Let’s talk about Couchsurfing
Let’s begin with the big question: What exactly is Couchsurfing?The answer is simple: You need to sign in on Couchsurfing, get in contact with people living on a destination you plan to visit and then sleep there for one or a few nights.People who accept couch surfers are not allowed to charge you money, so the service is completely free. Of course you can, for example, cook for your hosts or bring them a small gift from wherever you just come from.
Couchsurfing is going even further: You can also just “meet up” with other travellers or locals who are actually in the same city as you. This allows you to explore places together and to exchange travel information. It is also nice when you just want company for lunch or don’t feel like visiting the city all on your own. There are also special events organised by couch surfers in many different places. If such an event takes place in your area, you are informed per e-mail.
My first experience with Couchsurfing
On my last trip, I was ready to try this out. I made an account on their website and searched for hosts in Slovenia. As I was travelling alone, wanted to find some girl or family to stay with (it just seemed safer to me). I wrote to maybe 5 persons I considered trustworthy, but none of them had either the time or free place to host me. I was on the point of giving up already (I know I’m not a patient person) when I realised that you can make your trip public on the website, so hosts can see when you’re in their area and offer you a place to sleep. So a few days before I arrived in Slovenia, people started to offer their couches. I found a Slovenian family, living around the place I wanted to visit, and arranged an arrival date with them. Turns out, it was the most lovely family I could get to! Izy and Vezna lived in the most amazing place in a mountain valley. Once I arrived, I was offered tea and something to eat and after that, Vezna took me to the small village and introduced me to the local life. They also gave me tips, what to visit and told me a lot about their country and travel stories. I had my own room and in the evenings we sat all together, drank beer and talked. Couldn’t have been better and I was really sad that I couldn’t stay longer.
My second experience was in Dubrovnik, Croatia. I arrived in the city when it was already getting dark, but still wanted to get to the old town. So I arranged a “meet up” with another traveller to grab a drink and walk around in the old town. I was a little sceptical at first to meet with a complete stranger (especially because I have a boyfriend and wanted to make that clear from the beginning), but it turned out to be a very nice evening. It is so interesting to learn about the life of people you don’t know at all. I can imagine repeating such “meet ups” on my travels.
(Thank you Vezna for making me feel so welcome)
A few tips
If you don’t want or can host other people in your own home, mark on your Couchsurfing profile “not accepting guests”. Otherwise, you will get a lot of hosting requests.
Complete your profile as much as possible, so people will know who is coming to them. This is important, especially when you don’t have any references yet.
Take your time to read the references and to write with the person you want to stay with. Make clear what to expect from each other so no ugly surprises will ruin the day.
If you are a female solo traveller, I recommend to chose women or families to stay with. I’ve read stories that some guys think of Couchsurfing as a “hook up” place, although no one could confirm that to me personally.
Remember: You can always leave. Don’t feel obligated to stay if you don’t feel comfortable.
Don’t rely completely on Couchsurfing. Most offers are very short term, so be sure to have a plan B in your pocket.
Offer your hosts something in exchange. This can be cooking a meal for them, buy beer or bring a souvenir from another place.
(The best beer in Slovenia!)