1. Get a free account with couchsurfing.com
There are a few ways to seek couch surfing opportunities, however, couchsurfing.com is the go-to source. We recommend getting a free Couchsurfing account, rather than becoming a member straight away, as you will want to figure out if couch surfing is for you. However, if you want an alternative way to find couches to surf, search “couch surfing” in Facebook Groups.
2. Couch surfing is free
Or at least, it should be free! The concept of couch surfing is hosts providing free accommodation, so if someone claiming to be offering couch surfing accommodation asks for payment, then make sure to notify the admins for where ever you found the couch surfing opportunity, whether it’s couchsurfing.com, Facebook group or whatever. Having free accommodation is the most obvious pro for couch surfing in New Zealand!
3. You’re likely to meet awesome people
Most of the time, couch surfing hosts offer up space in their homes to travellers just out of the kindness of their hearts. It’s really not uncommon to have strangers to stay over in New Zealand if they need a place to stay. For backpackers, couch surfing is a great way to meet awesome people that usually want to be social (you can usually tell by a vibe of a host when you first meet them), so take the time to chat with them.
4. But you need to understand the risks
Obviously staying at a stranger’s house does involve an element of risk. There are ways to reduce the risk of ending up in a nutjob’s home that we outline in 8 Safety Tips for Couchsurfing in New Zealand. Just remember, you are not obligated to stay somewhere if you feel unsafe.
5. Couch surfing stays are usually short
Hosts usually offer free accommodation for one or two nights. It’s not a long-term accommodation solution by any means. Couch surfing is a good idea when just passing through the area, but if you are looking for somewhere to stay for a few days of exploration, we suggest you choose a hostel, campground or these 10 Damn Good Alternatives to Hostels. If you really don’t want to fork out any cash, then consider working for accommodation instead (if you have a work visa for New Zealand).
6. You will need your own transport
Unless you are looking for couch surfing opportunities in the centres of major cities like Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin, etc. (which are usually fully booked anyway) then you’ll need to have your own transport to really make the most of couch surfing. Couch surfing hosts are spread out far and wide across New Zealand, most of them not being that easy to reach from bus stops or on foot.
7. Have a backup plan
Cancellations happen regularly with couch surfing. For this reason, it’s best to have a back-up plan, such as scouting out the nearest accommodation options and how to get there.
8. Read reviews
Getting back to safety issues, be sure to read reviews of couch surfing hosts on couchsurfing.com. If there are no reviews available for a host that seems legit and safe, open up a dialogue with them to get a feel for what the host is like. Ask them a few questions about your stay, what you will need, etc.
9. House rules apply
As your host has been so gracious to invite you into their home, make sure you respect their rules. Ask if there’s anything you need to know and just be the typical polite house guest your mother brought you up to be. It’s common sense, but just in case you need a reminder…