The idea of hospitality exchange is about people opening their homes for travellers to meet locals, enjoy the comforts of a home, and find places loved by locals you may not have otherwise discovered. It’s a great way to stay somewhere for free for a few days (most of the time), or host a traveller at your home. While hospitality exchange is predominantly used by singles, or perhaps couples, there are plenty of hosts open to families staying in the spare room for a few days.
When using a hospitality exchange site to find accommodation, there are a few things you should keep in mind:
- Carefully study all aspects of a potential guest or hosts profile (info, photos, etc.).
- Read reviews from other travellers.
- Ask questions should you be unsure of anything (how many people in the house, how much privacy will you have, what house rules are there, etc.), better to be safe than sorry.
- Don’t give out personal contact information before meeting.
- Meet your host/traveller somewhere public before going to the house, make sure you’re comfortable with each other. Again, better to be safe than sorry.
- If you feel in any danger at all, trust your instincts, get to somewhere safe and contact the local authorities.
- Do something nice for your host before you leave – take them out for a nice meal, by them a gift, etc.
Below are five of the most popular hospitality exchange websites on the internet. Check them out and use one or more of the sites that you feel comfortable with.
A global community of 7 million people in more than 100,000 cities who share their life, their world, and their journeys. Couchsurfing connects travellers with a global network of people willing to share in profound and meaningful ways, making travel a truly social experience. You can stay with locals in every country on earth. Travel like a local, stay in someone’s home and experience the world in a way money can’t buy. There’s a community of Couchsurfers near you. Rediscover your own city — or a new one — and make new friends at events like language exchanges, hikes and dinners. You can also give back and open your home to travellers.
A social travel network for budget travellers. Host, travel and stay with locals from all over the world – for work, for money or for free. That could mean volunteering to teach English or doing farm work in exchange for lodging and meals, or simply paying a small fee to move in with a local resident. Or it could be free accommodation for a few days! Create your profile and plan your trips, get the newest travel advice in their forum or join a travel buddy on their journey. Great for getting involved in foreign lifestyles, exchange cultures, learn another language, try the local cuisine and have unique experiences.
The Warm Showers Community is a free worldwide hospitality exchange for touring cyclists. People who are willing to host touring cyclists sign up and provide their contact information, and may occasionally have someone stay with them and share great stories and a drink. With almost 24,000 active hosts and 40,000 active members, if you’r on a bike there’s bound to be somewhere to stay nearby with a like-minded bike lover!
Their goal is to bring people together – hosts and guests, travellers and locals. Thousands of Hospitality Club members around the world help each other when they are travelling – be it with a roof for the night or a guided tour through town. They have almost 330,000 members in 207 countries, so no matter where you are, there’s someone nearby to help you out. The aesthetics of the website let them down, but given it’s run by volunteers, and there are no costs or obligations, it’s easy to get past it and find a local to connect with.
Like all of the others mentioned above, globalfreeloaders.com is an online community, bringing people together to offer you free accommodation all over the world. Save money and make new friends whilst seeing the world from a local’s perspective! It’s completely free to join too, but there is one catch. You may register as a guest to enjoy free accommodation worldwide, but you’re also expected to become a host, accommodating travellers free of charge at times convenient to you.
Have you used any of these sites? Which ones work best for you? Are there any we’ve missed? Leave a comment below…