Want to travel the world but have limited budget for accommodation?
Join Couchsurfing, and you get to stay anywhere in the world for free! Of course, it’s not just the free accommodation which makes it attractive; it’s also the opportunity to interact with locals in their own milieu.
First, though, what is Couchsurfing? Simply speaking, it is an online community of travelers whose motto is to “Participate in Creating a Better World, One Couch at a Time.”
The concept is that anyone can stay in any members’ place for free; as long as that member indicates in his profile that he can host. Other options include “Meet for Coffee or a Drink” which means that he cannot host but he can meet someone and maybe show him around, and “Traveling” which means that he is not available to either host or meet up.
A member who is planning to go to another country sends a request to a potential host. When accepted, they then agree on when and where to meet-up when the traveler arrives in the country. The space allotted to surfers (the one who’s requesting) is called a “couch,” which can refer to any sleeping area, from a mattress on the floor, to a real couch, or even a whole bedroom with a king-sized bed.
I first learned about CS from an article in the Reader’s Digest sometime in 2006. The idea intrigued me but full of anxieties about hosting someone I didn’t know, it wasn’t until 2007 that I signed up and began hosting people.
Since 2008, I have been hosted a number of times—all over Asia and Europe, and even in the Philippines—and I have slept in all kinds of beds, from huge four-poster type of beds, to just a mat on the floor.
All my hosts have been extremely friendly and accommodating. My first host in Shanghai, John from Edinburgh, met me a few minutes before he went to work, gave me the keys to the house, and left. My friend and I had the whole house (and his Persian cat, Harry) all to ourselves.
Again, what makes CS all the more memorable is not just the free accommodation (although it is a HUGE savings for a budget traveler like me), but more importantly, the opportunity to chat and interact with the locals in the area.
When I was in Indonesia, for example, I had been hosted by two of the warmest, sweetest, and kindest people I have ever met—Zuky and Fivi. We had spent hours talking, and I deeply regretted not being able to spend time with them longer. Without CS, I wouldn’t have had a chance to meet these lovely people.
One drawback is that after establishing bonds with your hosts or surfers, the time eventually comes when you (or they) have to leave, and sometimes it can be quite painful. I had gotten along very well with my first surfer, Jacob (from the U.S.). After three days, when he was scheduled to leave, he wanted to cancel his trip to stay longer. I had felt the same when I was with Zuky and Fivi in Indonesia.
What about safety? Living solo as I am, my friends have always been concerned about the security of my hosting strangers in my home. While it is a real issue, CS does have some safety features, including references in the profile (feedback given by CS friends, hosts and surfers), a verification system (identity and physical location are confirmed by CS), friend links (where you can see the type of friendship, from being an acquaintance to a close friend), and a quick and responsive CS team which addresses reports of abuse seriously and quickly.
I also take some precautions whenever I decide to accept surfers. Here are some of the tips I follow:
- I review the member’s profile very carefully. I make sure that he has been a member for some time and did not just join up to contact me.
- He should have positive feedback, not only from people he met during CS meet-ups, but more importantly, from his previous surfers and hosts as well.
- He must have been vouched for by other CS members.
- Unlike other CS members, I don’t give my surfers a set of keys to my house, and when I go out, they go with me. I don’t leave them behind (although this is more about hospitality and less of a security measure).
Do I recommend CS? Absolutely. It is the true measure of your faith that despite everything, it’s still a wonderful world.
Update (January 2012): I’ll be using Couchsurfing a lot in my 70-day solo backpacking trip to Europe next month. Thanks in advance to my CS hosts! Without you, this trip wouldn’t be possible, as I’m not rich and would need all the assistance I can get to make this dream come true.
What about you? Are you willing to try surfing abroad or hosting a traveler in your home?
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Hi i have a question…paano ba iexplain sa immigration about couchsurfing?
After reading your blog and watching some documentaries (Reel Time news TV) about Coach surfing. I am extremely interested. I tried to join the Coach surfing community and i badly need your help to get through the registration process. I need to get one reference, I have to ask people to write up a reference for me. And i couldn’t think of anyone to do that for me but you. PLEASE!! 🙁
I have been traveling solo too. You’re blog is very interesting and informative. Love it. I love to write and share too.
For couchsurfing. I love to sign up for it. Do you need to have a travel blog for it for reference?
I will be in Iloilo by October and I was looking for places to see there when the word couchsurfing is almost everywhere in your blog.
Thank you for introducing CS! i just signed up.. into believing that this would be my first step in preparing to travel solo.. hope to learn more from your bloggggss 🙂
@ Jardness: Am going to India tomorrow, and yeah, I will be using CS a lot there, too!
Just used CS last year. My first host was in Yogyakarta.. and then my second host in India. Am now officially addicted to couchsurfing. hehe
@ Reiza: I’m so excited for your first CS experience! Don’t forget to come back and let us know what it will be like for you 🙂
This post has confirmed my desire to Couchsurf. Thanks, Aleah. As this will be my first time, I’m sure I will have memorable experiences.
I’ll let you know how it goes. 🙂
Thank you so much Aleah. This is one great tips and advice. Will do it 🙂
@ Lagalag: Most hosts especially here in Europe will not accept someone who has no experience hosting or being hosted. I suggest you build up your profile months before your intended long trip. That said, people in Asia are more accepting of newbie members. “Traveling” only means that you are *currently* traveling and cannot host or show people around in your home town. If you don’t want to host at all, but you are not traveling, just choose “Not right now.” You don’t have to meet up if you don’t want to 🙂
Hi, Aleah, one question: Can I be hosted even if I indicate on my profile that I am “Travelling” which means I don’t host and meet up? Thank you so much for your reply.
@ Mark: Go, go, go! Unfortunately, John is not in Shanghai anymore. But there are a number of CSers there. I’m sure you’ll have a grand time!
Thank you for introducing me to this concept Aleah! This will indeed be my next project! What I like most about Couchsurfing is the chance to “LIVE LIKE A LOCAL” and to network with wanderlust folks just like us!
OMG! OMG! Is there a CS member living in Li Jiang, China? When I attended classes in Fudan University in Shanghai, I won in a singing contest and the prize is trip to Snow Mountain, Shangri-La Mountain and Li Jiang Province!
The meet up point is at Shanghai. I will definitely have to meet your Scottish host!
@ Eric: I meant Edinburgh! Waaah! Thanks for the catch! Better late than never haha
Dublin is not in Scotland dear, its in Ireland. 🙂
Hi there… this is the first time I heard about CS and “hosting”…. Very interesting pero natatakot ako ng konti…hehehe.. I can’t imagine people (stranger) will let me in there houses or me, meeting them for the first time and actually stay in their place… 🙂 Nice read… I learned a lot. 🙂
Oooooh! Finally, I saw this na! Will check on this and review. Who knows, I might be able to enjoy this too! haha! Thanks!!! it was really nice meeting you and I told you, I am happy for you. haha!
Yup, it’s a great idea but I also agree that there is some risk involved. So, just be careful and have fun.
The idea of CS is great coz it allows you to travel to a lot of places where you can save for accommodation. But I’m still not comfortable of being with somebody that’s totally a stranger. Safety still is an issue for me.
CS ngayon ko lang to nabasa. very nice idea. sana mabasa to ng DOT. a concept to build upon lalo na ibang tourism destinations natin kulang accomodation facilities
Wow! This is really really practical! Thank you for the recommendation and I’ll certainly join this once I have a place of my own. I really want to travel!
This is a good way of saving some money while travelling and to find new friends. God bless. 🙂
This is interesting. Something that seems to be a good option for people who loves traveling and to get to know people more. You share the same interests but you get to know the culture than just being a normal tourist. I appreciate you sharing this. I might share this to my friends who travel a lot.
couch surfing at the sea would be great too, an inflatable couch with you on top wee..
I CS in Polomolok South Cotabato and Puerto Princesa Palawan. We develop a bond of friendship and we exchange text messages every now and then.
You are so lucky, Europe is very expensive and you’ll save a lot please tell us about your CS in Europe when you come back! Enjoy!
CS have done a great endeavor, kudos t the community
this is the second time i’ve encountered couchsurfing… this is really quite cool and saves you a lot (the place and for a tourist guide). it was explain it is safe, but still be cautious to your host and to the couchsurfer as well… Yahweh bless. http://trunklocker.blogspot.com/2012/01/viva-senior-santo-nino.html
CS is a very nice option to budget travelling..
I’ve heard of this for quite sometime in PTB
Think I’ll try to join with this. 🙂
When I first heard couchsurfing, I thought it’s a virtual couch where you can stay. I never thought couch surfing is a real-life experience.
This is quite exciting but pretty scary too. I just cant imagine myself sleeping in a total stranger’s house and not think about something bad. Well, anyways, it takes guts and passion for travelling to be able to pull this couchsurfing off. I admire and envy you for having all these opportunities. Hope you’ll be able to travel the world. 🙂
“Couchsurfing” is an online community of travelers who select a host for him/her to stay to h is/her house for free. This is quite weird for me for we don’t know the culture, the habit or social practices of others. It is good as mentioned here to view first the profile of every member thoroughly, for you might be a victim of rape, murder or whatever. This is a unique program or project for people to fellowship their fellow.
I didnt know about CS until I met a fellow travel blogger who introduced it to me. I was in fact hesitant about this project because of questions of trust since we have been hosting people sleeping in our house for sometime until we have learned that they are “wanted” by law trying to seek hide out in our house. I referred to my parents what can they say about this program and they warned for it hahaha.
Without their knowledge, I am really gonna try this but first, will try to surf to nearby provinces then probably will do what you are doung now. :))
I am an couchsurfer too. Karlo and James thought me this and they are the first i hosted in my house. I love CS and it does bring people together
Honestly, I am not familiar with couchsurfing. I better check some information about it kasi parang maganda. Well, Almost all free are good. hehheheheh
“Participate in Creating a Better World, One Couch at a Time.”
great idea!frist time to here bout’ that thing , too. great way to make friends with people in other countries!
thank you for sharing Aleah!
keep on blogging!
Wow. Kakaiba to ah. Truly interesting. Ngayon ko lang din narining ang tungkol sa couchsurfing 🙂
This is such a great idea! Great for budget travelers and people who want to meet new friends on their trips too 🙂
I have a friend who is hooked to that.
Yeah, it’s really a great way to travel.
I envy his experiences.
I understand “couchsurfing” as hospitality at its best. It should sit well with Filipino culture though I doubt if the higher echelons of our society practice such.
I will try to join maybe if both my hubby agreed on it and we are getting old lets say when we hit 50’s I just hope that it will still exist by that time, see you then
its my first time to hear about couchsurfing.. thanks for sharing additional infos
wow this this the first time i read about this.. it’s interesting though i must admit while reading your post the only word flashing in my mind is “too dangerous”.. hehe well with our world now with so many killings its better to be safe. But its good to know you are researching about the person really well before you accept them in their home. Just be very careful.Im not sure I’m willing to try this but will give it a thought.. Nice and interesting post! And goodluck on your europe tour! Good for you that you dont have to spend on accommodation, went there for 2 weeks which cost me a fortune.. hehe. Have fun on your trip!
I’ve been giving this a lot of serious thought. I’m becoming really interested. 🙂
You are lucky to travle to anotehr place and meet somebody who becomes your friends .CS gives you a lot of priveleges to enjoy travelling without spending too much money.
This is the first time that I ever heard of this and I’m intrigued and interested at the same time. I’m totally up for this, I just need to save up! Hehe
Wow! CS is such a cool project. I hope I can join when I already have my own place.. 🙂 I want to travel smartly and meet new people too.
Will be useful to me soon! Thanks!
I didnt know that this type of accommodating someone really exists. This is a great news for country hoppers like me.
Thanks for sharing!
i’ve seen a different but almost similar concept of CS, haven’t tried any though…i envy you guys who could travel solo and learn diff cultures…but maybe it really is not my thing as i’m afraid to travel solo…
I dont know what CS is all about. But after reading it on your blog, I wanna try it pra sa new blog ko. 🙂 Hehehe. I wanna meet new friends to sa ibang bahagi ng mundo./ 🙂
Wow I never thought that kind of thing exist. That is a good thing for travelers since they can save money from accommodation plus they have somebody who could be with them while they’re staying. Cool!
@ Cai: You can set your profile to “Meet for Coffee or Drink” then join CS Manila meet-ups. There’s one every week! I’ll add you to the CS Manila Facebook page so you’ll also be updated. Once you meet people, give them a reference and hopefully they’ll give you one back. That will work when you search for a couch in Saigon. In my experience, it’s hard to get a local couch there–a lot of them still live with their parents. Your best bet is to look for expats; there are a lot of them offering couches in CS Saigon.
Ako rin I want to try this pero I’m scared HAHA
How can I build my profile din pala if I can’t host? Ok lang ba yun? I want to couchsurf din sana this coming September pagpunta kong Saigon, pero di ko pa nababalikan yung CS account ko hehe
@ Helene: 🙂
@ Ruth: You can also build your profile now so when you go out of the country, you can already easily look for hosts 🙂
Very informative post! I’ll think about signing up when I have plans of visiting another country in the future.
Hehe, I’d love to try it… someday. 😉 But don’t think I’m ready to do so right now. 🙂
Hi Helene, thanks for dropping by. CS is a great way to meet people from other cultures. And it’s not just single people doing it; there are traveling families as well. Wanna try it? 😀
Wow, this is the first time I’ve heard of this concept, and it sounds incredibly fascinating! I’m sure anyone would be anxious at the idea of putting up a stranger in their home, yet it seems the site is offering good safety measures to protect those who do it. Truly a great idea, and an excellent way to meet new people and make new friends.
And hi! Just like to say this is a great blog. 🙂
@ Kim|MJ: That’s why CS appeals to me, because of the interaction with locals. Plus of course, the big savings 😀
Accommodations take the bulk of the travel budget most of the time and CS seems great although we have yet to try it, me local interaction aspect pa. Great post dear, thanks for sharing.
@ Beth: Thanks. Have you also read the post about our own Tandag?
This is very nice! 🙂
@ Red: When you try Couchsurfing, you will realize that there are many wonderful people out there who share your interests in traveling. It’s really a great concept!
@ Anis: Thanks for dropping by my blog. Your site looks great too! Very helpful.
I liked your blog post about staying with locals. Have you heard of Tripping.com? It’s a newer community where travelers connect with locals for cultural exchange.
We have a lot of solo female travelers on the site. In fact, we have micro communities called “Networks” and in addition to the Solo Female Travel Network we also have networks in partnership with the community for female travelers Do It While You’re Young and the community the authors of The Lost Girls travel book and optioned tv series created (the Lost Girls Network).
I run the blog and would love it if you were interested in doing a guest post for us. Let me know if so. If not, it’s cool. You have a great site!
How to join and register the cs im so interested about it since i love meeting people
How brave are you??!! It looks great, and your safeguards make it seem secure – but, in the end I think I’d be too gutless!!!
Have a great day!!
Gay! Yes, CS is NOT a dating site. Good that you met Sherv there though. Luna’s just the cutest baby I’d ever seen!
I’m still in touch with CS people I’ve met overseas. I love the concept of this project for it paves way for a more borderless globe. Uhm, I met the hubby thru CS – and no, it’s NOT a dating site! Lol.
Marky, that is so true. When I was in Kota Kinabalu, I met this really nice English couple who introduced me to another CS in Yogyakarta to become my host. Then when they came to the Philippines, we met each other again, I showed them around, and introduced them to CS Manila. The friendships really add up, and although it’s sad when you see people leave, you know (or at least, you hope) that someday, somewhere you’ll meet again.
I’ve tried Couchsurfing in Bacolod and Iloilo and my hosts became good friends and they themselves also couchsurfed during their respective backpacking trips in Asia…and in Bacolod my fellow guests are an Australian girl and a German dude while in Iloilo my fellow cs guests were a couple (American girl and German guy) and fellow PTB Ada…and among them I heard lots of backpacking stories that further inspired me to travel…
Yeah CS is a great idea, its not only bout traveling cheap its also garnering friends along the way.
Thanks Claire. I won’t forget your offer of a couch in Oz ha. 😀
Very practical and helpful tips for those who are planning to CS, i’ll link this on my FB page 🙂
Ian, yeah CS is really great. When you look for a potential host, find someone where you have something in common aside from traveling, e.g., photography. That’ll make your stay more enjoyable 🙂
hehehe nice one aleah…. sana magamit ko yung cs membership ko soon…. may kakilala ka ba na CS sa Montalban punta sana ako sa wawa dam eh…hehehe but seriously…. I really want to experience how to cs in other countries….
@ Mica: Yes, CS is so much fun because of the people you meet who intimately know the place. Have you signed up already?
@ Stef: That’s why I hosted someone when I knew I was going to surf in Shanghai in 2008. That being said, hosting IS easy if you’re a woman (the perception of not being a threat haha). You can actually join and not surf/host, though, and just meet travelers.
Hi Aleah! Like I said, CS is a very interesting concept. It’s definitely something I’ve never heard of till I read your post.
I wonder what it’s like to bring in travelers from all over the world and welcome them into your home. And how does a new CS member with no references get accepted though? Without any feedback from past hosts (and vice versa), it seems rather difficult to get started. Man, that sounded like a newbie applying for a job on Elance or something. XD
I will try this one out on my upcoming international trips. I think it’s much better kung ma-feel mo talaga how it is like to live in that place in the normal way (meaning not in a hotel). I-try ko sana ‘to sa Scotland kaso di natuloy hehe
@ BPS: CS only requires the credit card when you want to verify your identity. Otherwise, you just remain unverified, which is not usually a problem if you have positive references from other CS members, your hosts, or your surfers. If you give your credit card number, they’ll deduct a small amount as donation to CS.
I have tried signing up, but #Couchsurfing required me to give them my credit card number? Same holds true for you?