If you love to meet locals and want to truly experience living in another country, Couchsurfing is the way to go! With Couchsurfing you stay with a local and use their couch, a spare bed, or even an extra bedroom. This might not be something you want to do your whole trip but by mixing it in with your lodging it’s a great way to save some money, and more importantly, experience the local flavor of a city.
How Couchsurfing works
Couchsurfing is really just a community of people who love to travel and meet new people. The site is set up similar to Facebook – in that you have a profile, friends, etc. You can “couchsearch” to find people in different towns. You can also be verified at different levels to show you’re legit. Also, the best part of it is, you can leave feedback for different people – and those can’t be removed. So if you see someone has hosted a ton of people and gotten great reviews, they’re probably a pretty safe bet.
It’s a free system, but there are a few guidelines such as being respectful, trying to give back to the community (by helping others, etc), not overstaying your welcome, chipping in for groceries, etc. On the website you can either put your profile setting on “available to host” or even available to just show someone around town or have coffee.
Couchsurfing communities are huge in some cities, especially overseas. They even have many events you can attend in different cities, such as cookouts. We’ve found it to be a great way to meet new people and to find out the “inside scoop” on countries and cities! Plus, you can host people in your home city in between trips. Between the two of us we’ve hosted girls from Canada, Paris, Sweden, Russia and Norway.
Official Couchsurfing Website: www.couchsurfing.org
Here is Kinda’s profile – look it over and see what ya think.
Important Etiquette & Safety Tips for Couchsurfing
Girls- We do not recommend you staying with or hosting guys.
This is just an extra safety issue you don’t want to have to worry about. But that doesn’t mean you can’t meet up with them for a chat. For example, we met recently up with two European couch-surfing guys at a well-frequented coffee shop and had a great time talking and learning about our different cultures.
Try to have a backup plan when you surf.
There’s no guarantee to couch surfing. Plans do change. And yes, people do flake out.
Don't Couchsurf if you don't want to use your energy getting to know people.
If you’re tired and not in the mood to hang out with someone, you might want to choose a hostel instead. With couch surfing, you end up spending a lot of time talking and hanging out with your host and you are sometimes dependent on their schedule.
The more different the country is to the US, the more we would recommend Couchsurfing.
It’s a way to find a bit of home away from home…and a good meal!
Use good manners.
Be conscientious of their schedule. For example, don’t keep them up all night skyping your boyfriend if they have to be at work at 7am. Don’t eat food that they didn’t give you permission to use, or take an hour-long showers. In other words, be a guest that they would like to have back!
If you stay more than a day or two, chip in for food and such.
For instance, if your host has been cooking for you, you might buy all the groceries one night. Or if they don’t need groceries, you may just treat them to a restaurant meal one night. We know, this costs extra money. But they’re opening up their home to you for free. It’s a small price to pay for adventure and hospitality.
Bring your host a small gift from home or leave a card.
At the very least, leave a hand-written note – That’s affordable and thoughtful. These gestures of thanks are appreciated – you’re making friends and memories!