Couchsurfing: what is it and what opportunities does it give
While traveling is mostly a fun and enjoyable experience, there are some inconveniences travelers usually face in their trips. Along with the necessity to find interesting places to visit and to eat at on their route, travelers need to find a place to stay. As practice shows, accommodations per diems have the biggest share in the total traveling costs. It is known that the cheapest option when looking for a nights lodging or a place to rest is a hostel. However, there is an even more affordable alternative for tourists and travelers and it is staying at someone’s place. ‘But how am I going to find a lodging if I do not have a familiar person in the area I am going to travel to’, you may ask.
By going couchsurfing, that is how! As the name suggests, this activity involves searching for hosts that are ready to share their apartments or houses with travelers and tourists for a night or several days. The CouchSurfing website, the biggest couchsurfing online service with its multimillion community and Android and iOS applications, has been running for more than ten years by now and has become quite popular. Let us take a look at the aspects of this phenomenon and try to pinpoint its pros and cons for both travelers and hosts.
The great benefits of couchsurfing
First of all, couchsurfing is not merely a cheaper alternative to staying at hotels and hostels, it is free in essence. As a guest, you simply take advantage of the hospitality of a host with no financial obligations. With that, you are free to stay for as long as the host offers.
The same works for hosts – you are not obliged to provide a person, who contacted you via the service, with an accommodation or letting the person stay at your house for any certain period, if you do not want to.
The second advantage goes far beyond a mere convenience, as the service offers a personal communication and interaction between guests and hosts. It is the interaction that serves as a basis for relationships, which may in turn evolve into life-long friendship or even a marriage.
On the other hand, communication is not only mutually beneficial in terms of establishing a long-lasting relationship, but also useful for a guest for getting a precious information from a host as for what interesting places to see in the area and how to avoid tourist traps. Thus, you can save your time and money after receiving a host’s guidance and eventually manage to see more during your trip. For a host, spending some time with a person from another country is also a great experience.
Remember that after being a guest you may become a host for the person or a family, which once shared their house with you or another person from the CouchSurfing community; so you have all the chances to pay back for their hospitality and kindness.
With its huge community and mobile applications available, the CouchSurfing service is not bound to any specific region and operates globally. That is very advantageous for both host and tourist users as they have more chances to meet people from very different environments and have an unforgettable experience often not available with their fellow countrymen. It is also a cool opportunity to improve your language skills if you are learning foreign languages, which again works both ways.
Things to be aware of when going couchsurfing
Living a couchsurfing lifestyle means interacting with people, so regardless of your role, host or a guest, you will have to communicate with fellow couchsurfers. No matter how tired you may get during your trip, it would not be very polite to show up just a little bit earlier before a dinner and go to bed soon after without having a talk with your hosts. On the other hand, giving your guests a key to their room or house and leaving them to themselves if they do not ask you to do so, will also be impolite of you as a host. In both cases, this may result in a bad reputation in the community and giving your digital profile a negative feedback for the CouchSurfing users. With its well-established infrastructure and mechanisms of protection against creating multiple profiles by one person, this may significantly diminish the chances for meeting interesting and pleasant people for the service users.
The other way around, even the most sophisticated algorithms of the service operation cannot guarantee that you will not come across people you do not want to communicate with and stay at your house or have you as a guest at their place. This issue is even more relevant for those involved in couchsurfing but not using the CouchSurfing online service.
While this whole thing is meant to be free, you need to remember that giving your hosts a small present, covering them for a meal that you can eat together or providing fresh foods/covering the expenses for the cooking is an unspoken rule most people follow. Hence, remember to keep a present for your hosts while traveling and save some money for covering their expenses at least partially. As a host, have your schedule cleared for the guests to be able to spend time with them and show them around.
An important thing to keep in mind for the CouchSurfing service users is the $60 fee they are charged for the verification. The need to pay this one-time fee is not advertised in the service mobile applications, so remember to lay up money for it, as you surely do not want to run out of your budget during your voyage.
Summing up, couchsurfing opens great possibilities for people and the dedicated online service makes them even easier to use. However, nothing is perfect and there are certain things you need to remember when embarking on your couchsurfing journey to avoid possible issues and make your experience amazing.