4 Pro And Cons Of Couch Surfing from Grey World Nomads Perspective

Is it recommendable to use couch surfing by means of travelling on a budget? Isn’t couch surfing just for young world travelers and broke students? We share our experiences as world nomads and ‘old’ couch surfers.

On our visit to Granada we explored parts of the fortress, Alhambra, the Moorish part of the town, Albaicin, and strolled amid the Arabic Bazaar, Alcaiceria.

Traveling Europe for a couple of months and then the United Kingdom for half a year I figured, our budget wouldn’t last long if we’d stay in bed & breakfasts and hotels between our house sitting assignments.

As we’d had a lovely couch surfing experience last year with a family in Durban, South Africa, I wanted to give it a closer look also for Europe despite the fact that most hosts were in their twenties.  

Pro 1: Encounter hospitality and friends all over the world

I don’t mind to sleep on the floor, a mattress  or a couch and to bring our own bedding. I noticed that most profiles of the hosts revealed ladies and men between 20 and 25, keen to extend their clique and to go out to party with their guests. Figuring our kids wouldn’t want to hang out with some old dudes of 50 something either, I felt quite discouraged.

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Jan, our host and personal tour guide in Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Pro 2: Free accommodation and local guide in one go

I wrote to several hosts on hospitality club, which seemed to me a more mature target group. But the sight looks quite unprofessional and there weren’t any responses initially, only after some weeks when we didn’t need accommodation anymore.

Pro 3: Meet fascinating people with broad interests

Instead we were invited to an informal lunch at the home of a friendly couple close to Norwich and a dinner in Cambridge in a living community of students quite similar to the TV-series of ‘Big Bang’ by members of the hospitality club. We were most impressed by the friendliness by this gesture.

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Our host Zoe shows us around in Durham, England
Pro 4: Live with locals and experience their culture

Our first couch surfing experience in Europe was in Lille, France, at a town house of an interpreter and his family with his wife and two sons. “Wonderful, I have guests anyway when you’re here. Just come and join into the party!” We had a great evening with lots of home made Asian food and the whole neighborhood digging into it.

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Our host and personal guide, Esme, introduced us to Cambridge

Encouraged by this positive experience, I went on to find couches in the UK on the couchsurfing.com. I filtered the hosts by age and YES! There were actually a few older hosts in the UK. But crap! Almost on the other side of the British Isles of where we wanted to stay! If we wouldn’t have been with our traveling Beagle, Vlou, the search results would have been a bit more as only few hosts accept pets.

Cons 1: Backbreaking sleeping conditions

So, it was that we stayed at the west coast of England near Blackpool for our second couch surfing experience more than 100 miles away from our first house sit near Northallerton. Most probably we would have easily been able to pay a hotel for the additional transport costs with this detour. If we’d known we wouldn’t have decided this way as Blackpool is rather grubby as was our accommodation to say the least.

Cons 2: You don't meet each others expectations 

After this one we were very lucky to stay with a family with young kids in a house in St. Bees. The beach was just a stone throw away and the most stunningly beautiful place in England – the Lake District – only a twenty minutes drive to the east. We shared the cooking and could give them a little bit of relief as babysitters for an evening.

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Beautiful walks along the coast in Saint Bees

Another family in Durham accommodated us for three nights. We had some precious evenings with the children in their teens, mother and fathers of the children and grandparents as-well. A not very con-formative but nevertheless a most affectionate family.

We are still in contact with our last hosts which showed like the previous ones, that there are also younger people which like to hang out with Grey World Nomads. Being between thirty and forty they were just about to head on an adventure themselves for a few months. They’d rented their house and quit their job to discover Canada by WWOOFING (volunteering on organic farms). They’d already packed up a lot of their stuff. It’s great to follow their travels on their blog The Roaming Fen Tiger!

Update: I’ve just heard about a new platform called Hippohelp, it’s a similar website as WWOOF. I’ve not tried it myself but it might be worth a look if you’re interested in working in exchange for food and accommodation. The platform is free to use.

Cons 3: Higher transport costs dictated by location

Leaving the Brits for the Netherlands by ferry we stayed first near Delft, a quaint town famous of its delft blue paintings on old dutch crockery. Our host wasn’t at home the first evening but that didn’t stop her from offering us her house and surprising us with a laid table and soup. Awesome! Surprisingly our hosts sister had just returned from a trip to Iran where she had found some couch surfing opportunities.

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Too far away in the grubby town of Blackpool

In Amsterdam it’s good to have a local guide. So, what’s better than to be guided by your host who offers you his bikes and his knowledge as well? We were staying only a 10 minute walk from the old city center of Amsterdam and even so our host was able to find us free parking!

Cons 4: No privacy

Our last two couch surfing experiences so far were in Germany along the quite touristy, well-known Romantic Road. The first hosts, a young couple, she expecting her first child, their home a former café with plenty toilets to choose from.

The second host was living on his own near the walled old town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber in a beautifully renovated farmhouse with plenty space to accommodate guests.  With both hosts we had most interesting discussions with insights of the German culture which we’d otherwise would never have had.

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A short drive away from Saint Bees, the Lake District

All in all, we think the the advantages of couch surfing beat the drawbacks. With enough time, appreciation and interest for your hosts it’s in proper and metaphorical sense a priceless experience. Just keep in mind that you need to charge your batteries in between to keep up with your hosts!

Thank you, dear hosts, for your couch and comfortable beds, lovely meals and enjoyable company!

 

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Is it recommendable to use Couch Surfing by means of travelling on a budget? Isn't couch-surfing just for young world travelers and broke students? Grey World Nomads share their experiences as Couch Surfers in Europe. #couchsurfing #budgettravel #cheaptravelIs it recommendable to use Couch Surfing by means of travelling on a budget? Isn't couch-surfing just for young world travelers and broke students? Grey World Nomads share their experiences as Couch Surfers in Europe. #couchsurfing #budgettravel #cheaptravel

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Author: Marcelle Simone Heller

I’m searching for natural beauty and wilderness, while I’m travelling relentlessly to find delightful places and encounters with wildlife. I try to capture the thrill of the moments in photography and words, hoping to inspire others with the love for animals and nature.

48 thoughts on “4 Pro And Cons Of Couch Surfing from Grey World Nomads Perspective”

  1. I like your post very much! Actually I also use Couch Surfing during my travels. There is a con I can name: the incertainty. Even your host accepts to host you, you always need to have a B plan in case they cancel the stay in the last minute. Fortunately I haven’t experienced it, but my friend did.

    1. Thank you for this. Yes, we didn’t experience short term cancellations luckily. I heard that also from Airbnb-travelers, that they were canceled only 48h before their stay in a very busy town.

      1. Ohh :S That’s why I’m a little bit afraid of Airbnb. You need to pay for it, and it can be cancelled anytime as well :/ If I need to pay, I’d rather pay more for a certain place.

  2. Good to hear your pros and cons. I used Couchsurfing back in my 20’s in the U.S. (there was an extensive amount of listings then) and I had a good experience but overall I think most of the nicer places that were listed then have moved on to pay sites like Airbnb. But I still think its a great place to try for those on a tight budget and those backpacking for an extended period of time!

    1. I agree with you totally, but as we have been traveling for 3 years now it does help us at times but would not rely on couchsurfing but at times its good

  3. Nice post, especially as we have not had the experience of Couch Surfing. Will use your post as a reference so that we have the best experioence.

    1. Always check out the reviews before makeing a comitment and you should have no problems. We left our cellphone behind and our host sent it to us, no problems.

  4. A very interesting read! I’ve never couchsurfed before but am definitely open to it. Would love to try it out someday, even though most of my friends and family would be horrified. Nice to get different perspectives!

  5. It’s interesting to hear about couch surfing from your perspective. I guess my biggest concern is safety issues? Thanks for linking up with #theWeeklyPostcard

  6. I didn’t even know couch surfing was an official thing – I wouldn’t mind loaning out our couch occasionally! Great piece!

    1. Thanks, Alex! It’s quite THE thing among young backpackers when traveling around the world on a tight budget. For ‘old’ travelers – world nomads it’s rather uncommon.

  7. Thank you Marcelle for this post – we will be couchsurfing next year for the first time so this was a fascinating read for us and you have given some brilliant tips! We know a little more what to expect now 🙂

  8. It was very interesting to read about your experience in CouchSurfing. I have done this once in Spain too, and indeed as you mentioned that most hosts and even travellers are in their 20’s. So was I. I did find it a bit time consuming though to write to many possible hosts and then most turned us away due to different reasons. But it’s very interesting to read it from your perspective. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Interesting. We’ve never tried it but the more I read about it, seems like it’s worth considering for the experience and people you meet. Thanks for sharing.

  10. We haven’t thought of doing much couch surfing, though we have hosted once or twice when we weren’t traveling too much. It sounds like you had some interesting experiences! #wkendtravelinspiration

  11. Interesting post – I haven’t actually couchsurfed myself yet but it is something I feel I will look into on my next long trip. Useful to hear some first hand experiences!

  12. Great post and thanks for the mention 🙂 We felt like the scene in Seattle and Victoria was much more focused towards partiers so we didn’t contact anyone as we didn’t feel like it would be compatible – surprising number of open nudists in Seattle!!! I love the idea though and really enjoyed hosting (albeit it was only you and George and Vlou!).

    1. You should really give it a try. You’ll like it. I hope the nudists didn’t put you off to meet any people – haha! Where are you going next? Or is it back to work 🙂

  13. It’s nice to hear that there is a diverse range of both hosts and travellers that use these courchsurfing sites. Never having used it myself, I had assumed it would always be young backpackers. Also like how balanced this is, showing both pros and cons. I’ll have to look into this.

  14. I like your perspective as someone who is a bit older, I’ve only read about couch surfing from young people who are just starting out in their travels. It does sound like a great way to meet people as well. #WeekendWanderlust

  15. I’ve always wanted to try couchsurfing but it has never worked out. Privacy is a big thing for me so I don’t know if I could do it, but I’d definitely like to try it once or twice! Thanks for sharing your thoughts & stories 🙂

    1. Before I started to travel I couldn’t imagine to share a bathroom or to sleep in a strangers living room, but now – for a couple of nights – it’s ok with me. Kind of like camping 😉

  16. Nice perks to traveling and getting to know the locals. The locals always know where the best eats are and off the beaten places to see!

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