Couchsurfing is a way of traveling that almost everybody knows nowadays as it has become more and more popular during the last years. We have gained numerous couchsurfing experiences during the years while traveling in Europe and Asia. We have also hosted travelers at our home and met people in different couchsurfing events. In this article, we tell 4 reasons why couchsurfing is so awesome and why everyone should try it at least once.
Couchsurfing often splits people into two groups: some think that it is a great way to travel on a low budget and meet locals. Others again cannot even imagine stepping their foot into a stranger’s home. The host could be mental or even a serial killer! Couchsurfing requires an open and adventurous mindset indeed as well as an ability to trust people. Even though the profile descriptions and reviews given by others give some kind of clue what to expect, the final truth is always revealed only on the spot. Sometimes the surprise can be unpleasant but most of the time, it exceeds all your expectations in a positive way and provides amazing travel experiences!
We have almost only positive experiences of couchsurfing. We have stayed both in young and old people’s and homes and with families. Some of our best memories from our travels are staying at a Japanese family’s house and sleeping on a traditional tatami, sipping wine in a luxury apartment that was located in a skyscraper in Seoul, a whole private apartment in Romania and a spontaneous road trip that we made with our host in Japan.
Besides that, we remember the kindness, hospitality and real caring of all those people that have accommodated us. We have got so many good things during our trips that we definitely want to share it with others as soon as we have the possibility to host people again.
Apart from those luxury flats mentioned above, we have, of course, also slept on couches, on the bare floor of a tiny apartment, in hammocks and even in the car. You should always do couchsurfing with an open mind and not be too selective with the sleeping conditions. Even if you wouldn’t be able to sleep in the most comfortable and softest bed, the other experiences normally compensate this.
We don’t really have any bad experiences of couchsurfing. Although once one Japanese guy promised to host us for two nights but asked us to take our backpacks with us after the first night. He messaged later us that he cannot host us anymore. We never found out the reason. Anyhow, we never had any intimidating or very uncomfortable situations even though we have couchsurfed both together and separately.
If staying in people’s homes feels too extreme, you can always start couchsurfing in other ways as well. Couchsurfing doesn’t always mean just sleeping in someone’s home. You can also contact people via the website and participate in meetings that are organized in bigger cities. Both locals and travelers go to these meetings. We often message people and ask them to show us around, grab a beer or have dinner.
We have always found new friends in couchsurfing meetings. They are a great way to socialise especially when you stay a longer time in one place. You can look for weekly events in Couchsurfing Events site. Sometimes we have also used the Hangouts feature where people look for company for sightseeing, dinner or going out. The feature shows the people who are currently near you and you can contact them directly via chat. This is a simple and easy-going way to meet people spontaneously. Sometimes we have sat down for a beer with our new acquaintance only 15 minutes after the first message. Unfortunately, some people think that this feature is like Tinder so especially solo traveling women should think twice before they go to meet someone.
According to our own experience, these are the best reasons why couchsurfing is cool. Even if you had always thought that couchsurfing is not your thing, you will hopefully think about it once more after reading this.
You get to see places with a local guide
Couchsurfing offers you an opportunity to experience the travel destination from a totally different angle than what a normal tourist could experience. Instead of staying in a hotel, you get to see local everyday life in a district inhabited by locals. The local host naturally knows his home city well and can show you interesting places that you cannot find in tourist guidebooks.
When we couchsurfed in Hanoi, we got to know a district outside the touristic center where foreigners were definitely not an everyday sight. We participated in a family dinner and explored the city by motorbikes. Our hosts have many times brought us to amazing food places and pubs that we would have never found by ourselves. Once our host organized a dinner party at his place and we met all his friends too. We think that this kind of traveling gives much more than running from a museum to museum, even though you can also visit them while couchsurfing.
Even if you don’t want to sleep at people’s places, you can use couchsurfing for this purpose. You can always message an interesting person and suggest a meeting in the city center.
You get friends from all around the world
Couchsurfing is an amazing opportunity to get to know people from different countries. We cannot even count in how many countries we have friends thanks to couchsurfing. These new friendships might be useful also in your future travels and the best thing is when you get to meet the same people again. When you plan a trip to a new country you might remember that oh, that couchsurfing guy comes from here.
We hosted a Ukrainian hitchhiking couple a few times in our home in Poland. When we later visited Ukraine ourselves, we already had local guides waiting there and showing us the best places!
Another time Johanna was hosting backpackers from New Zealand and when one of them moved to the Czech Republic later on, Johanna got a place to stay on her trip. Now when the life threw us to New Zealand, we already had friends here via couchsurfing. Very handy, isn’t it? Because most couchsurfers travel a lot and constantly, your paths might cross again even in surprising places.
We have also had countlessly many long and inspiring discussions with our hosts. It is easy to find open-minded people via couchsurfing who have the same mindset as you and who are interested in traveling and meeting new people.
You get to know different cultures
When you step out from the tourist bubble, also the cultural differences become more visible. It is important to behave politely when couchsurfing and act according to the etiquette of the destination country. Do I need to take the shoes off, how to behave at dinner and am I expected to bring souvenirs? It’s better to check these kinds of things already beforehand but many concerns can also be solved just by asking the host directly.
When we stayed in Japanese homes, we came across many etiquette rules that we didn’t know before. We were, for example, often expected to take a bath before the dinner. Once our host filled the bathtub with water for us and we had no idea whether we all should wash in that same water. We found out later that in Japan it is a habit to take a shower first and after washing yourself, dip into the bathtub.
Thanks to couchsurfing, we can nowadays fluently dine in a Vietnamese or Japanese home. In Vietnam every person gets a bowl of rice and people eat the side dishes from common plates. You are supposed to take food only one bite at a time and put it to the rice bowl before eating. In Japan again, you have to empty the rice bowl neatly until the last grain. We might not have learned this kind of skills in hostels so we can say that couchsurfing has definitely taught us a lot about different cultures!
You save on travel costs
Couchsurfing is not meant to be just a free hotel. What is important, is meeting people and spending time together. Instead of paying for the accommodation, you commit to spend time with your host and plan the things according to his schedules (of course the host doesn’t always have time or want to hang out but this is the basic assumption). The most important motive to do couchsurfing must always be the interest in getting to know new people and cultures.
At the same time, couchsurfing is also a great choice for a budget traveler as the accommodation itself doesn’t cost anything. Anyhow, it is polite to bring a souvenir, participate in food costs and offer the host a drink or dinner. For us, couchsurfing was a real saviour especially in Japan where the accommodation prices are relatively high for our small travel budget.
What is your best or worst couchsurfing experience or would you try couchsurfing?