I cannot rave about Couchsurfing enough! This network of people from all kinds of crazy walks of life made my travel experience richer beyond what I could have ever imagined. From hypnotists in Dublin to unofficial pub crawls in Prague to guest lists and techno DJs in Berlin and festival friends in Budapest, Couchsurfing has given me unforgettable experiences and people that I will always hold dear. Here’s your 101 guide to this rad network…
What is it and how does it work?
Couchsurfing is a travel network that helps people to connect in every country of the world. The basic premise is that you can stay with people (hosts) for free while you travel. Or as a host you can give back to the travel community by welcoming people into your home. It’s obviously a fantastic way to save money on accommodation but it’s also good for so many other reasons! All hosts and travellers have a profile on couchsurfing.com (there is also a great app). You can search for hosts in the area you want to stay, read their profile and reviews from other people, contact them and if they accept your request, voila! You have a place to stay. There are also additional features aside from crashing with strangers that help connect travellers and locals all over the world.
Why do it?
- Experience a place like a local (the best way!)
- Discover places and gain experiences that you never would have without your CS host
- Make friends! So, so many friends!
- Expand your frame of reference by getting to know all kinds of weird and wonderful humans
- Companionship while travelling solo. Travelling alone never has to be lonely with Couchsurfing! I went to a music festival in Budapest alone, went straight to the CS camp as I arrived and had a massive group of friends for the rest of the festival and am still in touch with a lot of them in fact. Many times when I’m alone but wanted to socialise I just hop on the Couschsurfing app, join an event or a hang out and always end up having the best time meeting rad people and seeing new places.
- Save money on accommodation- obviously the biggest perk.
How do I join?
- Sign up on couschsurfing.com (free of charge!) or download the Couchsurfing app and sign up there (the app is pretty necessary and very helpful while travelling so you should definitely download it to your smartphone!)
- Create your profile- put some thought and effort into filling in each section because hosts can only decide whether to have you or not based on this profile (and the references you will later receive)
- Now you’re on the network! It might be a little harder to find hosts your first time around when you don’t have any references but as long as you’re friendly and genuine and let people know in the messages you send that you’re new, someone will take a chance on you! Just persevere and contact as many people as possible.
Different Participation Features
- Surfing- when you stay with people for free
- Hosting- when you allow people to stay with you
- Events- this is the best, if you feel like meeting interesting people and doing something fun, a lot of places have weekly Couchsurfing meet-ups at bars or restaurants plus tons of other fun activities to do every week. Events are great if you’re travelling solo!
- Groups- join a conversation, share tips, get advice and find people to meet up with on some of the hundreds of groups CS has.
- Hang outs- find people nearby to hang out with and organise one on one or group meet-ups. This one is also great for solo travellers! Beware of people treating it like a dating app though :/ #thisisnottinderbitches
- Your profile has a section for references. When you stay with or host someone, afterwards you will have a 14 day window in which you will write references on each other. You cannot view a reference on yourself until you have written one on the other person, to keep it fair. When you begin your profile you will be asked “would you stay with X again?” if you say no the reference will come out as a negative rating on their profile, so think carefully. If you say yes it will be positive #obvs
- You can also rate people on good or negative traits that will appear in their profile such as “friendly” “reliable” “fun” etc.
- The more positive references you collect, the more people will be willing to host or stay with you.
- References are an important part of Couchsurfing because the network is based around strangers from all over the world meeting up and trusting each other; references help people to trust the person they are inviting into their home or staying with. Referencing enforces good and respectful treatment of one another on the CS network.
- Always be respectful of people’s space
- Don’t treat it like a free hostel! You are getting so much more anyway so embrace having a host to offer you advice, hang out with, learn from etc.
- Be kind to your host and do nice things like offering to cook, taking them out for a drink, feeding their pet, showing interest in their life, giving them a small gift.
- Hosts, be mindful of letting your guest do their own thing and have time to themselves
- Hosts, make sure you have a good key exchanging strategy if you don’t have a spare for your guest!
- Be honest and diplomatic when writing references
- Uphold the CS vibe of open-mindedness, acceptance, sharing and friendship.
- Be patient with language barriers and respectful of other cultures.
- Be punctual and reliable when meeting up with your host! If your phone only works in WiFi areas let them know and make sure you plan around this.
- MOST IMPORTANTLY: if you feel uncomfortable somewhere, leave! You are not obliged to stay with someone because they offered to have you! Politely let them know that you will be leaving and find somewhere else to stay. Never, ever let yourself feel uncomfortable, even if you are being overcautious, ALWAYS TRUST YOUR INTUITION AND LOOK OUT FOR YOURSELF!