The couchsurfing phenomenon has swept the travel world by storm. If you aren't familiar with the concept, couchsurfing is basically a network of people all over the world who offer a spare room (or mattress, or couch!) to travellers for free. Many will also offer a meal. Not only does couch surfing allow you to travel very cheaply, it also allows you to learn more about local life and meet like minded people from all over the world.
However, there are some obvious safety concerns. In ordinary circumstances, you probably wouldn't even consider staying in a stranger's home, especially if you are travelling alone. The safety concerns are particularly acute for single females, who may may wondering whether they should couch surf at all.
However, if you are sensible about your options, carry out some research and use your common sense, you shouldn't have many problems. On couchsurfing sites, members usually have detailed profiles where you can read reviews from other members of the couch surfing community who hosted them, or was hosted by them.
You should always look for a host with a lot of positive reviews - this indicates that they are an active member of the couch surfing community and you should be in safe hands.
In addition, you should:
- Always find out the address you are staying at and let a couple of people (preferably one near the locality and one at home) know where you will be and how long you will be there for.
- Research hostels and transportation in the area so that, if you are in any way uncomfortable, you can leave and not be left stuck for somewhere to go and some place to stay.
- Tell a friend that you will check in with them at a set time - possibly an hour after you are due to arrive with your host.
- Ask your host to meet you at a nearby public place (e.g. a cafe or park). If you feel uncomfortable with them, make an excuse, thank them for their generosity and go your separate ways.