I am a frequent flyer and I love to explore new destinations. I never give up my passion of visiting new places and meeting friendly people around the world. Traveling abroad can be much cheaper than you think. So what keeps holding you back from seeing the world? There are plenty of ways to reduce your costs without compromising your experience; one of them is through Couchsurfing. Most of you have probably already heard of it. If you don’t yet know, it is a concept of hospitality where hosts open their humble homes free of charge to travelers (surfers). This social site is becoming a famous trend among globetrotters nowadays. There are over 3 million people throughout the world who have signed up on its official website www.couchsurfing.com. These people are more than happy to help you provide couch or a room and sometimes offer you a meal. Couchsurfing offers more than just a place to stay, it can enhance your trip far beyond simple accommodation. A good host will show you the sights, offer advice on where to go, and will provide you a deeper insight on a destination beyond what guide books give. Hosts are usually interested in learning about your culture, practicing English, or just enjoying your company as a break from their regular routine. I would recommend you to bring small gift or souvenir from your country to be given to your host to show appreciation.
At first I was little doubtful about this concept and thought that it may be not a plausible choice. But there are many benefits to opt for couchsurfing. I am a native of the Philippines, the Paradise of Southeast Asia. I have left my motherland many years back for the search of employment. Before I left, I got the chance to explore different parts of my country, thanks to my friend who informed me about couchsurfing. Since then, I met fellow active couchsurfers in my hometown Davao City and hosted many events such as booze cruise, island tours and language exchange.
I had the best experience meeting locals and fellow surfers when I traveled Southeast Asia. I have come to know that the money that I have spent for visiting 3 countries using couchsurfing is what I would have to spend staying in hotels in a single visit. My next trip where I tried couchsurfing was in Turkey. I stayed with my host and he helped me a lot to visit some of the famous destinations of this famous Islamic culture city. I also enjoyed the local cuisine of Istanbul. I then went backpacking trip to Europe on a shoestring budget. People there are so kind and hospitable in general. No words can explain how successful and memorable my journey was.
My trips turned into an exciting adventure all in itself not to mention that I have saved a lot of money and gained awesome friends. If you’ve never tried couchsurfing, then here are 10 reasons to choose couchsurfing on your next travel.
- Couchsurfing is free
What could you get free of cost nowadays: natural air, songs on the internet, some criticism from your blog readers, or praise about being beautiful? But how should you feel if I told you that you could get a free stay in the foreign city? Ok! You would be thinking this as too good to be true statement. But this is true, and this truth was brought forward by the couchsurfer community. I have been to many countries in Europe and Asia and it saves me a lot of money for accommodation. When I had my Euro trip, I get hosted by expatriates in Austria, Germany and Belgium. Although not locals, they were so willing to share they place and time. They wanted to meet and interact with like-minded who signed up. So, I let my host know beforehand that I am interested in surfing. I posted a request that I need a company and accommodation in the country and they accepted it. They responded that they are available and can provide a couch. To my surprise, they even picked me up from the airport. There were no awkward moments when I met them. This concept is a huge asset while on the road.
2. Couchsurfing is safe.
At first, I was a bit skeptical to choose couchsurfing because I thought whether it is safe or not. But then all my doubts became clear when I visited the official website and met some real couchsurfers. Safety is one of the major concerns especially for a young woman traveler. But I often visit the website of couchsurfing and made some real friends who share the same passion of travelling and exploring. I personally do a little research and read over host’s profile. Reviewing their references, hobbies, interest, and hosting experience is a must, do not just look into their photos please. I made a wrong choice when I was in Bangkok. A potential host offered me a place and we message back and forth about my plan of stay. I would have seen something was off. He took advantage of me being foreign in the city and lied about having a bed for me instead he brought me to nowhere. I stayed calm and refused the offer then headed back to city proper and booked a hostel. Scam is everywhere in Thailand, so many hosts are actually promoting guesthouse to get commission. If you are a female solo traveler, my advice is to meet your host in public place, send your location to your friends where you’re staying, and do not go out for a beer (just don’t).
3. Couchsurfing is more exciting and enjoyable.
I know you may still be a bit doubtful about couchsurfing. It’s something like a too good to be true concept in this 21st century world. But I am sharing some personal experiences in this post. CS is not just about hosting and surfing, it is also about meeting like-minded individual and build friendship. When I was in Santorini, Greece I met up with two CS members (a Kiwi and a Canadian) whose traveling solo. We had breakfast at the infamous and delicious, Mama’s House restaurant where we planned out the day over our meals. We ended up traveling together for 3 days. We opted to rent a 4×4 car as it is the best way to roam around the lovely island. We were able to witness the amazing sunset in Oia, hiked ancient Thira and visited archeological sites and museums. It didn’t stop there, we went to a club and party like there’s no tomorrow and capped the day off having few liquors and fun conversation. I can’t believe strangers became forever friends in an instant. It was the most exciting and enjoyable solo trip ever. The enthusiasm that they have shown me is more than what you could expect from those smirking idiot hotel staff members. Too bad we had to part ways, but we never know when we might see each other again someday.
4. Enjoy the local cuisine
Another reason for me to choose couchsurfing is the local cuisine. I stayed in a lot of hotels for a business trip and tried some local cuisine of that place. But the flavor and taste that I have had with the couchsurfing hosts was far above what I tasted. Spending day to day life with my host in Spain gives me priceless firsthand experiences hardly available in any other way. Consider me lucky as I have tasted true home cooked Paella Negra (my favorite) and Tapas prepared in a traditional way. Spanish hospitality is somewhat the same with Filipinos, giving visitors/surfers the chance to try a variety of local foods and maybe even teach us how to prepare it. Many travelers are afraid of trying foreign foods, fearing it might upset their stomach, but living with your host eliminates those worries. Forget about overrated restaurants as they don’t really serve authentic, indulge in the traditional tastes of the country.
5. Share some cultural diversity with the local hosts.
One of the many reasons why I love couchsurfing is sharing your cultural diversities. During my 5-day stay in Cologne, Germany with my host family I have learned a lot German way of living. It broadens my horizon to know what locals like to do, where they use to go, when they like to do particular tasks or activities throughout the day, and how they like to do them. I never felt out of place, being with them helps me combat my feeling of homesickness. My host introduced me to his siblings, parents and grandparents and it was such a good feeling meeting them. Aside from taking me a tour to his hometown, he also invited me to attend a birthday party of his nephew. Couchsurfing is really the best concept for frequent flyers because it gives you a chance to share the cultural influences you have with the hosts and ingest their cultural values as well. In fact, this is what most visitors want in their vacations.
- Free yourself from worries
Many people don’t like to visit foreign destinations without a help from a travel agency because they find it a bit daunting. Making a reservation for your stay, finding an affordable hotel for stay, searching for famous destinations, looking for affordable conveyance etc. are very daunting task that most people hate. But while couchsurfing, you could throw all these worries outside your mind and just visit that place with a smiling face. I have been hosted by many and one thing I observed is that they love to welcome you and provide you with many amenities a 5-star hotel would not probably provide you. It was winter when I traveled Istanbul with no itinerary at all. I really don’t have knowledge on where or how to get to places. Thanks to my host for assisting me all the way. If you are new to a place, there is no person you could trust but your host. He told me the cheapest and safest way to get to tourist attractions and best places to eat to avoid usual overpriced and scams.
- Make some real friends
If you are just couchsurfing because you out of budget for accommodation, then you’re doing it the wrong way. This is also a great way to build friendship around the world. I always spend time to sit with my host over breakfast and talk about personal life, couchsurfing experiences, unforgettable adventures, favorite travel destinations and many more. You gotta learn a lot from each other and take advantage of that chance. Trust me it serves you well in the end. Yes, people just come and go. At the end of the day, you would leave and that’s it. But hey! keep in touch, stay connected over emails/Facebook or anything that works for both of you. You never know you could bump into to each other again.
Having been living abroad is so hard to find true friends. As much as I would like to travel on a group and explore new places with them, but I often miss some chances because our schedule doesn’t match. So I always end up traveling solo. If you are also like me, then worry no more since you will always find companions and best friends through couchsurfing.
8. Best for bloggers and journal keepers.
So, you also love to write down your memories of your thrilling visits to some famous destinations of the world. If yes, then I am sure you’ll love to couchsurf with some bantering local hosts. Couchsurfing is best for some journal keepers like me and you. When you visit the local hosts in any foreign country, you should get an essence of their culture. You could attach more with the people while couchsurfing and this could provide you more chances of making a great story out of your visit.
9. Realize the true meaning of generosity
I think that couchsurfing is the only way through which you should understand the real meaning of generosity. I visited many famous places of the world and couchsurfed with the local hosts who belong to diverse religion, caste, culture, and ethnicity. But they never let me know that I was only a guest in their home. I have met many families who were more generous to me than the hotel staff member who would grin like a horse in front of you for nothing until you give him a tip.
10. It’s time to make your visit memorable
I love to meet new people and make new friends. This is the reason why I choose couchsurfing for most of my foreign trips. The local hosts are very friendly and polite in general. I felt like I was a part of the family when I last visited Amsterdam. The cute smiling girls selling their items on the street remind me of my childhood memories. I took their snapshots and it saved in my memory like a loving moment. You too could make your foreign visits memorable while staying with kind locals. I like to do something with my surfers and my host to create some good memories. I bring Philippine peso bills with me or any symbol from my home country and give them away as a simple remembrance.
Bonus Tip: How to get started?
So you are going couchsurfing, great. If it fits your style of travel, then I highly recommend this. Now is the best time to try it especially for first timers. Visit couchsurfing.com, sign up, provide an honest profile that will allow you to host adequately, find a host, or be accepted by someone and understand what couchsurfing is all about. Upload photo that would fairly tell your personality. Lastly, add friends and get references. Then you may now checkout local events, meet-ups and members traveling in your area. There are thousands of people like me wandering across the globe. And there are lots of kindhearted people in every town we visit who have a spare couch or sofa bed on which they’re happy for us to crash a few nights. Couchsurfing isn’t for everyone. It is also not a dating site. You need to be open-minded, easy going and flexible. As for me, well I’ve done amazing journey of my life and I never stop. I genuinely wish you well, happy wandering!