Couch surfing can be an inexpensive way to travel; rather than having to line up a hotel room, you get to stay on the couch (or perhaps in a spare room or other accommodations) provided by someone local to the area. The concept is not particularly new, but the Internet's ability to help travelers ensure a safe experience is.

Sites such as offer connections to millions of prospective hosts. It can seem a little crazy to just connect with someone online and then show up on his or her doorstep, hundreds of miles away. Even if you can assume that most people willing to offer up a place to stay to strangers are well-intentioned, there are many possibilities that something will go wrong.'s user profiles put an emphasis on bringing in reviews or references; a host can review a visitor and vice-versa. also offers a verification service where, for a $25 fee, the site will take responsibility for checking that your address and identity are what you say they are. To reinforce online connections with real-world connections, integrates Facebook; in addition to avoiding filling out extra profiles, you can see if you have a link to a particular host through your existing connections.

Stay Safe
Taking a more focused approach to finding a couch to sleep on can help guarantee your safety. There are quite a few providers of couches and other places to stay organized around specific communities where you may be more likely to know someone or at least have a direct connection. is a recent entrant to the list of couch surfing organizations. Members must be entrepreneurs and invitations are issued based on connections to existing members. Members are expected to add references for one another, beyond experiences staying together. The added benefits, beyond getting to stay for less, can include introductions to the local business scene and building connections with fellow entrepreneurs.

Do Research
References and verification form the foundation of the security that couch surfers rely on across most matching sites. Make sure you communicate in some depth with any host with whom you're considering staying. You should know the person as more than just a profile on the screen before you commit to staying. Double-checking the details is an important next step. Something as simple as checking the area around a prospective host's home can help you improve your personal safety; so can actually contacting his or her references through the site you're using and asking for more details. Leave a copy of all the information you have on your host with someone responsible, just in case you need to be easily found.

It also makes sense to provide yourself with an out, even after you arrive. Rather than meeting at your host's home, arrange to meet first in a public place, such as a cafe. That way, if there are any potential problems that didn't come up in your online discussions, you still have the opportunity to back out. You'll want to have an alternative plan in place already in case couch surfing doesn't work out, rather than leaving yourself stranded.

The Bottom Line
Couch surfing is a safe way to travel, provided you take some simple precautions. reports that of the over six million interactions that have been arranged through its site, nearly 99% were positive. By the time a couch surfer makes it to the front door of his or her host's home, there's usually a level of trust in place, to the point that the host is comfortable handing over a key.

Related Articles
  1. Budgeting

    How to Travel to Tokyo on a Budget

    Planning a trip to Tokyo? Here are a few ways that you can make the trip more affordable.
  2. Personal Finance

    3 Castles That Cost Less Than a NYC Apartment

    Did you know you can rent an entire château, and that it might cost less than your New York pad?
  3. Home & Auto

    Read This Before Buying a Vacation Home with Friends

    Going in with friends to buy a vacation home will save you on the mortgage and expenses. But if there's conflict, it could end up costing your more.
  4. Retirement

    Just Retired? Check Out These Adventure Vacations

    Get out your bucket list. No matter what you're passionate about, there's an organization ready to lead the way. Here's a sampling.
  5. Budgeting

    How to Save Money on Your Disney Vacation

    Understand why Disney Parks are attractive vacation destinations and why they are expensive. Learn five money-saving tips for Disney vacations.
  6. Personal Finance

    Designer Luggage: Is It Worth the Money?

    You can spend anywhere from $35 to $3,500 on luggage. Is an expensive suitcase necessarily a better suitcase?
  7. Personal Finance

    10 Tips for Renting a Vacation Home on Airbnb

    Here's a list to make sure that you have a seamless vacation using Airbnb.
  8. Personal Finance

    Most Senior-Friendly Cruise Destinations

    When it comes to choosing a cruise for the post-retirement set, not all destinations are created equal. Here's a handful of the best.
  9. Retirement

    6 Unique Timeshare Ideas for Rich Retirees

    When it comes to timesharing, there’s no limit on quirky or wild venues, as vacationers buy shares in castles and tree houses, yachts and train cars.
  10. Investing

    5 Tips For Vacationing with Young Children

    Make traveling with young children much less stressful and far more affordable with these five tips.
  1. What are the warning signs of online hotel / travel booking scams?

    Travel booking scams ask travelers to book a vacation stay at a residential rental property that is fake or that belongs ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. How do frequent flier mile programs affect the profitability of an airline?

    Some frequent-flier programs are less popular among consumers who favor programs that boost status and service. In spite ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Hot Definitions
  1. Ex Works (EXW)

    An international trade term requiring the seller to make goods ready for pickup at his or her own place of business. All ...
  2. Letter of Intent - LOI

    A document outlining the terms of an agreement before it is finalized. LOIs are usually not legally binding in their entirety. ...
  3. Purchasing Power

    The value of a currency expressed in terms of the amount of goods or services that one unit of money can buy. Purchasing ...
  4. Real Estate Investment Trust - REIT

    A REIT is a type of security that invests in real estate through property or mortgages and often trades on major exchanges ...
  5. Section 1231 Property

    A tax term relating to depreciable business property that has been held for over a year. Section 1231 property includes buildings, ...
  6. Term Deposit

    A deposit held at a financial institution that has a fixed term, and guarantees return of principal.
Trading Center
You are using adblocking software

Want access to all of Investopedia? Add us to your “whitelist”
so you'll never miss a feature!