There’s no better way for globetrotters to enjoy an authentic travel experience than to spend time with the people who actually live there. A network of travelers who want to share their homes with other travelers may seem too good to be true – but it’s not.
Couchsurfing is one of the original sharing-economy platforms. It began in 2004 and to this day is still the best way to connect with locals, get off the main tourist travel paths and save money by getting free accommodation.
For all the positives that come with couchsurfing, there are certain risks involved. It’s important to make sure you know as much as possible about the person you’re staying with. We’ll help you figure out if couchsurfing is safe and if it’s right for you.
What is Couchsurfing?
Couchsurfing is a global community of 14 million people in more than 200,000 cities all over the world. It connects travelers with a network of people willing to share in profound and meaningful ways, making travel a truly social experience.
A good host can provide a better understanding of the place you’re visiting. They’ll know about hidden hotspots and can offer money-saving tips for insider sights, activities and restaurants. They may even offer to take you out and show you all the, hidden, local places.
Even though it offers amazing potential, there are some instances of negative experiences, especially when traveling to foreign countries. Some hosts, on the other hand, may have untrustworthy intentions.
At its very core, couchsurfing seems like a risky proposition. After all, you’ll be in close quarters with a total stranger. That’s why it’s important to know what precautions you should take in order to have the best possible experience.
Is Couchsurfing Safe?
For all the positives that come with couchsurfing, there are certain risks involved. When it comes down to it, you don’t really know the person you’ll be staying with. As such, travelers need to be mindful of their personal safety.
Couchsurfers should conduct a thorough lookup on the profile and read the host’s couchsurfing reviews to make sure they’re not putting themselves at risk. It’s a rare circumstance but there have been examples of hosts with bad motives that could jeopardize a surfer’s safety. It’s good to get to know the host beforehand.
If you’re couchsurfing in the United States, use Spokeo to look up the host’s name and physical address beforehand to get some peace of mind about the person you’re getting involved with.
How Safe is Couchsurfing?
Couchsurfing places high priority on users’ safety. As a result, there are actually relatively few cases of negative encounters.
Couchsurfing statistics shows that most of the victims of bad experiences appear to be women, particularly those traveling solo. In some countries like Japan, single women travelers are said to be at high risk of rape among other experiences. Additionally, men can be falsely accused of either rape in addition to falling victim to a robbery.
Bad Couchsurfing Experiences
Most couchsurfing stories are fun and exciting, however, there have been a few unpleasant experiences. Negative couchsurfing experiences often occur due to failure to take precautionary measures among users.
There are several experiences that may discourage people from couchsurfing. Here are a few of the stories found on the couchsurfing forums that illustrates the most common reasons couchsurfing can go south:
This is how Annie (Travellerspoint) recalls her voyage to Barcelona:
“One of my bad stories involves a host who told me upon arrival that he had to work late and would not be home in time. Having arrived at his place around 9.00 pm, I had to wait outside his house for almost 2 hours before he arrived. I was terrified and helpless before he eventually showed up.”
This is what Mary (Lonelyplanet forum) had to say about her trip to Paris:
“While in France, I was hosted by a guy who would not quit hitting on me. He suggested that I sleep in his bed even after I clearly told him that I will sleep on the couch. He also walked shirtless around the house and tried to make sexual advances towards me. This made me so uncomfortable.”
Couchsurfing Safety Tips
Despite these negative experiences, there’s obviously still plenty of great stories out there. Those who have had good couchsurfing experiences generally recommend that you:
– Build a Good Profile
Couchsurfing dangers can be avoided if you follow certain procedures. Users should start by creating a thorough and accurate profile of themselves. This will help in connecting them to a variety of hosts to choose from. A well-detailed profile makes it easy for hosts to develop some level of trust in you.
– Check Reviews and References Thoroughly
Couchsurfers should conduct thorough research on the reviews and references of the host before taking further steps.
You can use Spokeo to find more information about the host if you’re couchsurfing in the US. The website will assist in finding them by their name or email address. Spokeo can also get you more information about the safety of the area of interest before visiting via a reverse address search.
– Have a Back-up Plan
Users should always have a backup plan just in case. For instance, having money can allow you to book the local airBnB in case you fall victim of any form of abuse. Additionally, you should always notify someone of your exact location so that if things go wrong they can know where to find you.
– Learn About the Area
It is important to have knowledge regarding the place of interest beforehand. You can research its culture, beliefs, religion as well as how to contact local authorities (in case of an emergency). Additionally, it is important to know the nearby hotels or restaurants.
– Travel in Groups
It’s much safer to visit places in a group. This group can either be of friends or family members. It’s not easy for one to take advantage of you in a group compared to when you are alone. Moreover, users are advised to consider similar age groups.
– Avoid Solo Hosts
Users are advised to be wary of hosts that live alone. There are plenty of examples of positive solo host experiences but the unfortunate reality is that it’s more likely that someone living alone rather than a couple or family – could turn out to be creepy.
– Communicate Regularly
Communication is vital when it comes to couchsurfing, surfers need to be in contact with their hosts so as to ensure everything is in order before traveling. Also, constant communication helps them know each other better and hence minimizing surprises.
Couchsurfing isn’t just a way to get a free place to stay. It’s an attitude, a way of thinking, a community. And while it may seem scary at first, following our couchsurfing tips will help you have the best experience possible. Armed with these tips, you can get out there and see what the world of couchsurfing has to offer!