Skip Navigation

Has anybody ever been to CouchSurfing??

Travel Forums Europe Has anybody ever been to CouchSurfing??

Page
  • 1
  • 2

Last Post

1. Posted by Ranni (Budding Member 8 posts) 9y

I heard about it from a friend. She said you live in somebody's house while they are gonna. It suppose to be nonprofit organization. So its free.

Never heard about it before.

Has anybody been to that? how was your experience?

2. Posted by aharrold45 (Travel Guru 1281 posts) 9y

Your friend has told you wrong to a certain degree or you have misunderstood what your friend told you.

The way couchsurfing usually works is that you'll contact the members and then if you are lucky, when you arrive at the city they live in, they will let you stay at their house for free with them there. Sometimes it means you'll get a bed, sometimes it'll mean you can sleep on couch cusions on the floor, sometimes a couch etc it varies from place to place. Depending on how much the owners of the house trust you, you may get given keys to come in during the day while they are at work, but that would be rare. Usually you'd have your stuff there, do your thing during the day and then come back to the house later in the afternoon/evening when they finish work (assuming they do work). Of course it is just common decency to give a small gift of appreciation (a small something from where you live is always good). Sometimes they might not be able to host you, but they are willing to show you about the city, pick you up from the airport or something like that. Sometimes it is expected when you stay with them that you'll pay for food that you use, pay for using the phone, pay for petrol if they show you around in their car etc, but it varies from person to person. Assuming you are a decent person and don't abuse peoples generosity, you'd hopefully not abuse the good will of the people by using them in ways like expecting to use the phone to call home in a foreign country etc without paying for such privelidges when they will be out of pocket.

If you use the site unless you are a leach (take but don't give in return), it is expected that at some stage you will return the favour to other travellers. So when someone is in your city and needs a place to crash, you will let them stay with you if it isn't too inconvenient. Some people are just leaches like that, but the better members are ones who give and take instead of just taking.

www.hospitalityclub.org is the best site like the couch surfing one. It has more members than couch surfing, has been around for longer but www.couchsurfing.com is the 2nd best one with a lot of the same members that are on the hospitalityclub site.

You meet some really great people through the site, but it isn't uncommon to find that a lot of your requests for accommodation will go unanswered, or will come back saying they can't help at the moment. Sometimes you may need to email 10+ people for anything but in some poorer countries it is probably a better idea to stay away from using that site.

I don't know if you have used Ebay before and seen how the feeback system works, but couchsurfing and hospitality club have a similar sort of system. So if you are hosted by someone it is expected that you'll leave feedback for them and they will leave feedback for you, so that others will know that they are genuine people and aren't a male claiming to be a female, aren't a pedaphile or something else like that. So if when you are browsing the members in the city you are interested in, if you see someone with a number other than 0 next to their username and click on that it will show comments made by other members about the member. So some person or people will have vouched for that member so you know they are legit. That doesn't mean that you should avoid contacting people with a 0 feedback, because they may just have joined, they may have not been lucky with anyone replying to requests, their are any number of reasons that they may have no feedback.

I've used the sites a few times and only had positive experiences. I've stayed with people while travelling and I've also had some people stay at my house when they were travelling. I've kept in contact with a couple of the people and met two of the nicest people I have ever met (who saved me a small fortune of over $600US in accommodation costs when I was in Iceland).

[ Edit: Edited on Apr 10, 2007, at 6:50 AM by aharrold45 ]

3. Posted by t_maia (Travel Guru 3289 posts) 9y

There is also "homeswap", which is a similar system where you exchange your flat or house with somebody else.

You offer your space up during a certain time, if you are lucky you find somebody who wants to stay at your place during that time who has a flat to offer in the area you want to go to. You then just swap - your partner lives in your house and you live in his.

The advantage of this is that it is usually free or done against a small fee. It is an inexpensive way for families to spent their holidays.

http://www.HomeForExchange.com
http://www.homeexchange.com
http://www.homelink.org/

4. Posted by ikey (Full Member 172 posts) 9y

Hey Ranni, can't say I've used this service but I've seen their website before and I have to say their is no way I would use it. Especially if you are a single girl travelling on your own, the risk of staying at a strangers house is too great.
Don't forget these websites and their 'rating system' are very easy to corrupt. I wouldn't be surprised at all if the person opening the door to you suddenly changed from the little old lady with the bungaloo out the backturned out to be the fat middle aged man looking for some 'fun'. The posibilities and lenghts these some people can go to are endless.
I guess there is steps you can take to safeguard yourself to a certain degree, such as numerous emails, photo's, meeting for the first time in a public space, but how can you ever be sure?
Don't get me wrong, if everyone was the perfect citizen then it would be fine, but their are some sicko's out there, whichever country you go to. And judging by your profile (young/single/attractive/female) your probably a perfect target.

5. Posted by aharrold45 (Travel Guru 1281 posts) 9y

Quoting ikey

Hey Ranni, can't say I've used this service but I've seen their website before and I have to say their is no way I would use it. Especially if you are a single girl travelling on your own, the risk of staying at a strangers house is too great.

I guess the same could be said for hitch hiking, going on a date with someone you've never met or barely know, chatting on the internet etc but a lot of people do it and rarely does anything bad arise from it and most the time only good experiences will arise from it. Their is a risk when people stay in hostels that their baggage may go missing, but most young travellers stay in hostels and very few have anything happen like that and most people come away having met some really cool people and had a great time. This same thing applies with using sites like couch surfing and hospitalityclub. You have a tiny chance (depending on which city you are looking to stay in) that something may happen to you, but chances are it wont and you will meet one or two or even more great people. You'll never win lotto if you don't get a ticket and you'll never meet the great locals if you don't use sites like couchsurfing. It's utter paranoia to believe that you are in great danger of something happening.

Generally the type of person who'd want to corrupt the feedback system (which I highly doubt they would on those sites) can be easily spotted. Just like the sellers on Ebay with any feedback can easily be spotted when they have got something to hide. You just need to read the comments and it would almost always be someone who doesn't speak english as a first language. They'll claim to be from Australia, UK, America etc and the words will show that they do not speak english as a first language and often will have posted the exact same word for word comment with a bad error in it.

Ikey are you the same type that will only walk places because they are afraid that you'll be in a huge pile up on the highway and be killed, or won't catch a plane because their is a tiny chance that it might crash in to a mountain and kill everyone on board? In things like couch surfing, hospitality club etc using common sense precautions ie not trying to stay at a persons house in Lima, not staying at a persons house in other dangerous areas, not having a huge wad of cash lying about etc will reduce the risks a lot. Nothing is 100% danger or fool proof but you can make it close.

One place I stayed at the couple were hosting 5 different people from 5 seperate countries all at the one time. They were so so nice to everyone and I still regularly keep in touch with them over 12 months later.

[ Edit: Edited on Apr 11, 2007, at 9:04 PM by aharrold45 ]

6. Posted by drfatma (Budding Member 13 posts) 9y

Hi Ranni;

I have also used HC several times and as a girl i have only had positive experiences. I both hosted and was hosted by people. You should create a reliable profile and carefully read the comments of your possible hosts. Then i do no think you will experience any problems. Staying with HC hosts not only saved me accomodation and most of the time dinner and breakfast costs, but i also learned a great deal about the culture of the country, i had very nice memories and i even was guided by my host in small day trips around the city i visited. And i am still in contact with my guests and hosts. So, as long as you are cautious, i definitely recommend using HC.

7. Posted by ikey (Full Member 172 posts) 9y

Quoting aharrold45

Ikey are you the same type that will only walk places because they are afraid that you'll be in a huge pile up on the highway and be killed, or won't catch a plane because their is a tiny chance that it might crash in to a mountain and kill everyone on board? In things like couch surfing, hospitality club etc using common sense precautions ie not trying to stay at a persons house in Lima, not staying at a persons house in other dangerous areas, not having a huge wad of cash lying about etc will reduce the risks a lot. Nothing is 100% danger or fool proof but you can make it close.

Whoa chill out harold Harrold just giving my opinion, I'm sorry you took it personally....

It's got nothing to do with being paranoid of cars, aeroplanes, first dates or the annual percipitation on Mars for that matter, it's actually very simple: I would never recommend a single female to stay at someone's house who they have only met them on the internet.
Whatever floats your boat, but staying on a strangers soiled carpet to save $20 doesn't appeal to me. Seems to me there are better ways of meeting locals that's all.

8. Posted by aharrold45 (Travel Guru 1281 posts) 9y

Quoting ikey

Whoa chill out harold Harrold just giving my opinion, I'm sorry you took it personally....

I wasn't taking it personally despite the way it may have seemed. Sometimes you have to take risks to get rewards which I guess as a whole going to a foreign country is a bit of a risk. When I was saying about place to not stay ie Lima, they are mainly the places that apply to your example of $20 (poor places or places with a high crime rate). I only used the site for places like Iceland where budget accommodation was $90US a night (after the hostels were booked out 2 months in advance), Dubai where budget accommodation also doesn't come in to the average persons idea of cheap and other countries which have no accommodation under $25US a night.

I too was a bit scared to begin with for most of the reasons that you put forward (apart from I'm a male and not female), but after taking the risk and only having positive experiences using the site, I can't speak highly enough of homestaying with people. One of the only real negatives is that you are really restricted to their rules. So if they start work at 6.30am and don't want you in the house when they are gone, you are out the door when they leave no questions asked and unless they do it, you can't really go out on the town until 3am and stumple in at 4am drunk if that is your thing. You should take the risk one time when you are away and I am almost 100% certain you will find it a good experience if you don't spend it with really old people who'll most likely have very little in common with you.

One easier precaution is if you agree to meet the person then you phone them to see what clothes they are wearing. Agree to meet them in a place which has a lot of people so can witness if anything was to happen and then when you get close enough you'll see what they look like and if you get bad vibes just go. That's what the mother of the first person to host me told the daughter. "If he looks like an axe murderer leave"! Lucky I explained what I was wearing well, because someone wearing exactly the same clothes, same colour and all except what was written on my T-Shirt went by who in the persons opinion looked like an axe murderer!

[ Edit: Edited on Apr 13, 2007, at 1:27 AM by aharrold45 ]

9. Posted by bentivogli (Travel Guru 2398 posts) 9y

Being an active member of CS, too, I can only recommend it to everyone here on TP. But, and this is very important to make CS work the way it is intended; only use it on a basis of reciprocity. If you don't intend to ever host surfers on your own couch, better not surf someone else's. CS is not primarily intended as a cheap alternative to hostels, but as a way of improving contact between people and cultures across the world.

As to risks; they are real, although the core of the CS community is relatively small (all in all, I reckon there's about 500-1000 members who regularly host people), and social control is tremendous. In addition to that, the system has a variety of security measures that members are invited to use, and I'd warmly recommend only requesting hospitality from members that have taken the trouble of full registration, have detailed profiles, lots of positive references, or a combination of the above. In such cases, I think that even solo female travellers can use it in relative safety. Nevertheless, Harrold's advice about meeting your host in a public place first makes sense, although one has to consider the burden this puts on one's host, who in 99% of cases is a nice and trustworthy person.

10. Posted by will13 (Full Member 73 posts) 9y

I am a member there, I still haven't used it or hosted anyone though.