Why Couchsurfing Is NOT For Me

Today, we would like to introduce you to The Guy- the author and creator of Flights And Frustration. He is going to share with us his opinion on Couchsurfing– the world’s largest social travel network, connecting a global community of travelers. We find this guest post extremely interesting and honest. The Guy has recently released his new book “A Brief Introduction To Airline Frequent Flyer Schemes And Which Ones You Should Join” which is available now on Amazon UK or Amazon.com  Hope you will enjoy reading it and if you want to follow his travel adventure, find him on Twitter or read his blog.

[box type=”info” style=”rounded” border=”full”] All photos in the article have been provided by eTramping.com and their choice and order is random.[/box]

Couchsurfing is not for me

Couchsurfing is not for me. There I’ve said it can I sit down now? Shock, horror as I hear you gasp reading this. Who is this travel blogger who dismisses the very concept of couchsurfing? Well sorry to disappoint you. And no I am not saying people shouldn’t go couchsurfing, it is just that I don’t want to.

 

For those of you who don’t know me I’m a traveller. A very frequent traveller. Since May 2000 there has hardly been a month since when I haven’t got on a plane and flew off to some foreign land. In 1993 I went inter-railing around Europe for a month so I’ve experience of backpacking too.
 I’ll be honest with you as well, I’ve never tried couchsurfing! That’s right, I’ve never tried it and nor am I keen to in the near future. So let me put this in context for you as to why I’m not keen, even though over 10 million couches were “surfed” in 2012.

 

People’s houses

The concept involves staying in people’s houses. Now that can be a good thing or a bad thing. On the plus side if it is an amazing house, with lots of room, a pool, a jacuzzi and spa treatments then yes I’m interested. But lets face it, you are relying on the luck of the draw here. You might be in a real pigsty of a place. A real hell hole. Dirty laundry lying everywhere, unwashed dishes clutter the sink. Razor blades at the bottom of the shower (yes I’ve seen it) and so on.

 

a girl is sitting on the sofa
Agness’s apartment in Dongguan, China where she hosted some travel bloggers.

 

I’ve been there, done that. I was a student and loved my life as a student. I didn’t like it though when I was visiting friends and seeing the mess they and their house mates made. I could get lucky and stay with someone who has a beautiful home. Then again they may have OCD about cleanliness and if I so much as drop a crumb that could send them into the loony zone.

 

Bad habits

Couchsurfing sells itself with the phrase of “friends you haven’t met yet”. All very good, I might make some great friends. I truly believe in mixing with different cultures and it is the way to learn about them. However you risk being stuck overnight, or even worse many nights in a house/flat/bedsit with some complete delinquent.

 

They may be an alcoholic. Don’t get me wrong, I like a drink or two but I’m not a big drinker. If I go months without a drink I don’t even notice it. However what if my host is keen on a tipple. What if they can’t control themselves when they are drunk? Do they have a temper? Will they shout? Will they get angry or violent? Will they run down the street naked and upset the neighbours? Who knows, because with couchsurfing these are people I haven’t met yet.

 

Personality issues

Not only is there the potential for drug or alcohol problems, what about personal issues when couchsurfing? What if you just don’t get on? Maybe they are creepy, really dull and boring? Maybe they are these people who just talk and talk and talk. People who talk and talk are not a bad thing; unless they are boring. Imagine being stuck couchsurfing with a host who tires you out because you have to listen to them all the time. No time to send that text, call a loved one or check your e-mails. No time because your couchsurfing host just won’t shut up! Either that or they may have bi-polar disorder.

 

Norwegian been

 Norwegian beer Agness was offered during her couchsurfing trip in Oslo.

Couchsurfing or sex-surfing

Readers of E-Tramping will be familiar with Agness’ excellent and some what controversial article on Couchsurfing or Sexsurfing. She shared her experiences of how she noticed some people use (abuse) the great concept of couchsurfing to get laid. Then, if you read the responses in the comments section of the article you actually see people admit to it. It goes on. You are left asking Is couchsurfing safe?”

 

Now Agness is a beautiful, blonde, young Polish girl. Little wonder she gets advances. I am a middle aged old fart. Even still it doesn’t mean that the morals of the host may not be under question. I’m also recently married so my days of looking for a partner have now concluded.

 

You could take the supposed safe route and look to stay with people of the same sex or people in a couple already. I’m sure that in 99% of cases with couchsurfing this is all honest and fair. Yet what of a maybe 1% where things are not quite as they seem. Do I want to take that risk?

 

Privacy

How much privacy will you get with couchsurfing? I’m a relatively reserved Englishman. I’m not loud, brash or overly outgoing. I like company I’m comfortable with and I also like time alone. With couchsurfing will I get my own room so I can close the door and spend time alone? Will I feel really awkward and rude? Here are these very kind people offering me a place to stay, for free in their home. Yet I’m really tired, it was a very long flight. I’m also not feeling well and just want a rest. Is it rude of me to say goodnight so early to my couchsurfing host?

 

Chinese guy cooking spaghetti Agness and her Chinese host cooking spaghetti together in Berlin

Or even worse, what if I don’t get my own room? What if I really am surfing on the sofa. I can’t sleep until everyone else leaves the room and goes to bed. What if my host or their flat mate wants to stay up all night? Maybe I’m in Thailand and they want to watch English Premier League at 3 o’clock in the morning? Maybe I’m in Australia and they want to watch an NFL match live on TV?

 

Overstays

Okay I’ve addressed some of the issues above. What if you mix them all together? Let’s say that you agreed to couchsurf with your host for three nights. Within an hour of arrival you both realise that you just don’t get on. You know what I mean. There is a tension brewing under the surface where you are each thinking “You’re a freak” or “I hate you”. Truth is you just want to get out of there. Can you? You agreed to stay the 3 nights. Maybe I’m missing reading the signals? Is it rude of me to leave? Where should I go? I haven’t booked anything.

 

Couchsurfing is not for comfort

So you are going couchsurfing, great. What do you think of the couch? If it is a brand new sofa bed then you’ve done well, luxury in the making. But let’s say it is a 15 year old, all springs broken, flea infested cesspit of a piece of cloth. To make it worse it is only a two seater so you can’t even lie flat. You have to curl up into the foetal position. I’d rather have a decent bed thank you very much.

 

Misleading Reviews

Whilst I was aware of couchsurfing for a long time, the article from Agness really perked my interest. I read a lot of comments and reviews from fellow surfers. The theme that came out is that not all reviews are honest or reliable. Sometimes people admit to having a bad experience, or even a sexsurfing encounter and then leave no comment. Or maybe they say the experience was fine. It is a two way street with the host and the surfer commenting on each other. Dare they be honest and risk an ungrateful negative review from the other person in return. This is even if they are the victim in the bad couchsurfing experience.

 

So what are the positives of couchsurfing?

It is only fair that I acknowledge the good things about couchsurfing. Firstly it is at my favourite all time price! Yes it is FREE. What a perfect way to make travel affordable and accessible to so many. I agree that this is a marvellous thing.

Also, as the motto goes it is a chance to meet “friends you haven’t met yet”. Couchsurfing is an amazing opportunity to meet and mingle with the locals of your destination. You can live like a local, taste their culture. You might get the best advice on what to do, what to see and at a fair price. It was only a few months ago that through a local I was able to see Mickey Mouse for free! Yes, I went to Disney World for free thanks to a kind local I met.

Okay, I know that many of you are backpackers and you just love the concept of couchsurfing, it opens doors for you. I think that is a great thing and I genuinely wish you well on your travels.

A group of Taiwanese people and a blond girl

A group of amazing Taiwanese people Agness met in Prague. The girl wearing glasses was her host. They became good friends and still keep in touch.

As for me, well I’ve done all the backpacking thing. It was amazing, I loved it and it got me into travel beyond familiar territory. I’m not young any more, as I write this I am 40. Hey hold on, 40 is the new 30 don’t you know? I’ve reached a point in life where I want some privacy, some downtime. I love meeting interesting people but I want choices. I am now used to staying in hotels. I even stayed in a hostel quite recently. I do still use hostels, very occasionally. I like my comforts and I travel, a lot. Admittedly most of it is with work so I’m grateful that I am given the comfort I need to rest and explore. When I travel for leisure I will always look for a hotel or a Bed & Breakfast to stay. I want my home comforts and I want to travel with my wife.

So couchsurfers, I wish you well. I credit you for what you do and the community which you’ve created. Maybe I’ll see you at couchsurfing “Event” so I can meet some of you fantastic travellers out there. That’s easy, if we don’t quite hit it off there’s no problem, just walk away, you don’t have to stay the night.

All in all I think couchsurfing is a very exciting concept, it is just not for me.

Is Couchsurfing for everyone? What’s your experience?

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83 Comments

  • Agness and The Guy, it’s fascinating that I keep coming across couchsurfing posts lately as I read a lot of travel blogs. A great pen pal friend of mine in Poland (and now lives in London) was discussing it with me as she’s done and hosted it many times. I just thought it was in no way a good idea as I have a ton of life experience and it flat out comes down to my questioning of safety. Especially in this new world of ours. Thank you for the fantastic post! :)

    • Hi Mike, thanks for reading and commenting.

      You make a very valid point of view. It does often come down to our own comfort level as well as feeling of safety.

      We all have unique life experiences and they are highly influential in our future decision making.

  • So, I’m confused. The author starts out by stating that they’ve never tried CouchSurfing before going on and trashing it based on Agness’ experiences?

    I’ve surfed people’s couches 18 times the world over and never once had a negative experience. Sure, some folks I’m not best friends with, but you take what you can get. It’s also a totally different sort of travel experience than staying in a hotel and doing touristy sorts of things. And CS requires an open mind and an adaptability and an understanding that your stepping into someone else’s life. Your host almost always bends over backwards to make your stay comfortable and many are upfront in their profiles about what sort of surface you’ll be sleeping on and you can always ask in advance…

    Nearly every host I’ve stayed with had a cleaner house than many cheap hotels in the developing world that I’ve seen. Privacy varies based on the sleeping situation, as some hosts offer guest rooms. Some will give you a key and full access to their house. Others will ask you to leave when they’re out of the house. If you really don’t get along and want to leave, just leave. Go to a hostel or something…they usually have availability.

    Yes, it’s challenging sometimes, but the rewards far, far outweigh the potential downsides. I’ve met the most incredible and generous people all over the world through CS who have shown me their hometowns in ways I couldn’t even begin to do on my own. As you mention, CouchSurfing is free, but the fact that you also get a local person to tell you where to go, or, better yet, show you around, is truly invaluable.

    • Hi Aaron, many thanks for reading and commenting.

      You make some very good points there and your experiences are testimony to the value of the concept.

      Please note that my article is not just based on Agness’ experience. It is based on my interactions with various people who have couchsurfed, my research of the site and information freely available. In addition I have more than a decade of extensive travel experience from sleeping in hostels, people’s bedrooms, on couches and staying in hotels. I’ve personally found the standard of accommodation I desire and the level of personal privacy that makes me feel comfortable.

      I have lots of friends around the world and plenty who are willing to give me a tour of their home town/country.

      For new travellers to an area this may be difficult for them to obtain. As a result the option of couchsurfing can offer a lot of opportunity.

      We all have choices (finances permitting) for our travels. I’ve just explained my choices and given an explanation why.

    • I really agree with Aaron-s post. I am 73, female and have been couchsurfing for about 5 years A LOT and often in India. And there is nothing like it in my book, and I have been travelling in many countries since I was 18. In my opinion Couchsurfing is not about sleeping on somebody-s couch, in fact it is not necessarily about sleeping. Meeting for a cup of coffee, a stroll in the park, a visit to an interesting church or temple, etc. are more the rule for me. I always speak on the phone beforehand, or at least some get acquainted emails, and often suggest meeting in a public place like a coffee shop. And I try to travel with a local SIM card and a credit card, in case I have to make last minute sleeping arrangements (no park benches or train station platforms or waiting rooms for me, thank you). And some of the best CS friends I have met were suggested by other CSers I have met and really liked.

      Otherwise stay home and watch the Discovery Channel.

  • With all due respect…good. You’re not the type of person who Couchsurfing is made for. You like to go on vacation and play it safe. Stay in hotels where you don’t have to worry about a language barrier or actually seeing cultures and meeting locals. You like your shelter, that’s fine.

    Most of your post goes on about “what if?” “Oh no, someone’s room is a bit messy I gotta get outta here.” “They don’t have an outdoor pool? Barbarians.”

    But without trying to sound rude, you’re the type of person we’d rather not see on Couchsurfing. You don’t seem to get the concept – we like those things that make you uncomfortable.

    I’m an avid Couchsurfer and have had some of the best experiences of my life because of it. Sure, I might stay in the same room as my host (god forbid!) in fact I’m doing that right now in Prague. So they might not tidy up, so what? Do some people drink too much? Sure. And? They’re people. “But what if they’re a serial killer!?” Give me a break.

    I’ve met some of the most incredible people and have made great friends through CSing and I’ll continue to do it as long as I travel. You might see it as a free bed where you might have to deal with the dreaded socks on the floor, but we see it as a shared cultural experience and a great way to make amazing international friends and see places from the eyes of a local.

    Age, BTW, is no excuse. I just surfed with an awesome 73 year old woman in Northampton and have stayed with older folks in other places. Don’t blame age, blame mentality. You need to have an open mind.

    And by the way, when you come out and make such a strong opinion on a public site about something people are so passionate about WITHOUT HAVING EVER EVEN TRIED IT, you aren’t going to hold much respect with anyone.

    • Hi Chris, thanks for commenting and reading.

      It is good to hear that you get so much value out of the couchsurfing experience which has a lot of appeal and value to so many.

      It is a shame that your response is so negative and angry. It is also a shame that you think I am not the type of person who couchsurfing would welcome. The concept of coushsurfing is supposed to be welcoming to all.

      Yes, I’ve never tried couchsurfing itself but I’ve had experiences like it of staying in peoples apartments and flats over time. I’ve also had a lot of interaction with people who have couchsurfed as well as researching the site.

      Like any trip you plan you need to consider research and find what is appropriate for you.

      Hopefully people can see the balance in the article which I have written. I have relayed the pros and cons of the concept and there are plenty of both. With all things considered I have presented a view that it is not suitable for my personal preferences. It is suited for many people and I wish every success to the people who try it.

      • Hi The Guy, I didn’t mean for my comment to come across as angry, apologies for that. But I don’t think it’s right to pass judgement something without having tried it a couple times. Sleeping at a friend’s place is quite different than couchsurfing and will yield a different experience.

        As you said, CSing welcomes everyone – what I meant was that you can’t go into it with these expectations or preconceptions; you need to have an open mind and take whatever comes your way as the experience. In your case it sounds like you don’t want that. You want your comforts. That’s fine, but that’s what I meant; if you need to have a private room and comfy beds and luxuries, you may need to look elsewhere.

      • He’s not angry.

        He’s just pointing out that you focused on the negative aspects. Like your section “Bad Habits” could have been written as “Habits” and then discussed the positive and negative.

    • I definitely agree with you Chris. Also the purpose of CS is not only to stay at someones couch for free, but to attend events, show your city to someone, take part in language exchanges etc. I think that’s what makes this community richer. On the other hand, I agree with The Guy that when it comes to privacy it’s simply not for everyone.

      • Hi Zori, thanks for sharing. I also agree with you, when it comes to privacy, CS is not the best idea. You can’t really expect from your host to give you more space or leave you alone when CSing is all about interacting with each other, going out and having a lot of fun together.

      • Many thanks for reading Zori. I agree that couchsurfing is an all round experience if the host and guest keep to the spirit of the concept. That is undoubtedly a culturally enriching experience for all.

        I value my privacy having sacrificed it in the past. I seek to emerge myself in the culture of the places I visit now as much as I can choose to do so.

        Like someone earlier said, if you don’t like it you can always walk away.

    • Correct, coach surfing with a stranger whose lifestyle and habbits are completely unknown is not for people like the author or me. However, let me say that travel in comfort does not mean you cannot mingle with the locals, some people prefer to have a place that meet their expectation and not waste time and energy when they can’t sleep or tolerate the place. There is no such thing as free, even if you don’t pay money, you pay it in time, convenience, energy, problems, headaches, etc.

      I am very well travelled and I always prefered to stay at a decent place, usually a hotel. I don’t want to be a leech on someone else’s hospitality just because it is available. People like me can speak several unrelated languages from different continents proficiently and mingle with locals at a much better level than coach surfers who superficially spend few days with a host, often with limited ability to communicate.

  • Agness, many thanks for this opportunity to guest post on your great site. I feel very honoured.

    Hopefully readers will see the balance I have tried to portray in the article. I am open minded and appreciate there is a lot of value and appeal in Couchsurfing. It makes travel so much more affordable and accessible to many.

    For me though, as someone who has travelled extensively and for so long I seek a different type of accommodation. I’ve spent time as a student or in earlier life sleeping on sofas, staying in friends houses. It was suitable for my time in life but I’m not at that stage anymore.

    I wish the very best to anyone who couchsurfs and I know you do too Agness. You are indeed a prime example of a perfect couchsurf guest.

    • The Guy, many thanks for contributing. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and we are glad you have shared yours with us.

  • Hi, just want to say that I got a bit of deja-vu with this article – it reminds me of what non-travellers say to travellers

    “What if you get mugged”
    “What if you get murdered”
    “What if…” etc.

    Travellers always say

    “Yes, but chances are low”
    “Yes, but that could happen at home too”
    “I’ll be careful”

    All the excuses of being afraid you put up are not worthy of an experienced traveller. We know there is risk in life, you will have some risk staying in a hotel. If you require some privacy, you can request it from your host – either they can provide or not.

    If you show up and it’s not for you, just say thanks and walk away, find a hotel. Why does this even need to be said?

    I hope you reconsider and at least look at the options out there. You might be pleasantly surprised. As you said, it’s unlikely anyone will try to take advantage of you (sexually at least).

    • Hi Sarah,

      First of all can I just clarify that I am an experienced traveller. I fly abroad virtually every month and have done so since May 2000. I’m probably one of the most experienced travellers to ever comment on this site.

      I appreciate your approach and dislike of my “what if” scenarios. I’m at the stage of my travels now where I know what I like and what I don’t like. When I have a set plan/agenda for my trips I also want the refuge of my accommodation. I want to know what to expect and a guaranteed level of comfort.

      Couchsurfing is a very exciting concept and of great value. The people who choose to use it can undoubtedly open themselves up to the possibility of some great experiences and cultural integration. Though as the article title says, it is not for me.

  • I had the exact same response that Sarah had. My friends and family who don’t travel, don’t do so because they won’t have the same amenities as their own house, because they might get mugged, because they might get pick pocketed, because they might get kidnapped, because it might be dirty, because they might not have a flush toilet, because they might get sick from the food. So no Taj Mahal, no Machu Picchu, no Angkor Wat, no Tikal. Just as I feel sorry for them, in some ways I feel sorry for you. Your glass half empty mindset that Chris describes is not a good mindset for couchsurfing. You have to have a glass half full mindset and have some faith in not just your own countrymen, but in people all over the world. Why can’t you say, “This is going to be great” instead of “what if this or what if that happens”. I couldn’t imagine myself being in a hotel instead of a local’s house and seeing a neighborhood/city/country through a local’s eyes. I’m 44 yrs old and I can afford a hotel or hostel, but the friends I’ve made and the things I’ve seen that I never could’ve without couchsurfing is priceless. Friends and family who do not travel or only stay in hotels and go on group tours think I’m insane for the same reasons you do, but it has added a whole new dimension to my travel. You don’t click with everyone, but every host I’ve had has gone out of the way to make me comfortable. I’ve found this is a trait that is common in all countries and cultures. At the very least, don’t knock til you’ve tried it.

    • Hi KT, thanks for reading and commenting.

      I have many years of experience of travel and have friends in many countries around the world. I’m not short of getting advice or free tours around the places I’ve been to.

      I appreciate your glass half empty comment. My view point is from my experiences of travel and I’ve done the whole sleeping on the sofa experience (although admittedly not with Couchsurfing).

      It is great that you embrace couchsurfing so much and get so much value from it. I’m not knocking the concept. I’m just saying that we all have different views and it does not fit what I am looking for in my travel.

  • Hey, couchsurfing is definitely not for everyone. Whenever I do it (and it’s only been twice) I am always a bit leery… I know I am taking a chance. I can’t say I’ve ever been overly pumped to couchsurf but I also can’t say I’ve had a bad experience.

    • Hi Colleen, thanks for reading and commenting. It is true that it is not for everyone. Whilst I can see that you’ve been apprehensive it is good to know that your experiences of it have been positive. Do you think you will try it again?

  • I think it’s really disappointing that a couple of people have immediately jumped in feet-first and attacked The Guy for seemingly having a different outlook on travel and the level of comfort he prefers when doing so. At no point does he call it a terrible idea – heck, he spends a good part of the article crediting the concept and the community it’s created – he simply explains why it’s not for him.

    Also, his reasons match up with a lot of the doubts and worries I had about CouchSurfing for the first time, and I’m sure many others would have had as well! Don’t get me wrong, I love the social hostel environment and am happy to share rooms, but entering someone’s personal “controlled environment” (so to speak) is a different ball game.

    It seems the people who are slating him for sharing his opinion (and very balanced and well reasoned opinion at that!) need to go back and look at just who is shouting the loudest here…

    Thanks for the great post guys. Always good to hear some views from a different demographic :)

    • Thanks for reading and the supportive comment Carl. Couchsurfing is a topic which some people feel very passionate about and they love it or hate it.

      I’ve tried to provide a balanced argument pointing out the pros and cons of the concept. I’ve also provided the view that it is not for me, but not in any denying that it is something which should not be tried by anyone else. The passion of some of the people on here shows how valued a concept it is to many travellers.

    • Great comment Carl! I totally understand The Guy’s point of view and his personal reasons not to go couchsurfing. It’s not for everyone. If someone doesn’t feel like CS would suit him/ her, there is no reason to be so critical about it. Many people have doubts before deciding to sign up for this. They need someone who’s gonna say “Hey! Be careful. Cs is not only about having fun.”

  • I’m not the couch-surfing type either. I like my privacy – I don’t even stay with family or friends. But, I am old now. In my younger days, I stayed everywhere and anywhere. Most times it turned out fine- but then there were the people who wanted to spouse-swap- we just said no- they got pissed off and threw us out- but there was an us (plus a baby) and so I never felt threatened. Too bad people aren’t able to give honest couch-surfing reviews for fear of retribution. I’m sure there are unsavory people both providing and looking for accommodations. But, as The Guy said you can’t beat the price. Everyone has to decide their own comfort level with this. I know mine!

    • Wow, that is quite a scary story on partner swapping. Bet you are glad to be away from that pressure.

      I guess you are a bit like me in that stage of our travel lives. I can see why it appeals to so many but it just doesn’t appeal to me. I seek a different type of accommodation and value my space and privacy.

    • Thank you Billie. I have noticed that people (travellers) older than 40 years old do not go couchsurfing that often as younger generation nowadays.They need more privacy, they seem to be more suspicious and careful when it comes to interacting with others. To me, it looks like being a little bit less adventurous, but I can totally understand that. The majority of people get more self-secured with age after the whole travel experience they gained in all of these years. I agree, everyone has to decide their own comfort level with this :).

  • I have to admit I’ve never tried it myself but I like that it’s there as an option for travellers. Although I have heard a few negative stories, I agree it’s not for everyone.

    • Hi Becky,

      Thanks for reading. It is true that it is not for everyone. I think though that with plenty of research in advance you can form a good idea as to whether it is suitable for your travel needs.

    • Yes, that’s true. It’s a good and cheap option for travellers. Nobody makes anyone to do it, but it’s good to know something like that exists. Not every traveller tends to do it and it might be either a great or really bad experience. That’s life :).

  • Ok, so Couchsurfing is not for everyone – that’s true, but I can’t understand why you say that it’s not for you if you haven’t tried it? You’re criticizing something that you have no idea about.
    If you did your research you would know that things like safety and the state of people’s houses can be seen straight away on people’s profiles. When I look for hosts or guests I go to their profiles and read everything about them. It’s important if people have feedbacks and how many there are. You can find out a lot from that.
    Privacy might be an issue here, I agree. However, when you stay at someone’s place you can read if there’s a separate room at their home, or if you are going to stay in a living room. It’s all there – you just need to do your research.
    I think couchsurfing is great. There is no better way in getting know the country than spending some time with people who actually live there.

    • Hi Jo, thanks for reading and commenting.

      The main reason it is not for me is because I value my privacy and feel assured by the comfort I find in a professional accommodation organisation.

      Safety is always a concern although admittedly the risk of your safety being at risk is minimal. I believe the couchsurfing community, great as it is, could have more reviews which are open and honest on all occasions. A quick research of the internet or even Agness’ earlier article will highlight the fact that some people admit to not leaving a review after a negative experience.

  • I also have never tried couchsurfing, but feel it wouldn’t really be a good fit. Since Johnny and I usually travel together, it’s a bit harder to couchsurf because we generally prefer having a larger space to stay in.

    I would give it a go on my own though!

  • I am not sure about your assumptions but just to clarify a couple of things, when you are looking for a couch you can look at descriptions of the accomodation available so you can choose who you stay with. You also get to read reviews like you do about hostels and hotels, they will tell you about the people you will be staying with.
    As for me I have hosted 150 surfers aged from 18 to 70, all my friends say what if they are… my response is up to now I have never had anyone I felt fearful of and have always enjoyed their company.We have also surfed and each time it was a unique and interesting experience.
    Couchsurfing is about accepting what somebody offers without judgement we are a couple in our fifties and embrace the concept of couch surfing and look forward to surfing more when we start our long term travel.

    • Hi Michele, you make some great points there. The website does give an opportunity to research your potential host and help make an opinion before you decide.

      Absolutely couchsurfing is about accepting what somebody offers. Maybe I am just too long in the tooth and prefer what a hotel / B+B offers. I like my privacy and certain level of comfort.

      You’ve hosted a lot of people so it is great to see that you are so active in the couchsurfing community.

  • I have my own habits; like to sleep a lot while I travel, like to drink a late lazy coffee. The host probably will have to go to work and I have to wake up at the same hour as him/she. Couchsurfing is not for comfort people like me. Don’t get me wrong – I do sleep in cheap hostels and in 10 dormitory places. For an expensive city ( like those in the nordic countries) it could be worthing.
    What is Couchsurfing good for: the weekly meetings; its an excellent place to make friends!

    • Hi Sorin. I guess we all have our (annoying and frustrating for others) habits, but it doesn’t mean you always need to fit your host’s schedule. You just need to find someone flexible and talk to him/her before your arrival so nobody gets angry or anything. Some of my hosts were very busy, they left the key to the apartment on the table and let me do anything I wanted to. I barely spoke to them, but I knew about it before I came to see them and I was fine with it.

    • I understand your perspective Sorin. However I think Agness makes a good point that if you and your host have established your expectations prior to arrival then we can keep to our personal routines.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

  • What an interesting read. Me and Dale have been traveling for more than a year now and we couchsurfed a lot so far, a lot of your points are correct. It’s not always the most comfortable solution, you don’t always get a lot of privacy… so far though we never had bad experiences and it might have something to do with the fact that we are a couple maybe? We met people that became real friends and we are still in touch with. It’s just interesting for us meeting random people and step in their lives for some time. When we need to have our own time we don’t even try to look for a host, we use an hotel or hostel.
    You’re right though, Couchsurfing isn’t for everybody and there’s nothing wrong with that!

    • I couldn’t agree more with you, Franca. I know how much you liked your hosts from Thailand and Japan. It’s great you still keep in touch with them!

    • Hi Franca, thanks for reading and commenting.

      It is interesting to hear of your experiences which only back up my research and interaction with other travellers who have couchsurfed.

      It is great to hear that you’ve made some fabulous friends through the experience. Do you think you will return the favour in the future and host these new friends at your home?

  • We can definitely understand where you are coming from. We just wrote a post about whether or not Couchsurfing was still right for us or not, and ultimately came to the conclusion that while there are a lot of benefits, we are starting to out grow it a bit. We prefer our privacy and independence, but we still use Couchsurfing as a way to meet locals. It’s a great way to get to know the local culture and you don’t have to sleep over to do it :)

    • I agree and I know how things change when you travel with your partner. You both definitely need more space and independence.

    • Thanks for the feedback Casey. I think the opportunity to meet the locals is a very valuable attraction. Whether you choose to stay at someone’s house or not is a different decision, but meeting up is undoubtedly a big plus.

  • Tom and I try to couchsurf as much as possible as we really enjoy the interaction with other people! We have made lifelong friends through Couchsurfing and recommend it to everyone to experience it at least once, we’ve never had a bad experience and as a couple often find we get offered our own private room!

    But yes sometimes it is nice to have a hotel / hostel that is completely private and we don’t have to share a bathroom lol

    • That’s great guys you have had such great memories from couchsurfing. There is nothing better than meeting your hosts and becoming great friends with them!!

  • I can definitely understand your frustrations on this one. I’ve used Couchsurfing a few times for actually staying at people’s houses. I don’t really enjoy or ever completely feel comfortable in another’s home. I’d prefer to pay for a hostel or something. However, I will say that there is another side of Couchsurfing that even someone like you would enjoy. It is the ‘meet up’ option. Meeting up with people to check out a city and go exploring is something that I have done multiple times with great success. I’ve met long-term friends doing that who I still keep in contact with. To each their own, but I understand what you say. A lot actually.

    • Hi Andy, many thanks for reading and sharing your experiences. I think you are right about the “meet up” benefits. They are definitely of great value and will help travellers to really get to know the location they are in and understand the culture.

  • It’s true: sometimes couchsurfing is not comfortable, but I’ve met great people and they made my travelling easier by explaining me things about the place I was visiting. These are things that you don’t get from staying in hostels and even less if you stay in hotels. For the staff there you are always a client, even if they are friendly and everything.

    About the privacy thing: couchsurfing doesn’t offer accommodation per se, it offers interaction with local people. If you just want to be in your room and read a book, book a hotel, don’t couchsurf. I agree that when you travel for a long time you need some privacy every now and then. That’s why I try to balance couchsurfing with other options such as hostels and even private rooms. If you

    Given the concept of couchsurfing it’s unlikely that you’ll find boring and dull people. So far I’ve only met very interesting people, with lots of interests and usually very open-minded and flexible. If you tell them you’re tired after your flight they will usually understand. You also have to understand if THEY are tired and don’t insist if you want to party. There might be awkward situations, it happens, but there are profiles, reviews, vouches, and other methods of sorting out people. In the end, some of the traveller friends I identify most with are people I met through couchsurfing.

  • I have never tried couchsurfing before, but I am not sure it is for me. Maybe for a night, but I just like my privacy too much. That’s why I don’t like dorm rooms either. Maybe it is an age thing. I probably would have thought differently about it when I was still in my 20ies.

    • Hi Tammy, I kind of think it is an age thing too but not exclusively. Quite a few of the people commenting here challenge that argument and talk of people well beyond their 40s couchsurfing.

      I suspect it is more as we develop as a person that our personal preferences and priorities develop? I used to be more open to the idea of sharing in my early 20s too.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

  • My husband and I are thinking of doing some land travels through Europe next winter when we leave our boat in Turkey after sailing it over from the Caribbean. I did have an interest in couchsurfing, I’ve heard even the hostels there can get quite expensive, but I think I’ll definitely have to put more thought into it now. If we do, I think it solely would be staying with other couples, and hopefully that means they don’t live in shitholes and stay up until 3 am.

    • Hi Jessica, thanks for reading.

      It can be a tough call at times if as you say hostels are expensive. I think with a lot of research and a clear idea of what you are looking for, there is a good chance you can find a good fit.

      Since you are travelling as a couple then I think the idea of staying with other couples is a good one. Interacting as foursome sounds like fun and socially it can be much easier.

      It would be interesting to hear of your experience once you complete your trip.

  • Different strokes for different folks, not everyone likes to travel the same way, which is wonderful, since we can share our different stories from different angles.

    Couchsurfing SHOULD not be for the ones who want privacy. CS is for the ones who want to engage with the hosts, the local people and culture in a more intimate level. After all, hosts are not a free hotel.

    I’m a CS host, I hosted a bunch of people last summer and will be hosting a few more this year. I’m extremely picky when it comes to my guests, I specially invite the ones who are not looking for privacy, but to interact with us at home and even travel together a bit. I had wonderful experiences and we’re all in touch till now. I have to say I’ve met the most amazing people through CS, and maybe that’s why I decided to become an ambassador and organize weekly dinners for all.

    I find the meetings and get togethers a lot of fun and the best way to make friends, without having to host or being a surfer, since I only host in the summer.

    Yes, there are creepy people out there, but the CS is just like the real world, good people, less good people, so we have to watch out for the vouched ones, with good references and a great profile.

    • Hi Yara, thanks for reading. You make some great points in your comments and I know from reading your blog you have a variety of travel experiences.

      I think a happy medium for me is being able to interact with people and find a comfortable level with them. We all know that we can’t get on with absolutely everybody. So once you come across someone you immediately recognise has nothing in common with you, you need an opportunity to break from the awkwardness at a time which is right.

      Hosting and the community it builds is a fabulous thing. We all have to find the level which is right for us. Everyone is different.

  • I haven’t tried Couchsurfing and hope that I will give it a try in the future, even though that would be well outside of my comfort zone.

    I kind of think you shouldn’t knock it till you’ve tried it. I would rather here someone tell me why it is not for them, after they gave it a go.

    I know a person who I would have thought was the last person to ever try Couchsurfing. She is pretty shy, doesn’t use FB, etc. But she loves Couchsurfing. She does her research, finds people she thinks are interesting. She is very choosy, and takes her time before plunging in. She seems to use it more to meet people than to go to a particular destination. After hearing her talk about it, it has made me think I should give it a try someday, too.

    • Hi Rachel,

      Thanks for reading and commentating.

      I understand why you say not to knock it until you try it. As I explained in the past I’ve had experiences similar in terms of accommodation arrangements with people I have met before. So they were already friends and people I wanted to be with. However I like to know what to expect before I travel. I’m also not as young as I used to be so have experience of what I like and grown accustomed to it.

      Don’t get me wrong, couchsurfing is a fabulous concept and probably >95% of CS experiences are great ones.

      It sounds like your friend has really benefited from the experience.

      I’ve discussed with others their experiences so I have researched. Pretty much in the same way when you look at expedia or hotels.com you look at various accommodation options and see which one appeals to you. Some you will rule out quickly because you know they are just not for you. There isn’t the chance to try them all, so you choose what is best for you. Couchsurfing is the best option for many but not for all.

  • Thank you for sharing your article on Twitter! I completely understand your point of view for not being into CouchSurfing… & for those of you in the comments speaking about the what ifs that will never happen, well they do happen. They just happened to my friend & I in Oslo actually & it was very serious. Police were involved & it’s not something I would ever like to be involved in again. I’ve written the story on my blog, because I’d love for others to be aware! Yes, it can be a great form of travel, but bad things DO happen. If anything I encourage more people to be cautious. x

    • Hi Jacquie,

      Thanks for reading and sharing your experiences. It sounds scary.

      There are risks no matter where we go and what we do. I think if you go with (and can afford) professional establishments (hotels/hostels etc) then you are buying a higher level of security than staying with someone you’ve never met in person. There are no guarantees but the initial chance for more security is clear.

  • Hi there to the writer!
    I am a host from CS and I just started using CS two months ago. And as of today, I have hosted and offered a couch to 13 people and more coming soon!
    And I feel that it is a beautiful and wonderful experience. Personally, I feel that CS is safe on the host part. I have never surfed before but I will start surfing when I have the opportunity as I embark on my travels next month.
    As a host, whenever I received couch requests from travellers, if the dates are alright with me, I will always accept the request. But I will let my guests know before they arrive, what to expect when staying in my house, for example I let them know I have two dogs at home and rooms might not be available to them (they have to sleep on the sofa or even on the floor sometimes). And most of them are ok with it. I don’t made any unnecessary requirement like “you have to be back home by midnight or set any curfew”. And a few hours before my guests arrived, I will always clean my house and keep things tidy. I feel that this is a basic respect to my guests who are coming to my place.
    Basically, I just give them the freedom to do whatever they want, and most of my guests, they are very respectful and friendly.

    And I feel that CS is wonderful in the way that you can share your life with your guests and in return they will open up to you and that is when the bond and friendship is forged. Culture exchange is amazing and CS is one good way to do that.
    The other good thing about hosting is that your guests, most of the time, they will repay your kindness by offering you a couch in their home if you ever visited their home country and I feel that it is beautiful!

    CS is all about keeping an open mind and be respectful and friendly to everyone. It does make the world a better place! But of course, safety is as important as that!
    So stay safe & travel safe!

    • Hi Choo,

      Many thanks for your detailed reply. You sound like the perfect host and it would be a pleasure to visit you.

      Unfortunately when you read the many thousands of people’s experiences not every host is as considerate as yourself. Having said that, most hosts are which is why the CS concept has been such a success and of great value to so many.

      People like you give Couchsurfing a good name and long may it continue.

  • I have only good things to say about couchsurfing, as I wrote about it here: http://www.lessonslearnedabroad.com/blog/2014/5/29/couch-surfing-why-it-is-better-than-hotels

    While it is true that bad things CAN happen whilst couchsurfing, they can also happen ANYWHERE at ANY TIME. Most human beings are not criminals or perverts waiting to prey on the weak; that statistic is echoed in the myriad people of CS, as well. 99.9% of CS’ers are there to help people travel and to be helped by other like-minded individuals. Of course, an attractive individual may get advances…but that is likely to happen anywhere, from the bar to the museum to the bus.
    Anyway, I just wanted to share my two cents. It is always a shame when a few bad apples spoil the bunch :(
    I appreciate the counter-points, though. Thanks for writing!

    • Thanks for reading and your feedback Chris.

      It is very true what you say, a few bad apples can ruin the cart. The vast majority of people are good, decent human beings and will make your interaction with them a very pleasant one.

      Bad things can happen at anytime to anyone.

  • Hi,

    I agree with all or almost all the points you’ve made, but there is one major flaw in your article: CS targets mostly people in their 20’s or early 30’s. Isn’t it just too weird to even consider couchsurfing when you’re 40 and married?

    Jim

    • Hi Jim,

      Thanks for reading and your comment.

      Whilst I appreciate the point you are making there are many and I mean many frequent couchsurfers who will strongly argue against that. Even reading some of the comments above may highlight this.

      I’ve heard of couchsurfers in their 50s, 60s and even 70s! I’d like to think it is more a lifestyle/travel choice than an age barrier.

      BTW, have you had any experience of couchsurfing? If so, how did it go?

  • If you want Couch surfing experience, try to Hosting first..

    And you’ll know couchsurfing is a bad ideas..
    I host a lot people and all of them seeing couchsurfing is free.. Not about culture or some shit tradition.

    Today I’ll stop hosting people, and I don’t want to try couchsurfing at people houses.

      • hmm .. bad experience maybe.

        I think I was wrong. couchsurfing is community, and there’s a lot of people there, a lot of good people. I just accidently pick the bad one :-) . I am sorry for blame couchsurfing community. I believe the real couchsurfer more kind,I just didn’t meet yet.:-)

  • Hey there is absolutely nothing wrong with knowing your own standards and comfort level! I tried to do Couchsurfing once but the host was incredibly strict about everything so we left. It was our first experience so it probably ruined the idea for me forever but I’m happy with staying in a hostel or using Airbnb instead especially since I don’t see CS as just a “free night.” There is no right or wrong way to travel, everyone has their own preferences and that’s totally OK! I’m sure Couchsurfing has given many travelers wonderful experiences and memories but you don’t *have* to CS in order to have enriching local experiences. Thanks for sharing your thoughts The Guy!

  • first i would like to say i do not see how anyone can comment [good or bad ]about something they have never tried ,now i would never take part in game hunting for the fun of it as i would not want to kill a defenceless animal but i would not condem it as a bad thing as i know nothing about it.
    I am 62 years old and have couchsurfed all my life [only on CS site for 3 years] but host and surf met lots of wonderful people an only 1 wanker and he would be a complete wanker whatever site you met him on
    Read profiles mine will tell you i am ex army clean and tidy house ,no drugs or bad manners ,your own room for 2 or a couch in the lounge for 2 as well
    My biggest worry when first on this site was that i was so much older than most of you others ,once i got over that i have hosted young female students and surfed with the same and never once a problem
    As for Couchsurfing being free ,well it is not nor was the idea of it ever meant to be free ,although no cash is taken for your stay good manners will mean that you must give something back for the wonderful gesture that has been given to you ,a bed ,a meal ,a bath and a local who can and will tell you all the best places to go ,talk the language for you even take you there all with no charge
    I have traveled a lot hitch hiking around Europe ,on a motor bike ,car and camper van ,sailed and flown ,slept in barns ,outside under the stars and B&B and hotels
    yes i am older and like a bit of comfort now but my experience of surfing in other peoples home is that they are cleaner than hotels much friendlier and more helpful
    I owned and ran a 10 bedroom guesthouse for 7 years and i can honestly tell you that the service you would get for free in my home now is 100 times better than any business will ever offer you ,Hotels have no interest in you other than your credit card ,your bed may be over 5 years old and had different people in it every night,the room is just wiped over very quickly ,
    So i think you delude your self that the service and quality is better because you pay for it
    I firmly believe you should try couchsurfing at least 5 times before you comment
    and last of all you also stated that 99% may be fine but the 1 % means you will not take the risk ,well if you only work on those odds i am supprised that you have even left your house let alone travelled the world

    • Really great to hear from someone a little older who enjoys couch-surfing too. It’s true- just read the profiles and if you are worried about someone don’t stay there. There is usually loads of choice and if you only contact people you are genuinely interested in you will have a much better time!

  • Dear Sir,
    After your reading your article, I’ve come to the conclusion that you totally don’t understand the idea of Couchsurfing. I’ve been many years a regular host and surfer. It’s true that all the negative reasons you have mentions happens and most of them are true. But have you already noticed how much you emphasize the FREE point of view. Especially this part of your article that really worries me:

    QUOTE:
    Yes it is FREE. What a perfect way to make travel affordable and accessible to so many. I agree that this is a marvellous thing.

    Also, as the motto goes it is a chance to meet “friends you haven’t met yet”. Couchsurfing is an amazing opportunity to meet and mingle with the locals of your destination. You can live like a local, taste their culture. You might get the best advice on what to do, what to see and at a fair price. It was only a few months ago that through a local I was able to see Mickey Mouse for free! Yes, I went to Disney World for free thanks to a kind local I met.

    /end QUOTE

    I’m getting the idea that your point of view is travelling as cheap as possible. No matter whoe the host is, just TAKE TAKE TAKE whatever he provides: room, bed, food, drinks, experience, time, guidance, free rides, etc. It’s ok to TAKE, but WHOOOOOOOO a small gesture like a souvenir, cooking a dinner or even a drink for him/her…nooooo that COST way too much!!! NO WAY!..you have to travel as cheap as possible! I think you have an idea where I’m getting to ;)
    So Í have to remind you that’s not the website Couchsurfing who’s deciding it’s FREE. It’s community of international hosts. They do it for to know different people and EXCHANGE of cultures! You’re gonna SAVE a lot of MONEY when a couchsurfer is hosting you. A small gesture is the least thing you can do. Because too many so-called couchsurfers think it’s totally good for FREELOADING that’s what making the host society less and less.

    I needed to say this, because in the last couple of years I see more often this kind of couchsurfers :(. It’s making me almost quitting Couchsurfing.

    Cheers,
    Kawang

    • Hi Kawang,

      Many thanks for your feedback. Where did I say it was not okay to show appreciation to your host by not cooking them dinner or giving them a gift of appreciation?

      I would be more than happy to, in fact I think it is good manners to bring a gift to your host. Not to do so is disrespectful.

      Please re-read the article. Couchsurfing is not for me because I like to be able to have my own space, comfort and privacy at my choosing.

      I fully support the concept of Couchsurfing for those who choose to take part in it. I have given my reasons to explain why I choose to find a different type of lodging. I’m sorry that my view differs to yours but that is the freedom of thought and choice.

      I wish you safe travels.

  • Hi Agness,

    I hope life is still good and you are enjoying the free time.

    Is there any chance I could request an update to the link of my Twitter profile at the top of the article please? It is currently posting to my old Twitter profile whereas I’m now tweeting as @TheGuyWhoFlies

    Many thanks. – Oh, you can delete this comment afterwards :-)

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