One of the major decisions you’ll need to make when travelling, regardless of who you’re travelling with, is where you’ll stay each night. Of course, the kind of travelling you’re doing will effect where you stay: if you’re a solo traveller on a budget who wants to meet people, a hostel dorm is the logical choice. If you’re exploring one country with friends a campervan might be a good option. And of course, you’ll probably use many different forms of accommodation within the same trip.
Couples looking for accommodation will have slightly different priorities to single travellers, or people travelling as a group of friends. However, Couchsurfing is one of the best options, for everyone really, but especially for couples.
We started couchsurfing at the start of 2010, when we headed to South America for the first time, and it has, quite literally, changed our life. It is a social network for independent travellers with a rather practical twist. Couchsurfing is an interchange and rating system matching people with spare beds and couches with people who’d like to use them. But it is much more than “free” accommodation, it’s a chance at cultural interchange, a chance to get below the skin of a city, a real chance to make local friends in almost every part of the world.
While apprehensive to begin with, we have never regretted our decision to start Couchsurfing, and now recommend it to every traveller we meet. Each experience is different — as different as the hosts who take you in. We’ve had all sorts of encounters, from one night with a single mum in Hamburg, to a few days in Arequipa with a large Peruvian family who didn’t bat an eyelid at having five strangers come to stay.
So why is it so good for couples?
1. People like couples
Some people prefer to host singles, as they take up less space than two, but several couchsurfers have told us they like to host couples: being in a couple means that at least one other person thinks you’re good value. This was the case with our very first Couchsurfing experience, in Santiago, Chile, when we stayed with a couple and their young son; the mother felt more comfortable having a couple come to stay than a solo traveller.
2. It’s safer
You’ll send several emails back and forth before you actually show up at your host’s house, and you have their profile to give you an idea of what they are like. But it’s always a risk showing up at a stranger’s place; going with someone else lessens that risk. You’ll always have someone around to help you out if something goes wrong.
3. Someone to talk to
Sometimes your host has to work and can’t spend time with you during the day, or has to go to bed early. Travelling as a couple means that you always have someone around to keep you entertained. Similarly, if one of you is exhausted, the other can spend time with your host, lessening the possibility of appearing rude.
Of course, sometimes you’ll need more privacy than Couchsurfing can provide, and that’s when it’s a good idea to head to a hostel or hotel. But for meeting people, getting to know places more intimately, and sharing cultural experiences, nothing compares with Couchsurfing.
This article is part of Couples’ Week on the Indie Travel Podcast. We’re celebrating the launch of our latest book the Art of Couples’ Travel, from which this article is adapted.