CouchSurfing.com has been around since 2004, and reviews of the popular cheap travel alternative website have been mixed since it’s inception. Perhaps it’s time for a fresh look at some 2020 CouchSurfing alternatives, or sites like CouchSurfing.
These Are the Best Couchsurfing Alternatives
When I first set off to head overseas as a digital nomad almost 10 years ago, I wasn’t so sure I was ready to do it alone. I did what many nomads do –I did a little research and tried to find people to share my journey with, show me around while I was living in Chiang Mai, and point me in the direction of all the best coworking spaces, night spots, and cultural attractions.
Related: How to Be a Digital Nomad, Step-by-Step
It wasn’t long before I’d decided to give Couchsurfing a try, and it took weeks to get any good dialogue going with Couchsurfing hosts.
I was looking for foreigners to host me in the beginning. I knew I needed to submerse myself into Thai culture, but not until I had gotten the lay of the land from a few expats. In hindsight, this would have been a smart move had any reliable hosts actually accepted me as a guest.
Hosts themselves were often on the move it seemed, and prioritizing female Couchsurfers over males. I had a few very candid discussions about their female preference with my prospective hosts, and the only local (Thai) female hosts who responded with lightning speed were probably hell bent on finding a farang husband. (Edit: Okok, that was a little harsh, but’s happened since I wrote this, so..).
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International Men Have a Hard Time with Couchsurfing
Like many men just starting out on Couchsurfing, it’s hard to crack that first barrier to build some profile karma –getting ratings so hosts know that one isn’t a creep.
That is, unless you’re willing to give Couchsurfing.com money simply to verify you and make you seem like less of a boogey man to hosts. Female hosts prefer females, and too few male hosts will take in another man. And then when one does, there’s the possibility of male personality conflicts.
That isn’t to say nomad ladies, families, or couples have it any easier; Couchsurfing can be a dangerous (or strange) place for women and children, but that’s not my area of expertise.
When I mentioned this to a group of male nomads I’d gotten to know on Facebook, I discovered it was much harder yet for non-white men to find hosts and build much-needed Couchsurfer ratings than it was for myself. They explained to me that people aren’t racist, they’re just more likely to open their doors to a white guy, if a male at all. Or at least that was their assumption, I can’t personally relate to those challenges either but they don’t seem unrealistic.
Chalk it up to cultural familiarity, media bias, whatever. Non-white male hosts run into the same problems.
So that’s more or less what prompted this blog post. And after hearing a steady stream of negative Couchsurfer experiences, I thought I’d explore some Couchsurfing alternatives that were relevant (and updated in 2020).
Couchsurfing Alternatives in 2020
The landscape for Couchsurfing alternatives in 2019 seemed pretty bleak initially, with most of them being so old, I wondered if anyone was even using them anymore.
Here’s what I came up with: My top Couchsurfing alternatives in 2020 –being in my late 30’s I’m willing to put a little money into the free accommodation these sites can provide, by paying for a membership.
It’s a great way to weed out competition from other users, and generally keeping the community respectful of the privilege (and a whole lot less flakey –you get what you pay for).
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments –would you pay for a more exclusive line-up of couchsurfing alternatives or does that go against the very point of couch surfing?
Wait! We know Airbnb isn’t a straight-up Couchsurfing alternative! It costs money whenever you use it! But hear me out.
Since we’ve been in Asia, all other venues and platforms have had moments where they flaked out. Sometimes it left us in quite the pickle, and we could always turn to Airbnb without fail. We’ve had some good luck with it, and as yet, zero problems.
It’s a great backup to have installed on your phone and you’ve got some free Airbnb credit if you sign up with us using this link today.
5. BeWelcome – Great for backpackers
BeWelcome is a not-for-profit couchsurfing alternative, which is great if you’re bootstrapping, but it’s also just as unpredictable as Couchsurfing.com in that anyone can sign up, and profiles are not matched by an algorithm.
- Just as “safe” as Couchsurfing.com
- Most users of all Couchsurfing alternatives
- Not-for-profit also means little customer service, if any
Reviews I’ve found online state that they remove users for illegitimate reasons, offer little to no customer service, and “promote democracy” among users –meaning it isn’t carefully curated, you’re on your own and left to wonderful surprises like “oh, hey. I’m a 56 year-old male nudist –sorry I didn’t mention that in my profile”.
Other complaints include it not having enough hosts and fewer users in general, unlike Couchsurfing.com. It’s give and take with this 2020 couchsurfing alternative.
4. Trustroots – Great for Hitchhikers
Trustroots started in 2014 and sells itself as a hospitality website for hitchhikers. This is probably very ideal for digital nomads and expats who are completely willing to go with the flow, and have a nice passive income or some money in the bank.
Because of Trustroots’ focus on hitchhikers and hobos, it’s probably the least useful for digital nomads, however it’s got a very slick website and the maps displaying where all its users are is very helpful, making it a great option as a couchsurfing alternative this year.
- Dynamic map to see where users and hosts are
- It’s all open-source, and truly a not-for-profit
- Not ideal for digital nomads if you rely on reliable working conditions
- Trust is everything
Trustroots reviews are sparse on the web, which is why I gave it the third rank out of this top Couchsurfing alternatives list. I’d really like to hear from readers in the comments on this one, as it’s the only one I haven’t tried myself (yet).
3. MovingWorlds – Great for Volunteers
Moving Worlds is a platform for professionals to use their skills abroad in exchange for accommodation or other benefits (some projects also offer stipends).
In a nut shell; “MovingWorlds connects professionals wanting to donate their skills to startups and social enterprises around the world that meet their skills & preferences”.
- Make a social impact with your professional skills, do more than simply volunteer
- Extensive resources to ensure you have a high impact, safe trip
- All organizations are verified by MovingWorlds
- Accommodation included, just ask
The reviews for MovingWorlds are impeccable, which makes it one of the best Couchsurfing.com alternatives in 2020; you can watch video interviews of “experteers” here, or you can visit any one of these third-party websites to get a better idea of what they’re all about.
- Go Overseas MovingWorlds Reviews
- MovingWorlds: Where Peace Corps meets Match.com
- MovingWorlds on GlassDoor
2. WarmShowers – Best Choice for Cyclists
WarmShowers is the ‘Couchsurfing for cyclists’, and truly, that means cyclists only.
It’s exclusive niche-based approach to serving only cyclists narrows the field and competition for guests, while ensuring that hosts can relate to them on a passionate level; a mutually shared love of long-distance cycling tours.
In WarmShowers reviews we noticed that a majority of hosts have also been guests at one time or another, and vice-versa.
With this Couchsurfing alternative it’s important to point out; it’s a strong community and being a guest doesn’t necessarily mean “free”.
You pay with your time and effort, being the best guest you can be.
We recommend that if you use this site, don’t show up overly tired and be ready for conversation. Perhaps come with a few groceries and cook a meal for your host. Be prepared to be an ideal guest, and you’ll likely find yourself under the same roof as an ideal host.
Simply put; come prepared to make friends. Don’t show up at 3am drunk after a night out, sleep all day, or avoid your host.
All in all, the reviews for WarmShowers are the best we’ve seen for a site like Couchsurfing. Cyclists are a tightly-knit bunch, and it shows in the WarmShowers reviews we’ve read.
1. TrustedHousesitters is Our Top Pick as a Couchsurfing Alternative
From their website;
“What is TrustedHousesitters (as a couchsurfing alternative)? By offering your time and care for other’s pets (and/or homes) for free, you can enjoy staying for free in locations world-wide, whether you’re looking for a weekend or a few months. Watch our short video to discover even more about the world of house sitting. Become a member for ฿3990.00 – the rest is free“.
Alright, I’m in Thailand so –not only is there a sign up fee, I gave it to you in the wrong currency. Your best bet is to check their website for details, currently that’s about $119 USD.
Why TrustedHousesitters as a 2020 Couchsurfing Alternative?
In my early days of living in Chiang Mai, Thailand I lucked out and all my neighbours at Baan Thai were travel bloggers. Really successful ones at that.
Nomad is Beautiful, Camille in Wonderlands, Just One Way Ticket, Breathing Travel, Getting Stamped, Blonde Abroad, Travel Dave, Wagoners Abroad, Keep Calm and Travel, and others, all at the same time.
It was pretty nutty –that was 2015, and it was because of these influences that we rebooted Hobo in 2017. Why let them have all the fun? But, back to this couchsurfing alternative.
In particular, Sabrina from Just One-Way Ticket had taken a trip to Hong Kong to look after some kitties in a skyscraper that towered over the city while we were neighbours back in Chiang Mai.
And it didn’t cost her a penny beyond her flight. I can’t imagine what a condo with a view like the one in the video above costs.
TH is a reliable source of getting entire apartments, condos, you name it –for simple pet-sitting gigs, no charge after the signup fee, forever.
TH also makes it easy to plan in advance, so it’s convenient, and all of my peers say that a host flaking it out rarely, if ever, happens.
IMHO ‘free’ always has a catch –and Courchsurfing is not only showing it’s age, it’s not really working for most and is in dire need of a solid alternative. It’s far easier to have reliable travel organise through a different couchsurfing alternative like TrustedHousesitters.
Even Airbnb is a kickass couchsurfing alternative for those that are willing to pay for some privacy.
No matter what you’re after in a couchsurfing alternative, there’s something on this list for everyone. TrustedHousesitters is great for people who need a little more predictability to their travel, and MovingWorlds is an ideal solution for those wanting to make a difference abroad while getting free accommodation.
What do you think of these 2020 Couchsurfing alternatives? Let everyone know in the comments if you’ve found a better alternative to Couchsurfing that isn’t on this list.