The main goal of LanguagesAreEasy.com is to help my visitors learn languages easily and while having fun. However, traveling and learning languages are closely related together so today I am going to answer the questions, “How Does Couchsurfing Work?” “What is Couchsurfing all about?” “How safe is Couchsurfing?” and so on.
I have used Couchsurfing already around 15 times in several different countries. I have also talked with people who have hosted hundreds of people all around the world or stayed with hundreds of different hosts so I think I am the right person to tell a thing or two about this awesome community.
I will explain how I got started and I believe it will help you to understand how you can use Couchsurfing as well.
Let’s get started!
What Is Couchsurfing?
Couchsurfing is a vibrant community of more than 14 million travelers and hosts all around the globe. It’s a platform that connects travelers and people who would like to host them.
My first contact with Couchsurfing was around 5 years ago when one of my friends was traveling around Europe. I knew that she was a student and she wasn’t very rich so I asked, “How do you have money to travel so much? Aren’t hotels quite expensive?”
She just replied, “I don’t almost ever stay at hotels. I am using Couchsurfing. It means that local people are hosting me while I’m traveling. It’s great because I don’t need to pay anything for the accommodation and at the same time I get to know other people!”
I was amazed! Sounds like a great idea.
“But is it safe? You are a young woman so isn’t it a bit dangerous to stay with strangers?” I asked her immediately.
“Yeah, of course you need to be careful with who you are staying but my experiences have been solely positive. You can always read what kind of references former coucsurfers have left about this person before you stay with him.”
My friend grabbed my attention. Sounded like an interesting idea. Maybe I would try it in the future.. And then in June 2015 I made a 1-month trip in Paris where I tried Couchsurfing for the first time.
How Does Couchsurfing Work?
I had decided in the beginning of 2015 that I want to become fluent in French and the best way to learn would probably be visiting France. I booked the tickets for the summer and decided to stay one month in Paris. But I wasn’t ready to pay 90€/night for hotels so I decided to try Couchsurfing.
First, I signed up (it takes only 10 seconds). Then I added information about myself to my profile so hosts would know something about me. I thought also that it would be good to have a few references in order to find a host. I asked some of my friends (inside Couchsurfing) to write positive references into my profile.
Okay, now I was ready for looking for a host. I scrolled hosts in Paris and sent a few requests. One of them replied and offered me a couch for a few days. I went to Paris and stayed in his house for 3 nights.
Then I stayed the whole month in Paris “traveling” from one place to another. I met many friendly people and joined several Couchsurfing events and picnics.
Afterwards I have used Couchsurfing several times. At the moment I am living in Austria and I got to know one of my closest friend here through Couchsurfing. When I was in Indonesia and visited Jakarta, almost 50 different people offered their house for me. I can say that my experience of Couchsurfing has been positive. However, I still recommend you to be careful, especially if you are a woman.
How Safe Is Couchsurfing?
I would say that around 95% of experiences that I hear about Couchsurfing are positive. But then there are those 5% uncomfortable situations.
When I was in Paris and stayed with one 40-50-year-old guy I had a bit “interesting” situations. I came there in the evening and this man used to ask, “Would you like to have some massage after a long day, pretty boy?” Then I saw in his bookshelf a book called “Gay Love”.
Afterwards I laugh at this situation because nothing happened but it was still a bit uncomfortable.
Then in Paris one man offered to host me and I read on his profile that he is a nudist. Another older man had lots of negative reviews from young men saying that he is a gay.
That’s why I am usually looking for hosts that have at least 10 positive references on their profiles, they look like “normal” persons in the pictures and their profile is smart, not strange. I think that by following those tips you can avoid most of the uncomfortable situations.
If you are a woman and traveling alone I would stay only with a woman host. I know that some people may disagree but I have heard several uncomfortable experiences and I don’t want you to end up into them.
How to Host People Through Couchsurfing?
It works basically in a same way like using Couchsurfing for traveling. You just don’t need to send requests but travelers will be sending requests for you.
Create a profile, add information about yourself, about your home and add a few pictures. That’s it. Then you are ready to meeting people from different countries at your home.
If you want to learn some new languages Couchsurfing is one of the best ways to find a language partner. Benny Lewis (the guy who speaks +13 languages fluently) always says that if you want to learn a new language, you should speak from the day 1. Read more Benny’s language learning tips here.
Benefits of Couchsurfing
Traveling cheap is not the only reason and the benefit of Couchsurfing. There are also several other reasons why this is a great community.
- You get to know local people easily. This takes your travel experiences into the next level. Compare to a “classical tourist holiday” and talk only with your travel mates.
- You get friends from all around the world. I have got to known awesome people through this community. Couchsurfing is not only for “finding an accommodation”. It’s created for connecting with people and making new friends.
- You can practice new languages. Even at your home town from the comfort of your own home if you are hosting people. Practice language in real life and improve your pronunciation.
- Makes your traveling more enjoyable. Usually Couchsurfing hosts can give you great tips about traveling in that area.
- Couchsurfing events help you to connect with people while traveling. Have you ever been traveling in a new city and didn’t know anyone? Talking to strangers in the street doesn’t seem very convenient. Couchsurfing community arranges events where you can easily meet new people and spend time with them.
Do you also know other benefits of Couchsurfing?
Is Couchsurfing Free?
Yes, Couchsurfing is free. You don’t need to pay anything if you don’t want.
However, a few years ago they added a new feature called “Get Verified”. It basically means that you pay some money (at the moment 45€ one-time fee) for Couchsurfing website to get a stamp on your profile that you are verified. This helps your changes to find a host or a guest because people see that you are serious with this.
I haven’t got verified yet and it’s not necessary but of course you can do it if you want.
Then I would recommend bringing at least some small gift for a host. It doesn’t need to be anything big or spectacular but it’s a nice gesture. A typical gift is something typical from your country for example chocolate, a bottle of wine, flag, some typical food or whatever you think it’s good.
Please, Ask Questions and Share Your Experiences in the Comments below!
Okay, now I have shared my knowledge and experience of this website. I would love to hear what kind of experiences my visitors have had with Couchsurfing. Have you hosted lots of people or have you used CS while traveling? What kind of tips would you give for newbies?
If you have never tried Couchsurfing but you are interested, don’t hesitate to leave questions and comments below and I will be more than happy to help you out.
I enjoyed this site and this post very much! The concept of Couchsurfing is brand new to me and sounds incredibly interesting. The fact that you explained everything very thoroughly about the process of how to sign up and what is involved is most impressive. I left a comment and feedback on the site, as well as bookmarked the page in my Google for future reference. Thanks for the good work!
thank you very much for your positive feedback. I am glad that you enjoyed the article.
I saw your other comment as well and I recommend showing this article for your friends who are traveling more. Who knows if they would like to try Couchsurfing on their next trip?
I am publishing 2 posts every week on average on LanguagesAreEasy.com so you will get lots of helpful language learning tips and resources.
Thanks for sharing. This is very interesting indeed. Never knew it existed. Heard so much already about Airbnb but Couchsurfing is very new to me. Safety is really a concern though. Thanks for the advice on the safety issue. No matter where we stay, we need to be vigilant at all times.
I think it’s natural to think about the safety in when it comes to Couhcsurfing. I think that using it a few times you will notice that there is usually nothing to be afraid of. References on Couchsurfing website work quite effectively.
Imagine a world where you can go whenever you want and you never need to worry about accommodation because there’s always somebody who wants to host you. That’s exciting idea!
What better way to learn a new language than by immersing yourself inside the country or culture. Couchsurfing seems like a brilliant way to do just that.
I think I might want to take a few study courses or buy an ebook or 2 before I traveled to a strange country to sleep on stranger’s couches for a month though…Or not.
yeah, I also started studying French a little bit before the trip with Duolingo and by listening to audiobooks. I had also listened lots of language learning material by Benny Lewis.
You can do it in an order you feel the best for you but the most important thing is that you just get started and don’t procrastinate in reaching your goals.
I’m in Nigeria and even as I’ve not had plans to travel to any other country, as of recent due to my economic sitauiton, I think Couchsurfing is a great way to save the cost of accommodation while travelling around different countries. Not only would one get to lodge at people’s home for free, but it would get to give such a person the chance to meet new friends around the world.
I would warn though, as you pointed out as well, for one to be very careful while lodging at friends’ places to avoid some issues of feeling uncomfortable at those places. Awesome piece you’ve given here and one I would have to share with my friends over here in Nigeria.
yeah, Couchsurfing is definitely a great opportunity when traveling with a low budget. You make new friends and save money at the same time. Then it’s polite to bring a little gift for the host. Internet makes this kind of things possible 🙂
I have tried many different things while I have been travelling. Help x is a good one, you pay like £13 on you get a year membership where you can stay with people all over the world but i’d say couchsurfing is more convenient if you are travelling and in need of a place to stay.
I love how you mentioned that couch surfing is generally safe, there has been a lot of false propaganda about it.
Have you couchsurfed a lot yourself?
I haven’t heard of HelpX before but it looks interesting as well. However, their platform looks a bit outdated.
In 2015 and 2016 I did Couchsurfing quite a lot but in this year 2017 I haven’t done it so much. At the moment I prefer AirBnb because most of the time I nowadays just want to find an accommodation quickly so I can concentrate more time on my online businesses. However, I think I’ll start using Couchsurfing again in the future because it’s an excellent way to get to know local people.
This is just amazing! I had never heard of Couchsurfing before. I love to travel, but the thought of spending huge amounts of money on staying in a reputable hotel scares me. But Couchsurfing, fortunately, solves this problem. Couchsurfing lets you request a person, staying in that particular location, to let you stay for a few days.
Not only will you have a place to sleep, but you will have a companion. They can show you which places to visit. You can learn about their culture. And not to mention, learn some of their native languages. This is just an incredible site! I really want to thank you for sharing this with us.
Yes, Couchsurfing enables you to travel even with a minimal budget. Nowadays I haven’t used it so much because I prefer staying at an AirBnb apartment or at a hotel but I consider using Couchsurfing again in the future if I want to get to know local people in the city where I am traveling.