Every once in a while I hear of more people who are using those communities with extremely positive feedback. The concept is simple – if you have a spare couch, spare room or even spare time and you like meeting people from all over the world – then you offer what you have to tourist visiting your country on those websites for free. Through a system of recommendations, ratings, chatting etc. travelers setup the details of the cultural exchange, and then have fun hosting or visiting other people.
Here’s a little from Hospitality Club –
What is the Hospitality Club?
Our aim is to bring people together – hosts and guests, travelers and locals. Thousands of Hospitality Club members around the world help each other when they are traveling – be it with a roof for the night or a guided tour through town. Joining is free, takes just a minute and everyone is welcome. Members can look at each other’s profiles, send messages and post comments about their experience on the website.
The club is supported by volunteers who believe in one idea: by bringing travelers in touch with people in the place they visit, and by giving "locals" a chance to meet people from other cultures we can increase intercultural understanding and strengthen the peace on our planet.
and Couchsurfing –
Couchsurfing is not about the furniture, not just about finding free accommodations around the world; it’s about making connections worldwide. We make the world a better place by opening our homes, our hearts, and our lives. We open our minds and welcome the knowledge that cultural exchange makes available. We create deep and meaningful connections that cross oceans, continents and cultures. Couchsurfing wants to change not only the way we travel, but how we relate to the world!
So, say you’re coming to Israel, which can honestly be a bit too expensive for backpackers, and you want to meet up with some locals and experience the local culture, then all you need to do is sign up, browse through the hundreds of registered Israelis on the website (on Couchsurfing, on Hospitality Club, some I know indirectly), write to them and get yourself a friendly couch and a tour-friend.
Feeling skeptic? just go read the thousands of positive reviews. I’m guessing that if you’ll ask around, you’ll find friends who already used this. Think it’s not safe? the network of trust on those sites can help reduce some of the obvious risks, and I believe that’s better than many other no-clue travel options :
Couchsurfing – This is one of our most commonly asked questions. Couchsurfing has implemented several precautionary measures for the benefit of its surfers, hosts, and community. Every user is linked to the other users he or she knows in the system through a network of references and friend links. In addition to the solid network with friend link-strength indicators and testimonials, we have our vouching and verification systems. Some of these are new technologies invented by the Couchsurfing founders.
I’ve heard good things, really good things, and I’m hoping to give it a try sometime soon…
Anybody else got some feedback?