Is Couchsurfing Still Right For Us?

It’s no secret that we love Couchsurfing. We’ve used it for free accommodation all over the US, Europe and Asia, and likely saved hundreds of dollars in the process. Of course, one of the best parts of Couchsurfing is having the ability to meet awesome people from all walks of life. Singing French men, Italian chefs, scholars and teachers, writers and videographers—we’ve had some pretty memorable experiences with diverse and interesting people all around the world.

Meet a few of our generous Couchsurfing friends who have previously welcomed us into their homes:

 

Couchsurfing in Hong Kong

Couchsurfing Friends meetup Hong Kong

Couchsurfing Friends Hanoi Vietnam
 
While we consider ourselves to be free-accommodation-snagging pros, recently we found ourselves doubting if Couchsurfing was still a good option for our travel style. Guesthouses are inexpensive in Asia, and if we’re being completely honest here, we really, really enjoy having our own space. A place where we don’t have to worry about the stench of our cycling clothes infiltrating the living area or tripping around in the dark for fear of waking someone up or coinciding our arrival time with that of our host. Even though we often have our own room when Couchsurfing, sometimes that extra bit of freedom is greatly appreciated. Especially when it comes for just $7 a night.

We also have some new factors to balance with traveling, namely this whole working thing. We aren’t the first and we certainly won’t be the last travel bloggers who lament about balancing work and travel. It’s all extremely new to us though, and while we are optimistic about what the future holds, we have so much to learn about being ‘location independent’. Unfortunately, this makes Couchsurfing even more difficult. We want to spend as much time as possible with locals, learning about their culture and having those ‘this is why we travel’ moments, but realistically that just isn’t always an option if we have work that needs to be done.
 

These new travel aspects lead to the crucial question:

Is Couchsurfing still right for us?

Our conclusion?

YES.

 

When accommodation is more expensive, absolutely. There’s no denying that Couchsurfing saves some serious cash, especially in Europe (where we’ll be headed next year).

But even when we are in less expensive areas of the world and willing to shell out for hotels, Couchsurfing is still an extremely valuable tool. All it took was a visit to Hue to remind us.

Couchsurfing Friends Vietnam Bridge
 
Like we mentioned earlier, one of our favorite things about Couchsurfing is the opportunity it provides to make local friends. What we’ve never thought about though is that we don’t have to be crashing on their couch to connect. Instead, we can utilize the social network to meet new people, learn their insider advice to the place we’re visiting, have an awesome time together, and then go back to the comfort of our own hotel.
 

Couchsurfing Friends Hangout
 

Our recent trip to Hue, we did just that. We arrived in the city center dripping in sweat from the day of cycling, ready to meet a group of University students we had connected with on Couchsurfing. They would give us a tour of the city, and in the process have the opportunity to practice their English skills. We thought perhaps a handful of students would show up. You can imagine our surprise when instead we were greeted by about 20. It didn’t mater—we liked them all immediately when they didn’t judge us for our stench.
 

Couchsurfing Friends Vietnam Bikes

 
Some of them were a bit younger than us, a few of them were quite shy, but all in all we had a wonderful time together. We shared coffees by the river and received a personalized tour of the Thien Mu Pagoda. They took us to a hidden vegetarian restaurant in honor of the Buddhist holiday and introduced us to their favorite sinh to (smoothie) place. We talked about career aspirations, traveling, cycling, and life. We learned. A bit. We laughed. A lot.
 

Couchsurfing Friends Vietnam

Couchsurfing Friend Vietnam

Couchsurfing Friends Vietnam Sinh To

 
As our travel style continues to change, likely so will our use of Couchsurfing. However, our rendezvous in Hue was a reminder not to dismiss Couchsurfing so quickly, because in the end, the website is more than just a resource for saving money on accommodation; it’s an easy way to build meaningful friendships with people around the world—and these relationships don’t have to be on a free board condition.

 

Have you used Couchsurfing as a way to meet locals? What was your most memorable experience?

 

Meet: Casey Siemasko


Casey Siemasko is a blogger, content marketer, and co-founder of A Cruising Couple. She has been living and traveling outside of the US full-time since 2011. She finds her life inspiration in exploring the world and seeks to find the magic in the most ordinary of places.

35 Comments

  1. Love this post! My experiences with Couchsurfing have changed almost every year since I used the system. First, I was always on the go. I surfed my way though Australia and New Zealand. Then I stayed put in NZ for awhile and started to attend events while working part-time. Now that I’m settled in San Francisco and working for CS, I don’t attend as many events, but I host pretty regularly.

    Couchsurfing is what you make it and definitely a reflection of where you are in your life. I’m so glad you’ve found a way to make it your own again 🙂

    Reply
    • Thanks for stopping by and leaving your story! Sounds like you’ve had quite the experience with it! We would love to host at some point in the future and give back to the community that has helped us so much. Hopefully these ideas will help people that are interested in Couchsurfing but not keen on the idea of actually staying over at a stranger’s house.

      Reply
  2. Some good points to ponder. I used to be an avid CSer but have slowed down a lot as I feel guilty if I have to work all the time. Nonetheless, if you can get a good host, it can be an amazing experience. I had great luck in Eastern Europe.

    Reply
    • We have been incredibly fortunate with our hosts, and to date I can’t think of one bad experience! We too feel guilty though if we are cooped up and looking at our computers too much, which is why the meet-ups are proving a better compromise 🙂

      Reply
  3. “We aren’t the first and we certainly won’t be the last travel bloggers who lament about balancing work and travel.” Hahaha! Absolutely.

    I honestly had the expectation going in to this post that you’d say “no”…but of course, using couchsurfing to actually just MEET people is essentially what it’s all about. It’s unfortunately very easy to forget that, and I think a lot of people still just see it as a way to get free accommodation – no, that’s just a happy side effect. Sometimes.
    Sam recently posted…The Nazca Lines: A Mystery in the DesertMy Profile

    Reply
    • Thanks Sam! Before, we were definitely guilty of looking at Couchsurfing as a way to get free accommodation, with anything else being an added bonus. Maybe we’re just starting to mature a bit? 😉 It truly is so much more though, and I hope people who are new to the website but hesitant to stay at someone’s home will realize they can still benefit greatly from it!

      Reply
  4. Completely agree with this post, guys. We started off CouchSurfing because we wanted to keep lodging costs down in pricey places like Japan, but then realized that the free place to stay was actually the icing on the cake and getting to meet incredibly friendly locals was the real asset. I admit that we haven’t done much Surfing lately—in really poor countries you often can’t find hosts at all and the communities aren’t necessarily as large—but every so often when we’re really looking to connect with new people, we hop on line and give it a go and we are never disappointed. We tried CS in Hanoi but although we (and many others) RSVPd for one of the nightly meetups, we were the only ones to show up! That sort of put us off CS for the rest of our time in Vietnam, but we met plenty of other friendly people along the way so that we didn’t feel the lack of it too badly.
    Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) recently posted…Everything You Ever Wanted to Know (& More!) About: TAIWANMy Profile

    Reply
    • Thanks Steph! Sounds like you guys have had some really interesting experiences- I loved reading about your Couchsurfing hosts in Taiwan! That’s really unfortunate about the meet-up in Hanoi, but I”m happy to hear you were able to meet plenty of people anyway! We’ve also found so far in Vietnam that most people are very outgoing and curious to talk to foreigners, so it’s easy to make friends 🙂 Glad to hear you guys have had so much success overall with Couchsurfing!

      Reply
  5. It’s cool that you pointed out the benefits of meeting people through the Couchsurfing social network, because I think that aspect of it often gets overlooked. Meeting and getting tips from locals is definitely one of the biggest benefits of CS, and I love that travelers can take advantage of it, whether or not they’re actually crashing on someone’s couch.
    Jessica recently posted…Sunday Snapshot: Noto PeninsulaMy Profile

    Reply
    • Thanks Jessica! Glad to hear you agree that you don’t necessarily have to be taking advantage of free accommodation to benefit from the website 🙂

      Reply
  6. We also love couchsurfing! We have used it both for hosting & surfing. Never met up with anybody if we have our own accomodation, but came close to that in Denmark (had a lack of time there, a packed up week with loads of sightseeing, and quite some distances to travel). Maybe our best experience was our rooftop dinner last summer in Cagliari, but all experiences have been great in one way or another 🙂

    Reply
    • Sounds amazing! Glad to hear all your experiences have been positive ones! A rooftop dinner in Cagliari sounds divine. It’s definitely encouraging for people a bit intimidated by the idea.

      Reply
  7. I agree fully with what you said. We did quite a bit of couchsurfing so far and loved it. It is true though that it doesn’t always give you time to work on your own blog. We are thinking of start to attend CS events, it is still a good way to meet with the locals.
    I guess a good mixture between CS and private accommodation is the perfect solution, so you get to know local people and spend time with them and get on with your own work when you are in your private room.
    Franca recently posted…Travel As a Couple – What Doesn’t Kill You, Makes You StrongerMy Profile

    Reply
    • Thanks Franca, glad you agree! We haven’t attended any CS events yet, but I also think that would be an awesome way to meet people, especially if you are in one place for a bit of time. You’ll have to let us know how it goes if you start to attend them!

      Reply
  8. I totally understand your point of view guys. When I was travelling solo in Europe I always went for couchsurfing through which I met amazing peeps I am still in touch with. However, when me and Cez were backpacking South-East Asia we preferred our own place and to be honest, not many hosts wanted to host 2 people at the same time. You are right, the accommodation in Asia is inexpensive so it’s not that big problem.
    Agness recently posted…Postcards from I AMsterdamMy Profile

    Reply
    • It can definitely be more difficult to find a host if you are two people rather than one, especially in places where the homes are typically much smaller. I think we are spoiled with how inexpensive accommodation really is!

      Reply
  9. I use Couchsurfing as often as I can, it’s actually been more to meet up rather than accommodation lately. I met a lovely girl from South-Korea in Geneva, while road tripping Switzerland. I bought her an ice cream and she showed me around the city it was great! Couchsurfing may have started out as an accommodation site, but it’s so much more now.

    If you sweep by Norway on your Europe-trip, look me up [user: annekaren]. Norway is certainly expensive enough to warrant CS 😉
    BakoymaTravels recently posted…Summary :: BarcelonaMy Profile

    Reply
    • That’s great! And thank you for your offer – we are hoping to make it to Norway, so if we do we will definitely send you a message 😀

      Reply
  10. I think CS captures the beauty of humans. I had great experiences with it through Europe when I traveled with my sis a few years back. We went to a night club in Salzburg, which was built into a mountain, that I would never have come across. I also went to a professional hockey game in Bern, Switzerland. I will never stop using it as long as I travel. I find I dont do it to save money, but rather to meet the locals. It is such an efficient way to travel! Great advice everyone on just meeting up with people. I have not done that yet, will have to add it to my CS plans. Thank you for the great read!
    Trevor recently posted…HomeMy Profile

    Reply
    • Thanks Trevor! Glad you enjoyed it, and thanks for sharing your experiences! A night club in a mountain sounds incredible! You’re right about it being an efficient way to travel, especially in Europe where the community is so large. Let us know if you use it to meet with people and how it goes 🙂

      Reply
  11. Very interesting post! For my startup that is developing a site Nightswapping, (travel community as Couchsurfing) your testimony set well the record straight and shows once again that the key is the meeting and not financial gain 🙂

    Reply
    • Thank you Pascale. I do think most people first get into Couchsurfing because of the financial benefits, but once you start meeting people you realize how much more to it there is!

      Reply
  12. My husband Dan and I have hosted Couchsurfers and talked about doing it ourselves, but somehow we always end up renting a room with Airbnb. Both are far more enjoyable than staying in a sterile hotel room for beaucoup bucks, especially when there’s a local who wants to show you his city. Nothing can beat that.
    Linda Bibb recently posted…Setting a Goal to Travel to Every Country: Is It for You?My Profile

    Reply
    • That’s great you have hosted Couchsurfers! We tried when we lived in Taiwan, but unfortunately we were in a city that didn’t get much tourist traffic. We have yet to try Airbnb but we are really curious about it. We’ll definitely have to look into it more!

      Reply
  13. I’ve never tried couchsurfing, but find that I’m getting increasingly curious about the whole experience. Will have to give it a try soon.
    Sophie recently posted…Blue MountainsMy Profile

    Reply
    • YAY! Do it 🙂 Then let us know how it worked out for you!

      Reply
    • Thanks Noel! We’ve definitely met people of all ages on Couchsurfing, and always had a great time. It’s amazing how much you can learn!

      Reply
  14. I have never tried couchsurfing. I think in expensive countries (i.e. in Europe or the US) it is a good idea, but as you said in Asia or South America I think accommodation is so cheap that it is probably worth spending a bit more money to have complete freedom and privacy. I think I would be worried about not being able to do what I want (i.e. watch TV, have a shower when I want to, getting changed or come home when I want to). I might try it out though just to see what it is like.
    TammyOnTheMove recently posted…Capture the colour competition 2013My Profile

    Reply
    • Couchsurfing has given us some amazing memories with people from all over the globe, but it can be tough being a guest day in and day out. Especially in SE Asia where accommodation is so affordable.

      Reply
  15. We haven’t tried it. We know people who have and LOVED it. And I’m sure the friends you meet would be totally worth it.
    nicole recently posted…Can I Get a Soda … with Ice?My Profile

    Reply
    • Everyone we’ve meet through Couchsurfing has been really fun to hang out with. And they’re locals who know all the ins and outs of where your at!

      Reply
  16. How ironic as I hear the word “couchsurfing” for the very first time only a week ago! I’m probably a bit past that at this point in life but I’m fascinated reading great posts about like you two wrote here. I was immediately curious as to the safety of both when you’re staying at a place. And for those are hosts for couchsurfers. Best of luck to you on your travels and happy, safe couchsurfing! 🙂
    Mike recently posted…My Top 10 +1 Favorite Tom Hanks MoviesMy Profile

    Reply
    • We have never felt unsafe while Couchsurfing and we do a lot of research before contacting a potential host. It is a pretty awesome network for travelers and we use it pretty often. Don’t be put off by your age though. We’ve met surfers of all ages on our travels 🙂

      Reply
  17. I will never understand how any upper-middle class American makes money with low-level blogs about their “White People Travels”. My trips are a lot less Lonely Planetsy than most SoCal bloggers, but I never even entertained the idea of making money from them. Going around Burmese refugee camps delivering mail? Check. No electricity, no vodka-buckets, only travelers´ islands? Check. Sunflower mountains visited only by locals and yours truly? Check. My blog? A few comments for family and friends.

    A month ago there was a SoCal girl with her “Oh So Special Travel Blog” still discussing with me that a “guesthouse” is the same than a “hostel” in Thailand. Please.

    This says nothing about your blog in particular. I am hard to please. Even Travelfish feels pedestrian some times.

    Reply

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