Free accommodation anyone!? Give Couchsurfing a go


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January 7th 2011
Published: January 7th 2011
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We thought it is about time that we wrote about this as between us we have stayed in cities/towns for well over a year of nights and not paid anything.. Sounds pretty good hey! For the backpacker and traveller this is great but we will stress this is not for everyone.

We are sure most of you have heard of Couchsurfing but here we will write our thoughts on this magical site which has changed our lives completely.

So what is Couchsurfing? A website that allows people to exchange a place to sleep for one to as many nights as they arrange. Couchsurfing is not only about getting a free nights’ accommodation though.. Whilst this is good it is by far not the best part of this concept. Oh and it has over 2.4 million members from all over the world at the beginning of 2011.

Imagine travelling to a city that you have no idea about.. Only information you have is what you have read in the Lonely Planet, researched on the internet etc. Couchsurfing takes you beyond this information and you go into the life of the local people, sharing their ideas and thoughts and learning about their culture. Is this what travel is all about??

People who are not Couchsurfing would normally stay at a hotel/hostel and go and spend their time with fellow travellers drink with people from maybe their own country and seeing the usual tourist spots. Couchsurfing gives you the chance to drink with the locals, eat with the locals see the tourist spots but of course the local’s favourite spots.

Of course not all hosts can take you around (because of work etc) to show you but they can tell you where to go and I am sure they will be happy to point out hidden treasures around the city.

So back to the free part, yes it is free to stay at someone’s place but please bear in mind that it is sort of an unsaid agreement that you offer to help out in some way.. Cook a meal, wash the dishes, and offer to pitch in for the food, maybe a bottle of wine? The host is going out of their way to help you so it is nice to give something back. Couchsufing is about giving and receiving.

So maybe some of you are
Couchsurfing meetingCouchsurfing meetingCouchsurfing meeting

Diana and our geat mate Kai
thinking. Well I am not travelling so why is this interesting for me? Well I read an interesting quote from fellow blogger The Travel Camel which it says "The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page." - St Augustine whilst this is true Couchsurfing can give you the chance to bring a few of those pages right to your home.

Having guests from all corners of the world when we are not on the road for us is like travelling at home. Each person brings ideas, stories and inspiration to our little flat which makes it the size of the planet.

Having a complete stranger at your place can be daunting for the first time we know, but Couchsurfing has a very good system that allows you to check the profile of the guest before you accept/reject their request. Each profile gains references which cannot be deleted and they are left by the either the guest or host who they had last contact with. Read them carefully and if there are any negative references generally stay away and people with many references are good to see.
When looking for a place to stay (it is not always just a couch, could be bed, floor and something but always mentioned in the profile) it is basically the same as to check the references and write a nice request and not copy paste ones if possible. Mention something from the hosts profile and a little about yourself and your intentions. For example if you wish to go clubbing this is not for all hosts so let them know and it will save some discussion later.

It will take a couple of times to get used to but easily picked up. If after sending a few requests asking to stay with a host and get nothing back as a beginner don’t worry it happens. Just write that you’re new to this, a nice request, fill out your profile (which is important), have a nice profile picture and you’ll soon be away. You may even get people staying with you before you realize what Couchsurfing is about which happened to Chris. His home town is in the middle of the country and near impossible to get to but after signing up and thinking nothing of it people started to ask to stay with him. He had several guests before he started his trip (which you can see at the very beginning of all our blogs).

Between our two profiles we have 176 references 220 friends and been vouched for 32 times (vouching is an extra thing up from references) so we are well set in the Couchsurfing community and able to share this information with others. Most people who are members are pretty outgoing people and enjoy the company of new people so it can be seen as not for everyone. Although if you like your own freedom and person space you can host people from time to time. There is minimum of people you have to host, meeting you need to go to (many people don’t go to any which is fine, they just like to host) and on your profile you can change your status to either travelling, couch yes, couch maybe, coffee or drink, not available so you have plenty of options.

The Couchsurfing website, like travelblog, has forums which are very active and you can find all sorts of information on these. For example our recent trip to Iceland we posted up on the Rekeyvik forum that we are wishing to hire a car and what is the best way to go about it.. We ended up using a local’s car for half the price you would pay at a rental.
From time to time we go visit a different city and write up on the board if anyone else is going to the same city to share the fuel and away we go.. Saving time, money and meeting new people at the same time..

Another fabulous thing about Couchsurfing is the meetings, gatherings (some gatherings attract several hundred people and even over a thousand) and parties they have. Where we currently live in Vilnius we are having weekly meetings (organized by Diana and fellow CS’ers) and can get around sixty people to these meetings. This is great for Couchsurfers who are visiting Vilnius as they are thrown into a mix of local people! The bigger cities around the world have big events quite often (London is huge) and well worth a look.

Everyone with common ideas, experiences and we have made some really close friends as a result of this. An example of this was our host in Luxembourg who let us stay around six months ago, he just come to Sweden and spent Christmas with us for his first white Christmas. A fabulous friend who hosted Chris in Dublin fly’s over to visit from time to time. Our best friends in Vilnius are all from Couchsurfing and are wonderful outgoing people. We have made many lifelong friends as a result of Couchsurfing and we hope that you consider this one day as it opens a new door to the world of travel.

Of course there are going to be some people who use this site for the wrong reasons but the moderators do their best to keep on top of this and when hosting or surfing people please be wary and always have a good look through their profile. If anything happens report it but on the Couchsurfing website they have all the proper information regarding this.

Well this is pretty much an outline of Couchsurfing and we could add much more but better not bore you with too much information. But if you would like to know more information drop a comment below and we will get back to you soon.
If you would like to see our profiles click on the links below to see how it works:

Chris: http://www.couchsurfing.org/mapsurf.html?SEARCH=0&view=detail&sid=58319018710499bd30ea315df31c2381

Diana: http://www.couchsurfing.org/people/scandinavia/


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7th January 2011

Congratulations on your first Featured Blog! :)
7th January 2011

Love couchsurfing!
I have to admit - we might like hosting even more than we like surfing. Like you said, it's a lot more than a free bed. It's about doing all those things you "say" you're going to do when you travel - meeting locals, learning a new culture, educating yourself about various places - but can't do just sticking to the main tourist sites. And of course, the friendships! Two of our former surfers are attending our wedding later this year, and then we're actually flying out to attend the wedding of two others who are have since been engaged. Such a great concept.
7th January 2011

Great information
Christopher and Diana thank you for all of this information. I had not heard of this until a few months ago when Stephanie mentioned it in one of her blogs or posts. It sounds like a great idea. I think I would feel more comfortable starting out being the host. I'll have to give it a try.
7th January 2011

Hey guys
Great to see you may consider giving it a go :) It really has changed our lives. Even this Sunday we are having a guy who has been on the road for three years coming to stay with us. He has been all through Asia and going to have some wonderful stories I am sure.. If you have any questions please ask us :)
7th January 2011

Indeed!
Indeed CS is a great thing. I've been registered for over a couple of years, and although haven't used it as much travelling, I often go to the weekly meetings/drinks here. Always a great group of people to hang out with - highly recommended thing to get involved with :-)
7th January 2011

Blogger of the Week
Check this out. :) http://www.travelblog.org/Topics/27232-1.html
7th January 2011

Diana & Chris, you are the greatest ambassadors for CouchSurfing - and role models for me as a CS newbie. :) "Where are you going next? Oh - that's right on the way to our flat, let us walk you there!" TWICE!! You two are great! I visited eight cities and tried to connect with CSers in all of them. Vilnius is by far the most vibrant and welcoming, and the weekly meetings make it easy for a traveler to pop in and make new friends any time! Diana & Chris are a major part of that, but it helps that so many others have the same generous spirit. This is a great Blog and I'm sure it will inspire others!
8th January 2011

Informative Blog!
Thanks for the information on couchsurfing. I've wondered about couchsurfing for years but was a little wary. I do home exchanges but the only negative is you may not meet them. I think this is a great way to meet fabulous fun friendly people from around the world, and much better than staying in a lonely hotel. Congrats on being the featured bloggers!
8th January 2011

We love couchsurfing
My daughter and I have both surfed (5 times) and hosted(5 times) and have had incredible experiences.
8th January 2011

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Good post .. I like this very much.. if you have a little time, you can visit my website.. Welcome to stay in Ooty Resort at the Great grandfather’s Ooty home stay nestled in the Niligiri Hill Coonoor Resort in of south India.
10th January 2011

CS is great! We used it as well when we were traveling and it was well worth it!!
7th May 2011

Great Idea;-) I may give it a go ;-) Thanks Diana& Chris

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