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What is couchsurfing and how does it work?

Updated on March 12, 2011

What is couchsurfing?

As an experienced couchsurfer, I would like to share my knowledge with all those who are not members of this awesome community.

Couchsurfing is an online platform/tool for cultural exchange. It is good for many things, but mainly for:

  • Staying overnight at locals home

Back in the old days we would simply knock on the door of the house when we were travelling and needed a place to stay the night. In many countries of the world, this still works like that.

Now, you can do that on an „organised“ base and organise your „host“ already beforehand. The answer is Couchsurfing!

By doing this, you will learn much more about a culture and how people in this country really live.You will experience the culture and real selfless hospitality that is not based on the usual money - service exchange of modern society.

  • Meeting new people

In many cities, active Couchsurfing members voluntarily organise gatherings, cultural happenings or simply a putluck dinner im the park. No matter if you are travelling or in your own town, there might be something happening just now. Join them! Come as you are. Yes, we WANT you to come alone, so we can get to know you.

Couchsurfing afternoon in the park - one example of a meeting


How does Couchsurfing work?

People create a personal profile on the platform and add information about themselves. It is important to say who you are and add at least one picture so others can know a little bit about you.

Then they will indicate whether they have a „couch“ available for guests to stay overnight or not. Note: Couch is only a term for a place to sleep. It might really be a couch, it might be a spare room or just floor space. You can only request a couch for profiles with couch availability. You need to request a couch by writing a personal message, called „couchrequest“.

-> How to write a good couchrequest.

The potential host will then read your message and your profile and decide to accept or decline. You are in full control as potential host AND guest because both have access to the profiles and the persons connections („friends“) and references (given by ther people) and vouches (vouch sb means you express trust in this person).

Let me note something really important here: Couchsurfing is NOT a hotel/hostel service and it is not easy to find a host. It means work. It is not just done by a 5 minute message sent and copy/pasted to 100 people in city X.

If you cannot offer a couch, you can simply change your status to „coffee or drink“. This means that this person is not able to host right now, but would love to meet new people. It`s ok – or even expected - then to ask those for meeting up if you are in a new town. Sometimes I had the time of my life with these people driving around or letting them show me their area.

One host took me cliff-jumping, another one let me join the family-gathering, the next one took me kanoeing, another one to the opening of a new club with view over the entire island of Lanzarote where he was a DJ, the next time my hosts took me for a train ride from St.Petersburg to Moscow on the local train, then I got invited to a swim-tour in the nature with granny-lunch AND dinner, then a bike-ride to Sansoussi castle with a pick-nick ... so many great experiences with I wouldn't want to miss.

If you wish a complete time-out from Couchsurfing, there is always the „no“ option.. That indicates you the person is unavailable for the moment.There is no must and you participate in as much as you feel like: just hosting or surfing or gatherings or all together!

Why should you start to couchsurf?

Couchsurfing offers you all these benefits:

  • unique opportunity to get to know the culture closely and authentically
  • meet and surf with open minded and non-judgemental people

  • Yes, we are keen on meeting new, fun people!

  • People are tolerant and knowledgeable, learn something new from every person

  • Everybody can join and and participate

  • It is free to join and free to surf, but please be a good guest!

More questions? Now, what are you waiting for?


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    • Tanja Wanderlust profile image

      Tanja Wanderlust 3 years ago from planet earth

      HI Bernard. Nice to hear about your trip! Good luck and have an awesome time. I have spent 1 month in Russia and I hope you can enjoy it too. I suggest taking smaller distances on the train and stop frequently for 1-2 days and have a look around and not spend 5 days in a row in the train. For the spaces in the train, make sure you get an upper bed!! (Platskarty) Have fun! Be careful about the visa regulations though!

    • profile image

      Bernard 3 years ago

      This is awesome. I mean your train trip from St Petersburg to Moscow.

      My friend and I are planning that trip for next year. Fly from Australia to Bejing and then do the Trans-Siberian railway to Moscow. We would like to go to St Petersburg , Siberia and the Lake... Also Uzbekistan if that was at all possible. Mahalo

    • Beth100 profile image

      Beth100 6 years ago from Canada

      I have heard of this a long time ago, and some friends had done this. I never quite grasped the concept until now. :D Thanks for the explanation!

    • Tanja Wanderlust profile image

      Tanja Wanderlust 6 years ago from planet earth

      HI Lizzie

      Thanks for your comment.

      The old days: not too long ago I would say. but i haven't lived in that time back then :)

      However, in many counties in the world it is still like that. At least on the countryside. You just knock on the door of the people, show passport, big pack and ask and make them understand in sign language that you need a bed for the night. Many couchsurfers have told me that they do it like that.

    • profile image

      Lizzie 6 years ago

      Hey there, nice article, I also totally agree that couchsurfing is about far more than a free place to crash! (I too have recently written a blog entry about CS) Spread the Couch Surfing love!

      "Back in the old days we would simply knock on the door of the house when we were travelling and needed a place to stay the night." - By the old days do you mean about a century ago?! (he he!)