When we decided to go travelling around Asia for 18 months or more we knew from the very beginning that Couchsurfing would be an important part of our trip! It’s a great way to meet locals and get a behind the scene look at a city that you won’t find in your Lonely Planet book.
During our journey we have spent the night in a multitude of places with a variety of different personalities and overall our experiences with couchsurfing far outweigh any experiences we have had in hostels or hotels… So, we thought we would tell you why!
Top 9 reasons why CS is better than staying hostels!
9. True Cultural Exchange
Staying at someone’s place gives you the opportunity to sit down and really learn about each other and what it’s like growing up and living in their country. Even if people are from the same country as you, every single person’s story is unique and fascinating. If you’re in a country completely different to your own this is a great way to see life from a very different perspective!
In hostels people often pass each other by in the hallways…sometimes you’ll get a hello right before they bury their heads back into their computer screens. It often tends to be the smokers who are more social as they have to go to a particular spot in order to have a smoke and in turn strike up a conversation with whoever is also smoking…but what about the non-smokers?
Some hostels have great communal areas where we have met some awesome people, but sadly we have found more often than not people just go to their rooms and close the doors behind them!
Couchsurfers specifically want to make new friends, which makes it really easy, even for more timid individuals.
8. Locals know where the best food is
Getting to know your way around a new city can be confusing and daunting. Trying to find the best food can be difficult especially if it’s in a country that speaks a different language to you ….if there are no pictures you have no idea what you are ordering!
Yes ok, admittedly these days you will often find a KFC or McDonalds around but we do NOT consider this to be real food!!!
So why not rely on the people that know best….the people that live there, your CS host!
We have had some amazing feeds from hole in the wall places that only locals know about. Also, if your host can read the menu for you or recommend the “local specialty” this means you will always eat well and won’t spend your days eating chicken rice for every meal!
7. Tips on the best sight seeing and how to see them for cheaper
Unless its a major city with standard tourist things to see you may not have any idea where to go, what to do or how to get there!
We have had many hosts pull out maps, circle all the best and cheapest places to see and also give us bus/metro numbers so we can get there with ease. Once again, it’s a great way to find little “non-touristy” gems. By just following your guide book you’ll only see the same things everyone else that’s ever been there has seen…..With local knowledge you really have something to write home about!
6. Score a traditional home cooked meal
We like to cook! So if possible we love to offer to cook something for our hosts, and in return we have had a few cook for us!
There is nothing better than trying a home cooked meal that’s “grandma’s famous recipe”, or a dish that you can only get in that particular city. This is also a great way to discover meals that maybe are not ones that are found on restaurant menus, only traditional homes.
5. You get to choose who you stay with…
Staying in hostels you run the gauntlet of possible personality clashes (especially in dorms!). You have no idea or choice of the other people sharing the same space as you. Will you have all night ravers that stay up drinking and shouting till all hours of the morning? Will there be anyone else that even speaks your language? If you’re staying in a Dorm, what are the personal hygiene practices of your fellow travellers?
In order to be a member of CS you need to set up a profile with pictures, information about yourself, where you have travelled to and where you want to go as well as interests and information about the “couch” offered. This profile page is a place where people can leave references about you and what it’s like spending time with you either as a host, a surfer, or as a friend you have travelled with.
This is a great way of “getting to know” people before you have even met them and based on their profile you can decide if this is someone you would like to meet and spend time with!
4. It has to be said… Free accommodation!
Hostels these days, especially in Western countries, are getting expensive and having free accommodation really does help you keep a low daily budget. However, as stated earlier it is NOT just about the free room, it’s a cultural exchange!
Some might say that with a hostel at least you get a bed not just a couch. Quite often we have found with couchsurfing we have had our own private room with double bed. If not we’ve slept on plenty of couches that beat many beds in comfort!!!
3. Great way to meet other locals
We have found through CS that many hosts have taken us out to dinner with their friends as a) They want to meet us and, b) In non-English speaking countries, they want someone to practice English on!
Through this we have met even more great people that we never would have met had we stayed in a hostel. We were even once invited to a host’s work weekend get away, where everything; accommodation, food and alcohol was all paid for and we just had a great time playing games getting drunk and singing karaoke with a new found group of friends!
2. Pets are the BEST
Many CS hosts have pets and that for us makes the CS experience even better! We LOVE animals and as we can’t have any of our own due to the fact we are travelling, we are happy to take an opportunity for a nice furry cuddle!
1. Make friends for life
There are so many people you will meet through CS, by either hosting or surfing, with whom you will have continued contact with. Many become close friends that will always have a bed for you if you head their way again and vice versa if they ever happen to pass our way we would not hesitate to offer them somewhere to stay!
It’s a friend network of people with similar interests to you and of course, everyone shares the love of travel! Yes this also happens in hostels but sharing someone’s home, you have an opportunity get to know people on a more intimate level which makes for a stronger bond!
We have found CS overall to be our favourite way to travel as we are more about meeting people and experiencing a local way of life to the point where sometimes we have found ourselves feeling almost lonely in some hostels.
Tell us what your experiences have been?
Are there any points you would like to add?