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Ever tried couchsurfing? Or hosted a couchsurfer?

By Lisa Martin - 25 June 2015 3

stock-couch-girl

I’ve done a moderate amount of travel over the past few years – gradually getting more adventurous and moving away from the most popular travel destinations and onto some of the harder to access places.

On my upcoming trip I’ve been inspired to try couchsurfing. As a female who is usually travelling solo, I’d never looked into it as I wasn’t convinced it was safe, but after talking to a few friends who host couchsurfers in Canberra (as well as being couchsurfers themselves), I’m going to give it a go.

While my upcoming trip is about seeing some sights I thought I would only dream of, such as the Lofoten Islands in Norway, I’m also hoping to meet as many like-minded travellers as I can – which is where couchsurfing comes in.

Couchsurfing websites connect travellers with local people willing to offer a couch or sometimes an air mattress or bed at no cost. They are travellers themselves and want to share their special part of the world with others and have the opportunity to meet people with stories to share and make some great friends.

While yet to actually couchsurf, from what I’ve found so far it’s a great way for travellers to better explore a place by staying with a local that can inform you about the best places to see and even show you around, and it also gives you an insight into the local culture.

I was first introduced to the couchsurfing concept last year by a Canberra friend after he had hosted a couple of French couchsurfers.

My friend hosted mostly people form Europe for a couple of days – most often from France or Germany. He would show them around the sites of Canberra and take them on some of the region’s hiking trails.

After talking to him about what I should look for in hosts, I signed up to the couchsurfing website and have now found hosts to stay with in Norway and Sweden and seeing if I can find hosts for some of the other countries I’m visiting. People have the option of paying a fee and becoming verified hosts and surfers on the website. It’s a way to show you’re genuine, however I’d say only about half of hosts I’ve seen on the site are verified.

For me I think the key thing (as my friend pointed out when I started on the site) was having good references. As a would be couchsurfer, I looked for people with at least a handful of references from past couchsurfers, reading through them to make sure they sounded ok.

I’ve also met another friend recently who also hosts couchsurfers, with some of these couchsurfers staying a week or two. He’s currently hosting two people – one from Argentina and the other from Germany.

His couchsurfers visit Canberra for varying reasons – some are stopping here while transiting between Sydney and Melbourne, others plan to work in Canberra or the snow fields, and others specifically wanted to see Australia’s capital city and visit sites such as the War Memorial and Parliament House.

Like I imagine most other cities have, Canberra also has a couchsurfing community that meets for a casual drink or meal each Tuesday. It’s framed as a get together of like-minded people – both couchsurfing hosts and couchsurfers.

What do you think about the concept of couchsurfing? 

What’s Your opinion?


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3 Responses to
Ever tried couchsurfing? Or hosted a couchsurfer?
Roksteddy 11:04 am 25 Jun 15

Yes, I spent some time couchsurfing in Thailand and only had positive experiences. Because of its very nature, of course there will be negatives like people cancelling at the last minute, but if you are a traveller who, like me, enjoys winging it and not booking everything in advance then it shouldn’t be a problem. One place I stayed at was owned by a young Russian couple who ran it as a sort of commune. People came and went. Mainly Russians but there was a couple of other Aussies there too. There was a room for those who worked online. It was a huge house with massive gardens and pool. People gathered in the common room at night to play boardgames and slept wherever. Grab a mattress and pick a room or sleep on the deck or in the yard. Unfortunately I discovered this place towards the end of my travels so only got to stay one night.

I also stayed with a Russian girl in Phuket and an Aussie expat in the northern Thai town of Pai. You certainly find out a lot more by staying with ‘locals’ and they tend to go out of their way to help.

I’ve also hosted one couchsurfer here in Canberra with no problems.

It isn’t for everyone but if you are keen on saving some money and becoming more immersed in an area or culture I would recommend it.

Dame Canberra 10:46 am 25 Jun 15

Bajar said :

I’ve found it very hit and miss. As a traveller, I tried it around Taiwan. Had three places lined up – 1 cancelled while I was in transit to their city, 1 wanted sex as payment and the other was fantastic.

Yikes! I probably wouldn’t consider couch surfing for the reasons Bajar has mentioned, but I think it would be fantastic for the right kind of adventurous, extroverted, budget conscious traveller.

When my partner and I travel we use airbnb, which is similar (and of course has some of the same risks) to couch surfing, but it also means we can book out an entire home or apartment and not feel weird about co-existing with total strangers.

Hope it goes well for you, Lisa 🙂

Bajar 8:21 am 25 Jun 15

I’ve found it very hit and miss. As a traveller, I tried it around Taiwan. Had three places lined up – 1 cancelled while I was in transit to their city, 1 wanted sex as payment and the other was fantastic. I honestly found it too hit and miss, which is disappointing but from what I gathered looking at the couchsurfing community website – I definitely wasn’t the only person left struggling due to last minute cancellations.

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