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For anyone looking to explore a destination’s hidden gems without breaking the bank, couchsurfing offers a unique alternative to the touristy predictability of hostels and hotels.
As a couchsurfer who has bounced from the slums of Amsterdam and a penthouse in Dublin in the same week, I’ve learned that no two couchsurfing experiences are alike. However, by following these five rules of thumb you can give yourself the best chance to make the most out of your travels.
1. Use you’re resources: Couchsurfing.com
Couchsurfing.com is an online community of couchsurfers – both hosts and surfers. You can build your own social network and vouch for friends you meet along the way. This website serves doubly as a means to keep in touch and to seek out hosts with compatible interests. Couchsurfing.com gives you access to both positive and negative references from other travelers that have stayed with a particular host.
2. Safety first
After you’ve done your due diligence in selecting a host (double checking references, pictures, friends etc.), make sure that you have a travel buddy and share your plans with people staying behind. As with most things, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
3. Use common sense
At this point you might be rolling your eyes but believe you me – in times of desperation that guy with the profile picture of a cartoon naked fairy surrounded by pot leaves seems like a great alternative to shelling out 50 euros for a hostel room. Believe me – he’s not.
4. Be Flexible
Couch surfing is about more than a cheap room – it is an opportunity for cultural exchange and can give you a once in a lifetime glimpse into local life. If you go into it expecting to stick to a jam-packed schedule, you might miss the intimate dinner party or the rowdy rugby game. More often than not these things that make your experience so special are things that can’t be planned in advance.
Perhaps most importantly it is important to acknowledge that you are a guest in someone else’s home. Respect for their privacy and belongings is absolutely essential. Bring an inexpensive token from home as a gift to give once your stay is over. A thank you goes a long way.