While studying abroad, I decided to visit Paris and London for a few days each. Being a poor college student, a free stay on someone’s couch was ideal. I had my first CouchSurfing experience in London, which I was a little nervous about. My host happened to be really nice French guy studying in London who had traveled the world with CouchSurfing. I chose him because he had 113 positive references, 0 neutral and 0 negative – he seemed to be a safe bet! I took the metro to the outskirts of town, and walked a few blocks to his house. I stayed on an extra bed in his room, but I felt completely safe. And it was a lot more comfortable than the dirty, poorly maintained hostel I stayed in the night before!
CouchSurfing is a great website for not only free lodging, but also to make new friends abroad. The website hosts thousands of people around the world, in almost any city you can think of, who have opened their front doors and pulled out their couches for weary travelers.
Now, you might be skeptical about this kind of lodging – is it safe?
First of all, the website has a page all about safety using the service: CouchSurfing Safety
On the couchsurfing.org website, the hosts can be verified. This means they have to send in their information to the website, along with a small fee, so they can be verified they live at that address. Also, many people write recommendations about their experiences staying with hosts, and the hosts write about those who stay with them.
A photo of my CouchSurfing profile and the friends I made:
You can also search by gender, if females feel more comfortable staying with another female.
- Clean up after yourself.
- A small gift or act of kindness (such as a bottle of wine or cleaning up the dishes) is always appreciated.
- Don’t consume their personal food or products without permission, and replace what you’ve used.
- Don’t outstay your welcome. Plan ahead with them how many days you would like to stay and stick to it.
My second experience CouchSurfing abroad was much more rewarding and comfortable than staying in a hostel. My host in Montpellier, France hosted myself and two of my friends for three days and two nights on the couches in his living room. He showed us around town, and we bought him a bottle of wine to share!
You can also CouchSurf in your own country! On my USA roadtrip I stayed with a very nice couple in Salt Lake City, Utah, as a brief respite from the dirty road and camping. They were travelers themselves, and it was a great experience!
If you’re not afraid of going outside your comfort zone, CouchSurfing can be a great way to meet the locals and immerse yourself with the culture of the region you’re visiting.