Couchsurfing vs Airbnb: 10 Checklist to Your Ideal Travel Accommodation
Couchsurfing vs Airbnb: A fight between the two or a tie between the two? Airbnb is paid whereas Couchsurfing is free. If Couchsurfing works all the time, then Airbnb would have to close down in no time. Both accommodation platforms have their edge over one another. Let’s analyse which is a better option for you. I have used both types of accommodation equally much. Therefore, I will provide a balanced insight into them.
Couchsurfing provides free accommodation to host people in the community. One can be the host, the couch surfer or both at the same time. It creates an avenue to meet more others without profit getting into the way. The couchsurfers live in all sorts of environment provided by a host with not much expectation. Most times, a couch in the living room is given, and the traveller is happy to sleep there as long as they have a free shelter over their head. Since it is free, people cannot complain much even if the place is dirty or does not meet the expectation.
Airbnb is a paid accommodation service online where the owners monetise their homes by providing a conducive environment for people to stay at a lower cost than staying in a hotel. The better and centralised a location is in a city, the higher the price it can fetch. The size of the offered lodging – the entire apartment or just a room, the number of people staying and the amount of beautiful interior done will influence the rental price. Some Airbnb houses are so chic and palace-like, you feel the adrenaline rush to book it. Imagine being pampered by paying lesser than that of a hotel and some hotels are not even as impressive as an Airbnb unit.
Couchsurfing is free but you may run into houses and toilets that are dirty and lack of hygiene standard. You are staying in their home and not a hotel nor an Airbnb. The Couchsurfing hosts decide on the cleanliness of their house and how much they want to maintain it. I once stayed in a Paris Couchsurfing apartment where there were drops of urine on the floor, and it reeked of smell for days. The Couchsurfing host was oblivious to it. Moreover, I did not want to make any comment too, for fear of agitating him. It was his apartment after all.
Airbnb is like a cheaper version of a hotel where people pay to have a reasonably clean place. You can choose either a private room or an entire apartment based on the pictures of the house. You book it when you are satisfied with what you see. Therefore, the Airbnb hosts are expected to maintain the condition of the house the way you anticipate it to be since many make a living out of the rental. If you leave bad reviews afterwards, it will affect their booking with potential guests and result in a loss of income.
Couchsurfing hosts are likely to provide you with a couch rather than a room. In tourist-infested cities such as Paris, a host can have couch surfers every day. Imagine the number of heads that have laid there before with people who have not showered for days. Now, you are going to sleep on the same couch stained with their body sweat and odour. Gross, right? If you are given a room, the host will not change the bed linen every time someone leaves the place. Since it is free accommodation, why would they bother to do that frequently?
Airbnb hosts mostly charge a one-time cleaning service fee on top of the advertised room rate per booking. What I came across was around €40 at that time which was I found the service charge to be excessively high just for changing the bedsheet or clean the room especially when you are only staying for one night. You can justify the cleaning fee if you book many nights in a row. On the contrary to Couchsurfing, the advantage is that you can expect Airbnb host to change the bed linen whenever someone leaves. Airbnb makes a better accommodation choice if you are particular about sleeping on a clean bed.
Couchsurfing check-in time largely depend on the availability of the host. If he is working during the day, you can only go to his house after he has finished work. If you arrive in the city early in the morning before 9 am, the host can take you in if you have made prior arrangement with him. Some Couchsurfing hosts give you spare keys to their house, and some do not. A handful of them will also expect you to be out of the house when they go to work. Without having their keys, they may give you a curfew to return home before they sleep. You have no control over this unless you find out before staying with them.
Airbnb check-in time is usually between 1 to 3 pm and the check-out time at 11 or 12 pm so the Airbnb hosts can prepare the bed and receive the next guest. If they have no booking before or after your reservation, they are more flexible with the time. Airbnb hosts will always give you a bunch of keys so you can access in and out the house anytime you want. You have more freedom and do not have to get out of the house when they go to work, unlike Couchsurfing. You should have no curfew since you are paying a service. However, they still reserve the right to specify their house rules.
Couchsurfing has less privacy than Airbnb. Most hosts offer a sleeping place in the living room whereas some give you a private room for the sleeping arrangement. Some people may feel awkward and vulnerable to expose themselves to the host or some other people in the house particularly women if one has to sleep in the living hall. If a host has a private room to offer, then you have more privacy.
Airbnb host will leave you alone after passing you the house keys and explaining some detail if you rent an entire apartment. The Couchsurfing host or other tenants may also be in the house if you book a room instead. Thus, privacy reduces with more people around. The third option that Airbnb offers is a shared room with the owner. You pay lesser than a standard room and has not much privacy here. There are not many such offers in Airbnb anyway.
Couchsurfing binds you emotionally more with the host as the whole concept is to stay with a local. That includes your desire to know about them, do things together, discover the culture and to expand your network and knowledge as a result. Hence, the notion of merely wanting a free bed as widely publicised by some couch surfers and not making an effort to communicate with them is not correct. The obligation for guests to make time for the host is part of the package.
Airbnb is rather straightforward because money is the middleman which is their motivation behind it. For people who want more personal freedom and do not want to share their time with the Couchsurfing hosts, opt for Airbnb instead. Airbnb hosts will typically leave you alone to do your things. There is no string attached, no emotional connection expected. Neither will they offer their time to accompany you or cook you dinner, unlike Couchsurfing. In Airbnb, you have more time to spend it with your loved ones on holiday.
Couchsurfing hosts’ and guests’ safety and security depend solely on trusting each other. If a dispute arises when things are lost or stolen, both parties have to settle it among themselves or call the police in the worst scenario. Couchsurfing has more reputable credibilities than ill ones, benefitting millions of people who use the service and trust the community. In spite of the avail, it does not imply that there is no black sheep among them when dealing with a complete stranger. I’ll give you 9 tips to have a safe Couchsurfing experience.
Airbnb hosts can state upfront for a security deposit. This amount is guaranteed with your credit card, but it will not be deducted unless something happens. If an Airbnb host wants to claim any property damage against you, he would first file a complaint to Airbnb for investigation. Airbnb has responsive customer service to manage disputes pertaining to the stay and to take appropriate actions. So, both the host and the guests are assured of some form of protection through a middleman without resolving it by themselves.
Couchsurfing hosts love to share their food by cooking for their guests or to have a meal or drink together outside or in their house. The idea is to create opportunities to talk and do things together. Dining is a great way for people to relax and spend a wonderful time indulging in engaging conversation.
Airbnb hosts can provide you food, only if you pay them. Some hosts will offer you a home-made breakfast or dinner tagged with a price on the website as an optional service. Trying out their culinary skill may surprise you as it is another interesting approach to discover what the locals eat.
Couchsurfing hosts like to do something together with their guest. One of my favourite activities is to have them show me around the city, bring me to hidden spots or take part in an event together. All of them are so fascinating that I think I have a professional, personalised tour guide which is better than carrying a map.
Airbnb hosts are considered to provide a reasonably good service when they pass a city map to their guests. The better ones will ask you to call or SMS them if you need any help in their cities. Choosing Airbnb allows you to explore the city on your own or with your friends in a more adventurous way while getting minimal help from the host.
Couchsurfing option may be lacking in some cities. There are many registered Couchsurfing profiles there, but not many active ones around. They either do not reply to couch messages or respond too late. They could also be on holiday. Checking their last login time will give you a clue. As one can only send 10 couch requests per 7 days to the Couchsurfing host if you use up the free quota, you have to wait one week later to submit the next one.
If you did not get any reply from these hosts and your time is running out, you can only go for Airbnb. Though the same thing can also happen to Airbnb, I have never come across it so far. I hope the analysis above help you to plan your accommodation better if you have neither used Couchsurfing nor Airbnb before.
I have given you many reasons why people consider one over the other from both my experiences. Now, these are my inferences when and why do I use Couchsurfing vs Airbnb over the other one.
Couchsurfing vs Airbnb: What would be your priority when it comes to decision-making?
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