One of the main barriers to travelling is the cost, particularly for students and younger people. There’s no getting away from it, you need some money to get around the world, but the app and website Couchsurfing offers you a unique way to travel, that bypasses the expense of hotels.
The main concept of Couchsurfing is based on locals offering travellers the opportunity to stay in their home free of charge. What do they get in return? A cultural exchange, a unique experience and perhaps a lifelong friend.
Couchsurfing is my personal favourite way to travel with so many benefits other than being money-saving. For me, it’s an essential without which travelling just wouldn’t be the same. I have made numerous friends worldwide through the app, some of which I have become very close to. Couchsurfing has brought me so many special memories; from driving all around Costa Rica with my host to tackling the Pamir highway. I’ve been on numerous hikes and got to know so many different cities inside out, with that knowledge you can only get from someone who lives in the region and knows it well.
One of the main reasons I love to travel is to develop a much deeper understanding of the country’s culture, its people and how they live. Again Couchsurfing as a platform, gives you the opportunity to do just this. I have stayed with people from all around the world and Couchsurfing has enabled me to live with people in some of the most remote corners of the world, giving me an opportunity to have a much better understanding of their culture, their values, their likes and dislikes and how they live. You learn so much when you’re travelling with Couchsurfing and it definitely helps you grow as a person. That’s why people all around the world open their doors to strangers.
Some of the numerous benefits of Couchsurfing:
1) You can save a lot of money on hotels or hostels by using Couchsurfing. This isn’t the reason why I or many others use it, but it is definitely an added advantage and can bring travel to far flung destinations within the reach of those of us who don’t have deep pockets.
2) Couchsurfing has some great features such as hangouts and events. Hangouts is a brilliant way to meet locals and other travellers’ and join them for various activities such as meeting up for dinner, taking a hike or just exploring the area. You can start your own group by posting on hangouts what you would like to do and if people are interested in joining you, they will send you a message. Events is another feature that’s of great use, where once again you can meet locals and other travellers by organising a gathering at a bar or a restaurant, where people share their travel experiences.
3) You do not have to stay at a local’s house if you are not comfortable with that. You can just message locals to meet up and show you around and tell you about their country. If you’re travelling alone, or if you’re looking for advice or information, it’s certainly great to know there’s a network of people right there waiting.
4) On the flip side, if you can’t travel as much as you would like, then hosting is a great way to meet people from all around the world and learn about their countries, without having to travel. You can have some amazing experiences meeting up with global travellers, imparting your local knowledge and perhaps sharing your home with them for a time.
5) Couchsurfing is an application where most people are open minded and share similar interests and that’s why you can make strong connections.
6) Meeting locals brings many advantages that other tourists don’t get. For one they can recommend the best restaurants. Isn’t it always the case that the most amazing places to eat are hidden away down back streets and you’d never find them without help? Hidden gems become unveiled with recommendations of places to visit, from shops and bars, to places of historic interest, secret beaches and the best locations for photographing amazing views. You can also benefit from tips on how to avoid any local scams and other hints on how to stay safe.
Is Couchsurfing Safe?
At first thought, staying in the house of someone you have never met before might seem a little foolhardy, however, travelling always comes with some level of risk, and I personally have never had a bad experience and I have used it many times, both to meet up with people and to stay in their homes. Likewise I have welcome many travellers to my own home and it’s always been a pleasant and mutually beneficial experience. As I said before I have made many friends whom I am still in touch with.
That being said there are also those people who have had bad experiences, sadly it tends to be girls who have the most issues. Lots of guys use Couchsurfing as a dating app as I have heard stories from many girls that have had uncomfortable experiences. There will also of course always be those occasions when you simply don’t get along well with your host and that can become a problem if you’re staying for any length of time. Couchsurfing can teach you quite a lot about patience and tolerance sometimes!
It is very important to read the references of each individual thoroughly before deciding to host them or stay with them. If people have had bad experiences with the person before it’ll generally be mentioned in the references and certainly you should avoid staying with them or hosting them. Another important thing to do is to read what the person has written about themselves. That gives you a pretty good idea of whether you’re going to get along well, and if you have things in common. Talking to the person in advance is also crucial, to further make sure that they have no bad intentions and that you would get along okay. If the person doesn’t have any references, it may be best to avoid them. However, we all start out without any references, so it could be that they are simply new to Couchsurfing.
Overall, by taking into account references, the profile of the person and talking beforehand, for the most part you’ll be able to avoid bad experiences, meet like-minded people and create some amazing memories.