No matter if you like hitchhiking or not, there are other ways of authentic meetings, while finding a place to stay the night at the same time! Hostels are nice, but the people you’ll meet are usually backpackers with as little knowledge about the place as yourself. This is why Couchsurfing rocks!
The CS network is worldwide and extremely popular. Signing up is free but donations are always welcome to keep the organization going. The community also serves locals , and in many cities meetings are held every week.
There are other exchange networks similar to CS (for example BeWelcome, Hospitality Club), though CS is currently the biggest one in the world.
Renting a room never gives the same experience as staying with people in their home.What you give in exchange is for most people something more valuable than money. You share yourself with them! Your hosts are not depending on you to make their living, they have chosen to meet you because they want to. They will still go to work, make dinner, go out, see their friends etc, even with you sleeping on their couch.
We’ve had great meetings with our hosts in Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania and are looking forward to host travelers ourselves when we’ll have a place to invite them to! (We just can’t fit more people in the tent at the moment :) ).
In Poland our host Jarema brought us to one restaurant, one pub, and one teahouse – all of them places that we’d never found without him. But most importantly: We would probably not have found such a open minded person if it wasn’t for CS!
In Slovakia, Martina brought us to a wine festival that we had never even heard of. Through her we met plenty of people in our own age living in Bratislava.
In Hungary we got a private guide tour through the capital with Joacim, who showed us his favorite places in one night.
In Romania, Andra taught us how to make pottery, told us plenty of things about Romanian history and modern culture, and Razvan showed us how to become better photographers. No hotel receptionist ever did anything like this, no matter how service minded and friendly they have been.
We have been invited to stay with complete strangers as well, and it has been a pleasure. But we cannot walk around hoping for them to pop up around the corner asking us to come to their place. Through CouchSufring we can contact people in advance, read about them, see their references and find out if it is a good and interesting match for us.
CouchSurfing gives an authentic travel experience!
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