How To Couchsurf Without Couchsurfing

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Have you thought about Couchsurfing?  It’s much more than just a way to get free lodging all over the world.

The Couchsurfing Project was originally founded as a community of individuals who open their homes to travelers.  It’s a place to learn, teach, and exchange with people from all over the world.  With a free place to stay, of course.

I loved the idea of Couchsurfing and wanted to try it for my first entirely solo trip, to Buenos Aires, but I didn’t want to actually surf someone’s couch.  Yes, I know that Couchsurfing is very safe — they have loads of safety measures and identity verification processes in place.  But I didn’t want to spend my trip as a houseguest.  I’m an introvert; I need privacy and alone time.

I decided to try out Couchsurfing in a limited capacity — I’d meet up with Couchsurfers, but stay in a private room at a hostel. Couchsurfing without actually Couchsurfing!

Every major destination has its own message board on the Couchsurfing site.  I started by posting a brief “Anyone want to hang out?” message on the Buenos Aires board.

Right away, I got a response: “Kate, you should come to our Thanksgiving dinner!”

That Thursday night, I went to Thanksgiving dinner in Palermo Viejo, meeting locals as well as travelers from Ecuador, Colombia, Sweden, France and the United States.  Some grew up in Buenos Aires; some were expats living in town until their visas ran out; some, like me, were just passing through.

This was my first night in Buenos Aires — not to mention South America — and although I had a fantastic time with them, I was happy to have a room of my own to return to later.  Had I not enjoyed their company, I imagine I would have been even quite relieved as well.

The next night, I joined my new Couchsurfing buds at a huge birthday party for two fellow Couchsurfers at a bar in San Telmo.  As the night before, I was welcomed enthusiastically.

I spent my days in Buenos Aires exploring the city on my own: visiting the MALBA and the Japanese Gardens, shopping in Palermo Soho, checking out the architecture in Recoleta.  That’s what I loved the most about this trip: I got to spend my days blissfully solo, and my nights with a great group of friends.

The night after the birthday party was spent in San Telmo as well.  I went to a concert, then to a parilla — Argentine steakhouse — with two American guys, Christian and Louis, whom I met at the Thanksgiving dinner.

The night after that was Couchsurfing-free: I stuck around the hostel and later went to a milonga, or tango hall, with a few other Americans.  While the milonga was fascinating, it was a bit of a low-key night and ended quite early by Buenos Aires standards: 3:00 AM.

My fifth and final night, I rejoined the Couchsurfers at La Bomba del Tiempo, Buenos Aires’s legendary Monday night percussion show at Konex.  If you do nothing else in Buenos Aires, you must go to this show! The Couchsurfing crew loves it.

We then hit up a few bars, including an odd one in what appeared to be someone’s home.

And you know what?  There were so many Couchsurfing activities going on, I couldn’t possibly have gone to them all.  The Buenos Aires Couchsurfers are always up to something — drinking mate at an outdoor concert, going camping near Le Tigre, dancing at random bars.

Best part of all?  This isn’t an anomaly. Plenty of cities around the world have Couchsurfing circles just like this one.  One of my friends was Couchsurfing through South America for a year and he was welcomed into communities all over the continent.

Couchsurfing, at its core, isn’t about free lodging. It’s about meeting people who love travel and adventures as much as you do.  Nobody looked down on me because I wasn’t staying with them — it made no difference whatsoever.

I didn’t tell anyone at the time, but the real reason for my Buenos Aires trip was to test myself as a solo traveler: if it was a success, I would consider myself ready to travel solo long-term.  And who knows? Without Couchsurfing, my Buenos Aires trip could have been a bust.  Who knows where I’d be today?

I’d also have missed unforgettable moments like this.

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43 thoughts on “How To Couchsurf Without Couchsurfing”

  1. That’s the best part of the Couchsurfing community in my opinion. It’s like having welcoming friends all over the world and you really can use it any way you want. If you’re not comfortable with the idea of staying over at someone’s home or having someone stay in yours, you can still meet up and get a local perspective. I’ve been active with Couchsurfing since 2005 and I’ve had only great experiences! I’m glad you’re in the community now too!

  2. You touch on some of the best things about CouchSurfing – great post! It’s such a great way to connect with like-minded people and do things you ordinarily wouldn’t do. And I’m with you that BA’s CSers are some of the best!

  3. As a CS host, I do try to give my guests a room of their own (depending how many arrive at once) – and sometimes it can get a bit wearing dealing with a constant stream of new people! But given the sporadic nature of requests and arrivals, I do get breaks from them every so often and overall I find it a very rewarding experience!
    I’ve only rarely couchsurfed (roughly once for each 70 guests I’ve hosted) but I’ve had some great experiences there too, meeting people from different cultures all at once.

  4. Awesome article! Thank you for sharing your experiences, defining how your interact within the couchsuring community. Can’t wait to hear your future experiences as well. My son and I use couchsurfing for creating a global community and like you, love having friends greet us in the new places we visit. We too, have even hosted couchsurfing events, and love it. Coincidentally, our latest podcast on couchsurfing as well, so I invite you to take a listen if get the chance.

  5. Great to know to have a great time in BA, hope next time you can visit other places in Argentina, there are really nice!
    Join the CS Buenos Aires group and check it out!

    take care!

  6. Just saw your article on twitter.
    What you wrote is great, but the best part is that Couch Surfing really makes the world so small. For an example i met one guy from your pics, Christian, by CS here in my city, in the south Brasil. I loved to see him here!

    keep surfing!
    Natália Brasil.

  7. CSing is the absolute best of the best!!! I’ve written loads of articles on it. I hope this encourages others to try it out. Ahhhh, I can’t wait to be in BsAs in 2 months after reading your post! 🙂

  8. I had no idea you could do this! This is an aspect of couchsurfing that appeals to me. I definitely wouldn’t want to stay in someone’s private home, but having people to hang out with…yeah.

  9. I to am an introvert and need my space so I love this approach, the best of both worlds.

    I just signed up on the couchsurfing network. I plan on hosting before I leave on my trip. Of course, I’m not sure how popular Atlanta, Ga is (where I currently live), so I don’t know if there will be any hosting opportunities.

  10. You can certainly meet some amazing people couch surfing. I turned up to a tour given for free by couchsurfers in Singapore and the group gradually got bigger and when we went to dinner I ended up getting a couch from a host without even intending too.

    Other people I met on that one day I’m still in touch 18 months later. I seem to keep in touch with couchsurfing friends for longer than ones I meet in hostels, which is worth doing it for alone.

  11. You know, I met a serious ex-boyfriend doing just this- attending a couch surfing pub night in London. they have a big CS community there that plans a lot of cool activities- no couch crashing necessary.

  12. I think that’s definitely the way to do it! I’m like you–I really like a quiet place of my own to go at the end of the night. The thought of crashing at a place with strangers that might be loud or dirty or awkward really freaks me out. I think it’s awesome that on Couchsurfing profiles, you even have the option to put that you can’t host someone, but you’re happy to meet up for coffee or to show people around. I attempted to do this when I went to Paris by myself, and talked to a few people online beforehand, but once I got there, I felt too shy and just did my own thing. But now that I’m older and braver, I should definitely try this!

  13. Interesting way of couchsurfing. I didn’t even really know you could meet up with people unless you were actually surfing couches. Sounds like you had loads of fun with people from all around the world. I must say I am the same way. At the end of the day I want my own space so I may have to try this out.

    1. Hola!! Quisiera contactar miembros de couch surfing en Argentina.. Escribo desde Mèroda, Venezuela.. Pienso viajar a Argentina en junio si Dios quiere.. Abrazos, atte, rolando

  14. It kind of reminds me of Clark Kent / Superman – solo traveler by day, one of the gang at night. It’s a great way to travel, and I totally agree that even though you didn’t technically surf any couches, you experienced the essence of a hospitality exchange network – community.

    At the moment I live in San Francisco, and I’ve invited out-of-town travelers I’ve met through the traveler network Tripping ( to just hang out. From the perspective of the couch provider, I love to just socialize; literally sleeping on my couch (air bed in my case) is definitely not a requirement for hanging out with me and other cool peeps in the city. I’m always open to just grabbing a drink or bringing someone traveling to a party with me. If you’re from out of town, I definitely won’t lick your face, but I’m totally down for being party to your travel adventures.

  15. I’m planning to write a CS blog about best/worst/good/bad/weird/fun CS experiences. If you’re interested in participating, please send me a picture of your CS experience and the brief story behind it by September 1st.

    Thanks so much!

  16. You got it right Kate. Couchsurfing isn’t about a free place to crash, it’s more about creating a travel community and a more interactive cultural exchange.

    I do couchsurf when it’s appropriate for my trip. When I look for a place, as most people do, I ask a couple prospective hosts and end up staying with one of them. But, whenever I can, I do meet with the other “prospective hosts” for beer, a night out, or whatever. It helps a lot to see the city from different perspectives and to create a stronger travel community.

  17. Oh wow! I didn’t realise this side of CouchSurfing! Sounds amazing….I am off to sign up after hearing about it for ages…ha! Thanks for the tips and insight!

  18. Have you eventually got to couchsurf someone else’s couch?
    Totally recommended 🙂 although you are right and the whole idea isn’t about just sleeping for free!

  19. Destination Infinity

    I must try this couch-surfing one day. Maybe if I start traveling abroad, I can start 🙂 Wonder why it’s not popular in our place! Your article definitely has piqued my interest 🙂

  20. Hey guys, did you see some new cool App that will come soon? I think that will be very useful for us travelers, it is about connecting directly with people, with locals or somebody with same interests and lots of good things. I found that at

  21. Hi Kate! Stumbling upon your blog today is kismet! I have a great opportunity coming up next year– my friend who works for United is adding me on as her travel companion for the year. I am so excited about traveling the world! I too decided (before reading your blog) my first solo trip will be to Buenos Aires for 4 days in January. Reading this has been extremely helpful and insightful. I can’t wait to start blogging and looking forward to catching up on all your posts.

  22. I love CS, love the CS community and everything it entails 🙂
    For me it’s never been about just free lodging, but about the experience of living with and like locals. Nothing like a local willing to show you around and take you out for a good time 🙂

  23. Hi
    I’m new to this but over the years have heard bits and pieces about couch surfing. I’m a mature traveler on my way to Buenoes Aires for a few nights before I head back home to Canada. I would love to try this if any one can put me in contact with some one in San Telmo or Recoleta area. I have been to several countries and would love to share any info if you would like. Also I dance Argentine Tango and will be heading out to do so before I return home April 28.
    I look forward hearing back from you.
    Cheers Judy

      1. Kate, the old CS BA community is GONE. There are small groups that meet here and there but the big push for a community has gone with the profit-driven corporation, and the rise of Tinder, AirBnB and other social medial.

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