CouchSurfing is a travel site that matches travelers with a global network of people willing to share their homes. Their goal is to make travel richer by creating connections with people from different cultures. Travelers can stay with locals in every country on earth, allowing them to experience the world in a unique and meaningful way. CouchSurfing also allows people to join as hosts, so they can have travelers from around the world stay in their home with them. 

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The Good

  • Connect directly with owner
  • Inexpensive bookings
  • Guest reviews for each host's profile

CouchSurfing has hosts across the United States and throughout the world in more than 120,000 cities. Travelers can send a message to hosts through the CouchSurfing website. There is also a "Send CouchRequest" button on each host's profile, so guests can request specific dates and converse with the host. There are currently over 5 million hosts listed on CouchSurfing.

Reservations are made with each individual host. Guests can choose to send a message to their desired host to get to know them better before booking, or they can push the "Send CouchRequest" button to reserve a host's home during specific dates. Other benefits of CouchSurfing include:

  • Locals - CouchSurfing is a great way to get in touch with locals when traveling. Travelers can get a unique view of the culture, language, and environment by staying with people who live there.
  • Low Cost - Travelers can find places to stay in unfamiliar countries for free. There is a $25 fee to become a member of CouchSurfing, but that cost is minimal compared to the price associated with other vacation rental services.
  • Community - CouchSurfing allows members to be a part of a local and international community. There are usually weekly events for local members. Members are also given the opportunity to meet with international travelers as a host or a guest.

Guest reviews are available on each host's profile. Both positive and negative reviews are welcome, giving members an honest picture of hosts and their homes. Hosts also have the ability to respond to reviews, so they can explain issues that may have been raised in negative reviews or simply thank guests for their positive reviews.

CouchSurfing has a mobile app available for iPhone and Android. The host profiles are very easy to browse and it also comes with a chat feature so users can talk with members of their community no matter where they are. They also have a mobile website very similar to their desktop site that can be easily viewed on all mobile devices.

The Bad

  • Additional fees
  • Lacking features
  • No refund or cancellation policy

There is a $25 fee to be a CouchSurfing member. While this price is not outrageous, it is inconvenient for those who would like to see their travel options before making a monetary commitment. Beside the initial membership cost, staying at host's homes is free. Other disadvantages include:

  • Search Listings - There is no search feature on the homepage of the site. CouchSurfing does not allow travelers to search listings before creating an account.
  • Safety - As with any social network, there is the potential to meet good and bad people. CouchSurfing holds a little bit more risk as the person is either staying in your home or you're staying in their home. It's important to communicate with your host or guest before starting an offline relationship. CouchSurfing has additional tips on their site to keep both hosts and guests safe while engaging in relationships through CouchSurfing.
  • Photos - It is not required for hosts to upload photos of their home, so travelers have to trust that the descriptions and hosts are truthful about their accommodations. 
  • Navigation - CouchSurfing's site is difficult to navigate and the user interface is not very intuitive.

Additionally, there is no refund or cancellation policy. Since there is just a membership fee and guests are not charged to stay in host's homes, travelers have no need for refunds.

The Bottom Line

Though interaction with hosts is completely optional, travelers and hosts who are interested in making international friendships and being a part of a community will find that CouchSurfing is a great option. It also has the benefit of free lodging anywhere in the world. CouchSurfing provides a great opportunity for people who want to be immersed in another culture when traveling. It's probably most appealing for young people or groups of friends traveling together. If you are a traveler who just wants to visit a new place and be an independent tourist, CouchSurfing is probably not the best option. Those that use CouchSurfing can expect the following from the service:

  1. Local insight and advice
  2. Reasonable to inexpensive rates
  3. Millions of properties listed
  4. Booking fees
  5. Safety issues

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Rajeev Saxena
July 5th, 2017 New York, NY

If you are a host, it's a bad bad idea. Couchsurfing is not good to it's hosts. The system is geared towards young Europeans (especially girls) who want to travel the world free..but only as guests. Today, 7 out of 10 Couchsurfing guests are freeloaders - they only surf, don't host, don't even bring a simple gift for their host, don't mean to make friends - don't keep in touch with their hosts after the visit, try and eat free frood from the host's apartment without buying the host any food in return etc. So if you are a host and want to practice exchange of stay - try other websites such as guesttoguest.com or homestay. Guesttoguest gives you virtual cash when you host which you can use to buy stay when you travel. It's a better way to travel free. You get rewarded for hosting, yet it's free!

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