Tue 19 Mar 2013
Free accommodation is possible quiet easily all around the world through Hospitality Exchange Networks.It gets better as well. Not only do you normally get a free couch or bed, but you also get instant local friends.
These Hospitality Exchange Networks connects travelers with local residents in the cities they’re visiting. If travelers can connect with the right people at the right time, they can get room and sometimes board in the place they’re visiting for free or at a deep discount. Network sizes range from a few thousands to millions of users. Sites like CouchSurfing.org are changing the face of travel, especially for those wanting to get more that just a vacation.
Hospitality Exchange have advantages and disadvantages. The most obvious advantage is that accommodation costs are much lower (as most networks are free) than at hotels or even youth hostels. More important, though, is the opportunity to make a personal connection with someone from a different culture and social classes, you see the destination you’re visiting from a local perspective. A common side effect, building and strengthening intercultural understanding and also reduce prejudices and intolerance.
There are disadvantages, though. Hospitality Exchange require some additional planning before travel, and courtesy requires sticking at least reasonably close to your arranged times. There are usually strict limits on the length of stay and what you can do in the home, such as not brining in the nice boy or girl you met in the bar. Often have less privacy than in a hotel. There is also a chance that the host and guest may be incompatible. This is reduced more and more with experience and tolerance.
There are a number of different Hospitality Exchange Networks.
Servas was the first (created in 1949). Hospex was the first Internet based hospitality network. Started back in 1992. After several years it converted to Hospitality Club which is no longer active. There is also GlobalFreeLoaders and WWOOFingWilling Workers On Organic Farms, covered in more detail on our volunteering page. There is a bigger collection of small networks also available for cyclist for their long cycling trips.
For you we focus on the current leading networks.CouchSurfing.org with 4.5 million profiles and Bewelcome.org with .5 million profiles.
The CouchSurfing Project is the largest hospitality exchange organization, founded in 1999. The System crashed and was reinstalled and worked on by volunteers. Volunteers and users donate money to keep the site alive and non comercial. It started off as non-profit, however around 2006 CS stopped fulfilling non-profit Criterea. In 2011 it became a for-profit corporation. Having said this CS is still the most popular network. With the system now having over 4,500,000 profiles. This website is a key for meeting people around the world. It is good for connecting with a large Audience.
1. When starting, read all the information available to new members. Then attend some local meetings. Their held in every city that has more than 2 million people. Bigger cities like Shanghai, Paris, Sydney generally have weekly meetings and unofficial meetups almost everyday.
2. When Traveling use the Itinerary feature. Here you can put in the cities your going to and hosts can offer you a couch.
BeWelcome was founded in early 2007 by ex HospitalityClub and CouchSurfing Volunteers. BW is a registered non profit organization. It is based on open source collaboration. Volunteers contribute and work on the site remotely. Most volunteers coming from France, Belgium and Germany hence the website has been empowered greatly by young, motivated Europeans. Bewelcome.org does not have the big numbers of CS. However being owned by the users has its advantages. The site is continually being improved for and by its users. One member quotes “Bewelcome is certainly smaller then CS, and I like that because although less people write to me the quality of those people I find higher”.
Try both. Try a CS Party. And try a BW host. Both websites are being developed and changed on a daily basis.
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Expert traveler, Adrian has been in over 70 countries, stayed in mud huts and was once caught smuggling Vegemite in his trousers. Now he is on the speaking circuit and writes about his adventures.
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