Couchsurfing Review: My Adventure

The car seemed to be approaching the intersection a bit too quickly, and for what it’s worth, the light was red anyway.

Even though it was dark out, I saw the police car across the intersection and knew that because were so close to Ferighy Airport in Budapest, Hungary, that they would be watching closely for suspicious activity.

And for what it’s worth, a small, gray sedan full of people, driven through a red light by a Hungarian dude with long, Counting Crows dreads, looked like suspicious activity.

It was about ten pm at night and my brother and I had just met our Couchsurfing.org contact at the Budapest airport. We did not know what to expect because we had no way to know who we were meeting.

The police officer stared at me and I huddled in the backseat, trying to look relaxed and normal. He never asked for my ID and just wrote the driver a ticket. It was expensive.

What a great way to be welcomed to a country, courtesy of Couchsurfing!

If I had came to Hungary on my own accord without reaching out to the Couchsurfing community, I’d likely be in a taxi on my way to a sterile hotel.

Instead, I was on my way to a great experience.


Source

What is Couchsurfing.org?

In this article we will explore the Couchsurfing phenomenon, and I will answer some common questions about the site and the experience, like is Couchsurfing safe, is Couchsurfing fun, and will Couchsurfing save me money?. I will also share my personal experience.

For those not familiar, Couchsurfing is an online community that allows local chapters of hosts to welcome travelers to their town, usually also providing a free bed or couch to crash on. It is the ultimate example of online life meeting offline life, and it seems to work wonderfully.

Though Couchsurfing is meant to only provide free places to stay, the girl we were meeting had instead contacted us about renting rooms in an apartment. She was the first to respond to my post seeking lodging. It came out to 20 Euros per night (10 each), and she would pick up and drop us at the airport. Plus we would each have our own bedrooms.

For our first time using CS, it seemed right to pay, because it was easier than trying to find someone to let us crash on their couch. For first-time users, there can be a sense of fear of the unknown. You also don’t want to feel like a freeloader, though part of Couchsurfing is that you are willing to also host (or at least welcome) people to your own town.

And I must admit, as I sat in the back of that car with flashing police lights behind me, I wondered what have I gotten myself into?


Is Couchsurfing Fun?

In addition to finding the apartment in Hungary via Couchsurfing, we connected with the local Budapest welcome chapter and made plans to meet them for their weekly welcome dinner. It was held at a great restaurant about a ten minute walk from our apartment.

When we arrived, we were the first ones there, but it was encouraging that we were directed by staff to a large table for 30. Slowly some locals and expats streamed in, and a few hours later we were surrounded by young and cool locals and engaging in some fun and interesting conversations.

The drinks were flowing, and eventually we were accompanying an expat Londoner of Maylay descent to the ruin pub, Szimpla. There we met some local Hungarian girls and moved to the rooftop pub, Corvinus, and partied until the sun came up.

The next night we bumped into our female host at our building, and ended up chatting with her in the courtyard for a few hours over beers and wine. A three piece rock band came to check out the building, as they would be performing a free concert in the courtyard the following week. We ended up hanging out with them, playing “unplugged” cover versions of popular songs, singing and having a good time.

This is not an experience I would have had without Couchsurfing.

After Budapest we flew to Malta for a few days of sun and sea. On our last day there, we connected with a guy about our age through CS. He was half Maltese and half Australian, and was a sports agent. He picked us up from our hostel about 7 pm, drove us around the small island showing us the sites, then took us to a Couchsurfing beach barbecue.

At the BBQ we met people from dozens of countries, ate great food, and slept on the beach. Again, this is something that would not have been possible without the Couchsurfing community.


Couchsurfing Beach BBQ - Malta
Couchsurfing Beach BBQ - Malta

Will Couchsurfing Save Me Money?

What we got for the money in Budapest was outstanding, much better than a hostel or an awkward room in an old person’s house. My brother and I each had our own furnished bedroom, a kitchen, bathroom with tub, and pots and pans with which to cook. We also had access to the building’s courtyard, which provided us with an unforgettable evening.

Your mileage, of course, will vary.

Because Couchsurfing is meant to be free, it will certainly save you money. Even though we hooked up with someone who expected payment, it was still cheaper than a hostel, and much cheaper than a hotel.


Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Save money
  • Meet local people proud to show you their country
  • Have a travel experience you won’t find in a guidebook


Cons:

  • Might end up with a weird host
  • Might be constrained by hosts’ schedule



Would I Recommend Couchsurfing?

Definitely.

Couchsurfing allowed us to have an unforgettable trip and feel a bit less like a tourist, and more like an insider.

Make sure you start your interaction with the online community a few months before your trip. This will increase your chances of connecting with a host that you are comfortable with, and one that has a room available.

As any situation, just use common sense and make sure people know where you will be going. With a little bit of research and effort, you can use Couchsurfing.org to help make your holiday enjoyable and affordable.


About the author: John is the founder of MarriedWithDebt.com, a personal finance and lifestyle design blog geared towards helping younger, married couples get out of debt and build the life they want...together.

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Comments 14 comments

Katy88 4 years ago

I've only been a host with my roommate but I love hosting travelers and look forward to staying with locals on my next adventure. We actually use a site called Tripping (www.tripping.com) more these days, but it's the similar concept of people just helping each other out by offering a place to stay and enjoying the cultural exchange.


chelseacharleston profile image

chelseacharleston 4 years ago

I seriously considered doing but didn't. Sounds fun, I just don't know how safe I'd feel. Great hub, though. I'm sure couch surfing makes for some great times!


marriedwithdebt profile image

marriedwithdebt 4 years ago from Illinois Author

Hey Katy - thanks for reading. I had not heard of Tripping - will have to give it a look. I have not yet hosted someone (don't really live in a major destination), but I have always wanted to.


marriedwithdebt profile image

marriedwithdebt 4 years ago from Illinois Author

Hey Chelsea - long time, no see! I can understand your trepidation - I had the same feelings. I think everyone who has seen Hostel gets that way. Thanks for reading.


chelseacharleston profile image

chelseacharleston 4 years ago

LOL exaaaaaaaactly


molometer profile image

molometer 4 years ago

What a very simple and clever idea. We always learn more with a local than trying to figure a place out ourselves too.


marriedwithdebt profile image

marriedwithdebt 4 years ago from Illinois Author

Hey Mike, I definitely agree. I'd rather go to a place where I knew someone ahead of time, or at least knew that I'd be meeting local people. Thanks for reading.


brittanytodd profile image

brittanytodd 4 years ago from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii

A friend recently told me about this site and I was skeptical. After reading about your experiences, I may try it just for fun. It seems like a great way to have a vacation without having to spend so much money on a hotel room. Great work! Voted up, shared, etc.


mvaivata profile image

mvaivata 4 years ago

Excellent hub! I've heard about this place a million times, but was always so hesitant -- I mean, you never do know who you'll end up with. After reading this, however, I may have to give it another look. Thank you for sharing your personal experience!


marriedwithdebt profile image

marriedwithdebt 4 years ago from Illinois Author

thanks so much for reading. The beauty of it is that you can have great experiences without staying at someone's house or putting yourself in a dangerous situation. Thanks for reading.


Tanja Wanderlust profile image

Tanja Wanderlust 2 years ago from planet earth

Actually, if you do it right, you wont really spend less, maybe even more than when staying at a cheap hoste.

When I surf, then I bring presents, I will get food (I pay) and cook for my host as a thank you for having me stay, I will get something my host told me he/she likes or I will organise something nice for her/him.. Moreover, sometimes Couchsurfinghosts live out of town and you end up spending the hostels rate amount for commuting. Often also in cities, you will be sleeping on the floor in the same room, or if you are lucky on the couch in the living room. Spare rooms are quite rare.

So while you will in some high price countries spend less, you will definitely get other things (fun, cool people, unforgettable time) not measurable in money and surely worth MUCH MORE than the plain rate at the hostel.


Perspycacious profile image

Perspycacious 23 months ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

I feel as if I have just couch-surfed! Very interesting Hub. You traveled with you own brother, bo some fears singles might have were reduced by doing so. It sounds as if it could be good for retirees who need to save, want a local experience for their travel, etc..

Thanks for publishing on HP. Contacting the local couch-surfing group first might not be a bad idea. How would one do that?


Kishu 23 months ago

I appreciate your kind and geroeuns advice a lot!. I have been trying it hardly and did not get those amazing results!. It is nice to see that you got my comment in a good way!God bless you!VA:F [1.9.10_1130]please wait VA:F [1.9.10_1130](from 0 votes)


Faris 23 months ago

Bev,I am sorry to tell you that your 4'6 flat bed-spring has little or no montraey value or a market place. They were an inexpensive widely sold type of spring popular between the two great wars and for a few years into the fifties. They are not more than a metal hammock with no support in the middle, but they do last forever, and maybe, just maybe, provide a less hospitable home to vermin than an upholstered box spring.Marshall Coyle

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