One cheap travel tip many backpackers take advantage of is Couchsurfing.com. This is a fantastic networking tool that can save you lots of time, effort, and money. However, being female the risks are a bit higher and I’d advise you to be sensible when using this option while traveling.
– Stay with a local. This means you have your very own tour guide with insights on the best grub and hang out spots that your average tourist might miss.
– Many couchsurfing hosts will arrange to pick you up, or have you picked up, at the airport, bus/train station, boat dock, or however other way you arrive to their city. Saving you money you’d otherwise spend on transportation and possible frustrations with any language barriers that may be present.
– Accommodation is free. I’ve crashed on a couch, on an air mattress in a living room, had my own private room and bathroom, and have also stayed in hostels/hotels that my host owned. The accommodation can vary considerably, but it’s free. And when you’re traveling on a shoe string, this can be a very helpful option.
– You can also opt to just “Meet up” for a coffee and some pointers, you’re not obligated to stay in their home
Couchsurfing.com is based on a ranking system. The more positive reviews you have, the more open someone will be to stay with you and in turn let you stay with them. This in itself isn’t an entirely bad thing, however, say you’re brand new and have never hosted or been hosted. You stay with someone, more than likely a male. He gets a little creepy. You want to leave an honest review for the next gal but know if you do, the host will leave you negative feedback, basically ruining your chances of any other couchsurfer hosting you.
That’s it. Done-zo. See where I’m going with this? The CouchSurfing experience can be amazing, but it’s also a tricky one. I suggest using it with caution and as an additive. A fun option to enhance your travel experience, not your plan A. You can read more about some of my CouchSurfing experiences here!
I couchsurfed with some great guys in Colombo, Sri Lanka and had some amazing experiences. Dinners directly on the beach at great local spots I would have never found. TukTuk rides and sightseeing downtown. We had lunches at the open air markets and beers at the lake. They cooked us home-style meals and gave us a taste of authentic local cuisine. We had a great time watching rugby games at a bar down the road. One of them was opening his own Tree House Hotel and let us stay for free the week before they opened. They even took us to their version of Oktoberfest. During the month I spent traveling around Sri Lanka, we probably met up with them three or four times. We will forever be life-long friends, and we catch up often. We’re even planning on going back for one of their weddings!
To read a few awkward couchsurfing stories, head here!
Want to find out a few easy ways to start saving for a trip? Read my, “How to save money for travel – A backpackers perspective” here!