Crash on a Couch for Free in New Zealand
It’s the ultimate “hippy” thing to do in New Zealand: couchsurfing. The concept has been around forever but is coming back in force with organisations like couchsurfing.com making it easy for hosts and couchsurfers to come together through websites and apps. Couchsurfing has heaps of pros and cons that we will detail for you in this article but one thing is certain, it is addictive and will create life experiences like no other for those who dare take the bait.
It may not be the most comfortable night of your life fidgeting on the couch, but it is free and you get to stay with awesome locals. Sounds intriguing right?! Keep reading below for more info.
How to Get Started with Couchsurfing?
To start couchsurfing in New Zealand you’ve got to get yourself an account with couchsurfing.com, the world’s largest couchsurfing website. It has hosts all over New Zealand. Here is what you need to do to sign up:
- Register using your Facebook account or your email address.
- Fill in your profile: it is important to add as much info as possible to build trust.
- Add a picture of yourself. Be smart, don’t be smoking of drinking on your picture.
- Choose your account type: Free or Verified Members. (Being a Verified Membergets you SMS, address-verified, ad-free website + the app and a highlight in search results).
Note: we advise you to start with a free account and see if couchsurfing is for you, then move on onto a paid account as membership is yearly. By the way, have you checked out 9 Things You Need To Know About Couch Surfing in New Zealand?
What is Couchsurfing?
Couchsurfing is a popular type of accommodation for many backpackers looking for an alternative way to travel New Zealand. The concept is simple, if a “host” has a spare couch or room, they can list it on the couchsurfing website. From there, “couchsurfers” can get in touch with hosts. After a bit of a chat and organisation between the two, the couchsurfer can sleep for free on the host’s couch or spare room.
It’s as simple as it gets and it all happens on the couchsurfing.com platform. See above for the registration process.
So what does the host get out of giving out accommodation for free? First, the host gets a lot of good karma, but the main reason why hosts join couchsurfing is that they like to share life experience with people from all around the world.
For couchsurfers, there is a lot of pro and cons to couchsurfing so we will detail below what we think are the advantages and disadvantages of couchsurfing in New Zealand to help you make an informed decision.
4 Reasons to Try Couchsurfing in New Zealand?
So what are the advantages of couchsurfing?
Whether it’s a quick experience you want to check out, or something to replace hostels, camping, or other accommodation types, here are four reasons why it’s a great idea to give a shot to couchsurfing at least once in New Zealand:
- It’s free! – The obvious advantage of couhsurfing is the fact that your accommodation night is free. Hosts are not allowed to charge couchsurfers for their stay. This is a major advantage for people travelling on a shoestring budget.
- Stray off the beaten track – Often, your host’s house will be located off the beaten track in a farm outside of a town or in a suburb that you would not have considered visiting otherwise. This forces you to see more of New Zealand than you initially intended and trust us, that often provides you with the most memorable moments.
- Meet awesome people – Couchsurfing hosts are usually kind-hearted people and often well-travelled individuals themselves. They have either used couchsurfing in a lot of different countries or have had a lot of couchsurfers coming through sharing heaps of fascinating life stories with them. It’s one of the 5 Ways to Stay with Locals in New Zealand.
- Get local knowledge – The main thing that we love about staying with locals is that they are always keen to share their knowledge of the area. They will know the best hiking spots, the location of a hidden gem, or the best pub to grab a beer. Discovering an area with a local is taking the experience to a whole new level.
6 Reasons Why You Might Want to Give Couchsurfing a Miss…
Like most things in life, couchsurfing has a few disadvantages.
Here are the main arguments that those people use to advocate against couchsurfing:
- It’s only for a short stay – Most of the hosts will have a two-night limit for each couchsurfer. Couchsurfing is not a long-term accommodation option by any stretch. It is more for a quick crash along the way than for a lengthy exploration of an area.
- House rules apply – Every house has different rules, so when stepping in for a day or two, you will not be able to act like you own the place. You will have to pitch in for dishwashing and follow the habits of your hosts. That’s commonsense, but we thought we’d remind it anyway.
- Not all listings are accurate – It is an endemic problem on the couchsurfing platform. Many hosts forget to update their listing or simply have misleading listings. This can easily be solved by reading the reviews of each host, which will give you an insight into where you are stepping into.
- Cancellations happen regularly – Since hosts are not bound to host you and are doing so out of the kindness of their hearts, they will sometimes cancel your stay at the last minute. For this reason, we advise that you have a back-up plan when couchsurfing.
- There is an element of risk involved – Although many hosts are lovely people, in the past, there have been a few incidents involving couchsurfing hosts. It is important for you to follow our safety tips to couchsurfing so you are sure to have a pleasant experience when couchsurfing through New Zealand.
- You will need your own transport – Couchsurfing hosts are often off the beaten track as mentioned above. For this reason, it is essential that you have your own transportation as you will not be able to be picked up and dropped off at a bust stop by your host.
Is Couchsurfing Safe?
Like everything, couchsurfing has an element of risk to it. First, you are not dealing with a well-established business, but with individuals so you may experience a few cancellations and quirky rules. Second, there have been instances in the past where couchsurfers had problems with their hosts. This issue has been assessed by the couchsurfing organisation and there is now a safety team in charge of assisting couchsurfers in case of emergency. We have also made an article with heaps of tips for you to safely couchsurf in New Zealand. Check out our 8 Safety Tips when Couchsurfing in New Zealand.
Finally, trust the system. With the addition of host reviews on the platform, couchsurfing has got rid of most of the bad apples, so read reviews of hosts before contacting them and make sure to leave reviews as well so the system keeps both couchsurfers and hosts safe.
Free (or Cheap) Alternatives to Couchsurfing
If couchsurfing is your thing, great! Go nuts, it will be a blast! However, if you feel like couchsurfing is a no-go, there are still plenty of options to stay for free of very cheap in awesome places during your time in New Zealand. Have you considered: