If you've backpacked before you may have heard of the term 'couch surfing'. If not, then let me introduce you to a new type of accommodation whilst you are on your travels that will not only save you money, but also get on you on first name terms with the culture and hospitality of the country you're staying in.
Couches for free all the world
Couchsurfing describe the experience that their website helps to organise as 'travel like a local, stay in someoneís home and experience the world in a way money canít buy.' This is a new way of experiencing local life when you're away from home, and whilst for some this may be a little way out of a personal comfort zone, the rewards are significant:
1) Experience real local life by staying with a local family.
2) Learn about culture first hand, rather than from the balcony of your hotel room.
3) Make new friends - a stranger can merely be a friend you have not yet met.
4) Help to get a grasp of the local language by immersing yourself into this 'home stay' concept.
5) Save money - stay for free.
6) Become a 'couch' host yourself, and open up your home to travellers who you'd like to show your 'world' to.
How it Works
With a global community of over 7 million users, there's a home out there for you to stay in all over this beautiful planet of ours. To get started, there's a great introductory video here to set the scene for you. But briefly the process is as simple as organising your online profile and then surfing the network to find a couch available where and when you are travelling. Couchsurfing, recommends that you send about 5 requests to potential hosts with your dates. You can do your research and go with hosts who appeal to you and who have great references.
Where will your travels take you
Safety must be a priority for all travellers using this style of accomodation. On this basis, Couchsurfing has documented a number of well considered safety tips which you can read here. Couchsurfing take your safety very seriously, and even have a dedicated safety team who you can liaise with over any concerns or emergent issues.
In addition to this support, the safety team and the ability to find yourself a couch to sleep on, Couchsurfing also offer a number of forums and online groups that help to connect travellers to share ideas and experiences which can provide incredible insights.
Having stayed in home stays in Malaysia and Greece, I can absolutely recommend this way of travel as a great way of seeing the local culture and to help understand the different customs of the local area and people.
Would you consider a home stay if you were travelling?