Couchsurfers in your area is a great way to introduce your city, take part in some activities and make new friends. Most cities will have a Couchsurfing meeting every 1-2 weeks at a local coffee shop, cafes or bars.
The best way to find out about local events is to join the group for the area you live or will be staying. Once joined, any upcoming activities will be visible on your Couchsurfing dashboard when you log in. It is also possible to organise an activity or event yourself. The event could be as simple as, hey I am in town for a few days, does anyone want to go hiking on Monday?
What type of people will I meet?
Over the past three years, I have been involved in all the above areas.
However, not all people registered with Couchsurfing will participate in surfing, hosting and events. A person, who regularly surfs on their six month trip around Europe, may not be able to return the favour in their hometown because they live with their parents.
A host may not have surfed before because busy work commitments. I have also met organisers of very successful Couchsurfing meetings who has neither surfed nor hosted.
Whether you’re interested in surfing, hosting or the events, there is no commitment to take part in all three areas. How little or how much you want to take part in is entirely up to you.
The majority of people initially sign up because they are looking for a place to stay during travels.
Not every CouchSurfing stay is the same, and the overall experience can depend largely on your host. Staying with four university students will more than likely be a different experience than staying with a family of four.
How much does it cost?
As with anything, one of the first things likely to be asked is the price.
In today’s society, we are accustomed to exchanging money for a place of lodging and any service involved with it. For those new to the Couchsurfing concept, it may be a surprise to hear it’s a hostility exchange at its finest with no charge.
That’s right it’s free!
There is no sign-up charge and no payment is given to the host for staying on their couch.
The fact that Couchsurfing is free allows many travellers the opportunity to be on the road for longer. Some websites like Trusted Housesitters & WWOOF involve a similar hospitality concept. For example, with Trusted Housesitters you can stay at the owner’s house in exchange for looking after their pet while they are away.
Couchsurfing has no official requirement to complete any work in exchange for accommodation. Having said that it’s common practice to either cook a meal or take your host out for a drink as a thank you.
Some surfers like to bring a small gift from their home country, such as a souvenir, bottle of alcohol or leave a card. All of this is, of course, is optional but goes a long way to show you’re grateful for the host allowing you to stay.
After all, you have had a place to sleep and used the electricity, hot water and so on for the past few days – all for free.
Isn’t it just easier to stay in a hostel?
It’s true that Couchsurfing doesn’t suit everyone’s travel style.
If you have a busy schedule, are visiting for business, or need plenty of time alone, then yes paid accommodation would provide better flexibility. Also, if you’re travelling in a large group then Couchsurfing probably wouldn’t be suitable this time.
Although open to everyone, Couchsurfing is more geared towards the person who is travelling solo or operating on a tight budget.
You may like: How to Write Decent Couchsurfing Requests
Couchsurfing does have its advantages, as your host may have lived in the area for many years, or even all their life. Their local knowledge will be way more extensive than any information or advice offed in a guidebook. Their house or apartment may well be located in a part of town away from the main strip, off away from hotels and tourist spots.
All this allows you to see a different side of the city than fellow travellers.
To a certain extent you get to share the host’s life, meaning they could well introduce you to an activity or teach you a new skill.
When used in the right way Couchsurfing can offer a unique travel experience not found with traditional types of accommodation.
A Free Nights Sleep: Getting Started on Couchsurfing images created by ToolsofTravel