It’s like staying with a friend — a friend you didn’t know you had. A friend who may or may not speak your language. It’s like having friends all over the world with new and interesting stories, with cultures and beliefs that are perhaps different than your own. It’s like being part of a worldwide community where all kinds of people can learn to trust one another and share their worlds across the distance. With millions of members in over 83,000 cities around the world, CouchSurfing strives to connect people like you with other people like you. It connects travellers who don’t have much to spend on accommodation with hosts — usually travellers themselves — who have some room to spare for a night or two. It’s free to join, free to use, and free to ignore if it doesn’t seem like your kind of experience (although, it is pretty interesting).
CouchSurfing is simple. Once signed up, you can fill out your profile with as much or as little information as you like (just keep in mind that someone is much more likely to host you if you have a completed profile). Then you can begin your search. You can use all kinds of parameters to find your new best friend: Location, CouchStatus (availability of their couch), age range, language, gender, and more!
One of the biggest objections to CouchSurfing, however, is the question of its safety. According to the organization itself, it is “a tight-knit community whose participants educate themselves about careful decision-making and share knowledge to help keep everyone safer.” Members support each other in keeping the process safe by filling out detailed profiles, posting photos, getting verified (a check of name and location to ensure honesty), giving references, vouching for members they trust, and reporting abuse. It is up to the surfer to use these measures and stay safe. And with over 6 million positive reviews, safety is something this community must be doing right.
But just in case, here are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to CouchSurfing: