Hi, everyone! I want to share an ultimate travel tipid hack which allowed me to travel around Thailand for a month without paying for accommodations. Let me introduce you to Couchsurfing.
Couchsurfing also gave me lifelong friends and the experience of living like a local.
I realized that it’s not as popular as it should be, but it’s extremely easy and useful.
“You have friends all over the world, you just haven’t met them yet.“
What is Couchsurfing?
Back in 2004, traveler Casey Fenton had an idea to connect travelers to locals.
Accommodation costs typically take up most of the budget during a trip.
So the idea was simple: hospitable people around the world sign up to offer their spare couches or bedrooms to travelers for free!
And if you think, “Who would do that? Who would open their homes to strangers?”
Well, the answer is: millions of people actually.
See, these locals usually are travelers too, so they understand how convenient it is to have a place and a friendly face to stay with while you’re in a foreign place.
As someone who have hosted me once said “If I were in your country, I’d want a friend to take me in and show me around, too. That’s why I’m doing this for you.”
How to Couchsurf?
Go to www.couchsurfing.com or download the app, and Sign Up.
Complete your profile. This is extremely important as you probably would not get hosted if you don’t tell hosts about yourself.
Put in as much info as you can to convince hosts that you are legit and that you are a decent person who just needs a place to stay.
This would also tell the hosts about your interests and personality, so they could gauge if they would like to spend time with you by lending you their home, or not.
This is the profile I created about two years ago:
Tips for a stellar profile:
- Show your complete name
- Fill up all the fields
- Upload photos that show your face and personality
- List things about yourself that future hosts may relate to (ie. Hobbies, music tastes, etc.)
Get Started, Search for a Place to Stay
Let’s say, you are also planning a trip to Thailand and you need a place to stay in Bangkok.
Just use the search bar, type in Bangok, Thailand, select the dates of your arrival and departure, and you will be given a list of locals available to accept guests during those dates.
You will also be able to see their profiles which includes their personalities, preferences, and reviews (called references) from other travelers who have previously stayed with them, so you could choose who you think you would get along with best.
You would need to message that host and send a request.
They will usually try to get to know ypu first by asking a few questions before accepting your request.
Once all is good, voila! You have a place to stay and a potential new friend.
Planning a trip to Thailand? Check out this post about places to see:
The Importance of Being a Good Guest
After your stay, you would be able to leave a review about your host. Similarly, your host would also leave you a review.
A bad review would put off other hosts from hosting you.
So, how do you become a good guest?
There really are no exact rules, but generally, in the Couchsurfing world, here are a few tips guests do:
- Bring gifts from where you are from
- Cook during their stay (I cooked adobo!)
- Keep the host’s place clean
- Be friendly, hangout, and get to know your host while you are staying with them (they are locals so they could teach you a lot about the local scene and take you to the best spots)
- Offer to teach them a new skill (For the Thai locales I stayed with, I volunteered to teach English!)
- Be a decent human being : respect begets respect!
Remember, they are letting you stay for free so show a little gratitude.
Here are the reviews given to me by hosts turned friends:
Wait, is this safe?
Of course there is nowhere in this world that is absolutely, 100% safe. But Couchsurfing has protocols in place like reviews, reporting, and verification.
Here are a few safety precautions I could give you:
- Prefer a verified host who have hosted guests before
- Read reviews from previous guests and watcg out for bad reviews
- During your stay, if you ever feel uncomfortable, leave and write an honest review as to what happened so that future potential guests would know. Report the host to Couchsurfing so they would lose the ability to host.
- If you are new and don’t have reviews on your profile yet, it may be more challenging to find a host. Same as you, they are looking out for their safety, too. But some hosts don’t mind as long as they get to talk to you, so make a great first impression when they send you a message.
- Communicate clearly if you need any help with directions and make sure they understand when and what time you’ll arrive
- Leave detailed reviews and ask for reviews. Not every host would leave a review so if you want to build a stellar profile, ask them for one
My Personal Experience
Couchsurfing is definitely not for everyone, but I thoroughly enjoyed it and gained friends – some I still keep in touch with!
Because of Couchsurfing, I met a great Canadian girl who taught me how to speak a little Thai, cooked with me, and showed me around Bangkok.
I also met an amazing Thai family, who drove me around Ang Thong, spent Songkran (Thai new year) with me, and showed me different Thai cuisine.
I was able to teach Thai children English from a small village school.
And I was able to hangout with people with different nationalities.
In turn, when some of them came to the Philippines, I also hosted or met up with them to show them around.
Granted, there was one place I left early because I felt uncomfortable there, but I left a detailed review about that and reported it.
Overall, I would recommend Couchsurfing because my good experiences outweigh the bad, but I would also recommend that newcomers read several safety tips available on the Couchsurfing website.
That’s all. Hope this helps!
Do you think Couchsurfing is for you? Let me know in the comments!