“You have friends all over the world, you just haven’t met them yet”
As a young adult travelling in Europe, staying in hotels is just not an option for me right now. The first thought has always been booking a hostel, they are cheap, have a fun vibe, you can meet people and they usually include breakfast. Sweet deal. But last November while travelling to England and Belgium, I decided to try Couchsurfing.
What is Couchsurfing?
Couchsurfing is a global community which allows you to get in contact with travellers from all around the world. It currently has 6 million members in a 100.000 cities!
How does it work?
In order to become a part of this network, you have to create a profile on the website www.couchsurfing.org. You can be a surfer, a host, or both. As a surfer, just look up the city where you will be travelling to and find available couches. Read the possible host’s profiles thoroughly, it’s very important to get a sense of the personality of who you will be staying with, so that there are no surprises upon your arrival to their home. On the other hand, your profile should be as complete as possible so that hosts have as much information of who you are which will increase your chances of getting your “Couch Request” accepted. After you have been accepted, is just a matter of organizing the “rendez-vous”.
Is it safe?
In my eyes safety falls on our own hands as well. As a girl, I wouldn’t couchsurf by myself but I know girls that have done it and have been perfectly fine. In order to help you decide upon which host to send your request to, Couchsurfing works on a review based system, so make sure you read them, and stay away from hosts with negative reviews. Also when you message them, let them know what kind of trip you are interested on having, because since you are staying in someone else’s home you might not have a 100% freedom to go in and out of the house if the host is not okay with that.
As my first time Couchsurfing I had a great experience. In London and Brussels I had 2 great hosts who not only provided me with a place for my friends and me to stay but also went sightseeing, ate and even went clubbing together.
The difference between Couchsurfing and staying in a hostel, other than the fact that it’s free, is that when you stay with a local you get to know the city from a local’s point view, they will probably know what are the best restaurants and bars, and what tourist traps to avoid. It’s not something you should do just to save money, but instead you should do it if you are really up for the experience.