What's your general feeling toward couchsurfing? Positive experiences? Negative experiences?
My two experiences sleeping at someone's place have been fantastic. My very first in Berlin I showed up and my two hosts had cooked me breakfast and we all ate together. That night, they took me out with their friends, it was so thoughtful.
For requesting, expect a lot of no responses but people get tons of emails in major cities. They need to be comfortable hosting you which is tough for a first time user with no references. I got around this by sending a video of myself (youtube link) with my request (dates, etc. and a little about me, usually just a minute long) which shows I'm normal and completely stands out among all the requests. The earlier the request the better, try for at least a month before. Have a backup hostel/accommodation ready in case you feel uncomfortable or things aren't as expected. Finally, do something nice for them like cook them a meal, buy them booze, clean their house, whatever since you're just freeloading and the person hosting is taking more of the risk. Good luck!
Even as a senior traveler I can absolutely vouch for couchsurfing. Many folk make a comparison with Air BnB but they are absolutely different in mission and attitude. Of all places and wanting to have an immersive experience with locals (and also not wanting to stay in a hostel) I surfed in Chennai. There were many raised eyebrows from my friends, however it was entirely the right decision. Compared with a crowded hostel or an impersonal hotel I experienced everything I had anticipated and more. Hospitality, wonderful conversations, a different appreciation because of the guidance and company whilst exploring and also feeling safe walking near where I was staying - word had gone around the multi-floor building and adjacent area ... crowded by curious kids and greeted by friendly adults.
Would I repeat? Sure would in a heartbeat. The profile system on the site allows you to judge and discern. The success of your stay is mostly up to you. You are not consuming - you are sharing. Get your attitude in line and it is a great way of traveling.
It's been a great experience with the people I've met through couchsurfing. Up to now, I've been hosted 3x (1x in Germany and 2x in Kauai) and I also met up with other couch surfers for meals and drinks. Unfortunately, it hasn't been possible for me to host since I joined the site in 2011.
Overall, my experience has been mixed, as I'd say at least 50% of people I write to never respond. I'm really selective when I'm looking for a host and actually read through all the profiles in a location. I enjoy staying with people that I find interesting or where we have common interests. I also look at the references and consider the sleeping situation. In the end there are very few that I actually send a request to. I'd rather pay for a place to stay, than be in an uncomfortable situation.
I do realize that many in more popular destinations have become jaded with multiple requests every day. This is definitely the case in Maui. One host I wrote to already had guests, but met me for coffee. None of the others I wrote to even responded. In Maui, I opened up my request for all hosts to see, to see what would happen. That has been my only negative experience. One host wrote me a long email with explanations, accusations, and conditions, etc..., that I probably shouldn't have responded to in the first place. We emailed back and forth and in the end I didn't even want to meet him for coffee and just ended the communication. It was really weird, but it wasn't a contact that I had directly initiated.
Couchsurfing hasn't worked for me in most places I have tried: Maui, Hawaii (Big Island), Bruges, Slovenia, Croatia, Sarajevo, LA, San Diego, Las Vegas... I think it might be because hosts in these places were jaded, or at the beginning it may have been my lack of references. I'm also older than the average couch surfer, so that may have something to do with it. Or, I may just be too selective. ;) In a few cases, hosts did respond that they already had guests, or couldn't host.
My experiences where I have actually met people through the site have been great, so I will continue to use it when I travel.
Sometimes a challenge to connect with people, but it almost always works out. My advice: Look for people with high % reply rates, and then actually read what they say about what they are willing to do and where they are located. Be specific about what you want and when you want it, and oh, ...read the rules! Not everyone can put you up for 2 weeks. 2 or 3 days is much more reasonable. Go! enjoy! make friends all over the world. And come home and do the same for others. Be a giver as well as a receiver.
I've had some great experiences with couchsurfing. Last year I traveled to California and was looking for someone to teach me how to surf. I posted that on the couchsurfing website and got multiple responses. I ended up staying about 3 blocks from the beach, and literally slept on a couch for two nights in their living room. They took me out for two days, with their own surfboards, and taught me how to surf.
I recommend giving it a try.
I use couchsurfing most of the time to meet people. I go to the weekly meetings they normaly have in most big cities, in a bar or something. If i'm looking for a sleeping place, I try to arrange it there, in stead of through the internet, feels more safe. But i've never had bad experiences. What i've heard from others is that it is important to check if someone is active on the page, and if the person has hosted before.
I've been hosting people for a while now. I haven't surfed yet, tried once but got no replies to my request. However: I consider my experience with couchsurfers as an overall positive experience. I have learn that:
My house is suitable for only one couch surfer at a time.
My patience is suitable for only a couple days-long stay.
I like to be honest with my couch requests about what will they find in my house and how will they find it. I have met very interesting people from all around the world and hopefully will never stop sharing my house with whoever who asks for it nicely.
Hope this helps.
I have heard both good and bad. Compared to Airbnb it is better for the person doing the staying. Not so good for the person with the room available. As always weather you are the one doing the staying or the one with the room available. You need to protect yourself from all the possible craziness that can go on. Make sure you get everything in writing. I hate to sound so cynical but I know people who have been burn on both ends of the equation.
I have hosted once, and it was a pleasant experience. A young man visiting Malta from Ukraine. I wrote a post about it here
I ended up hiding the profile as it opened up the floodgates, Malta being a popular destination. the majority were just slackers in my eyes, and l didn't get good vibes. Some could obviously afford to pay for hotels but wanted "free" which to me just seems cheap. I might do it again at some point, we have never couchsurfed, and don't think l can bring myself to do it.
We have hosted all over the world for the last 5+ years and are set to actually surf for the first time later this month. We have met many families who have travelled the world via CS.
We have children so we are picky about who we host and expect all requests to have great references. We have hosted families, couples, and single travelers. In all our experiences, we have come away happy we hosted. More often than not, we have made friends and have genuine affection for our guests by the time they leave! Our last couple was so much a part of our family that we actually really missed them once they left!
Trick to making it work is: read the profiles in their entirety (to make sure you are a good fit for them and vice versa), don't request more then 3 nights, record a short video of yourself and provide the youtube link so the hosts can see the real you, and be a phenomenal house guest (be tidy, courteous, and leave a gift of some sort...even if it's just making dinner one night).
Hubby and I couchsurfed in Brussels. We were very lucky in the end as there was a date mixup with the first guy we planned to stay with and he couldn't take us. But within 24 hours I found another host who met us a few hours later at the station and took us back to his place. We had our own double bed in a room to ourselves in a very nice big house, about 15 mins from the centre of the city.
Our host was lovely. He was working full time but he cooked for us 1 night and took us out in the evening into a few bars in town on the 2nd night. He also got us bakery items for breakfast the morning we left.
Sometimes we like to have time to ourselves and do things our own way. Even though we were welcome to come and go, we felt obliged to be up and out of our hosts' way in the mornings and to meet up with him. Which we didn't mind doing, of course, but it is certainly different to staying in a hotel or hostel where you can come and go as you please, without the "what about our host?" feeling .
But it is truly a wonderful experience! Couchsurfing is great for meeting locals and for free accommodation.
I have not had any bad experiences with couchsurfing, but I find it a little too artificial and a little too much of a freeloader site to really get in to it.
The people I have come across there have all been nice enough, but I find that i stay in touch with almost none of them after having met them, which I think suck a bit.
I have been on the road non stop for over 20 years and still stay in touch with several people after two decades, but I have not really made any close friends on CS so far.
Maybe I have just been unlucky, as I make friends all the time through other forums and while I am on the road.
I have had some amazing DAY meet up and activities experiences with Couch Surfing and Surfers.
I made some of my best memories this way, and have been able to explore cities on a much deeper level this way because your host is locally from the area.
I have also had some good over night experiences. However I have had some REALLY awkwardly uncomfortable experiences with an over night stay or two.
The most uncomfortable was in Dubai, my flight details had changed and Id already booked out of my Hotel. I decided to put a post up on CS & see if anyone had availability on short notice etc. Not only did I get a reply instantly, the gentleman picked me up and introduced me to he's house mate. He had seemingly good reviews on CS from single/solo females and so I felt comfortable with the pairing.
Only to go to bed that night, and halfway through I feel the host get into bed beside me? I freaked! However the laws in the UAE aren't exactly foreigner friendly and so I felt I couldn't leave and report this man, as it is against the law anyone to "share" accommodation as unmarried members of the opposite sex. I would have ended up arrested rather then the perv.
I did then report the incident on CS and write a negative review on he's CS profile. ONLY to receive hate mail from some of his CS female friends and personal threats from him, which included him bad mouthing me on CS? It actually put me off using CS for 3 years.
I think some great experiences can be had, but to openly communicate with your host. Even though it said, I would have my own bed, and everything "looked" great on the surface, this man and some other users feel that CS is a dating site.