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 the service 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 priceless. And just so you can feel safer, the service has a rating system where you can read people’s reviews about the hosts and the surfers.
The second big part of the CouchSurfing service 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 mobile 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 service! 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 his 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 CouchSurfing. Finding my 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. 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 so soon as fast 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
I had a bad feeling about that guy who rented me a room but I was hoping I will not find out why is that. 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. After you publish your comment you cannot edit or delete it anymore.
An update: You can in fact always write another review and report a negative experience. I did that and the admins of CouchSurfing have taken this guy’s profile down.
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. Never cancel your confirmed stay! Only that way, you are going to be able to leave a review the next day. If you cancel it, you cannot report a host for not showing up.
4. Reading and writing reviews are extremely important so do not lie when you write your feedback!
Some Basic Information
I hope I did not scare you too much with my experience. Sure it was stressful but I have learnt from it a lot. My problem was not having a backup plan. But I wanted to show you that bad things can happen whenever and however you are travelling. Even if you pay for a room, you are not guaranteed you are going to be safe. On the other hand, I do not want you to think that these kinds of things happen 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. I have met a lot of wonderful people from Australia, Brazil, Chile, Hungary, Indonesia, Peru, Tunisia, etc. and hearing their travel stories was inspiring. And just like that, I was not a solo traveller anymore but I had new friends who I was spending 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? Try hosting, surfing or just check out what is happening today in your city or in the city you are travelling to next. I am looking forward to hearing about your surfing experience.
Check out the photos from my trips on my Instagram page @daisydadee. Feel free to follow my blog to get a notification when I publish something new. You can find the subscribe button under the comment section if you are on your phone or on the right side of your computer screen.
This is not a sponsored post.