People are often fascinated or horrified when they hear I use Couchsurfing. This photo is me with my host in New Caledonia experiencing some local culture I would have never found without an insider.
Isn’t it dangerous? No? Yes? A small creep-run motel feels less safe than staying at a well-vetted friendly person’s home. Obviously something awful could happen, but that could happen to you on a train or in a hotel as well. I only stay with people who have many positive reviews and numerous photos and have only had positive experiences.
Do you have to hang out with the person? There’s different opinions on this. I look at Couchsurfing as an active exchange program. If you just want a place to crash you should use AirBnB. If you want to connect with a local you use Couchsurfing. I only ever use Couchsurfing when I’m traveling solo – I want someone to go out to dinner with, and if I’m already with someone it feels third wheel-ish to include them.
Should you “repay” your host? There’s no written rule on this, however the website recommends cooking them dinner, cleaning up or something else with minimal cost. When I’m traveling I don’t want to do any of that. And I don’t have extra space in bag to carry host gifts. I usually offer to take my host out to their favorite restaurant. If it’s my last day in a specific country and I have a bit of local currency I use that as an excuse to pass them some cash. Honestly some hosts don’t want or expect any repayment; they like hosting to get a taste of culture without traveling, or to practice their foreign language skills.
Any horror stories? Nothing awful. At the end of a two month long travel stint I was Couchsurfing at a large house. They had three big couches in the front room, but many roommates coming and going. One was out of town for the week and texted I could use his bed. It had been weeks since I had my own room with a door, so I was thrilled. The bed had black sheets with white stains on them. I can’t recommend the Sea to Summit Silk Sleep Liner enough; it’s great for an extra layer on a chilly night or to not pay for sheets in a hostel, but it’s not advertised as a whole body condom! I definitely used it to keep the cum out.
What about good stories? So many! That’s why I keep doing it. From the Minnesotan in Northern Japan who taught me which ATMs work best with my card to the Easter Island native who brought me to an overnight cave adventure – I’ve met some amazing people. Along with active hosts, Couchsurfing is great for meet-ups. If you’re in an area for a bit and want to meet like-minded people, many big cities have weekly or monthly Couchsurfing meetups. In Brisbane I went to a bar a few times that had drink deals and lots of friendly couchsurfers. Brisbane is also where I used the social function of just posting “hey, I want to go to Surfer’s Paradise this weekend, who wants to drive me?” and ended up beaching with a dutch couple and a local guy. Super fun.
Do you have any questions? Would you couch surf?