The traditional means of accommodation during travel is hotels. I advocated hotels during my early travelling experience. It transformed to an ardent devotion towards youth hostels since I started backpacking in Europe. Pricing attraction was the primary reason that explains my inclination towards the latter. However, in mid 2008, I was introduced to something more attractive than staying in youth hostels. It is so appealing that it actually comes for free. It is called the couchsurfing.

The concept is simple. Couchsurfing consists of three main components: the host – a person who offers a place to stay; the guest – a traveller who seeks an accommodation; and the platform – as in the modern world cliché this is the dedicated website. The mechanism for couchsurfing is best demonstrated using an instance – a trip to London. Utilising the platform, the guest who wishes to visit London narrows down the amount of prospective hosts in London through the application of specific criteria in a couch-search. Upon deciding on the final few potential hosts, couch-request is sent out by the guest to these hosts. After getting an affirmative reply from one of the hosts, an accommodation is said to have been secured. On the planned travel date, the guest travels to London and is received by the host until the end of his trip. No money is involved in the entire process.

But of course, the formula to this gratis exercise entails a great deal of intricacies. First and foremost, both the host and the guest are required to create a profile for themselves respectively. To improve the appeal of these profiles, many personal information (and thus time)  which serves chiefly as a reference for a host to assess his/her prospective guest is required. However, the interesting element of this referencing practice relies not solely on a profile, but also the past couchsurfing experience of the guest. To complicate the practice even more, the roles of the host and the guest are interchangeable. To simplify the entire couchsurfing idea, it can be concluded by saying as long as you maintain a profile within the platform, you will be able to access to a enormous base of potential hosts/guests in your upcoming travel.

Many first-timer has the misleading impression that he/she has to sleep on a couch based on what the project’s title suggests, and a host can only accommodate one guest at a time. Neither of these is correct. My experience told me that many hosts are very generous in offering more than a couch. Yes, it is undeniable that I have had experience spending my nights on a couch. But most of the time, I had at least a bed, if not a double bed or even luxury sofa bed from Ikea. And you should absolutely not deterred by practicing couchsurfing just because you are travelling with friend because most hosts can often offer more than one bed in a night.

But couchsurfing serves more than providing than free shelter. Based on personal experiences, I was offered a private one-to-one guided tour in Marseille, Rome and Istanbul; a thorough instruction to reach the airport from my host’s at 5am in Nice; free local home-cook food in Milan, Istanbul, Cappadocia, and Konya; numerous cultural exchange conversations; an unforgettable birthday celebration at Cappadocia; and most importantly, friendships that last forever.

But then again, similar to most activities, couchsurfing is not without risk and safety issues, especially when you are a lonely traveller. There are certainly a lot of tips on how to enhance a couchsurfing experience and many dos and don’ts during a couchsurfing practice that I could share with you. However, if you are truly interested in the project, I reckon it is best that you visit the official website and start couchsurfing.

I like the concept of the project and the participation of couchsurfers have really made my travel experience truly unique and localised. I found it a lot easier to accustom myself to the local culture. By having said all these, I support couchsurfing whole-heartedly.

To learn more about couchsurfing, visit today at:

The following shows some of the “couches” from my trips.

In Milan In Zürich
In Nice In Interlaken