Couchsurfing Alternatives

| July 29, 2009 | 22 Comments

Today’s post picks up and expands on some of the resources mentioned in Monday’s article, “How To Burst The Tourist Bubble“.

The theory that almost everyone on Earth is connected to anyone else via a small number of acquaintances seems to hold true for backpackers, too. The rapid uptake and access to the world wide web has helped people become better acquainted with their world—and with one another. As the technology has evolved, it has brought ordinary people with common interests together from different parts of the world to make it a smaller place.

Backpackers and independet travelers have proved to be quick to adopt new means of communicating and meeting with one another.

socialnetwork Couchsurfing Alternatives

Photo by Luc Legay (Creative Commons)

In the years following our time spent abroad (we worked in Asia in the period 2002–04), a number of online services sprung up to illustrate this interconnectedness and help fellow travelers escape the tourist bubble.

Chief among them was the CouchSurfing project. And while members use these social network sites primarily as a means of coordinating home accommodation, they also serve as an excellent means of escaping the “tourist bubble”. These service are not just about finding a couch on which to crash but can also be used for purposes of sharing information and meeting up for sightseeing.

The number of hospitality organizations is overwhelming and comprises organizations that transcend general interest and cater specifically to women, teachers, and the gay and lesbian community, for example.

Below is a list of websites and services similar to  CouchSurfing, with which you may already be familiar. Other worldwide networks that can be used to make connections between travelers and the local communities they visit.

Hospitality organizations

As we are unfamiliar with a number of the organizations listed below, we do not endorse them, nor do we endorse the products or services they offer. We provide this list as a starting point for further reading and research for those, like us, who are interested in gaining further insight into the number of services on offer.

  • Airbnb: An online marketplace for peer-to-peer traveling that enables people to earn money by renting out extra space, and offer travelers a viable alternative to hotels. Kind of a pay-as-you-go CouchSurfing project. Some expensive accomodations, but some good deals to be had, too.
  • CouchSurfing: CouchSurfing came to fame as an online alternative to booking into hostels, an open space where a spot on the couch was offered for free. One of the best known offerings.
  • Global Freeloaders: An online community bringing people together to offer free accommodation all over the world. The organization positions itself as a way to save money and make new friends whilst seeing the world from a local’s perspective.
  • Hospitality Club: Not unlike CouchSurfing, Hospitality Club aims to bring people together—hosts and guests, travelers and locals.
  • Hospitality Exchange: Publishes a paper membership directory twice a year; there is a membership fee.
  • Lesbian & Gay Hospitality Exchange International: Network of lesbians and gay men from around the world who offer their hospitality to other members.
  • MeetURplanet: Community offering free membership to travellers and hosts. Includes city information, personal experiences and a gallery of members.
  • MyGaySt: A worldwide community for gay free hospitality exchange.
  • Place2Stay: Offers a worldwide network of private accommodations. Includes information about accommodations, a forum, FAQ and chat room.
  • TravBuddy: An online community for meeting travelers and sharing travel reviews, photos and blogs.
  • Travelers for Travelers: Travelers and locals all over the world offer other travelers/backpackers a free place to sleep, information, transportation, activities or other free stuff when they are not traveling.
  • Servas International: The oldest hospitality exchange organization. Website includes a newsletter, FAQ and list of countries. There is a membership fee and new members are interviewed by Servas representatives.
  • Teachers Travel Web: Open to all educators. Site also includes home exchange listings.
  • Welcome Traveller Network: Members pay a nominal fee for bed and breakfast when visiting other members. There are several interest groups.
  • Women Welcome Women World Wide: By women—for women (only). An organization that aims to foster international friendship by enabling women of different countries to visit one another. There is a membership fee.
  • WWOOF—World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms: In return for volunteer help, WWOOF hosts offer food, accommodation and opportunities to learn about organic lifestyles.

We invite our readership (and our fellow bloggers) to provide some perspective if they are familiar with any of the organizations listed above. If you feel we’ve orverlooked a service that deserves to be mentioned, we’ll be happy to include the link—just let us know via the comment form below!

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