What is CouchSurfing?

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CouchSurfing (also known as ‘Sofa Surfing’) is a reasonably new craze that’s sweeping the travel community. But what is it, and how can you use it while traveling the world?

On this page we’ll take a look at what exactly CouchSurfing is, how CouchSurfing works (whether you’re a guest or a host), whether it’s safe or not (based on the experiences of thousands of people) and how to CouchSurf if you’ve never done it before.

What is CouchSurfing?

So what is Couch Surfing? CouchSurfing (as it is known, without the space between the two words) is often advertised as ‘a way to travel the world for free’, but in actual fact it’s a way to travel the world extremely cheaply.

CouchSurfing.org is a social networking hub for travelers where you connect and meet up with people who have spare couches to sleep on. This means that (in theory) you’ll never have to pay for accommodation again as long as you don’t mind sleeping on couches (and as long as you can find enough people to connect with).

CouchSurfingThankfully, there are over 3 million CouchSurfing members (according to their website) located in over 240 countries around the globe. CouchSurfing.org is generally seen as being oriented more towards a younger, party-happy crowd who don’t mind forgoing a little comfort so save money.

How to CouchSurf

When you sign up to the website you’ll have to fill out a Facebook-like application about yourself. Thankfully, you don’t need to have a spare couch (that you can offer to travelers) to become a member of CouchSurfing.org – anyone can join.

The general protocol (although it differs a lot) is for both parties to meet up for a drink or a casual conversation before fully committing. This is understandable, as people want to have some idea of who they’re letting into their home.

As a Guest
Once you’ve signed up and you know where you want to go, you can search on the website for people to stay with. Obviously you can’t just look someone up then turn up at their door – you need to get in contact with them first and establish a rapport. This will be helped massively if you’ve spent a little time on creating your profile so they can see you’re a ‘real person’ and not some crazy lunatic!

If you’re meeting up with someone, remember that they’re doing you a favour by letting you stay at their home, so make sure you’re always punctual, polite and respectful. When staying at their home, make sure to clean up after yourself and don’t expect them to provide everything for you.

As a Host
If you have a spare sofa and want to host fellow CouchSurfers, creating a profile is relatively easy, too. It’s generally considered good practice to post a picture of the free couch (or spare room) that you have, so that people can see what they’re getting into (and seeing it will make it feel more ‘real’ for them).

Again, spending some time carefully creating your profile and appearing friendly and normal is the best way to attract fellow CouchSurfers.

Is CouchSurfing Safe?

As with anything, common sense is needed when CouchSurfing. Yes, there are incidents when nasty things occur, but these are the exceptions. CouchSurfing isn’t 100% safe, but then is anything really? There are plenty of CouchSurfing hosts out there that would love to have you, so If you have a bad feeling about someone than go with your gut and steer clear.

Even if you aren’t worried, it’s always best to have a backup plan (i.e. a hostel that you’ve picked out to stay at) and to let someone know where you’re planning on staying (just in case).

One of the best things about the CouchSurfing website (and one of the things that makes it so safe) is that surfers can rate and give references to the people they’ve stayed with – verifying their identity and telling you about their positive experiences.

Why not create a profile today? Check out CouchSurfing.org for more details.

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  • Tutisturum

    “The general protocol (although it differs a lot) is for both parties to meet up for a drink or a casual conversation before fully committing. ”
    oO

    have you been even couchsurfing? I’ve never met up with anyone met on the couchsurfing for a drink ONLY because they wanted to check whether I am some lunatic. If it turnes out that you don’t get along then well.. you gonna leave in couple of days anyway. And those rules as a guest and host. It really depends on the agreement you have with the other person. Personally it doesn’t bother me at all when someone is asking me just 5 minutes after arrival whether I could provide them a towel or sheets or wathever – that’s how karma works. You cannot generalise it so much, couchsurfing is not a XVIII century France!

    • Nick

      Interesting point there Tutisturum.

      Just goes to show how there is no ‘one right way’ to couchsurf.