Travelling does not have to be expensive. I have asked you about your cheap travel tips and some of you said booking flights far in advance, others said that you use credit card points to get discounts. This is great but when talking about accommodation, have you ever been surfing?
This year I have randomly met a few people who use an app called Couchsurfing for both, surfing at other people’s places and hosting foreign surfers. Somehow I could not understand why anybody would let a stranger into his home for free but after hearing so many stories about Surfers I have realised …
Couchsurfing is a community of people who are open to meet travellers from all around the world and who want to hear their travel stories. Sure, the accommodation for surfers is free of charge because their hosts know that expending their own horizons and learning about different cultures is more important than paying some extra cash for their water bill that month. And just so you can feel safer, the app has a rating system where you can read people’s opinions about the hosts and the surfers.
The second big part of the Couchsurfing app is the events calendar. Anyone can create their own event and invite people to join. It can be a walk around the city, a party, a free class or something else. One of the best things I did in Budapest is taking a photography class which I have found about in the Couchsurfing app. I challenge you to check out the events announced in your city even if you are not a traveller! Maybe you participate in something or meet a frequent traveller who is going to inspire you to jump on a plane at your first opportunity.
The Process of Finding a Host
After setting up your profile, deciding about your next destination and the dates of your trip just look for your Couchsurfing host. The important thing to know is that you do not have to pay a penny for using the app! You have an option to contact 10 hosts every week for free and only have to pay if you want to contact more of them. Do not be afraid to ask your host whatever you want to know including his home address which is never published in the host’s profile.
My First (and the only) Experience was Stressful
This year in August I have tried two things for the first time – travelling alone and the Couchsurfing app. I did not want to go somewhere far from home so if I would not like it, I could return home whenever I want. Finding my surfing host was easy, getting there and realising he is not at home and he is not answering my messages/calls was a bit harder to process. Yep, that has really happened. At some point, I was sitting on the staircase in front of his apartment and desperately texting everybody on Couchsurfing for another place to stay. Nobody replied as soon as I started panicking and after some time I gave in. I have rented a room and when I told the guy about my Couchsurfing experience he kindly offered me to leave me my first review since he had a user account on the Couchsurfing platform too.
It Got Worse
There was something that was bothering me about that guy who rented me a room but I was hoping I will not find out what it is. On my last day just before leaving the city, he was at home watching the TV in his living room. I have finished my packing and I was just about to say goodbye when he started telling me how beautiful I am. I felt really uncomfortable and even after I told him that, he did not stop complimenting me. He took my hand and kissed it. Furthermore, he went down on his knees and asked me if he is allowed to kiss my feet. At that moment I was already almost literally running out of his apartment.
What Have I Learned
1. Never, never, never leave a review to anybody before you really leave their home! Even if the room looks clean and the host is kind, you never know what you see or experience before ending your stay there. That guy has left me a positive review and I was happy to return him the favour but I regret doing it before leaving his place. After you publish your comment you cannot edit or delete it anymore and I am so sorry I wrote him a positive one.
2. Couchsurfing is a great way of meeting new people and yes, also saving money. But do not forget to think about the backup plan if your host forgets about your arrangement or simply does not let you in.
3. If that happens, do not cancel your confirmed stay in the app! The next day you are going to get an invitation to leave a review where you can write about everything that has happened. If you cancel it, you are not able to report a host for not showing up.
4. Reading and writing reviews are extremely important! Never lie while writing them!
Some Basic Information
I hope I did not scare you too much with my experience. Sure it was stressful being alone in the city I did not know and being without a place to stay but I was able to learn from it a lot. My problem was not having a backup plan and being a new user of the Couchsurfing did not help either. But I wanted to show you that bad things can happen to you whenever and however you are travelling. Even if you pay for a room, you are not guaranteed you are going to be safe. Also, I do not want you to think that these kinds of things happen to everyone or very often. They do not. My chosen Couchsurfing host had a lot of positive reviews and who knows why he did not show up.
I want to encourage all of you who can afford to host or want to surf to join this incredible community! Yes, I say incredible because that photography event was the best thing that has happened to me in Budapest (it is not a secret that I did not like the city in general). I have met a lot of wonderful people from Australia, Brazil, Chile, Hungary, Indonesia, Peru, Tunisia, etc. and heard their incredible travel stories. And just like that, I was not a solo traveller anymore but I have found myself some company to spend the days with. But do not misunderstand me – Couchsurfing is not only for solo travellers.
My first experience on this app was not the best one but that does not mean I will stop using it. Better luck next time they say. And you? Go out there and try surfing or just check out what is happening today in your city or in the city you are travelling to. I am looking forward to hearing about your surfing experience. Please let me know!
Check out the photos from my trip on my Instagram page @daisydadee.