Why I recommend Couchsurfing and my tips to stay safe.
I love Couchsurfing. I wrote about it in several of my posts such as ‘How to make friends on the road‘ and ‘My 8 top tips every traveller should know’ so I have decided to dedicate a post just to Couchsurfing.
For those who don’t know, Couchsurfing is like a Facebook profile for travellers. But instead of sharing statuses about the hardships of life or if you are single, in a relationship or it’s complicated, you are sharing your sofa, spare room, floor space or your time to a traveller.
Now it’s not all take, take, take! I am strongly against just surfing and not giving anything back therefore I regularly host when I am at home. However if you don’t have your own home then it is pretty hard to host. So, give back to the community by being a good surfer. Share your experiences, meet up in different cities or show a traveller your home.
I have a friend who has been travelling the world for 5 years. She can’t host but she always cooks her host dinner, shares her travel experiences and is always meeting up with other travellers to show them around whenever she is stationary.
On the other hand, there are people who just host. Due to different reasons, they are unable to travel therefore they travel through the Couchsurfer.
Now one massive thing which might concern you, and did with my parents when I first started doing Couchsurf is safety. Especially as a female . . . Sigh!
However, I have never had any bad experiences. I am careful. I check my host’s references, I have a message conversation before I stay with them, I tell my parents the profile name and always share my location when I arrive. If anything makes me smell a rat then I don’t go. If anything causes me concern during my stay, I would leave. It is always important that you have a backup plan, money for a hotel or somewhere else to stay, just in case.
This is the same if I host and I have asked someone to leave before. Not due to me being concerned but he had just well and truly outstayed his welcome. Do not be that surfer!!!
So I would like to share with you some of my top Couchsurfing experiences. Experiences I would be unlikely to have if it wasn’t for Couchsurfing.
Dan the Jungle Man
Back in 2014 I stayed with Dan out in the Taiwanese jungle. For two nights I lived in a shack like shed, we foraged for our food and I ate all the persimmons a girl could eat.
This was an amazing experience and one I will never forget. I remember turning up in this little village and showing all the taxi drivers a photo of Dan until someone knew the route (taken by persimmon farmers into the forest).
To get down the mountain, I hiked for over an hour along with Dan to the nearest main road before hitchhiking to my next destination.
The Couchsurfer I went Couchsurfing with.
Additionally in Taiwan I met Victor who hosted me for a few nights. He was such a great host that then he went to Europe, I invited him to stay with me in the North of England. On his first night we were trying to work out a plan and he mentioned he would love to go to Scotland. So there I was requesting a last minute couch for myself and my Couchsurfer.
Due to both mine and Victors good reviews, Jain an Indian guy, living in Edinburgh offered to host us. We had an amazing time watching our first Bollywood film in the local cinema (with subtitles), eating as much Indian food as desired and taking a road trip out to the Falkirk Kelpies and the national parks of Scotland with a group of his friends.
That weekend, I met my great friend Surya who became my housemates at one point and when he got married I went to India to attend his wedding.
This meeting created opportunities that I otherwise would never have had.
Couchsurfing whilst Couchsurfing.
My first Couchsurfing experience was in Finland. I was kindly given a chance by a host who allowed me to stay a week (I would recommend that you don’t request for more than 3 days so as not to overload your host with your presence). During my stay I went to a Couchsurfing meeting and was invited to a house party by another Couchsurfing host Andy.
As he lived out of town he offered myself and my travel buddy a place to stay following the house party, Couchsurfing. Our friendship blossomed and resulted in further trips in Europe together. We have since met again four times with the most recent trip being an epic road trip in Finland with him and his now wife.
A true friendship that blossomed from a random house party.
The Couchsurfer who walked over 2500 kms.
Whilst in Hamburg, I was hosted by a Mihai guy from Romania and Friederike his German girlfriend. A super cool couple. I was shown the sights and taken to some cool, off the map places.
Turns out Mihai had walked from the UK to Romania. He had Couchsurfed at Friederike’s home, fallen in love and after completing his walk, moved to Hamburg to be with her.
The Journey of Dreams
Marco Couchsurfed with me back in 2014 whilst on a epic ‘journey of dreams’. He arrived on his Harley Davidson, made a most amazing pasta tomato sauce with my home grown tomatoes and had me in fits of giggles with his great sense of humour.
I even took the morning off work to head out in pillion on his Harley in the area around my home. His wanderlusting life created the desire even more for me to also head off on my own ‘journey of dreams’. You can follow his journey HERE.
Marco wasn’t the only biker I’ve had stay with me. There was also David who sold everything he owned accept what would fit in his panniers, and became a nomad of life before settling close to the ferry across to France so whenever he felt the wanderlust coming on, he could head off into Europe.
The Couchsurfer who hitchhiked all over the world.
I accepted a request from Patryk, a Polish guy who couldn’t tell me his exact date of arrival on my doorstep. Why? Because he was hitchhiking from Poland. He had already hitchhiked from Poland to the UK, back again and now was making his way back to go up to Scotland to hop on a boat over to Scandinavia.
It turned out Patryk had hitchhiked all over the world. A few years later, I met a Zea in Turkey. Surprise surprise, when we added each other on Facebook, we had a mutual friend. She had met Patryk hitchhiking 🙂
These are just a few of my experiences whilst Couchsurfing. I have many more to add to this list which could go on forever!
In addition to hosting, I should mention that the events feature is great for making lifelong friends in a new city. Couchsurfing has resulted in many an epic night out and so many cultural experiences. Their new hangout feature is also great and connects you immediately to other Couchsurfers in your surrounding area who want to meet someone for a drink, food, walk etc.
I really recommend you join Couchsurfing.
Here are my top Couchsurfing tips:
1/ You may find it difficult to get a host when you first join. If you haven’t got any reviews, attend a meeting and after spending time with the group, you will find some members in the community to write you a review.
2/ When requesting to stay with a host, always read their profile. It is so annoying to receive a copy and paste message from a Surfer. I can spot it a mile away. Tell the host why you want to stay with them, mention something in their profile and you will find you get a much better response.
3/ Do not outstay your welcome. It can be exhausting hosting all the time. Realise that your host might need their own space and make sure you only stay as long as you are welcome for. Request 2-3 days rather than the mistake I made at the beginning where we stayed for 1 week. You never know, your host might invite you to stay longer which has happened to me a few times.
4/ Always always check references. Do not put yourself in unnecessary danger. Always let someone know where you are staying.
Read about how I let my parents know where I am whilst travelling in my post ‘Being safe as a female in India‘.
5/ There is no exchange of money on Couchsurfing unlike Airbnb for accommodation. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t give your host a gift. Perhaps something from your home, perhaps cook them a meal or buy them a beer. I often give hosts a photo of myself in a beautiful location holding a ‘thank you’ sign. On the back is a personalised message to them. It always has been received well and I got the idea from someone who gave it to me after I hosted them.
6/ If you agree to host someone, don’t let them down last minute. It really isn’t nice!
Have you ever Couchsurfed before? Would you like to try it? Please comment below. Don’t forget to subscribe (It’s free!) to my blog for more posts like this and interesting travel tips.