Couchsurfing Travel Tips
Couchsurfing - More than a Social Networking Site for TravelersWednesday, December 21, 2011Ryan Mach
But what is CouchSurfing.com? For starters, it is a real-life social network site that connects travelers, or "surfers" who are willing to offer a free place to stay among visiting 'friends'. Just like Facebook, it incorporates features such as user profiles, photos and friend requests. Instead of looking for people you know, you use CouchSurfing.com to find people who'd like to meet in places you want to visit. You can arrange to meet for a drink somewhere or even request to stay with them — on their couch or sometimes in a guest room.
For backpackers wanting to save on accommodation, this is a perfect deal. Before you get too excited, learn the basics of Couchsurfing first.
How to Couchsurf
Couchsurfing is as simple as creating an account on Couchsurfing.com and then looking for a suitable person to stay with or meet. Finding a good host may prove to be a little challenging but you can improve your chances by creating a good profile. Your profile is the most important part of your couchsurfing life.
Hosts have requirements too, which are normally stated on their profiles. They indicate where in their house the guests can sleep (photos may be available), what type of people they're willing to accept and which time of the year they can accept travellers. They can decline offers. After every CouchSurfing interaction, the people involved leave references about each other — positive, neutral or negative. A negative feedback means a bad reputation.
Now, the most important question - Is it Safe?
I haven't personally tried it yet although I have an account with them. I've looked at some of the members' profiles and most testimonials are relatively positive. You'd be surprised to learn that there are several Filipino members acting either travellers or hosts.
The site's service is designed around the premise similar to eBay's - People are basically good. However, there have been some unfortunate and well-publicised accounts of violent and non-violent crimes perpetrated by bogus couchsurfing hosts.
To build confidence among its users, Couchsurfing has adopted some “security and verification features, one of which is the “official verification”, where the user donates a minimum of $25 dollars to verify their name (through a credit/debit card) and address (by entering a code mailed on a postcard).
Still you can't rule out the fact that there are risks involved with this kind of set-up because after all, you're staying at a stranger's house.
Some safety tips for couchsurfers:
1. Take time to read and review people’s testimonials and references
2. Arrange meet-ups in a public place, like a café or restaurant near their house.
3. Always have a plan B. Make sure to keep contact details of a nearby hotel just in case.
4. Most importantly, always let someone know where you’re going (forward address details to a trusted friend, and call or email to let them know how things are going there once you’ve arrived.)
Good luck and let us know of your first Couchsurfing experience. :-)