Newest Review: ... to sleep on should they be in the city. Members currently travelling or planning their travels can then search within an area for cou... more
Member Name: thole09
Advantages: Free to use, Active community
Disadvantages: 503 Error during peak hours
CouchSurfing.com, which redirects to CouchSurfing.org, is an accommodation exchange website. It offers users the chance to stay with other participating users in their home free of charge or host other users without the expectation of reimbursement. The website has been online since 2004 and has grown steadily in popularity. According to Alexa traffic research, the website is currently the 3415th most accessed website in the world. It sees most of its popularity in Ireland where it is the 504th most accessed site. Here in the United Kingdom, its ranking is 2401.
I'm not the most avid of travelers but I do like to mind the pennies when opportunities to go abroad come up. Before coming across CouchSurfing I had been a member of HelpX exchange for farm labourers but never received a suitable reply. As HelpX requires users to pay a subscription fee for the privilege of contacting hosts it was a bit out of my league and not something I wished to do for infrequent travel. It was shortly after removing my information from the site that I came across CouchSurfing.com and have been satisfied thus far with the registered community.
The website sports tan accents with black font size 12 text on white background information panels. This design is somewhat appealing to me as I'm able to read information with ease and don't find the colours to be particularly repelling. Each part of the website is accessible through a drop down style menu at the top of the page under appropriate headings. For example, the "Surf/Host" option reveals further options which allow the user to search for others based on personal preferences such as gender and location. CouchSurfing.com also sports a well developed forum system with various topics and communities which allow more intimate correspondence before agreeing to set travel times. A private messaging system is also available, but I have not made use of it at this time. It is through surfing through the various groups and discussions that the community seem genuinely interested in one another and concerned for their well being. Of course such a concept requires a high level of caution but my personal intuition hasn't guided me away from the website. I have yet to have an official accommodation exchange experience but do enjoy the time I spend reading through and discussing topics with others. The bulk of the community appear articulate and switched on which makes me feel more comfortable in the surroundings. It is required that users are 18 and above prior to registering so it's perhaps this adult feel which draws me in.
As users must yield to their better judgment regarding stays, CouchSurfing.com allows those interested in hosting to further prove their commitment to the project. Members may become verified hosts by making a small contribution which verifies their name and may also verify their location through receiving a postcard in the mail containing an ID number to input within the website. Users seeking accommodation may filter host results based on members who are verified and I personally do this when browsing through the directory. I would not rule out staying with an unverified member but I would prefer my first experience to be with someone who has more experience and is able to prove their willingness to help others out. CouchSurfing.com also provides a review system which allows users who have stayed with a host to leave comments regarding their experience, and these comments are publicly viewable by all who access the host's profile.
Registration is required on this website but is free of charge. The form is somewhat lengthy but only requires the basic details typical to many websites including username, e-mail address, date of birth, physical location and suggesting how you came across the website. After registering, the user is directed to edit their public profile which includes further questions regarding their personal interests, how they plan on participating and the like.
The website is generally fast but it is susceptible to 503 service unavailable errors during peak hours. Under optimum conditions, the index of the website requires a total of 7.6 seconds to load when using a broadband connection. I find this to be fast despite the longer load time which is partly due to the numerous graphical features which the website contains. I have also found the posting features to be operable and have never had an issue sending or receiving messages within discussion groups.
Overall, CouchSurfing.com seems to be a promising way of budget based traveling and I would recommend it to those interested in such. The website seems more geared for short term stays similar to a typical holiday or weekend break so those looking for a free ride for long periods may find themselves out of luck. It is nonetheless a functional directory and I have yet to have any negative experiences using it.
Summary: Thumbs up