Hospitality networks gather folks who are willing to put up fellow members in their homes for free
This page covers:
• What is a hospitality exchange like?
• Do I have to play host?
• How do they work?
• Couchsurfing safety
• Hospitality exchange costs
• Resources & linksHospitality exchange networks are simple. Members get to stay in the spare bedroom of any other network member while traveling. In exchange, they are willing to similarly host other fellow members.
It's a bit like staying at a B&B only without a bill to pay at the end—though some networks have "recommended" gratuities.
At minimum, you get a bed for the night—usually in a spare guest room; in a city apartment it might be on a fold-out couch or cot.
Sometimes you're invited to share breakfast with the host family, or dinner as well.
Sometimes your host is even willing to play tour guide and show you around his hometown.
The details are all up to the two parties involved.
Hospitality exchanges do not have to be a one-to-one deal—say, you stay with Pierre in Paris, then he comes to pay you a visit several months later (though that sort of thing happens a lot).
Could be, you and Pierre have a grand old time at his apartment in Paris, then when you get home you play gracious host to Eduardo from Ecuador (who himself had Mario from Milan as a guest in his house a few months back).
Hospitality exchange networks operate a little like matchmaking services (only without the love connection), allowing travelers who enjoy really getting to know the locals in a foreign land to find similarly minded folks in the places they want to visit.
You won't have strangers showing up on your doorstep unexpectedly. Stays are always arranged in advance, and always with the consent of both parties.
Most of these networks are de facto worldwide communities, and any member can, usually, freely post what their experience with any host was like on the website. This means any bad eggs—horrible house guests, poor hosts, or creepy guys who mistook this for some kind of globetrotting dating service—get rooted out pretty quickly.
This page deals with traditional hospitality network, in which there are two places where money might come up:
- A membership fee to belong to the network ($35 to $65)
- A small fee or gratuity paid to hosts (for some, $0; others recommended $15 to $30)
However, there are, broadly speaking, three different types of networks, each of which treats the cost issue differently (the other two are covered on separate pages):
- Traditional hospitality networks (membership fee; usually requires you to host)
- CouchSurfing networks (free to join; do not insist that you play host)
- Servas (charges a membership fee; doesn't require you to act as a host)
The Affordable Travel Club (www.affordabletravelclub.net) - 2,600 members—though Europe coverage can be spotty (68 locations in England, 20 in France, but in Italy just one: Rome). Membership: $65 for a downloaded directory; $75 for a print version. Plus, $15–$30 gratuity for your hosts. Requirements: Must be over 40; must agree to host.
Women Welcome Women World Wide (5W) (www.womenwelcomewomen.org.uk) - 2,400 members in 86 countries. Membership: Recommended donation of £35 ($57), with annual renewal fee of £25 ($40). Requirements: Must be female and over 18.
Lesbian & Gay Hospitality Exchange International (www.lghei.org) - 500 listings in 30 countries. Membership: €25 ($35). No fee, donation, or gratuity for hosts. Requirements: It doesn't say you have to be gay, but I assume that's a bit of a given.
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