Reviews from the road: Couchsurfing

This will be my last review from the road, as sadly, the road trip is over! Thanks again to everyone who posted suggestions of places to visit and sent me emails.
This review is not of a place, but a website and online community, Couchsurfing. From their website:

CouchSurfing is a worldwide network for making connections between travelers and the local communities they visit.

This trip was my first time ever trying Couchsurfing–I had never even heard of it. My travel companion had tried it though, so I trusted her judgment. Basically you set up an online profile on the site with information about yourself, and the idea is that the members will offer their homes (and couches) to surfers when they are traveling. People connect by emailing one another. There are built-in safety nets, which allow people to post reviews of one another (both the hosts and the surfers) so you can see how well-rated people are and look for any red flags.
We had a great experience couchsurfing in Asheville, NC. We connected with an awesome couple who let us stay with them, even offering us a bed in their roommate’s room and feeding us a yummy home cooked meal. There is no money exchanged, and people only bring gifts or offerings if they so desire. We bought the ingredients for the meal we shared and left them a nice note.
I highly recommend it, you can find surfers all over the country. I definitely felt more comfortable doing it with someone else (both for the awkwardness factor and for safety), but I think it’s a great way to travel on a budget and meet cool people.
Anyone else ever tried Couchsurfing?

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17 Comments

  1. dancerjess
    Posted January 7, 2009 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

    CouchSurfing is awesome, I’m a member on the site, although I have yet to have a chance to actually surf! My boyfriend has, however, he spent an entire 3 week vacation couchsurfing and had a blast. I also helped him host a CouchSurfer from the UK who was on a trip around the world.
    There are some very cool people on the site, I highly recommend it.

  2. Rachel_in_WY
    Posted January 7, 2009 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

    I’ve had friends who’ve couchsurfed, and they had a great experience too.

  3. Birdseed
    Posted January 7, 2009 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

    It is a really great site, and a wonderful way to travel. The idea of doing something for free just to help out and make connections is really underappreciated… Me and my girlfriend have travelled all over Europe and everyone involved is so great.
    There’s a surprisingly small rotten egg ratio which the site is excellent at filtering away, in fact in three years of using the service I’ve never had a bad travelling experience and only hosted a couple of dull people out of dozens.

  4. Umweltfreundin
    Posted January 7, 2009 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

    Couchsurfing is huge in Europe. The organize cheap trips here in Berlin. It’s a nice community to be involved in of like-minded individuals. I only discovered it after moving to Berlin, so I never used it in the States, but I’m sure it’s just as awesome there. I would recommend it.

  5. amy_sarah
    Posted January 7, 2009 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

    I currently have a couchsurfer staying with me from New York! My roommate and I have hosted as well as been hosted, and it has always been really wonderful. I think it’s especially useful for people who like to travel alone but still want to meet new people and be social. Highly recommended!!

  6. gambolholic
    Posted January 7, 2009 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

    I couchsurfed alone all over Europe for a while and had an awesome time. It’s a great way to meet many different kind of people, save money on hostels, and get tips about how to get around and what to see. To stay safe as a lone female, I preferred staying with women or couples (although I stayed with a single man in Paris and it was fine) and I checked if they had a high level of verification on the site and whether they had positive references from other solo female travelers. I only had one uncomfortable experience where my hosts got very, very drunk and kept me up all night (it was a loft apartment), but other than that, I had great experiences.

  7. EmilyL
    Posted January 7, 2009 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

    I am a member of Couchsurfing and I love it! I haven’t stayed with anyone yet, but I frequently meet with travelers and show them around San Francisco. It’s an awesome way to meet great people and get an international perspective.

  8. CATB
    Posted January 7, 2009 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

    That’s the only way I travel :) I’ve been a member for a few years and have stayed with and hosted some great people. No bad experiences yet, I’m glad to say.
    Hotels just seem so… sterile. When you stay with locals you get a such a feel for the culture of the place and you get to hear life stories.
    *sigh* I’m pretty much in love with CS. Probably the greatest traveling project ever created.

  9. Janet
    Posted January 7, 2009 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

    I havent ever done this, but we just profiled a student in our college’s alumni magazine who did this all over europe and it was so intriguing, and seems like a great affordable way to travel!

  10. flyinfur
    Posted January 7, 2009 at 11:05 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been a member since 2005; been hosted twice but have hosted more than 60 people. It’s a LOT of fun. I’ve never had a problem and often wind up giving my surfers keys so they can come and go as they wish.

  11. Kathryn
    Posted January 7, 2009 at 11:56 pm | Permalink

    I love couch surfing. definitely smart to use the buddy system, and your common sense, but a wonderful way to meet people and travel without spending a lot.
    you can also couchsurf internationally. I haven’t yet, but I have hosted some international surfers. Never had a bad experience.

  12. doviende
    Posted January 8, 2009 at 12:05 am | Permalink

    My roommates and I have hosted about 10 people this year, some from couchsurfing and some from the “warm showers” list, which is focused more on bike tourists. Everyone who’s stayed with us has been a tremendously interesting person and we really enjoyed meeting all of them.
    We all feel that hosting people has been a great benefit to us, and we look forward to our next guests.

  13. tiny_blue_dinosaur
    Posted January 8, 2009 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    Oh how I love Couchsurfing. I get really warm and fuzzy inside even thinking about the fact that such a network exists. I’ve had great experiences doing this — shared delicious meals, met new friends, gone on beautiful hikes that I would not have found otherwise. It is such an affordable, community-oriented way to travel. You get that special local expertise that you just can’t get from a guidebook. And I’ve always felt safe and welcome.

  14. sallyfl
    Posted January 8, 2009 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

    How I love Couchsurfing. I’ve hosted, gone solo, and traveled with people and NEVER have I felt unsafe. Honestly, I feel safer couchsurfing than staying at a hotel. I’ve never heard even one horror story.
    Go to the community meetups! They usually have monthly get-togethers of Couchsurfers in your area. I have the best time exchanging travel stories and meeting people.
    And even if you’re staying at a hotel, contact local couchsurfers. They’re always happy to show you around.
    Honestly, Couchsurfers are the most interesting, open, and fun people I’ve ever met. It’s truly a great way to make the world a little smaller and more tolerant.

  15. alaynab
    Posted January 10, 2009 at 2:35 am | Permalink

    Lizzie couchsurfed in Paris! Been meaning to host here in DC…but haven’t gotten around to it yet. Glad to hear the positive stories. I love the building of community and combating social isolationism and mistrust!

  16. Allison
    Posted January 12, 2009 at 3:02 am | Permalink

    Couchsurfing is great! I’m so glad to now live somewhere I can host.

  17. nome
    Posted January 13, 2009 at 4:18 am | Permalink

    I just signed up to the website a couple weeks ago and love it. I dip into the chatroom every now and again and always have a good time. The people I see on there are really cool and I haven’t found anyone who gives me bad vibes. I’m definitely looking to use it when I travel.

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