Finding cheap plane tickets is relatively easy these days, but how do you solve accomodation-issues if you have to keep yourself to a low budget? If you are an adventourous, open-minded person who likes meeting new people from all over the world, Couchsurfing.com may be the solution for you.
“I first heard of Couchsurfing from a friend, two years ago” – Sylwana, a 22 year-old Polish student living in Warsaw says. „I wanted to travel to Scandinavia, but couldn’t afford expensive hostels and hotels, so I tried to look for an alternative solution. Soon enogh, I found a young couple from Denmark, two girls from Sweden, and a nice guy from Norway who were willing to share their flat with me for a couple of days. It’s for free, you get a nice tourist-guide and a good company for the evening, and if you’re lucky you may make life-long friends. The Norwegian guy even visited me in Poland last year.”
However, you don’t necessarily have to offer a couch for other surfers. In fact, you may just choose to have a coffee with tourists visiting your city, or take them around in your hometown. These things are equally helpful when you’re in a foreign city.
Nowadays there are 250 thousand surfers from 218 countries and 26 thousand cities in the world, but it wasn’t always the case. The idea of Couchsurfing was first conceived in the mind of a 20 year-old American guy called Casey Fenton, in 1999. Casey found a cheap ticket to Iceland, but had no acquiantances in the country. Being an amatour programmer, he easily found the way to the Reykjavik University and its 1500 students. To his surprise, hundreds of people replied to his e-mail within a couple of hours, and fifty of them immediately offered him to „surf their couch”. He had a great time with his new Icelandic friends, and this gave him the idea to establish Couchsurfing.com.
Of course making lifelong friends is not guaranteed, many times you just spend a night at your host and have a coffee with them in the morning. „The shocking experience happened to me in München, Germany. Our hosts turned out to be true hippies who lived in an abandoned house with a big garden. They were very nice and friendly, but their home was dirty and smelled of weed, plus there were more than ten people sleeping on the floor. What could we do? We said thank you for their hospitality and moved to other couchsurfers the next day” – tells Réka, 23, from Hungary.
You may have some less positive experiences, but most of the time you find nice people to stay with. Our host in Helsingborg, Sweden was a very kind 35 year-old guy who showed us his city, just like a perfect tourist guide would. He even took us for lunch. Needless to mention that both of us left him „extremely positive” references on his CS profile. Reading these references, by the way, may be a useful thing before you leave for the unknown, just like – if want extra safety – having yourself verified with the help of your creditcard (for US $ 25). The latter is also something that supports the site and the admins behind it.
Couchsurfing is for free, so it basically makes its living from advertisements and charity. The service is so popular that their annual budget is approximately 110 million dollars. The database of CS allows you to search according to age, languages spoken, gender, location, number of couches available etc., so there are plenty of opportunities to find what you want, wherever you are, and whatever you are interested in.