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Has anyone tried Couch Surfing?

Travel Forums General Talk Has anyone tried Couch Surfing?

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1. Posted by snatterand (Travel Guru 454 posts) 11y

I just found this service couchsurfing.com: a worldwide network of people who are providing free accomodation (not only couches but mainly) for backpackers or others travelling on a shoestring... Has anyone heard of this before, and has anyone ever tried it? I mean, how safe is it? I mean, a guy in Caracas just offered us not only his couch but also to pick us up on the airport... just like that! Should I be suspicious? Or just greatful?

On the other hand, how bad can it be? The website looks really organized and everything to me. I mean, it really can't be any worse than hitchhiking, can it? Does anyone have an opinion?

Cheers
//Susanna

2. Posted by Sam I Am (Admin 5588 posts) 11y

I've never tried it but spent some time looking over the website. First of all, I think you should always be suspicious when meeting folk that you really don't know. If I was travelling by myself (girls especially), I'd be even more careful, but if there are two of you, it gets 'safer'.

It's also important to note that the website itself has nothing to do with the people that actually end up offering their couches and they have no responsibility whatsoever to whoever ends up staying somewhere due to a meetup made through the site. They don't screen the people so how good or professional the site looks really doesn't matter. If I recall correctly, they have a ratings type system based on other travellers which should serve as a pretty decent indication if there's been enough ratings per person.

I think it can be 'worse' than hitchiking, just because if you're out to do something bad, you know exactly where to start looking.

Having said all of that, I think it's a great idea and I'd certainly give it a shot if I wanted to save money and travel cheaply :) I'd still try and be pretty careful in terms of who I stayed with though...

3. Posted by samsara_ (Travel Guru 5353 posts) 11y

Hey Susanna

One of TP's well-known members, Gelli, is a couchsurfer, and from reading his blogs he seems to be faring out quite well using contacts from the site on his travels.

You should send him a PM - he'll definitely help you out!;)

Ev

4. Posted by Gelli (Travel Guru 2457 posts) 11y

I am indeed, and i love it. You kind of need to use your common sense/judgment, but i think its an amazing thing and a great way of meeting people. If your not so keen on staying with people/them with you, you can also use it just as a way of contacting locals and meeting them as tour guides etc. I almost enjoy that more - seeing a city through a local's view point - than the free accom.

There are several other similar sites, and i'm also a member of www.hospitalityclub.net. I like the style/layout/feel less than CS, But it does have more members and a much wider spread of locations, and is longer established, so for off the beaten track it can be good.

I mean, a guy in Caracas just offered us not only his couch but also to pick us up on the airport... just like that! Should I be suspicious? Or just greatful?

Greatful. That's utterly normal! Chances are you will be fed, treated linke kings, shown around and be introduced to his entire family who will all be really (genuinely) interested in you.

On the other hand, how bad can it be? The website looks really organized and everything to me. I mean, it really can't be any worse than hitchhiking, can it?

Basically, that's it. Bear in mind that the entire network/principle works on trust. The founders don't know many people personally, and it relies on honest feedback about good/bad things and experiences to keep the system from being abused. You'll see that i (same user name as here - you can search CS with it) have a bad reference. I still don't understand why or what that's about at all, but that's his opinion and i respect that. If people want to use that as a reason not to host me or stay with me, that's there choice. And in fairness, its better than hitchhiking or even meeting somebody at the pub and going home with them. You at least have some contact and bits of information available before you make a decision, and there is nothing forcing you to accept. Hitchhiking, you have no idea who the heck picks you up before there car stops, and know nothing about them until your in and it's too late (and for the record, yes i also do alot of hitching).

Never go with anybody you aren't happy with, and if you feel uncomfortable you can always find an excuse earlier. And I've obviously no personal experience about a single female doing it, but know several who have (and have hosted me) and have had no problems.

Any questions, feel free to ask

5. Posted by Sam I Am (Admin 5588 posts) 11y

Quoting Gelli

You'll see that i (same user name as here - you can search CS with it) have a bad reference.

I knew it!! LOL

Rich, do you stay with folk that don't have a rating? To me, that would be the crowd I'd try and avoid if I was a girl travelling alone. Not quite fair necessarily, but it would make me feel a lot safer if I knew others had stayed there before me... (for whatever a rating's worth of course)

Definitely a great concept!!

6. Posted by Gelli (Travel Guru 2457 posts) 11y

Quoting Sam I Am

Rich, do you stay with folk that don't have a rating?

I do, yes. It kind of depends where you are. In major cities etc, you normally have the luxury of a large number of potential hosts etc, but out in the sticks and more off beaten track places, there's often only 1 or 2 choices if at all, and if no rating, so be it. The Vouching system is slighhtly open to be fiddled anyway (2 people can vouch for each other, but if they are both in the dodgy thibng together, it doesn't help).

The things i DO pay attention to is last login date needs to have been relatively recent (or if not, they have a full profile) - any last login date without a year on it is ancient so ignore it - and i've also never even bothered to send a potential request to somebody without a photo of some description. People who have references and have been vouhced for are generally safer bets, whilst Ambassadors and those with lots of friends are normally the safest. But just because somebody is unvouched and has no friends doesn't mean they are not worth trying - Quite a few of my hosts have been like that.

I've never had a bad experience at all (excepting the bizare after comments by Seb), and a number remain very good friends - i met up with one again last week in Siberia - and probably will do for ages. And with only 2 or 3 excpetions, every one had been speculative emails a few days or week before - only 2 i think i'd actually talked to beforehand for any legnth of time.

[ Edit: Fixed quote ]

7. Posted by samsara_ (Travel Guru 5353 posts) 11y

I think the really important question though is....

Did they actually let you sleep on the couch or did you get a bed?

8. Posted by snatterand (Travel Guru 454 posts) 11y

Thank you guys! Even though I wasn't really scared of accepting the offers I've been given so far, it feels a lot better to know that some people actually have heard about this before!!!

The thing is: I'm not a single girl travelling alone. I'm bringing my boyfriend! ;) Which makes it a lot safer at once. Convenient, ay?

And I agree - I think it is a great idea and an amazing way to get in touch with people. Rich, I'm really sorry about the way things have turned out for you with the bad reference and everything. :( Maybe I can come couchsurf with you in Kristianstad some day and give you a good one if that makes you feel better! :) I actually took the train from Kristianstad this morning going to work, since I spent the weekend in a cottage in Yngsjö (south of Åhus, I'm not sure you know where it is, it's tiny).

Seriously, is there a system of banning users who have proved "bad"? Or can anyone stay, no matter how many bad references that person is given?

//Susanna

9. Posted by Isadora (Travel Guru 13926 posts) 11y

This is a good thread for Anne (areinstein) to comment in - she also has been involved with the program.

Here's a link to another thread about couch surfing - you might find some info here too, Susanna:

Couch Surfing

10. Posted by Gelli (Travel Guru 2457 posts) 11y

Did they actually let you sleep on the couch or did you get a bed?

I've never yet actually slept on a couch or the floor (at maybe 15 different hosts), always a bed. Despite a couple of times trying very hard to actually be allowed to stay on the floor.

The thing is: I'm not a single girl travelling alone. I'm bringing my boyfriend! Which makes it a lot safer at once. Convenient, ay?

Couples tend to have more luck finding places than single people or 2 same sex travellers anyway, so you'll be fine.

Rich, I'm really sorry about the way things have turned out for you with the bad reference and everything.

Thanks, but in honesty it doesn't really botehr me. It's entirely up to people to make their own judgments and decisions, and if Seb thought i wronged him that badly, i'm quite happy for him to say so. If he didn't or wasn't allowed to say it, the system doesn't work. I have several other references which are perfectly fine (and the original one from Seb was as well), but if people decide to belive his over everything else, that is entirely their choice and perogative.

I spent the weekend in a cottage in Yngsjö

Small world. It's a nice little place, i don't know it well but have been there a couple of times in the past on my way South.

Seriously, is there a system of banning users who have proved "bad"? Or can anyone stay, no matter how many bad references that person is given?

The references are basically for reference rather than anything else, but there is a system than bans people from the club if they have proved not to fit in with it's ideas, shall we say. But that involves going through the owners etc and them making the decision. I don't know about CS, but apparently in the history of HC - 5 years, about ca80000 members - only ONE person has ever been kicked out.