Couchsurfing versus AirBnb

Airbnb, the room-sharing startup based in San Francisco, unveiled a new corporate logo on Wednesday (July 16, 2014) called "the Belo," as part of a rebranding campaign.

Couch surfing and AirBnb have made traveling much more accessible to the masses. Both strive to connect people across cultures.  While neither are necessarily cheaper than traditional hostels and hotels, both services have locals help travelers. However the two services may seem similar but there is a difference in service and etiquette.

What’s the difference?

Couchsurfing is generally a guest sleeping on the floor, couch or in a spare bedroom.  There isn’t an exchange of money but there is a couch surfing etiquette. This etiquette means as a guest, not only do you clean up after yourself but you earn your keep.  In the past, I’ve cleaned my host’s house, bought them groceries, treat them to dinner or buy them a small gift (respectively).  You do NOT show up to a couch surfing host’s place demand service and give nothing in return.  This is an exchange of culture and respect.  Staying with a couch surfing host is not about saving money but about learning how the locals live and sharing each other’s company.  In Berlin, the amount I spent on cooking my host dinner about equaled how much I would have paid at a hostel.  But I was happy to cook her dinner because she showed me around the city and introduced me to so many people.

AirBnb guests generally sleep in a room, a shared room or in their own apartment.  Guests pay for accommodation so this is a service.  While you should be respectful and tidy, it is not necessary for you to cook, clean or buy things for your host.  Airbnb can be cheaper than a hotel, it’s not usually cheaper than a hostel. However, the point of AirBnb is to have unique accommodation, more contact with locals and comfort while traveling.

Why choose couch surfing over Airbnb?

If you are looking for “free” accommodation and to learn about another culture, couch surfing is great.  There are some pros and cons though.  There are many complaints that couch surfing has become less of an exchange of cultures and more about hooking up.  Also, couch surfing is not for the traveler that wants to be in comfort.  I usually have a sleeping bag because with couch surfing you are usually on the floor or on a couch.  Hosts in generally are people in their twenties or thirties. Couch surfing is for the young solo traveler or a couple, it’s ideal for those backpacking on a budget.

Why choose AirBnb over Couchsurfing?

If you want comfort and an exchange of culture, AirBnb is great.  You usually are staying by yourself or with a family.  The biggest perk of paying for a service is intentions aren’t misconstrued like with couch surfing.  AirBnb puts you in a comfortable space with locals to help you navigate to area. It’s a great option for large groups, people of all ages and ideal for families or business trips.  If you are on a budget, check out AirBnb promo codes before you book.

At the end of the day, it’s all about exploring the world. The internet gives people so many options that it’s easier now that ever to travel cheaply and in style.