I used to work as a marketing manager with hotels and actually my first plan was to become a freelancer for hotel business, but I guess it didn’t work out. I loved the hotel business and I was dreaming of opening my own hotel one day, but dreams change, right? After traveling full time I realized that I am not truly enjoying staying at hotels and it’s really quite expensive. My problem with hotels is that it’s just so artificial, it’s supposed to be my home for the next two weeks, but I just don’t feel cozy. Then I started using Airbnb, but when Airbnb allowed hotels and hostels to use their platform it changed as well. Hosts started offering hotel-like services.
My first Couchsurfing experience
When I was in Italy my friend told me “Let’s go to Naples and I will show you what is Couchsurfing”. So, we traveled to Naples where we met this amazing Italian guy, he is a freelance programmer, he agreed to host us for two nights at his apartment. He opened his home doors for two complete strangers just because he wanted to meet new and exciting travelers and share food and knowledge. He gave us a separate room with two beds for free and also gave us his home key so we could enter the place whenever we want. It was way better than any hotel or Airbnb because a local person was living there who was open to answering to any question we have. This place had a soul and we shared a great memory together. From that trip, I’m introducing more and more people to two Couchsurfing, because it’s just a different and better experience of accommodation and meeting people.
What is Couchsurfing?
Couchsurfing is a website where locals meet travelers. If a local person has a sofa, an extra bed or a mattress they can offer travelers to stay with them. In exchange they spend time together, tell exciting stories or cook a meal. It is a platform where people with similar interests – traveling around the world, meet and share their culture and experience. Mostly, the people who host others are travelers who takes a break from travel and help other explorers to find out their country.
It’s not free accommodation
Yes, you do not pay for accommodation, but the focus of this program is not free accommodation but meeting people. Actually, the money you would pay for the accommodation you should spend with your host. Bring your host to dinner or go to a museum, cinema or any other activity. Not all the hosts agree for you paying, in my case usually only 50% of the people let me pay. The thing is as I said those hosts usually traveled way more before and they know the struggle of travel. So, never act with your host as you would act with Airbnb or hotel.
If somebody asks you to pay for accommodation, immediately report them. It’s not allowed on this platform.
How to write a message for the host?
So, most people fail at the first step of writing to the host. When you select a country and city where you are traveling then select hosts which you like. Check reviews about the host if they have any. Then read carefully the whole host’s account: their house rules, about them and only then write to them. Tips what to write in a message:
- Start with the hostname;
- Short introduction;
- Tell the dates when you are coming;
- Never copy the same text;
- Write something about them, what you saw on their account, what similar hobbies you have, or you traveled to the same country, etc.
- Sometimes hosts hide a small code which you add at the beginning of the text;
- Add your social media links.
The biggest problem is travelers don’t even bother reading house rules and about the person who will host them. Never do that, it’s not a hotel service and gets to know a person first.
Now Couchsurfing has an additional feature – “Hangout”. When you are somewhere in the city and you would love to meet a fellow traveler, you can select that you want to hang out with people. If somebody is near you and he also wants to spend time with an interesting person then he can send you a request to hang out. You both could go for dinner, explore the city or grab a cup of coffee. If you are tired of traveling solo it’s a great feature for short term travel/lunch partner.
Also, additional feature “Events” offer meeting new people without living with them. You can find a variety of events of Couchsurfing like language exchange meetings, volleyball, wine tasting, hiking trips and etc. If you are searching for people to do fun stuff you can also host an event yourself. Just write a description and add time and dates.
Is it safe?
This is the most common question. People who start using Couchsurfing always ask if it’s safe to sleep at random people’s houses. What if they are killers? Well… I used Couchsurfing in Italy, France, Germany, Taiwan, Vietnam, Singapore, and counting and I never experience any safety issues. Although, I can’t say that I am completely sure that it’s safe so you will need to use your own head. Never stay with people if you don’t feel 100% safe, it’s not worth the risk. But I think everything is fine.
What I don’t like about Couchsurfing?
The only thing which I don’t like about this platform is that some people use it as a dating app. Sometimes you get so many messages from guys who want to take you on a date. That’s not okay, there’s Tinder or Bumble for that.
The craziest thing about Couchsurfing for me is that you meet a person and you spend time together for a couple of days and you become the best friends for life. Even better friends than you have at home. That’s so crazy when you find people with whom you connect. That’s the power of being in a community so let’s stay strong.