Ever visit a city, remember you have a friend there, and ask to crash on their couch? CouchSurfing.org works a little like that, only the people you’ll be staying with aren’t your friends…yet. CouchSurfing is a social networking tool that pairs up broke travelers with locals. Accommodations can range anywhere from a spare couch to a full apartment for your use (check listings for specifics).
Wondering what kind of person would want to open their home to a stranger for the night? CouchSurfing works as a social experiment. All hosts were at one point travelers depending upon the kindness of strangers, and now it is their turn to return the favor. Which also means, if you want to stay for free, you should plan on paying it forward when you’re back home.
But CouchSurfing is more than just a cheap hotel alternative. Many travelers choose to stay with a local over bedding down in a chain hotel, just for the insider cultural experience. Many hosts offer tips, and restaurant and attraction recommendations that aren’t found in any guidebook. Some even take the time to hang out with you, giving you an instant friend and opening you to people and experiences you would’ve otherwise missed.
Hosts and guests are both vetted with user reviews, so you can get an idea of who you’ll be bunking with beforehand. This also means hosts will be looking for feedback about you before opening their doors, so it’s smart to tap into your other networks to see if you know anyone on the site that can vouch for you. If not, check the site for one of their frequent get-togethers and connect with someone willing to post a positive review.
photo credit: TheMarque, Flickr