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The Complete Guide to Couchsurfing

By Edited Dec 20, 2013 7 10

Couchsurfing: The Greatest Way to Travel


Couchsurfing is one of the greatest resources  for anyone who wants to have fun traveling the world for cheap! Couchsurfing can be used to help you do everything from saving money to quickly learning about a new place. I have been CouchSurfing for nearly five years now and have compiled a guide to help anyone from the first-timer to the expert CouchSurfer.
Couchsurfing Guide Part II:
  1. What is Couchsurfing? A Short History
  2. Benefits of CouchSurfing
  3. Setting Up My Profile
Couchsurfing Guide Part II
  1. Joining the Community
  2. Groups, Meet-ups, and Parties
  3. Hosting a CouchSurfer
  4. Looking for a Couch

Couchsurfing Guide Part III

  1. CouchSurfing Safety
  2. What Now? Invasions, Collectives, and Ambassadors


What is Couchsurfing? A Short History:

The Concept of Couchsurfing:
Couchsurfing is an idea that has been around for a long time, a system of reciprocal hospitality where people freely open their homes to travelers seeking a bed (or couch) for a night or two in exchange for stories and conversation. Among many ancient cultures, this was an expected behavior that allowed people to get news from afar and travelers to survive.



Today, CouchSurfing is focused on a website called CouchSurfing.org, founded in 1999 to facilitate a community where "you can have an interesting friend wherever you go." The site helps people who are traveling to contact a host living in that area where they can stay for a few nights. There is no financial aspect allowed, just the joy of meeting someone new and learning about different cultures For years the CouchSurfing was is “Changing the world, one couch at a time,” and has recently been changed to “Create Inspiring Experiences.” Either way, CouchSurfing advocates building cross-cultural connections, respect and appreciation to create a global community. While many people (including myself) end up "CouchSurfing" outside of the website, the same basic advice applies, and I will focus on the CouchSurfing.org community in this guide.

Class-B Corp:
The website continued in more or less the same manner up until August 20111 when it became a Class-B Corporation, a classification for "benefit" corporations working for social good (but not non-profit). This move was controversial within the CS (common abbreviation for CouchSurfing within the website) community, but thus far has not brought any noticeable changes.

couchsurfer at rest
Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sloth_rider/

Why Couchsurf? The Benefits of CouchSurfing:

Economic Benefits:
One of the most obvious benefits of Couchsurfing is that by staying for free on someone’s couch you can save money while traveling. When traveling inexpensive regions, such as your, this will save you from between $30 and hundreds of dollars a night. Surfing in someone's home also has the added benefits that usually you can have access to a kitchen, saving you money on food, and often washing machines, giving the world traveler who has packed light Couchsurfing wash their clothes. However, saving money is not (and should not be) the only benefit of Couchsurfing.

Learning Benefits:
Another great benefit of Couchsurfing is gaining a quick introduction into local culture, entertainment, and other points of interest. Unlike staying at a hotel, where the best you can hope for is a list of landmarks and a map, Couchsurfers generally go out of their way to help their visitors learn about, explore, and enjoyed the city. Think about when a friend from out of state comes to visit. You probably will take them to a few of the major landmarks in your city, but the really exciting places are the ones that you would never find out about it unless you lived in the city. Maybe it's a tiny music venue tucked away in a back alley, or a hill on the extras of town that has a better view than any of the tourist spots. Whatever your insight into your town is, it's certain not to appear in any tourist guide. Now think if you could go anywhere in the world and instantly learn about those spots. Your whole experience of traveling would change from being a confused tourist to the guest of a savvy local. This is what Couchsurfing does; it allows you to have an instant friend and instant insight into a new place.

Hidden places couchsurfing guide
Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mckaysavage/


Social Benefits:
Additionally, Couchsurfers tend to be very friendly, outgoing, and interesting people. Whether it is making friends on the other side of the world, or meeting new people just a few miles away at a meet up (see below), Couchsurfing is a great way to expand your social circles, meet people you wouldn't otherwise, and have a lot of fun!

Couchsurfing in Madrid


Join Couchsurfing!

Set up Your Profile:
To begin Couchsurfing, you're going to need to set up a free profile on the website. Simply go to Couchsurfing.org and click "Sign Up!" After filling out your contact information (it important to use your real name) you'll be getting the opportunity to fill in a profile that will be displayed on the site. This ranges from your interests, favorite books and movies, and things you want to learn, to your Couchsurfing experiences, personal philosophy, and the types of people you enjoy. While this may seem like a lot of work, the more information you put on your profile, the more success you will have with hosting for being hosted. People who are considering trusting you with their safety will want to know little bit about you and the more effort you have put in the easier this will be. Because of this, it is good to also upload one or more photos onto the site. Finally, select which languages you speak and at what level. This information is used to help you find Couchsurfers is share a language with you.

Couchsurfing Verification Postcard
Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ecin/


Getting Verified:
One of the first steps you can take in Couchsurfing's safety system is getting Verified. Verification is used to help determine that you are who you say you are. It consists of donation to the site, the amount being determined by sliding scale by country (about $25 in United States). If you are truly unable to afford this donation, you can apply for a reduced rate. When you pay this amount, Couchsurfing.org is able to verify through your credit card you are a real person. They then send you a postcard with a verification code that you enter on the website to prove your living in your listed area. While not necessary, verification is one of the ways in which members are able to judge who they want to host or Couchsurf with.
Read on for Part II:
Ok, now that you know what Couchsurfing is and are signed up, it's time to join the Couchsurfing community and start surfing! The Complete Guide to Couchsurfing: Joining the Community and your First Couch




Dec 4, 2011 8:51pm
i've been wondering what couchsurfing was for a while now. thanks for explaining it to me! (i kept confusing it in my mind with couch potatoes lol). great article!
Dec 5, 2011 12:04am
I envy people that are couchsurfing or who have done it.
Dec 15, 2011 1:35am
Very informative article on couchsurfing. A few of my friends have tried it, but I have not been as brave.
Jan 21, 2012 10:11am
I too was just certain this was about couch potatoes! The article is interesting. Although I would be too much of a chicken to try it, the concept is a great one. It is kind of like the actors in New York City. They have a network of couchsurfing as well. They welcome their apartments, very SMALL apartments I might add, to other actors there for auditions so they don't have to pay the exorbitant hotel prices while they are there. Lots of folks sleeping on couches there!
Jan 21, 2012 9:23pm
A very interesting article! I can certainly see the benefits of being hosted by someone who knows their city. But, I would not be brave enough to try it. Congratulations on the featured article!
Jan 22, 2012 6:38am
I share the same thoughts southergirl09. Thanks for writing about it adancingfool. :)
Jan 22, 2012 3:58pm
We belong to couch-surfers and have had numerous young people stay with us. And some not so young! One couple were riding bikes from Sydney across Oz to Perth (they were in their 50s). Another young couple had been on the road round the world for five years. We haven't used it so much as it probably suits young people a little more but in Singapore a CS showed us around and arranged a group meal where people from 7 or 8 countries joined us. It's a great concept.
Jan 25, 2012 7:09am
I've always wondered how it worked.
Feb 14, 2012 8:28am
Interesting details here!
Dec 4, 2013 4:35am
I never knew that bumming your way around had a name - couchsurfing! As long as the guest is not a couch potato and helps the host with household chores.
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  1. Liza Carter Mongolian Nomads. Unpublished: Unpublished, 2011.
  2. "Couchsurfing Statistics." Couchsurfing. 4/11/2011 <Web >

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