When I heard about Couchsurfing, I was like ‘no way, Jose.’ The idea to sleep at a stranger’s house you don’t even know in which you meet through the internet sounded absurd. Though, how do you know for sure it’s a horrible idea if you’ve never tried it?
Nonetheless, the first time I ever used the website occurred when I moved to Los Angeles, and I didn’t know anyone. I jumped on the popular Couchsurfing app and met up with someone at a local cafe. It turned out to be a great meet, and I realized it was nice to use when meeting other people who are new to the city.
Though, it wasn’t until two years later, when I decided to travel to India to check out the app again but this time, to find hosts. The precautionary actions I took included reviewing their photos, references, and ensured they were an experienced host. I found a man in New Delhi, whom I stayed with for a couple of nights for free, and as it turns out, he was a traveler too. My experience with the host was magnificent, and he even suggested places for me to visit.
Since then, the Couchsurfing app continues to be an essential part of my travel planning. I’ve used it a couple of more times in other countries, and I’ve had only elevated experiences on top of meeting new people.
Also, and more importantly, the hosts on the application offer free stays for travelers which is one of the best parts.
If you are interested in getting to know what Couchsurfing is, or if you are aware of it but are still on the fence, please continue to read. I understand why someone would doubt the website, but I guarantee you that if you learn how to use it, it can be an excellent tool for you as a traveler.
Couchsurfing is a service that connects members to a global community of travelers. Use Couchsurfing to find a place to stay or share your home and hometown with travelers. Couchsurfers organize regular events in 200,000 cities around the world. There’s always something to do and new friends to meet.
Is it safe?
The biggest question I get all the time is if the application/website is safe. The answer is yes, and no. Just like online dating or social networks, when meeting someone in person, you’re always going to run the risk of an internet catfisher.
With that in mind, in my experience, I never accept or request to stay at someone’s house unless I have thoroughly analyzed their profile. The things to always look for are the detailed reviews and if there are any negative comments. If you find horrible reviews, read them.
As a woman, I am more inclined to look for hosts that are female. However, since I’ve been on Couchsurfing, all my hosts have ended up being male. When I look at the male reviews, I specifically stay alert for what other women have to say. Women know what other women travelers are looking out for. If there is at least even one negative comment from a woman about a male host, I skip over it.
Lastly, please review how long they have been a Couchsufer. Are they new or experienced? Do they have enough photos to prove legitimacy? Why are they on Couchsurfing? You can find all this information on their profile. Most of the legit accounts will highlight that they are too a traveler and want to meet other people.
Oh, and one more important thing, go with your gut instinct. Typically our gut is good at telling us if this person (host) is chill or not. If for any reason, you get a feeling that doesn’t sit well with you, do not risk it. Just skip over that profile and move forward. The website might not be so famous yet, but it is a popular one. So don’t be concerned about not finding a host that best fits your travel needs.
How Do You Use It?
The website and application are both user-friendly. When you open your account, take the time to fill out all of your profile information. Just like you, there are other people on the website that when they read your profile, want to know who are you and if you’re legit.
To begin, let’s say you have a trip coming up and want a free place to stay. One way to notify people in the area you are traveling to is by creating a Public Trip under the Travel Plans section. You can find this by clicking the Dashboard tab on the right-hand corner. By entering your trip details, hosts will know when and why you are visiting, and for verification purposes.
Once you have created a public trip, hosts that are accepting guests will see you’re looking for a place to stay. Some will reach out to you or possibly other travelers that are in the same area will contact to see if you would like to hang out (most common).
Secondly, you can also do outreach. On the dashboard, you’re able to type in the country you’re visiting and filter through the hosts available. The filters are a great tool to use since they help eliminate those who don’t have photos, haven’t been verified, or if they have references.
When you’re at the step of requesting to stay with a host, send them a message, and introduce yourself. Mention in the message why you’re wanting to stay with them and include how many nights. You want to make sure you’re detailed so the hosts can open their doors to you.
In my experience, when I’ve been accepted to stay with a host, normally they contact me by introducing themselves and getting more details about my arrival. The hosts have been a great help to provide more information about the area I am visiting. I feel safer when I am staying with a local who knows the ropes of the city/town and can give me advice.
Now, the dashboard includes a feature called Explore. By clicking there, you can find out what kind of events hosted by travelers are happening in the area you are visiting.
Why Should You Use Couchsurfing?
If you’re a solo traveler, Couchsurfing will help you meet other travelers and locals from the city/town you are visiting. It’s a great way to share stories and give or receive travel advice and tips.
On top of it all, the common favorite element provided by Couchsurfing is staying with hosts living in the area for free. Not only do you save money, but they are the ones who will tell you what places you should check out or even what areas to avoid.
If you want to visit a popular place in the town or city you’re in, you can create a meet up on the website, so you don’t have to go alone. Then, you can venture off to a new place with a new friend.
My final thoughts about the website are that my experience with Couchsurfing has been pretty great. It’s allowed me to make friends all over the world, save money, and continued my international friendships. Since you’re going to a new place, it’s essential to always take your time and use your common sense even on Couchsurfing.