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When we think of all the factors around accommodation, and what we consider when choosing a place to stay, there are a few key things it boils down to: cost, location, safety, and level of comfort.

Staying at a hotel vs Сouchsurfing is the very definition of traditional vs new age accommodation; the sharing economy (couchsurfing) has completely dirupted the travel industry since the early 2000’s, and now there are a huge range of alternatives to the traditional hotel model.

But that’s not to say that hotels have lost their relevenace, in fact, they’re still as popular as ever.

Each of these ‘ways to stay’ has their pros and cons, and neither has to be an exclusive choice / travel style; ie you may decide to stay in a hotel for one trip, and that courchsurfing suits your purposes for another.

Comparing the two and trying to decide which one will suit you? Let’s delve in to see the pros and cons of both options.

Staying in a Hotel vs Couchsurfing: Pros and Cons

Defining Hotels 

The Chen Art Series Melbourne Hotel Box Hill Review

Hotels are traditional places of accommodation, which have evolved over time from the historic Inns where weary travelers would pull up seeking a bed for overnight.

You might think that the service is often impersonal, professional, and standardized, and in many cases this is certainly true, as many hotels are administered by a management team rather than the property’s owner.

That said, there are many different types of hotels hitting the market now, and the world of marketing and fierce competition has forced hotels to develop highly unique brand identities to stay relevent. So you can definitely find hotels with great service, and a rich personality.

Being that you book your own room, hotels are your best options for privacy, comfort, facilities, and location. And there’s a globally standard rating system which helps for defining which hotels are good value – classified by stars; 5 Stars = luxury, 1 star = maybe look at courchsurfing!

Defining Couchsurfing

Couchsurfing woman sleeping on couch RF

Couchsurfing is part of the sharing economy, where travelers can connect with locals to stay for free in their home.

The original idea was that you would stay on their couch, and while this is still the case in many places, most homeowners who list on couchsurfing have proper guest rooms they’ll set you up in, where you’ll get a proper bed.

Staying with locals in their home also has historic roots; before hotels and inns become so widespread that they were on every corner, along every route, travelers would rely on the hospitality of locals in the places they moved through.

Couchsurfing itself is a platform, which really started the movement of free hosted stays, though these days many other platforms and ways of finding free accommodation with locals have popped up, including dedicated Facebook Groups.

Pros Of Staying in a Hotel

Housekeeping bed hotel RF

Privacy: Being that you book your own room, hotels offer a high level of privacy, and if having your own space is important to you, and not having to worry about your belongings, you’ll want to book a hotel over couchsurfing.

Housekeeping: People love to spend a week in paradise without the mundane chores of cooking, cleaning or bedmaking. Give the housekeeping staff a generous gratuity; they deserve it.

If you’re staying in someone elses home though, it’s respectful to make the bed (or couch!), keep your things tidy, and clean up after yourself.

Concierge & Staff: While many travelers love to embrace their independence, there are always unanticipated situations that the concierge can assist with.

They can assist you in locating a doctor if you’re feeling unwell, book tickets if you haven’t been able to decipher the language barrier online, and have great local insight into nice restaurants, or simply set you up with a map of the area for walking.

When couchsurfing, you do have access to the local insight of your host, but you’re not paying them to serve you, they’re the ones doing you a favor by letting you stay, so the access to help is quite different.

Safety: Hotels are typically positioned in safe parts of town, or at least in the busiest parts of cities so you’re always surrounded by access to help.

They’re also often manned by a security desk, some for 24/7, have video surveillance, and your room can be one of 200+, access blocked by elevators which require keycards, bolt chains; there are many different layers of security before someone can threaten your safety in a hotel room.

Facilities & Services: Many hotels have gyms, spas, and restaurants, and you don’t have to pay extra money to access them. Many also offer rewards programs, which allow you to earn points for perks like upgrades, gift cards, and trip packages.

Cons Of Staying In A Hotel

The Chen Art Series Melbourne Hotel Box Hill Review

Living Space Is Limited: Most travelers enjoy space, and it’s nice to be able to spread out and relax after a long day. Unless you’re booking a suite, hotel rooms can be quite confined, and may even make you feel claustrophobic and stressed. 

HygieneYour room should be clean, but this is not always the case on a deep clean level. When it comes down to it, thousands of people have slept in the same bed, and housekeeping typically only has an hour for each room.

Your sheets will have been washed and changed, but things like cleaning down the TV remote, airconditioner, light switches, and the spa bath – these are all places which can become fairly unhygenic.

Price: Many hotels offer fantastic deals, especially in off season, though in general they can be quite expensive. You pay for a room on a nightly basis, and this rate can be in the hundreds of dollars per night.

Vs courchsurfing, which is free.

Pros of Couchsurfing

Couch friends music RF

Extremely affordable: Couchsurfing is about cultural exchange, rather than monetary exchange. While being part of the platform costs $2.39/month or $14.29/year, staying with locals in their home is totally free.

Do factor in a budget for bringing your hosts a small gift, buying or cooking them a traditional meal from your culture, or offering to chip in for dinner. But you’ll spend a lot less than you would at a hotel, inn, or even Airbnb.

Exchange cultural ideas: One of the most appealing parts of Couchsurfing is that it provides more than just a place to stay. Your hosts are also folks who enjoy traveling and will generally take the time to show you around or tell you about some local secrets.

Unlike the stuffy hosts of Airbnb and Vrbo, Couchsurfing is primarily a community of individuals who see tourists as more than simply a bank draught with legs.

A prosperous community: Hosts aren’t the only people to connect with on Courchsurfing; the platform’s network of travelers is also fantastic. Message boards on the website allow travelers to communicate and meet up, and it’s genuinely about meeting new individuals who share your passion for travel.

Cons of Couchsurfing

Pet dog in bed sleeping RF

Unusual lodgings: There’s no telling what kind of location you’ll be staying in when you couchsurf, or even what type of surface you’ll be sleeping on.

What you receive from Couchsurfing is entirely dependent on the host. It may be a couch, a bed, or even an entire room, and you may be joined by any pets they have. Usually, the hosts describe these options in their accounts. But still, you never know for sure until the visit.

Subjective rules: Couchsurfing hosts, like Airbnb hosts, have their own set of house rules. Some allow you to come and go as you choose, and some do not. Hotels give you far more personal freedom, so if you don’t want to have to follow other people’s restrictions while on vacation, that’s something to consider.

Caution: You should take caution when staying in any form of accomodation, though the concept of staying with strangers means a little more cauton than usual.

Couchsurfing hosts are verified which means they are typically very safe experiences, though if anything that makes you feel uneasy, end the experience and head for a hotel. 

Try to communicate with a potential host thoroughly before your arrival so that you make sure you understand each other and your expectations. Do some research, find their social media pages to check if you are comfortable with their views. Search them on Nuwber to make certain they really own the property they are offering to stay at and are not going to scam you.

After weighing up the pros and cons of hotels vs Courchsurfing; which option will you choose?

Megan is an Australian Journalist and award-winning travel writer who has been blogging since 2007. Her husband Mike is the American naturalist and wildlife photographer behind Waking Up Wild; an online magazine dedicated to opening your eyes to the wonders of the wild & natural world.

Having visited 100+ countries across all seven continents, Megan’s travels focus on cultural immersion, authentic discovery and incredible journeys. She has a strong passion for ecotourism, and aims to promote responsible travel experiences.


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