What You Need To Know About CouchSurfing

Thursday, March 4, 2010

There were a number of confused reactions this weekend at the NYT Travel Show by the more senior members of the audience when the speakers would get into such things as Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare. But there was perhaps no greater confusion (and sometimes indignation) than when the topic turned to CouchSurfing.com.

Of course, for most travelers, CouchSurfing is just one of the many tools in their arsenal for budget and immersive travel. The opportunity to lodge free and, more importantly, to make new friends and live like a local is a no-brainer. However, the idea of shacking up in some stranger’s house still causes many to shy away from the world’s largest travel social networking tool.

But, like British humor and soy milk, the preconceptions are quickly dispelled with just a little explanation. Stephen, over at GoMad Nomad, recently tackled this very subject.

Too Old?

Steve (I can call him this, I bought him a happy-hour priced beer) points out that though a great majority of surfers are in the sub-30 range, there are almost 50,000 over-50 participants (and many more in between).

Hate Couches?

Steve explains (as many of us have experienced), that couches are often the exception not the norm. Most people are offered up beds in spare rooms, futons, and an some occasions, their own guest house.

What Do You Owe?

Well, it depends. “You aren’t required to give your host anything . . . You may want to show up with a bottle of wine, treat them to dinner or a drink, or cook for them. There have been certain times traveling when I was financially inadequate and could only offer my in-kind contribution of making their house/apartment cleaner than I found it.”

* * *

My own experiences with the site have been incredible. I’ve used the site to meet new friends everywhere from Bogota, Dublin and Stockholm. I stayed gratis in Cork and Montreal (see the above couch), and I’ve hosted and became great friends with surfers from Canada, Ukraine, and Australia. In fact, almost every traveler I’ve met has had a positive story to tell about the site. Feel free to share your own experience below.

For Stephen’s full article click here.

  • Justina

    any recommendation if I want to do this in California? for like three to four days

  • pandaaze

    Calling all freegans or those considering it! Can you please complete either a 20 minute surveyhttp://www.stellarsurvey.com/s.aspx?u=B0C2352F-90C5-4B66-BA78-9B716EB2676B& OR 10 minute questionnairehttp://www.surveymethods.com/EndUser.asp
    The purpose of this survey is to educate Florida Atlantic University’s graduate class Food: Environments and Culture class about freeganism. Your answers will remain anonymous and confidential. The results will be compiled into large statistically representations, unless otherwise noted by you in with written consent at the designated final box stating that you want to be used as a specific example. At the end of the survey there is also an optional elective to request a follow up interview which should last between 30 minutes to an hour depending on your availability. Feel free to skip any questions you feel uncomfortable answering, you can always save and continue later, and you can submit without finishing if need be. Thank you in advance for your participation in my project. I really appreciate it!

  • I just had a TERRIBLE experience with a couch surfer who hosted me and my friend in New Delhi for 5 days. Now, from day one I

    felt that something was wrong and I advanced my date of departure by 24 hours just because the moment i went inside the

    house, I knew something was going to happen. Ok so everything was fine for 2-3 days, on the 4th day the host and my friend

    were drinking and I joined them for some talks….(I did not drink), …it was nothing offensive….but that was the first

    time I really talked to the host….I was always aloof and formal…I did not feel like even smiling at him although he gave

    us a separate room and everything…

    So now the real story starts…..I left that place on 6th Aug and my friend came to the station to see me off….the host had

    left in the morning and I did not see him on that day…..I sent him an sms thanking him for everything…

    After 3-4 hours I got an sms from the guy stating that I had STOLEN some jewelry from his house and that he had proof !!!!!!

    I was SO SHOCKED that I actually thought he was JOKING!! I sms-ed him back saying I didnt steal anything and that he should

    stop accusing me. He replied back saying I was playing games with him!!! He also said he has had such experiences before??

    What does that mean??? Couchsurfers have stolen stuff from his house before?? If yes then WHY did he host us???

    The real SHOCKER was the next call I got from my friend ! SHE was supporting him ! I asked her whaT PROOF they had and she

    said nothing….she just told me to return the jewelry. I sent an sms asking the guy to send police to my house if he wants

    to because I have nothing to hide. I M NOT A THIEF !!

    As soon as I reached home I saw that there was a missed call from my friend ! I called her back and this time she accused me

    of stealing her money!! I reminded her that she had stayed with me for like 3 days and she had lost NOTHING ! She told me “I

    cant hear you” and hung up….I sent her a detailed message saying that she stayed at my house so freaking peacefully and

    suddenly I turned into a thief as soon as I went to Delhi???

    I am goin to file an FIR with the police

    I have reported the host to the CS system as well though I dont know whether they will take any action….

    • One Woman

      CS never takes any action! They don’t care.

  • Rmarydoonedavies

    So far so good ask me next week!!!

  • Pingback: Couchsurfing Horror Stories – What are the Risks of Couchsurfing? | World Inhabit - The Online Travel Guide()

  • I have been with Couchsurfing for about 6 months. It is a great place to meet local and also save on accommodation. If one plans to stay on someone’s couch, it is generally a good idea to read all feedbacks (including positive and neutral). To get someone to accept a couch request, one must at-least have a complete profile and it is a good idea to get the location/identify verified.

  • I couldn’t agree more. CS has allowed me to make friends in places where I otherwise would have had no in-depth interaction with the local people. I also used it to organize a birthday present for my aunt where I asked people in dozens of countries to send her a postcard for her birthday. If there’s one thing you can’t underestimate, it’s the generosity of the CS community!

  • Mike Fried

    I too was at the show and agree there was some confusion about social networking sites and the mention of counchsurfing. I actually have been using CS for a few years now and have never had a problem with any of my guests (or hosts for that matter).

    I have heard some horror stories about people abusing CS as a site and taking advantage of certain travelers. Whether those are freeloaders or people from the street, you still have to be cautious about how you interact with. That is pretty much a rule of thumb everyone should abide by when using the Internet to meet new people.

    I did learn of one new website at the NY Times Travel show that impressed me. Several people on the floor were talking about it being like Couchsurfing, but way better. The site is called https://www.tripping.com . Overall it is WAY more advanced then couchsurfing and has an entire safety program for members to use. Additionally you can tell that these guys learned a few things along the way with regard to the tech side of things. You can even text message users for free right from the website!!

  • Brit

    my preconception of soy-milk hasn't changed

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