Being women travelers always come with a set of challenges, and you may get some mixed experience when it comes to couchsurfing. On paper, Couchsurfing seems like a great way to enhance your experience as a woman traveling to a new place. But on the other hand, Couchsurfing for women has a mixed review as you need to be extra cautious since there's a fine line between finding a genuine host who genuinely wants to help you with your travel on Couchsurfing and the other who wants to take advantage of you.
Now that I started traveling with my boyfriend, I realize how impactful it is to filter genuine hosts on Couchsurfing from some random men who want to reach out to me just because I'm a woman traveling alone.
So, here are some safety tips that I want to share if you're a woman traveler looking to couchsurf as a part of your travel!
Why You Need to Be Extra Cautious When Using Couchsurfing as Women Travelers
It's 2023, and there's no limit to traveling solo as a woman. However, as a woman we also know better that we should be more cautious than our men counterparts for so many reasons. Prior to our travel, we need to do thorough research about the best places for solo female travelers, and sometimes we also need to set a curfew for ourselves to avoid any unwanted situation in our travel destinations.
While Couchsurfing is a great way to connect with locals and experience different cultures during your travel, you'll also need to be extra cautious especially if you're a woman traveler planning to stay with a host in your destination. After all, you'll stay with a total stranger and it's better be safe than sorry when it comes to your personal safety.
It applies to everybody and not just women travelers, but guess what? Women travelers bring extra baggage when it comes to using Couchsurfing on their travel, because as surprising as it sounds… So many people out there think Couchsurfing is a tool to find a one night stand!
I don't really want to say bad things about the app since I personally gained a lot of good friends in my travel destinations ever since I started using the app, but it's the truth. Almost 90% of the messages I received were from men, and some men that I decided to meet up with for a platonic friendship seemed to want to become more in the end. It's frustrating because I get on the app, I'm not looking for a date!
It's one thing to just decide to meet up, but it's another thing to actually stay the night at one's place. When you decide to couchsurf in someone's place, you need to remember that you're in their territory while staying in an unfamiliar environment.
Be cautious before choosing a host for couchsurfing in your travel destination, or keep these safety tips in mind when using Couchsurfing as a woman traveler!
Top 5 Tips for Couchsurfing as Women Travelers
Now that you know couchsurfing comes with a risk especially when you're a woman traveling alone, you can still use Couchsurfing while prioritizing your safety before anything else.
In this section, I'm going to list some tips you can use as precautions before choosing a host for your couchsurfing experience in your travel destination. So, here we go!
1. Do your due diligence about your potential host
Stalking is not creepy if you're a woman looking for a Couchsurfing host, because digging some information about your potential host is necessary to ensure your safety.
Whenever I get messages from potential hosts or just some Couchsurfing users who want to meet when I travel, there are some things that I find essential before replying to their messages. These include:
- Are they using their real picture on their profile?
- Are they using their full name so that I can search on Google?
- Did they complete their profile?
- Do they have any reviews that I can consider on their profile?
When they use their full name, I usually google them to make sure that they're real people. It's important to do your own due diligence, because you can never be too cautious about your safety if you're a woman traveling alone.
Another thing is that I never reply to any message that only involves “Hey” in the content, because at this point I always assume those who do that want nothing but to get laid. I know I shouldn't generalize people like that, but as someone who prioritizes communication when it comes to connecting with people, this isn't a good start on their behalf so that's that!
Even when I started messaging them on the app, instead of giving them my personal number I usually share my Instagram account just so I can check out their profile too to make sure that this is a legit person that I'm talking to, and not a creep who wants to take advantage of me during my trip!
2. Make sure to meet in a public place first
If you have a budget for it, I recommend staying at a hostel on the first night before meeting up with your potential host so you can meet them in a public place and see the vibes before committing to staying at their place for the rest of your trip.
As for me, I would prefer staying at a hotel or Airbnb and meeting up with people from Couchsurfing for a drink instead of actually staying at their place. But there were times when I was on a tight budget, so I could only afford to book accommodation for a night or two and stay at a couchsurfing host later.
Meeting up in public first is great, because it's a safe space for you to meet new people. On top of that, you'll most likely get the vibes from talking to them in person before deciding whether it's a great idea to stay at their place.
3. Prioritize staying with a female host
Yes, if you're a female traveling solo and looking into couchsurfing in your travel destination, try to prioritize staying with a female host. Although I don't know if it's just me, I connected with fewer women on Couchsurfing in the past couple of years, making me wonder whether the app has lost popularity among women travelers.
The good news is that nowadays, some alternative platforms to Couchsurfing are designed for female travelers. For instance, Travel Ladies App is specifically built to connect female travelers on the road with hosting and couchsurfing features.
4. Maintain boundaries and avoid oversharing your personal details
I can't emphasize this more, because when you decide to do couchsurfing as a woman traveler, you will be vulnerable while staying at your host's place. This is also the reason why I recommend meeting your potential host in person first, just so you can make sure that you feel secure with this person in a public place.
Other than that, I don't usually share any personal details, even my phone number, unless I feel comfortable with the person. That's why in the initial contact I usually share my social media (mostly Instagram since I also set my Facebook to private) instead of my phone number.
Also, remember that staying with your host means that you need to accept cultural differences between you, so it's important to remain to your principles while being open to learning new things from them. For instance, if you're a Muslim woman traveling alone, you can tell your host that you only eat halal food so you don't have to sacrifice your own belief while staying with your host.
After all, the idea of couchsurfing is to give a unique experience where people can respect each other despite their cultural differences. It's important to stick with what you are, even if you're there staying with your host as a couchsurfer!
5. Trust your gut
Last but not least, always trust the energy, even when communicating with your host through texts initially. As for me, I know the red flags for me will be those who send me messages with just a simple “Hello” or “Hi” without anything else.
It will be more obvious if you get a chance to meet them in person, but sometimes you can tell whether someone is sketchy from the way they text you too. So be cautious of it, and trust your gut because energy is never wrong… That's what I've learned about meeting people on the road!
FAQs About Couchsurfing for Women Travelers
As usual, I'm going to list some popular questions people ask about Couchsurfing from the solo female traveler's point of view. Is Couchsurfing safe for women? Is Couchsurfing even still a thing after the pandemic and all? Let's find out!
Is Couchsurfing safe for a solo female traveler?
You must take extra caution when using Couchsurfing as a solo female traveler. While I've never had a terrible experience when it comes to Couchsurfing, the chance of some guys expecting something more after you meet up is never zero!
My advice if you're a woman traveler planning to do couchsurfing, always do your due diligence about the person who will host you. Even better if you can meet them in person first before deciding whether it's a great idea to stay at their place during your trip.
If possible and you can find a good match, you can also prioritize staying at a female host to avoid all the negative experiences that might happen otherwise.
Are there any alternative platforms to Couchsurfing?
Yes, for women travelers you can consider signing up for the Travel Ladies app to connect with fellow female travelers.
Or you can also take advantage of some Facebook groups for women travelers, such as Host A Girl or Solo Female Travelers. I find them a great way to connect with other travelers since they most likely use their real accounts, and it's also a great community to support each other and share some travel insights!
Is it free to stay with a Couchsurfing host?
Yes, that's basically the distinguished difference between Couchsurfing and Airbnb. While Airbnb requires you to pay at someone's house, Couchsurfing hosts usually invite guests to stay at their place when they're interested in cultural exchange with couchsurfers.
Couchsurfing offers a more authentic experience when it comes to traveling, since it's not transactional so you exchange value in the other way by connecting with people and maybe becoming BFFs later.
It's a great way to travel if you're looking for a genuine connection with the locals during your travel. However, you may prefer booking your own accommodation if you need a private space for yourself during your stay since just like its name, some hosts only offer their couch for you to sleep on.
Couchsurfing is a great alternative option if you travel on a budget since you don't have to spend extra for accommodation. On top of that, you can also gain the experience of living with a local to immerse in the culture and try new things in your destinations.
Unfortunately, just like everything else in the travel space, sometimes traveling as a woman forces you to take extra precautions about your safety and this includes using Couchsurfing on your travel.
Always make sure that you feel secure with your potential host first before committing to stay at their place during your trip. If necessary, you can also share their details to your emergency contact to ensure your safety when using Couchsurfing as a woman traveler.
So, have you couchsurfed before? How was your experience? Would you do it again in the future? Share your insights in the comment, and cheerio!
Marya The BeauTraveler
I am the founder and main editor at The BeauTraveler. I spent 4 years working in the aviation industry but ironically got to travel more right after quitting the industry in 2015. Born and raised in Indonesia, I started working remotely in 2017, and while I stay at home most of the time, I also regularly spend 2-3 months living a semi-digital nomad life elsewhere every year.