9 Safe Couchsurfing Tips for Free Travel Accommodation Experiences
1. What is Couchsurfing?
2. Is Couchsurfing Free?
» Giving Back to Host
» Payback Time
3. Is Couchsurfing Safe?
» 9 Tips to Safe Couchsurfing Travel
|1| Blank Profile
|2| Female Couchsurfers’ Reviews
|3| No Review
|4| Desperate Hosts
|5| Certain Groups
|6| Choose a Verified Host
|7| Exchange Social Media
|8| Maintain Communication
|9| Keep Valuables with You
What is Couchsurfing? As the name suggests, it started with the idea of ‘letting out a couch’ to the travellers by staying with the locals while you explore a city to learn about the culture or do a language exchange. Couchsurfing founders sent an email to a group of students in Iceland revolutionised the way in which travellers could now stay at someone’s place for free and see the world for a lower cost.
It creates an optimistic radical approach that people are willing to share their homes with strangers in any part of the world for free. Full-time travellers who can afford to travel for a long time and not work undoubtedly use Couchsurfing as one way for free accommodation. Otherwise, how could many of them afford such a lifestyle at their early 20s?
Most hosts and couchsurfers reported satisfactory and meaningful experiences for meeting friends you haven’t met yet all over the world. You stay with locals and learn a thing or two about their cities and meeting new people. Despite numerous positive feedbacks, one has to take precaution with regards to the safety and security of both the hosts and the couchsurfers, particularly women who are at a higher risk to encounter outrage of modesty.
I started using Couchsurfing in 2014 when I lived in France for a year. As a result, I took the opportunities and travelled to many cities in France. Thanks to the Couchsurfing website and the way it works, I did not have to pay a few hundred bucks staying in hotels. I was lucky to be accepted for all my couch requests with the first few hits so far.
An absolute yes! You have not heard it wrong. Couchsurfing is indeed free. You do not have to pay anything to register at the Couchsurfing website nor do you have to pay to stay with the host. The hosts would welcome the guests to stay with them on average 2 to 3 days or over the weekend.
If the Couchsurfing hosts are working on weekdays, they would prefer to host someone over the weekend. Also, not too many consecutive days as it may break their routine. Another reason quoted by the hosts is that the magical occurrence between two people fade when you stay with each other for too long. Ever heard of the proverb “familiarity breeds contempt”? Therefore, you have to arrange for another host after the agreed length of stay.
For many, Couchsurfing is free. If you ask me, I’ll say Couchsurfing is not ‘free’. It is true that you do not have to pay any money nor should the hosts ask you to pay. Once, a host asked me to pay $10 over the email after I had submitted a Couchsurfing request. I did not agree to such unethical practice, of course. If I wanted to pay, I would choose to stay in Airbnb or a hotel in the first place. But then, would you really want to go to someone’s place empty-handed?
Some hosts may extend the stay to couch surfers who are nice, easy-going and are willing to contribute something during their stay such as offering to cook a meal, wash dishes, buy some food, beer, wines, share their technical know-how etc. Some couch surfers are known to be freeloaders. So, experienced hosts will choose their guests carefully by reading the reviews left by other Couchsurfing hosts on the requester’s profile.
If a couch surfer is known to give little gifts or contribute something to the hosts, the hosts would then likely state the kind gestures as a positive Couchsurfing review. This little feedback will let your potential hosts think that you are a generous person and most importantly, not a freeloader. A freeloader defined in Oxford is “a person who takes advantage of others’ generosity without giving anything in return.” Consequently, the person is someone which all hosts detest to come across, period.
What did I give them in the past? So far, I have only done Couchsurfing in Europe. If I stayed for a few days in their house, I would cook them a simple Chinese dish that they had never eaten before. Additionally, I would also give them 2 bottles of Chinese sauces and showed them how to cook simple food with it. Most of them lived alone. Hence, they appreciated what I have done for them. It also helped them to discover new recipes which they can cook easily for themselves.
I would buy them a bottle of wine or a few bottles of beer not originating from their country if I did not cook for them. My action usually secured me positive reviews afterwards as I demonstrated my gratitude to the free lodging that I had. Generally, the little things that I give are inexpensive. There are so many other goodies you can give to your host without spending a bomb.
If a person likes to read, you can give them books or buy from a second-hand shop. If you are good with your hands, make something and give it to them as a souvenir. No matter what your present is, as long as it comes from your heart, the hosts will appreciate it. It gives the Couchsurfing community a more heartwarming reason to go on. On the other hand, you are not obliged to give anything back if you do not want to do it.
Another thing which you have to pay in Couchsurfing is your time. The reason why so many travellers especially solo travellers use Couchsurfing is going out with someone who can show them around the city and do meaningful things together instead of wandering alone. Time passes more quickly and fruitfully when you hang out with someone fun.
If you merely want a free bed and do not want to interact or get involved with the hosts, then Couchsurfing is probably not for you. I have heard complaints from the hosts that the couchsurfers are more interested in using their phone or immerse in their activities rather than engaging in a conversation with them. This group of people is another typical group of freeloaders who label their house as ‘Couchsurfing free accommodation’.
Also, if you come as a couple to a house, take the initiative to arrange some activities together. Get the hosts involved unless they are not free or do not want to get involved. Spend some time with them. If you want absolute privacy just spending time with your partner or friend, then Couchsurfing is also not for you. It would be better off staying in Airbnb where you do not have to entertain the host.
Mostly yes and sometimes no. If I have to say it is 100% safe, I would then be lying. I had heard about Couchsurfing from an online friend 10 years ago. However, I did not believe that someone would have you in their house without paying a single cent. That seemed sleazy and impossible, at least not in our Asian culture. It also sounded very risky to live with a stranger, especially for women.
There were cases where women recounted being raped on Couchsurfing travel. There are some malicious people out there who use Couchsurfing as a hookup platform – their bed in exchange for your body. It is never the intention of Couchsurfing to meet people this way. On the other hand, Couchsurfing hookup is also a two-way street for some which both parties are indeed looking for something more than just a couch. Whatever lurks behind the real intention should be reciprocal and not by force.
I did receive an invitation from a host to visit his city and stay with him. The strange thing was that I did not send him any Couchsurfing request. My planned travel trip to another city destination was already over quite some time ago. From his Couchsurfing profile, some reviews from female couchsurfers remarked that he was sexually suggestive and threatened to throw them out of his house. Thus, reading reviews about your host does help.
The following are some tips to look out for a safe Couchsurfing experience if you are new in the Couchsurfing community.
So, now you know what is Couchsurfing, and it is free. It is the most beautiful experience that I have during my travel because of real connection with strangers who seem as if you have known them for years. Saying goodbye is always a sad affair for me as I have developed a strong relationship with them in just a couple of days!
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