Couch surfing is a great way to get more out of your vacation destination! It lets you really experience the culture, interact with locals, and save money.
If you want a truly immersive holiday adventure, try couch surfing! This alternative way of traveling attracts over 4 million users each year. Casey Fenton, a keen traveler, started a couch surfing website in 2004. Little did he know that within a few years, the site would become popular enough to make the name a household word!
Couch surfing is for anyone who wants to make friends while traveling and get an insider’s view of their vacation destination. The big bonus? It’s free! The website puts you in touch with hosts who are equally happy to get to know someone from a different culture or different city. And although in the early days, couch surfing mostly did mean that you ended up on someone’s couch, these days it’s different. Today you may find that hosts have an extra bedroom or even a separate guest cottage! But one thing to keep in mind – the site is only for those over 18 years of age. Being under 18 violates the terms of service.
Joining the other millions using the site is easy. You just need to register. To get better results, upload some photos and completely fill out your profile. Other users will be more likely to want to connect if you describe yourself in the ‘About Me’ section and add some of your interests. After some days of couch surfing, you’ll want to ask for inclusive references.
After registering you have access to a world of a travel adventure. If you’re going away soon, you can put in your travel plans and start looking for hosts. Or you can become a couch surfing host yourself! At a minimum, you only need to have a spare couch, air mattress, or futon. But even if you’ve already reached your destination, you can find events in your area on the site. You can also join discussions and get or share advice.
If you’ve found a host and are ready to start off on your couch surfing adventure, there are a few things to remember beforehand. Although the service hooks you up with people who don’t want to get paid, it is a nice gesture to bring them a little gift. Something like a small trinket from your home area, some chocolates, or a bottle of wine will do nicely. If that isn’t possible, when you arrive, offer to cook a meal or buy groceries from time to time. Also, remember that your hosts decided to host you because they want to get to know you! So spend some time with them. Don’t stay out 'til all hours and only arrive back to sleep. Also, when you get back to their home, be sure to leave a good review if you’ve had a nice experience.
To help with safety, the couch surfing website lets guests post ratings and reviews. Be sure to check these thoroughly before deciding to stay with a specific host. You can also choose the type of host you want to stay with. These are not always individuals; many families have also become couch surfing hosts. Make sure you always only use the website and mobile apps to communicate with hosts. Do this at least until you get to know them and feel confident about your safety.
You should in any case always have a backup plan. Locate the nearest hostel or hotel before you leave on your trip. This way, if something doesn’t feel right when you get to the couch surfing host’s residence, you can make a quick getaway. Also, be aware of your destination’s cultural and religious differences and sensitivities. Some travel advisory information can be found on various government sites such as from the U.S. Department of State, UK government site, or from the Canadian government.
Couch surfing puts you in touch with a local host who is interested in meeting other people. That means, they will no doubt be happy to show you around the area and even introduce you to their friends. Many couch surfers have ended up making life-long friends through their experience. Plus, you’ll save money, not just through the free accommodation. You’ll have access to a kitchen so you can buy food at the grocery store and cook yourself. This will cut way down on expensive restaurant visits. And you’ll find out about some interesting places to visit that only a local would know.
Be sure to share your photos and stories of your adventures with your relatives on FamilyApp!