Couch surfing, where you stay with a host for free, is not just for backpackers. An increasing number of older travellers are throwing caution to the wind to bunk down with total strangers.
And it isn’t just the money saved on accommodation, but the experience of meeting friendly people and making new friends that is attracting seniors to this carefree-style way of travelling.
Couch surfers are expected to be a little extroverted and happy to be taken under the wing of hosts who will treat them like house guests. That seems to be the catch.
The couch surfing community encourages hosts and guests to immerse themselves and share stories and experiences. Despite its label, it is rare for guests to sleep on a couch. More often than not, they will end up in a spare bedroom.
While money is not exchanged between the parties, couch surfing communities do have a code that encourages members to show courtesy, be tidy and clean, offer help with a house chore or give a gift.
According to pioneers of the trend, couchsurfing.com, they take safety seriously and have the following recommendations:
Review profiles and references carefully
Whether travelling, attending an event, or joining a Hangout, take the time to carefully review member profiles. Read what members say about themselves and what other members have said about them. Give yourself the time to thoroughly read through all the information available and don’t compromise. If you’re uncomfortable, keep looking.
Trust your instincts
If a person, situation or profile seems unsafe for any reason, move on. Don’t worry about seeming rude. Be clear about your boundaries and don’t be shy about stating them. If someone in a Hangout makes you uncomfortable, leave the Hangout or don’t attend. Communicate clearly with others and take care of yourself. If you’re uncomfortable staying alone with a member, consider staying with families or with couples.
Have a backup plan
Know your options. If something doesn’t work out with your host, or if they misrepresented themselves or their home, make sure you have an alternate place to stay. Identify the nearest hostel or hotel, or have a backup host in place before you go. If possible, research your host’s neighbourhood prior to arriving, including how to get to and from there on your own. If you’re heading to an event or joining a hangout, look up the location prior to attending.
Be informed about the culture where you are travelling
Do your homework, and be sure you’re aware of cultural and religious differences, sensitivities, and general safety recommendations for each place that you travel. Gender roles and expectations can differ wildly. Consider reading alerts issued by government travel websites.
Communicate through couchsurfing.com
Never give out your phone number or email address to a new person until you meet and feel comfortable with them. Use only the website and mobile apps to communicate. Confirming trips and keeping all communication on couchsurfing.com helps our trust and safety team identify issues and react quickly.
Know your limits
Partying like a rock star might be fun, but it puts your safety and well-being in the hands of others.
Use the reference system to let other couch surfers know about your experiences with the people you meet. Be honest and clear. The other member won’t see your reference until they leave theirs, or until 14 days have passed.
Report negative experiences
Our trust and safety team is here to help build the safest and most trusted community possible. Reporting safety concerns to couchsurfing.com helps keep future couch surfers safe.
Can you see yourself dropping in on a total stranger to share their accommodation for free?