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.