Everything you need to know about Couchsurfing

With Sinulog right around the corner, hotels and Airbnb listings are rapidly getting filled with travelers from all over the country and the world who are coming to Cebu to celebrate the festival.

Ideally, booking accommodations should have been done half a year ago (we’re not exaggerating), but in the spirit of YOLO and last-minute plans, there’s no reason one couldn’t find a place to stay in the Queen City—one option being Couchsurfing. While gaining popularity in recent years, the idea remains shrouded with a lot of myths and misconceptions.

Zee Lifestyle turns to travel guide and Couchsurfer host extraordinaire Mayan Benedicto to set the record straight and promote a concept that not only will get you a place to stay any time of the year, but make friends while you’re at it, too!

What is couchsurfing?

Couchsurfers on a trip to Gringo Falls, Bacolod after the Masskara Festival 2012 (Contributed Photo)
Couchsurfers on a trip to Gringo Falls, Bacolod after the Masskara Festival 2012 (Contributed Photo)

It is a travel community aimed to connect people to share travel and cultural experiences together. Yes, you get to “surf” couches. In other words, stay in a member’s home… or not. You can opt to just meet up with people over coffee, a drink, a meal or a tour around! Every major city in the world usually has a solid community and hosts regular meet-ups to entertain traveling guests in town, or to simply catch up with local members. The goal is to have a more local experience through meeting locals or visiting non-touristy areas.

My experiences in over five years now have brought me nothing short of fond memories and introduced me to lifetime friends.It excited me – getting to know people from all over the world and learn more about them and their countries. Every time I introduce couchsurfing to others, there are usually a lot of questions, which is totally different from when I first heard this concept. But, hey, you might now be asking questions yourself! Let’s give this a shot if I can answer most of them…

First ever host Alan Kerroux (far right) with fellow surfers in his apartment in Kota Kinabalu (Contributed Photo)
First ever host Alan Kerroux (far right) with fellow surfers in his apartment in Kota Kinabalu (Contributed Photo)

Is it actually safe?

Totally! There’s a reference system in which people leave positive or negative notes based on their experiences with the person so you can have an idea on what the person is like. The more references the better. But fewer references don’t always mean a bad thing either. Maybe he’s just starting out! And much like how you should be in any situation unknown to an extent, be vigilant and know how to review profiles. Interact online as well and you can get the feel of the person. Follow your gut!

I came to Cebu several times and they were all great. The people make you feel very welcome. They invited me to different parties and I attended two Sinulog festivals, all of which were great and had super positive vibes! – DIEGO BORTOLAMEOTTI

But isn’t it a dating site?

Oh, hell no! A lot of people are now using this site as a way to meet with other people to date, especially foreigners. Big no-no. It’s highly discouraged and frowned upon. There are other sites and apps for that, so shoo. This is a site for like-minded people in terms of travel. Sure, love can form in these connections but it shouldn’t be the goal!

I think CS is a great way to meet new friends, particularly when you are new to a place. I moved to Cebu and was able to meet some of the most interesting and fun people I’d ever met from all over the world. – – NATHAN MARK

With my first ever surfer Jessica Cheung in Cebu (Contributed Photo)
With my first ever surfer Jessica Cheung in Cebu (Contributed Photo)

Is it really free?

This part is a bit tricky. It’s a yes and a no. It’s a yes because money should never be involved in the exchange. If you are offered to stay in a home, you shouldn’t be charged at all! You can, however, gift something in return for the favor–bring something from your home country as a gift, treat your host out to dinner or even better, cook for your host! It’s really up to you. Spend time with your host and don’t just take advantage of a free couch! Totally defeats the purpose of it all.

I love to travel, but due to work and commitments i can’t travel as much as I want. Hosting travelers from around the world is like bringing the world to your home. Hearing their experiences, challenges and marvelous adventures make me feel that I’ve traveled. Meeting travelers from all over here in Cebu also makes me appreciate my city more, even as a local. – DR. XAVIER SOLIS

Can I join events?

Of course! Couchsurfing events are never exclusive. We’re open to introducing more people to it all the time. It’s a great way to encourage people to go out, explore and learn.

Couchsurfers' Sinulog House Party in 2016. (Contributed Photo)
Couchsurfers’ Sinulog House Party in 2016. (Contributed Photo)

A 2017 Sinulog House Party will take place on Sinulog Sunday, January 15. Details here.

How do I start couchsurfing?

  1. Sign up on their website.
  2. Complete your profile.
  3. Check out and join travel plans and meet ups in your area.
  4. If you want to take it a step further, host a Couch Surfer!
  5. Surf when you travel by sending out requests to local hosts of your destination. Be as personal as possible. Don’t be generic so you have better chances of being accepted.
  6. Host your own meet-ups or events, or invite people to join your trips.

Feeling shy? Couchsurfers in Cebu usually meet up Thursday evenings at the Politics Cafe in Escario Central for Trivia Night. They play under the team name Pirates.

Mayan Benedicto
Mayan Benedicto

Mayan Benedicto is a free spirit who loves to travel. In her spare time, she is a devoted mom to an adorable cat named Hunter. Follow Mayan's adventures on Instagram at @mayanb.

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