If I haven’t heard of such great reviews by my friends who have tried Couch surfing in the past, I would assume it’s a site that has bloody murder written all over it. For those (very few) who’ve never heard of Couch surfing, it’s basically an online website that lets you host travellers at your house, and lets travellers find a host for whichever city they may be going to. Its purpose is to let likeminded travellers find free accommodation where ever they go, with the hopes that you’ll pay it forward.
While the concept is great, I’ve always been skeptical of anything that involves meeting strangers from the internet. For instance, anytime someone mentions “online dating,” I automatically imagine their “date” to be someone reminiscent of Patrick Bateman from American Psycho (minus the Christian Bale good looks).
Of course, being the irrational person that I am, I decided that I must see what the hype is all about and tried out Couch surfing…not once, but twice.
So how did they go? Read on about my experiences to find out!
In London, England
The first time I tried Couch surfing was with my American friend Tania. We both originally wanted to stay in hostels, but decided that for our last night we would do something different. It was a bit different too from an actual Couchsurfing experience, since my flight was early in the morning, so I needed more simply a place to put our bags, rather than an actual place to sleep.
Being two girls trying out Couchsurfing for the first time, we decided that we wanted a female host, preferably someone around our age. Unfortunately, after setting some filters on the search page, it looked like a lot more guys use that site than girls. And after messaging a bunch of them, most either never replied, or were unavailable to host for that weekend.
Finally, I searched the guys on Couchsurfing, and found a Spanish guy Ruben who’s our age, had lots of positive comments left on his page from past hosts, and not to mention, was very cute! After messaging him, he happily agreed to host us, and not only that, helped us with our pre-trip planning, and even met with us before our “proposed” Couchsurfing date, to show us around and get some drinks together.
We also got to meet some of his friends, and while the touristy stuff in London can be fun, it was fun checking out all the places locals enjoy! For a first time Couchsurfer, I would rate it to be a great experience!
In Barcelona, Spain
I went to Barcelona for two weeks and wanted to try a mix of hostels and Couchsurfing. This time around, I messaged a lot of different female hosts and again didn’t receive too many responses. I decided it was worth a shot putting up a general notice in the Barcelona page with the dates I’m planning on being there, and see who replies.
Amongst all the replies I had gotten (including some very sketchy ones where there was no photo, or profile filled out, telling me to give them a call when I’m there), there was one Spanish guy who was really nice, and as a bonus, most of his photos on Couchsurfing consisted of a group of very hot shirtless Spanish guys on the beach. Each one was equally as hot as the next, and I had no idea which one Pepe was, but I do know that you could slap a “Dolce & Gabbana” text over their pics, and no one would question that they weren’t actual models.
Of course, random hot Spanish guys don’t just offer you a place to stay over the internet very often. (Although, I don’t know many Spanish guys, so maybe they do). But luckily, I went with my British friend Harriet, and Pepe and his friends were actually like their photos, and not a group of Spanish Patrick Batemans like I had every once in a while worriedly envisioned.
Anyway, that turned out to be a great Couchsurfing experience too, especially since most Spanish people, even the younger ones, don’t speak English very well, so it was great meeting some who did…who were also very friendly, fun, and took us out and showed us the Spanish night life scene
Coincidentally, both my Couchsurfing experiences had been with Spanish hosts…but at the very least I can attest to the fact that I find the Spanish to be a friendly bunch!
If you haven’t tried Couchsurfing, I would definitely recommend it. Of course, everyones’ experiences with it will be different, but I would recommend at least making an account and filling out your profile, and see where it goes from there! I find the people on that site to be very friendly overall…like if they’re not able to accommodate you, a lot of them will offer to show you around or go for some drinks during your time there. I do find that there are a lot more guys on that site, and especially being a girl, I think guys are more inclined to host you, but I’ve yet to meet anyone pervy. Then again, I’ve never tried Couchsurfing by myself, and I have heard of a few stories of girls who have done it solo, and had their host hit on them. In the end, I would always use my gut feelings, and ask yourself, “do I feel comfortable staying at so-and-so’s place?”
Here’s some tips!
- Only agree to stay with someone who has a full profile, at least a few photos, and some positive comments from past Couchsurfers. Likewise, make your your own profile is fully filled out so that potential hosts will trust inviting you to their house. Anyone who messages you with barely a profile or no photos should have warning flags all over!
- If someone agrees to host you, one thing I like is asking if they have Facebook. For one thing, it’s a lot easier chatting on there, especially from your phone, if you’re making plans with each other. Secondly, I find it really difficult to make a convincing fake Facebook profile, so it’s another assurance that your host is legit!
- If you’re a girl and you don’t feel comfortable staying with a guy alone (because let’s face it, most (or all) Couchsurfing “horror stories” involve this sort of pairing), then either bring a friend, or stick to only female surfers. If anything, you can also work the fact that you have a boyfriend into your conversation early on, so they know that you’re not looking for some sort of fling during your travels.
- Start searching for a host at least 2 weeks in advance so that you have time to find someone you like, and also for the host to have enough time to decide whether if they can host you or not.
- And lastly, just trust your gut instinct. If some guy is 45, lives alone, only has a room for a spare mattress in his bedroom, and has the world’s biggest collection of comic books…wouldn’t it be more fun to stay at a hostel anyway?
What have your experiences with Couchsurfing been like? Were they positive or negative? Post your thoughts!