You now know CouchSurfing is a great way for those traveling on a tight budget to extend their funds a bit longer. Here’s my “HOW TO” Guide to getting the most out of CouchSurfing.org:
- Sign up for an account: Use your real name or something close
- Fill out your profile: BE PERSONAL. Remember people ARE going to be reading this. You don’t need an autobiography but enough to paint a picture
- Put up a picture: Use a nice one of yourself. Maybe a travel photo or something cool you’ve seen. The more, the better.
- Get a reference. This is probably one of the most important things about CS. You need somebody to write some nice words about you. It can be difficult but it should be. It is the weeding out process so that people know you’re a decent person. Best advice I can give is to search for surfing groups in your area and check out a meeting. They usually happen at local bars and it’s the best way to meet surfers in your area. Maybe they will be willing. Or do what we did and just talk to as many travelers as you can while abroad and you might run into one of us who’s willing to give a reference (provided that we like you lol).
- Couch Searching: This is all personal preference. There is quite an extensive selection criteria that you can shape and shift to meet your needs. My advice is to play around with this. A good tool to use is the reply percentage. If a person has 100% thats obviously the best, if it is somewhere below 50% maybe don’t bother with sending a request BUT you never know. Another useful bit of advice is when searching in major cities like Barcelona, try the surrounding towns connected by public transport. Reason being, in peak travel season hosts can get overwhelmed with requests in popular areas.
- Sending requests: There is nothing hosts hate more that to recieve an impersonal, copy & paste request. Some hosts recieve multiple PER DAY, especially in high demand areas. ACTUALLY READ their profile, can’t stress that enough. Include your travel plans and ask them nicely.
- Be respectful. Most people don’t have any trouble with this. As long as you have some sense about you and your not eating all their food and being messy you should be good.
CouchSurfers have one thing in common — travel. However, there are surfers who take this project more seriously than others and this is important for you to understand. Take this into consideration when sending requests and reading profiles. This is not only just a social network but it has developed into a subculture. There is even a higherarchy. You will notice some surfers have an “ambassedor” status which basically means they have been surfing and hosting a LONG time and they are one of those serious folks I mentioned earlier.
My girlfriend and I have surfed over 30 couches in over 20 countries in our year long backpacking trip around the world! I could write on and on about CS, but in the interest of time and space I’ll cut the post here. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to post them in the comments. I’m a major advocate of the project and willing to help out any potential surfer the best I can.
So you want to travel the world but you’re on a tight budget? Join the club…
What if I told you that on top of recieving free accomodation you could be provided with local knowledge of the area you’ll be traveling to? For those frugal travelers who haven’t heard about CouchSurfing (CS), this is for you. Now that you know the name, open up a new web window and check it out! I’ll wait a minute while you browse…
If you’re like me, stumbling onto CouchSurfing was like someone investing a large sum of money into your travel fund. Sure you may not have the freedom to spend this cash on whatever you want but accommodation is NOT cheap and even when it is, it adds up. If you need actual figures: When my girlfriend and I first started our trip I did a calculation to find out what percentage of our expenses were tied up in accomodation. Roughly 70% was the number I came up with. Think about all you could do with this newly freed up cash. Eat a nice meal, visit another museum, travel longer!
I must admit saving money was the initial and stand alone reason we signed up. But instantly we realized how amazing this network of people is and saving money became a secondary benefit. Now, we hate to travel any other way. Crashing on peoples couches is not a revolutionary idea. CS just organizes this mass social network of travelers who are willing to help each other out into an easy-to-use website.
There are couches all around the world too, you’ll be surprised to see where — “couchsurfing” doesn’t always mean you’ll be sleeping on the beatup couch in a grungy run down basement apartment. In Zurich we stayed with an older married couple who drove a Jaguar and we slept in their ‘meditation room.’ There are not just broke people servicing this site. It’s made up of all types of folks with a wide range of financial circumstances; they do it for the experience and because they prefer it as a way of traveling. Put aside your fears about meeting some psycho or pervert because YOU pick people that you send requests to, and viceversa. And quite frankly that type of person could never exists on CS.
As I mentioned earlier, our CouchSurfing profile was born out of financial necessity. But in our travels and through CS, we have made such amazing connections with travelers from all over the world. It has become more about meeting others and exchanging culture than money, because after all, this is why we travel; to broaden our perspectives and elevate them outside of our comfort zone. If you’re interested in getting more our of your travel experience and meeting travelers from around the world while at the same time saving money, than what are you waiting for?!
Next up – more on “HOW” to use Couchsurfing.org effectively. Stay turned.
Kibo Hut is the highest camp on Mount Kilimanjaro, sitting at 4,700 meters in elevation — just over a thousand meters below the Gilman’s Point. You’ll end up getting into Kibo Hut in the early afternoon, resting for a few hours, and then starting the final climb to the summit around midnight. You’ll also rest here for a few hours after descending back from the summit.
There is no running water and this camp, and you’ll find yourself freezing at night (at least in October when I went, that was the case). There are about 10 beds per room.
Horombo Hut sits at 3,720 meters in elevation, and is 2nd camp you’ll sleep at if climbing Mount Kilimanjaro from the Marangu gate. There are bathrooms with running water here as well. The cabins sleep 4 per room.
In the morning and evening, you’ll find spectacular views such as the ones below.
More information on Mount Kilimanjaro:
- Preparing to Climb Mount Kilimanjaro
- Mandara Hut
- Horombo Hut
- Kibo Hut
- Overall Thoughts on Mount Kilimanjaro
Mandara Hut is the first encampment that you’ll stay at if you are climbing Mount Kilimanjaro from the Marangu Gate. It sits at roughly 2,750 meters in elevation, and is approximately a 4 or 5 hour hike from the Marangu gate of Kilimanjaro National Park. There are toilets and running water at this camp.
While supposedly camping in Bunol is not allowed for the La Tomatina festival, five of us spent 2 nights camping for the 2010 festival yesterday. We slept in two different spots. The first night we slept down a driveway in a field (take a left at the roundabout at the bottom of the hill and walk about 20 meters). The 2nd night we walked halfway up the main hill toward the train station and set up our tents in the park to the left (if walking up) of the main road. The ground there was extremely hard, but the place was lit and fairly secluded. Whereas the first night, we spent all night listening to raging techno music from a nearby club — the 2nd night was actually quite peaceful with a water fall right next to our camping spot in the park.
So it is possible to stay in Bunol for La Tomatina — you just have to be resourceful and willing to tough it out in the wild. If we had to do it all over again, we would have slept in the park both nights of course, and would have brought more padding to sleep on top of so our backs didn’t ache so bad in the morning. Oh well; live and learn.
Two friends and I visited two of our other friends teaching in South Korea back in April. While in Seoul, we stayed at the Blu Guest House in the neighborhood of Hongdae, Seoul. The hostel and Jay, the guy who owns and runs it, were awesome. Comfortable beds, a nice lounge area, Wifi, and free toast in the morning. It’s 18 KRW per night in the eight person dorm, which is fairly affordable (South Korea is not that cheap).
The location is great – it’s about a 5-10 minute walk to Hongik University and the night life in the area is amazing.
If I had to give a suggestion to make the place better – I’d say they should get a few big comfortably couches to make the lounge downstairs more comfortable to sit in. Currently, the chairs are plastic and not conducive to sitting for extended periods of time.
Blue Guest House: website here
In short, this place absolutely rocked! A nice clean place with air conditioning for 40 Euro a night. It was clean with comfortable beds (my buddy and I stayed at Youth Hostel Rethymno for 1 night and the beds there sucked). We had a nice patio and the location of the rooms couldn’t be better. You walk out the front door and you’re literally 50 feet from the Aegean Sea; walk out the back door, and you’re 4 blocks from all sorts of restaurants, street food, WIFI hotspots, and shops. Here are a few photos:
The patio right outside our room
A little messy, but here’s our room
The back door
Also, there is a nice cafe right next door run by the son of the lady who runs Seeblick with strong wifi, decently priced Mythos, and smoothies!