A social and travel phenomena, Couchsurfers is an online hospitality exchange network which allows others to 'host' couches, and offer other weary budget travellers a free place to stay, or 'surf' them and ask around their intended destinations for places to stay. The idea is simple - upload a picture, a detailed profile and then search for surfers looking for a place to crash or look for hosts in the area you're looking to travel to. The Couchsurfing community has over 7 million people in over 100,000 cities around the world, so the likelihood of you bumping into someone that you have a lot in common with is pretty likely.
Hosts tend to be travellers themselves, enjoying downtime at home, or ex-patriots who want the opportunity of meeting some great people. Not only do they offer somewhere to get rest for free, you can befriend hosts from all over the world, or interact with them in their own city - what better tour guide than a local who knows it all?
Couchsurfing can save you loads of money when you're travelling, especially as accommodation is one of those daily needs which can eat away at your (already thin) budget. It can also offer as a source of meeting new real-life friends, find people to travel with or get information about destinations. You can attend local events which allow you to meet and greet couchsurfers either whilst you're travelling or whilst you're at home. Another great thing about couchsurfing is that you save even more money just because you have access to a kitchen. Self-catering whilst you're away is known for saving you money, but the accommodation which offer it usually costs more than your budget will allow - so what happens when your accommodation is free? Food costs come right down, and allow you that travelling freedom to do a lot more with your money.
Is couchsurfing safe for backpackers?
We know it sounds pretty casual and there are plenty of opportunities for people to be exploited using this network, but it's worth remembering that these people don't have to offer up their homes and time to get to know you - they are doing so to meet new people and form friendships with others like themselves, but there are a few bad weeds to be cautious of. In summary, yes, Couchsurfing is safe, as long as you're sensible and take the usual online and offline precautions you would elsewhere.
How to stay safe
As a surfer:
As a host:
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