What is Couchsurfing?

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When I first heard of the term couchsurfing a year ago, I thought, “you get to meet locals and surf at their couch, really, for free? such thing exists?”

I was both shocked and excited at the mere thought of it. The concept sounds a really economical idea but on the outskirts of the concept is an idea too scary: is it safe?

I’ve been lurking the website ever since I made an account on August last year and it took me 11 months to finally try the platform. I kicked off with  two places in Japan: Tokyo and Osaka.

So what is Couchsurfing?

Couchsurfing is a social website that connects travelers worldwide. At its core, couchsurfing is about helping one another and making this world a better place to live in.

How Does It Work?

  • Create an account at couchsurfing.org – Create a mini bio and upload photos that will represent you.
  • Search for a destination – Read profile of possible hosts, send a personalized couch request, wait for their reply then ta-da! You’re done!
  • Define your couch status – Are you open to travelers surfing at your couch? Do you have any house rules?
  • Leave a reference – To help other future surfers or hosts, you can leave a note about your personal experiences on their profile.

Advantages

  • Meeting locals (most of the time) and gaining an unfiltered overall view of the place.
  • Get good suggestions from your host (places to visit, food specialties to try, etc.)
  • Free accommodation
  • Culture exchange
  • Your host can even tour you around if they have time.
  • The group is not limited to finding a host or being the host, you can also attend several events and group trips to meet new friends who share the same passion for travel.
  • The site is available on mobile so you could easily get updates on your couchsurfing messages and requests.

Disadvantages

  • Creeps and maniacs can be found everywhere so take extra care. Always put safety first. When in doubt, don’t proceed.
  • You will be having a temporary couch for free so don’t expect a hotel room or service. When staying at another’s home, treat it like it’s your home. Be responsible.
  • The host’s residence may not always be at the center of the tourist spot. Do your research on their public transportation.
  • Language barrier. To minimize the gap, also try to learn the host’s language, even just the basic as it could help.
  • Always have a backup plan. Couchsurfers are not full time hosts, they may also have day job and emergencies so at times there will be a few cancellations on the last minute (luckily, I haven’t had that experience yet). If anything, search for an available hostel nearby.

Tips

  • The earlier you send your requests, the better. It took me a month to send requests to various hosts before finally getting confirmations. Rough estimate of my request sent would be about 30 or more.
  • Read their profiles carefully. Take some time to write a request suited just for them. A mere cut and paste won’t do since a more personalized touch is better.
  • Bring a token gift. It is not required, but it’s nice to feel appreciated, yes?

 

Meet our warm hosts:

 

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