In May 2020, Couchsurfing—arguably the most popular site among hospitality exchange networks—implemented a paywall. The move locked out millions of members and left a sour taste in the mouths of many more. Those who had been loyal members for years started looking elsewhere. But with over 14 million members on its site, Couchsurfing is by far the most prolific program of its kind, leaving many to wonder what other options exist. Fear not; Couchsurfing isn’t the be all end all of the hospitality exchange world. There are plenty of others just waiting for discovery. We’ll take you through the top Couchsurfing alternatives and the best fit for your next trip.
Table of Contents
- The Top Couchsurfing Alternatives
- Stay for Free Couch Surfing; Fly for Cheap with Next Vacay
The Top Couchsurfing Alternatives
Couch surfing is much more than a place to crash for the night. From forming friendships in new countries to learning new skills and improving communities, couch surfing can have a lifelong impact on you and the places you stay. And it starts with the right couch-surfing website. So, here are thirteen hospitality exchange sites travelers can use as alternatives to Couchsurfing.
The first and perhaps best Couchsurfing alternative is BeWelcome. The site excels at being extremely user-friendly with a simple, intuitive interface that welcomes visitors right in—much like its hosts. While BeWelcome doesn’t have nearly as many members as Couchsurfing, it’s steadily growing, with numbers rising from around 100,000 members last year to 200,000 in late 2022. Likely, many of the new members come from Couchsurfing.
But BeWelcome isn’t new to the hospitality exchange scene. Growing out of one of the first hospitality exchange websites, Hospitality Club, BeWelcome was officially founded in 2007 as a non-profit organization in France. The site offers a less profit-based, more community-focused network for members to get in touch, offer accommodations, or make requests to stay. Like any good alternative, it shares some commonalities with Couchsurfing, like the ability for hosts and guests to leave comments about their experience on each other’s profiles.
BeWelcome also offers a map interface which makes looking for places to stay a lot easier. But without a doubt, its finest feature has to be that it’s completely free.
Not many hospitality exchange websites can say they’ve been around since before VCRs were invented and color TVs were a staple in every home. But not every hospitality exchange website is Servas. Established in 1949, the company’s founder, Bob Luitweiler, had a very specific purpose for the organization: promoting peace and understanding through travel. The word servas even means “to serve” in Esperanto, the auxiliary language created by a Polish doctor. Servas, much like the language from which it takes its name, takes pride in bringing together people of different backgrounds, cultures, and nationalities in hopes of fostering global friendships.
The company hosts 15,000 households in more than a hundred countries. One reason for the lower member number might be the slightly more arduous signup process. Potential new members must go through an interview and pay a membership fee (price varies by country).
While some might see the signup requirements as a hassle, safety-conscious travelers will likely appreciate the added steps. Hands down, Servas is the best Couchsurfing alternative if your primary concern is safety.
For long-term travelers, Staydu might be their new go-to for free accommodation. Or, at least, mostly free. Among the piles of Couchsurfing alternatives, Staydu allows hosts to offer accommodations in exchange for services, a fee, or no money at all. It’s entirely up to the host which options they’re open to, and guests can easily browse through potential hosts thanks to Staydu’s simple design and easy-to-use website. However, the lack of search filters does mean guests have to scroll through profiles one by one for more details.
Staydu has a relatively small community, with 17,000 members spread out over 120 countries. Therefore, it may take a few tries before you hear back from a potential host.
This is the hospitality exchange website currently trying to replace Couchsurfing. Founded in 2020, immediately following the introduction of Couchsurfing’s paywall, Coucher’s primary mission is not just to recreate the old vibe of the Couchsurfing website but to make it better. But how is always the main question.
Couchers is a registered non-profit with a community-first approach focused on improving the areas in which Couchsurfing lacked, including its design, website, and review system. All are lofty goals and undoubtedly set to draw in curious travelers turned off by the fee Couchsurfing imposes.
However, the biggest drawback to Couchers currently is its smaller community. The website is still in the beta stages of development, and its community of roughly 10,000 is nowhere near the 14 million members that make up Couchsurfing’s global network. Still, it’s a friendly alternative to Couchsurfing that seems to be headed in the right direction.
5. Warm Showers
Founded in 1993 by Canadian cyclists, Warm Showers is—you guessed it—geared toward bicycle tourists from around the globe.
If you’re a cyclist, you’re in luck because Warm Showers has one of the most active online communities. Their stats show that they have over 175,000 members on six continents, though North America and Europe have by far the most members. And with a response rate of over 65 percent, getting a response to your hosting requests is more frequent than on other websites.
Unfortunately, Warm Showers does share one prominent feature with Couchsurfing. Like Couchsurfing, the site moved from being free to requiring a one-time fee of $30 to join. The site also has an app available with additional in-app purchases, which may be a drawback for some.
Both the site and the app are made for cyclists and cyclists only, so if you’re not on a bike, Warm Showers invites you to look elsewhere at any of the other Couchsurfing alternatives available.
The new price tag added to the Couchsurfing experience turned many users off the site. So a non-negotiable requirement for many searching for the best Couchsurfing alternative is that it’s free. For that, TrustRoots fits the bill.
A not-for-profit organization started in the UK, TrustRoots is younger than Couchsurfing, but unlike Couchsurfing, it doesn’t seem to be in danger of changing its tune on the not-for-profit structure it prides itself on. Created and run by activists, the site is open-source and focuses on the community over corporations. According to the website, it’s over 85,000 members strong and still growing.
The site also has “Circles” that members can join to find even more like-minded travelers. Circles cover everything from vegans and vegetarians to hikers and cyclists. So, besides being one of the best Couchsurfing alternatives, it’s also a free alternative to Warm Showers.
Hostwriter is all about helping journalists travel across borders, just like their stories. Founded in 2013 by three journalists, Hostwriter was created to be more than a simple cultural exchange but a global community of writers sharing advice, collaborating on stories, and, of course, providing free accommodation to journalists traveling in foreign countries.
From newbie writers to seasoned journalists, Hostwriter is open to all. There is no fee to be a member; newcomers must submit work samples for verification. Don’t worry—you don’t need to be an accredited journalist to join. Simply submit an article, and you’ll be crossing borders as part of the Hostwriter community in no time.
Traveling somewhere and staying with a stranger can be daunting, especially for women. It doesn’t help when some sites have horror stories about harassment and uncomfortable situations. That’s where groups like Host a Sister come in.
The group’s creator, Rashvinda Kaur, had never hosted anyone at her house before but saw a gap in the hospitality exchange network for women. So, she decided to help fill that gap. Kaur started Host a Sister just three years ago, in 2019, to create a safe space for women to travel and share free accommodation. On its inception day, the group had 2,000 requests to join. With over 370,000 members in 2023, Host a Sister is an active and constantly growing community.
Made and run by women for women, Host a Sister is one of the best Couchsurfing alternatives out there for female travelers.
This company’s name doesn’t leave much up in the air. The Lesbian & Gay Hospitality Exchange International (or LGHEI) is a hospitality exchange network specifically for the LGBT community. Hosts are largely lesbians and gay men who offer up their homes as free accommodation to other community members worldwide.
According to the site, they have over 500 listings in more than 30 countries. Though staying with LGHEI members is free, the site costs money to use, with an annual fee of €20 per person and a €5 fee for each additional person. The fee helps to keep the website up and running and goes toward expanding LGHEI’s network.
If you’re looking for a rainbow-friendly, LGBT-focused Couchsurfing alternative, LGHEI is definitely an option.
It’s no question that the pandemic ruined a lot of travel plans, but it sparked new ideas for travel too. One of those ideas happens to be a great Couchsurfing alternative called Welcome to My Garden. Created by avid cyclists/slow travelers to deal with lockdowns in Belgium by exploring their own country, Welcome to My Garden is powered by a local community of individuals who feel the same.
The site heavily emphasizes environmentally safe travel. Hosts open their gardens to travelers, and travelers make their way from one host to the next via a method of transportation that isn’t a plane, car, or, you guessed it, anything fast.
Slow travel is a way to really take in the world around you as you go from one place to the next, and Welcome to My Garden facilitates that with maps of long-distance trails for cycling and hiking and hosts worldwide. Most hosts are available in Europe, but there are hosts in North and South America, Africa, and Asia.
As the organization doesn’t look to make a profit, they ask for donations if members can, as all money goes directly toward the site’s upkeep.
Work and travel don’t have to live separately. If you want to improve your work skills while traveling the globe, then Working Traveller may be for you.
Started in 2015 by Duncan Ridgley, Working Traveller is specifically for people who want to build and grow their expertise while simultaneously traveling the world. The site helps connect hosts and guests by matching their skills. Travelers can book up work during their time away and gain experience that eventually leads to paid work or that they can use as a reference when they return home. In this way, Working Traveler stands out from many other Couchsurfing alternatives by focusing on professional growth.
They say experience is the greatest teacher for a reason. Teachsurfing took that concept and ran with it.
Built around the idea of exchanging skills for hospitality services, Teachsurfing connects travelers with schools, non-profit organizations, and communities needing their skills, and they, in turn, provide cultural experiences, social networks, and of course, a place to stay.
Travelers interested in sharing their skills can indicate their travel plans and expertise, while organizations can post their needs. The two sides can then find and message each other on the Teachsurfing website. Considering how expensive accommodations and hiring teachers can be, members on either side of this barter system come away with a great deal.
Those offering their skills receive free accommodation as they travel, while those offering a place to stay receive expert knowledge in their field of interest. And perhaps best of all, it’s free to use.
The odds are that you’ve probably come across the concept of house-sitting before. Maybe your friends were out of town for a few days and asked you to watch their house or take care of their pets while they were gone. TrustedHousesitters is exactly like that, but with a global community. So, instead of sitting for your friends who live 15 minutes down the road, you’re house-sitting for a family in Europe, Australia, or anywhere around the world.
Potential sitters can create a profile and look for sitting jobs in places they want to travel and apply. The benefit is that you get a home away from home while traveling. The downside is that TrustedHousesitters comes with a price tag. Their basic membership plan costs $129/year but comes with unlimited house sits and a free background check.
Among the Couchsurfing alternatives that have you staying with a host for a night or two, TrustHousesitters offers a unique way to stay in amazing spots worldwide.
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