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The dangers of couchsurfing

Updated on September 12, 2012
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Surfing vs Hopping

Remember the adolescent art of couch hopping? It's when friends and friends of friends let you "crash" on their couch for a night or two while you work on finding a job and eventually a place of your own. Couch Hopping is the result of you being homeless and relying on the kindness of others to find a place to sleep at night.

Couch Surfing strongly contrasts hopping by being a planned event. Couch Surfers make reservations while traveling. In an effort to save money on hotels, couch surfers seek out strangers that will let them "crash" at their home for little or no money.

If this is the first you've heard of Couch Surfing, it may surprise you to discover it isn't new. The leading couch surfing organization has been in existence for years, and it followed an idea travel experts often advocate.



More than Money

Veteran surfers enjoy much more than hotel savings. When traveling to another country, surfers get an inside view of another culture. They experience for themselves what life is like as a "local." Some hosts will go an extra step and give their guests an insider's tour of the area.

Many surfers come away from the surfer experience feeling as though they have made new, close friends. Some keep in touch with their hosts and find themselves in a much larger circle of friends.

Is Couch Surfing Dangerous?

Yes. Remember, traveling at any level, driving a car, and walking down the road are also ways that you can find yourself up against crime.

Your parents told you not to talk to strangers, how would they feel about staying in their home? There is never a way to make 100% you are safe in any situation but there are safeguards in place to help you minimize your risk.

Use a reputable couch surfing organization (described below)

  • Look for verified names and addresses
  • Travel with a buddy
  • Check the references of your host


Making Reservations

Travel journalists will tell you to find your distant relatives in Europe and they will insist on hosting you. If you don't know how to find your relatives, you can register at any of the sites listed below. The site most often recommended is couchsurfing.com. This site requires a small donation to verify your name and address and you build a profile much like one you would see on facebook or myspace. You can interact with other couch surfers, ask questions, and even meet for coffee.

Be aware that you are not reserving a five star hotel. Most places are offering you a couch..and it doesn't need to be a comfortable couch! Pay careful attention to the accommodations and the references of those offering to let you crash. Consider yourself lucky if you get clean linens and a mattress!


Couch Surfing Etiquette

When you arrive at your destination and find your newest friends, remember that you are an ambassador of whatever country, state, or city you are visiting from. Clean up after yourself and be extra friendly and kind.

Be ready to share your story. Your host is offering you a place to stay and they want to know all about you. If you are the quiet type, this is not the type of travel for you.

Do not eat food or cook, unless it is offered to you. Some hosts are gracious and others simply cannot afford it.

Find a way to repay them. Aside from offering them a place to stay in your home, figure out a way to show your gratitude. Leave behind a bottle of wine, offer to walk their pet, or buy them a dinner on the town.




Frugal or Freaky?

Couch Surfing is not for the faint at heart, but it is also not exclusive to one age group. Surfers and hosts alike range from the young professional to retired couples. Selecting a place to crash can be frugal and fun for some and just plain freaky to others.

What do you think? Have you surfed yet? Do you think you might? Have you ever hosted a surfer?

Comments

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    • frugalfamily profile imageAUTHOR

      Brenda Trott, M.Ed 

      5 years ago from Houston, TX

      Thank you Joseph, Sasha and Kat for shedding new light.

    • profile image

      Kat 

      5 years ago

      Like this if you support Couchsurfing safety! www.facebook.com/couchsurfersforsafety

    • profile image

      Sasha 

      5 years ago

      I recently came out about being taken advantage of by a man I met through Couchsurfing. I included other potential predators I had come in contact with in my story. I am now being denied my voice by Couchsurfing because one of these predators happens to be a moderator. He had my reference removed. They are trying to silence me. This cannot be allowed, because if it is happening to me, it is happening to women everywhere. http://dangersofcouchsurfing.blogspot.com/2012/11/.../2012/11/the-dangers-of-couchsurfing.html

    • profile image

      Joseph 

      5 years ago

      there are many issues with couch surfing security:

      http://secretfatty.net/An_engineer_from_Marseilles...

    • frugalfamily profile imageAUTHOR

      Brenda Trott, M.Ed 

      6 years ago from Houston, TX

      Hi Ali, thanks for stopping by and commenting! Volunteerstays is in the beta stage and it looks fantastic. The reason it is so appealing to me is that it includes an element of being a volunteer. If everyone just took 1 vacation of their lifetime and used it to volunteer the world would be a very different place. Plus I know full well that volunteering is an addictive and it is a wonderful way to spend a vacation. I appreciate you bringing it to our attention!

    • profile image

      Ali 

      6 years ago

      Hi this is a great post. I think couch surfing adds spice to your trips. It's not just about stretching your travel dollars, it a unique way to experience local culture and ways of life. I have been using http://volunteerstays.com/ and would like to suggest you check it out as well.

    • frugalfamily profile imageAUTHOR

      Brenda Trott, M.Ed 

      6 years ago from Houston, TX

      Thanks for the comment Debbie. It is definitely not for everyone.

    • debbie roberts profile image

      Debbie Roberts 

      6 years ago from Greece

      I'd not heard of couchsurfing before. Some people would enjoy staying in other people houses, but it certainly wouldn't be for me..Nice idea and interesting hub though.

    • frugalfamily profile imageAUTHOR

      Brenda Trott, M.Ed 

      7 years ago from Houston, TX

      Oh Rachelle! I hope your luck changes soon!

    • Rachelle Williams profile image

      Rachelle Williams 

      7 years ago from Tempe, AZ

      I had never really heard of "couch surfing" in this sense before. I don't think I'd ever try it though. Given my luck, I would wind up with a retired couple who seemed like the nicest folks in the world, but then they would turn out to be the retired version of Mickey and Mallory from "Natural Born Killers" (1994)

    • frugalfamily profile imageAUTHOR

      Brenda Trott, M.Ed 

      7 years ago from Houston, TX

      Thanks for the comment Deborah, my brother bought one of those unlimitedfly tickets for 30 days. He spent a lot of time on couches, but that is the closest I've seen.

    • DeborahNeyens profile image

      Deborah Neyens 

      7 years ago from Iowa

      Interesting hub. I've heard of this but don't know anyone who's tried it.

    • frugalfamily profile imageAUTHOR

      Brenda Trott, M.Ed 

      7 years ago from Houston, TX

      @Leann, I don't think I'd do it alone either:) @ Cred2..I'm look'n forward to them eggs.

    • Credence2 profile image

      Credence2 

      7 years ago from Florida (Space Coast)

      Hi, FF, yes the hostels are basically 'flops' for the night are pretty spartan, but all these backpacking kids that were travelling through Europe made use of them. I made the mistake back in the day of not traveling light. When you do your research let us know how it comes out. And BTW we can offer a couch and then some.

      Cred2

    • profile image

      leann2800 

      7 years ago

      I think it is both frugal and freaky :)

      It might be worth the chance but I would definitely not do it alone.

    • frugalfamily profile imageAUTHOR

      Brenda Trott, M.Ed 

      7 years ago from Houston, TX

      I'm going to look into the youth hostels, Credence..I never heard that term before. Thanks for your comment, I hope you and the misses have a couch ready for me when I hop over your way;P

    • Credence2 profile image

      Credence2 

      7 years ago from Florida (Space Coast)

      Great FF, I remembered the youth hostels when I went to Europe over 30 years ago. This is definitely frugal as a way to get to see the continent on the cheap. The side benefit as you mentioned is being immersed in the culture in a way that you could not experience staying in a hotel. After all, isn't that why we travel, to broaden our horizons? Great hub, thanks

    • profile image

      Henry 

      7 years ago

      What a great article. I'm glad you put in what safety precautions one could take. It did allievate some concerns. Now if I could just think of a foreign country where it's against the law OR at least taboo to "make babies" on couches... then I think I might be up for this adventure. :)

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