What is Couchsurfing and how does it work?

Who I am
Lluis Enric Mayans

wikipedia.org, lonelyplanet.com

Author and references

Have you ever thought of exchange your home? It seems a bizarre idea to say the least, but it is a practice used by many to save on holidays: it is called couchsurfing and it is the trend of the moment.
Imagine hosting a traveler on the sofa in your home, offering to be a "guide" and providing valuable advice for organizing your trip. And then imagine being repaid in the same way, letting yourself be hosted on the other side of the world.
All for free. Sounds interesting right? Read on to learn more!


  1. Couchsurfing: what is it?
  2. How does it work?
  3. Favorable opinions, bad experiences and dangers
  4. User questions and comments

Couchsurfing: what is it?

Born in the age of the internet, couchsurfing is a new way to travel which offers, in addition to free accommodation, also the opportunity to meet new people and make new experiences. The term, whose literal translation is "surfing on sofas", also indicates the platform of the same name owned by Couchsurfing International Inc. which was the first to introduce this to the world. Couchsurfing.com is a social network, a community of travelers who makes their accommodation available for "cultural exchanges".

How does it work?

Over the years, several portals similar to Couchsurfing.com, all based more or less on the same logic. However, the most used and safest continues to be the progenitor. Here are some tips for effective use.

1 - How to register

Registration is free and allows you to access the other members' cards and receive the newsletter. By paying a minimum fee it is then possible to publish a host card, check their home and receive exchange proposals from other shareholders.

2 - How to find a sofa

The search can take place in two ways: by location, sifting through the individual cards of the people who offer hospitality, or per itinerary, entering the stages of your journey and waiting for others to contact us.
Once this is done, check some elements. For example, you have to pay attention to the type of accommodation that is offered, because everyone can offer what they have or want: a place on the sofa, the guest room, the annex or a space in the garden on which to pitch a tent! It is also advisable to pay attention to the exact location of the house, with respect to the place you are going to visit, so that it is not too far away or in a dangerous area.

Many people struggle to find a host, this is because they generally do not understand the logic of social media and do not follow a couple of simple rules of morality (such as completing and keeping a profile active and sending requests wisely).

3 - How to complete your personal profile

Let's start with the first rule: complete your personal profile correctly. Most people just invest five minutes on their profile and expect people to offer them hospitality. Obviously this does not happen, because there are many more surfers looking for a "sofa" than active hosts, so it is normal for there to be some competition among subscribers.

Through your profile, other users will get an idea of ​​who you are: they will be able to understand if you are a pleasant person to hang out with or a potential serial killer. If you want to be hosted, take the time to create your profile and try to show your best sides.
In the "About me" section, write who you are, what your hobbies are, what you do in your free time. In the "Amazing Things I've Done" section, put something interesting. If you can't think of anything, write something sarcastic or funny.

Add many photos, at least nine or ten, but above all try to get references. Clearly it would be better to receive references from host users, but to start you could check the presence of simple "friends" users already registered on the platform to ask them to leave a "review". The best way to check for friends is by linking Facebook to your Couchsurfing account.

4 - How to search for a host

It is important to find hosts that inspire trust. The search function is quite simple, it will return a list of profiles and among the first results there will be users potentially willing to host. The first thing to check is which users are verified (i.e. those who have completed the accommodation verification procedure and provided their bank details.

Among these, a further selection must be made based on reviews / references. If they have a lot of good references, they are likely to be good people. Also check how "active" they are in the community. Couchsurfing shows the dates of the last accesses, so it allows you to discard users who have "abandoned" their profile.

5 - How to request hospitality?

Once you've selected a dozen suitable hosts, it's time to submit your requests. It is very important to avoid sending bulk requests by copying / pasting messages. Instead, browse the host's profile to find out what the house rules are, what interests they have, and any preferences / vetoes (for example, some prefer not to receive requests on the weekend or on some particular dates, or they may only admit guests of the same sex etc.).

Once this is done, write a personal request to the host, where you show up and then provide some reasons why it might be a good idea for them to host you. To be clear, if the person you would like to be hosted by is a lover of Italian food and you are doing well in the kitchen, you could offer to cook a dinner.

Curiosity: Can you hook up with Couchsurfing?

Some consider couchsurfing a way to pick up. And in itself there is nothing wrong with that. On the other hand, if a certain chemistry develops between a tour in the city and a drink at the pub, why not follow up the sexual attraction with a night of passion? On the web it is easy to find happy testimonials from users who tell of having lived experiences of this kind.

Favorable opinions, bad experiences and dangers

Most people who have tried the experience of cuchsurfing speak positively about it. Among the praised qualities there is thefree hospitality, getting to know new people and potentials travel friends, the chance to live one cultural exchange which allows you to perfect a language by acquiring idioms and expressions that are not learned at school.

But clearly there are also those who speak badly about it, those who complain about the effectiveness of the housing verification system and even those who have experienced bad experiences firsthand.
And what do you think of couchsurfing? What experiences have you had? Tell us in the comments!

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