Thursday, 5 March 2009

Couchsurfing tips for flashpackers

"Is couchsurfing for flashpackers?" This was a question posed recently by TuxInBackpack, a site aimed at travellers who wants to see the world independently, but without using those two dreaded words: "roughing it".

The site's author - an Italian career-breaker called Andrea
- admits he's yet to try couchsurfing himself, but he has used a blog post to brainstorm a few ideas on why it may, or may not, be suited to flashpackers.

Personally, I believe this type of travel is less about people's budget and more about their mentality. It could certainly work for flashpakers, providing they are flexible, open-minded and easy-going.

Even those with sofa phobias will find that there are plenty of people offering up beds and spare rooms. You just have to keep searching through the profiles until you find something that suits.

Andrea presents a couple of hypothetical situations when looking at potential downsides. "What if you'd like to go to a place different from the one your host is suggesting? Wouldn't it be bad to be stuck for dinner with your potential messy-chef host when you're dying to visit that restaurant you read about?"

The advice for avoiding these situations is simple:
never turn up on someone's doorstep with a backpack full of expectations.

Here are some other points flashpackers should note:

  • Most hosts are keen to help their guests have a good time, but they're not mind-readers. Establish some email contact with your host before you arrive. Tell them what you want to do while you're there. If you communicate properly in advance, you'll be able to predict potential personality clashes and still have time to make alternative arrangements.

  • If you really want to be in charge of your own schedule, consider staying in a hotel or hostel for some, or part, of your time. You'll still be free to socialise with couchsurifing contacts for coffee, lunch, or a night out.
  • Try using a site such as AirBnB or Crashpadder instead, where you pay a small fee to stay in people's houses. Hosts on these sites sometimes post more detailed pictures and info on what you're going to get. Plus, if you're going to be handing over money, you may feel more comfortable asking questions.

  • Find equally flash travellers by bypassing sites like and getting yourself into one of the more elite travel-networking sites, such as ASmallWorld or Qube.
  • And, as for worrying about not going for a meal at "that" restaurant. If you're really flash why not treat your host as a thank you?
So, what do you say, Andrea? Ready to give it a try? If you do, let us know how you get on.

Photo: Napoleon's bed in Château de Compiègne is not on Wiki Images/Andreas Praefcke.