Is it Really Safe to CouchSurf?
The Low-Down on CouchSurfing Safety
First of all, to tell you why I think it is safe to CouchSurf, I need to explain Couchsurfing. Couchsurfing.org is a website that allows people to fill out a profile describing themselves, their interests, and other personal details with an emphasis on travel. CouchSurfing is designed to allow people traveling in different parts of the world to contact each other and arrange for to stay, for free, at another CouchSurfer's house. I am a huge fan of this idea, not just because it saves a lot of money traveling the world on a budget, but because it is a great way to make new connections with people, learn about different cultures, try new foods, see new places, and generally have a more authentic travel experience than you would as a regular tourist. In fact, CouchSurfing's motto is "Changing the world, one couch at a time!"
Is Couchsurfing Safe? The Facts:
CouchSurfing Safety System
Maybe the simple statistics haven't convinced you that CouchSurfing is safe. Hopefully Couchsurfing's safety procedures will help! In this day and age we are able to look at review of everything from car dealers to doctors, and CouchSurfing is no different. In fact, the CouchSurfing review, verification and voucher system is one of the things that makes CouchSurfing safe. CouchSurfing's safety system is comprised of three levels of security.
The first level, Verification, is a token donation to the Couchsurfing.org (good to support it anyway) so that the credit card confirms your identity. To make CouchSurfing safer, the site sends you a postcard at your listed address with a code to enter on your account in order to verify you actually live there.
The second tool used to make sure CouchSurfing is safe is reviews. When you "surf" with or host another CouchSurfer, both members will leave a short review on the other's profile. In addition to writing their thoughts on the other person, they are required to select if the experience was "Positive, Neutral, or Negative." As I mentioned before, Couchsurfing is safe enough that 99.6% of reviews are positive!
These reviews cannot be deleted, and negative reviews show up in bright red, so anyone who gets one is less likely to be able to use the website. Additionally, negative reviews do not necessarily indicate that the person thought the CouchSurfing experience was unsafe. Most negative review were left because a host forgot to show up and someone was stranded without a place to stay.
The final step in proving that a CouchSurfer is safe to surf with or host is called "Vouching." The way the vouch system works is a few trusted individuals known personally to the CouchSurfing were given the power to vouch for other CouchSurfers, in effect staking their reputation on the guarantee that that person was safe to CouchSurf with. When a person accumulates three vouches, they are then allowed to vouch for others. In this way, a strong web of trust works its way through the community making CouchSurfing a safer activity. As you participate in Couchsurfing, your reviews of members will help make the system even safer for everyone.
Making Sure CouchSurfing is Safe For You: