You’ve heard us talk quite a bit about doing home exchanges to help significantly reduce the cost of a travel, and hospitality exchanges can do the same thing. When you join a hospitality exchange organization you are allowed to stay in someone else’s home for free which also gives you the opportunity to more easily interact with locals and see how they live. And in turn you offer to host other people within the organization whenever you are back home.
However, nobody within the organization is required to be a host every time they are asked. And although hospitality exchanges as a whole are generally more popular with the younger crowd, people of all ages and from all over the world participate in this form of travel. If you think you might be interested in participating in something like this, below are some of the better-known organizations to check out:
CouchSurfing.org is the largest hospitality exchange organization claiming over a million members from all over the world. Membership is free, but there is an option to become ‘verified’ for a $25 fee which helps with security as well as funding for maintenance of the website.
HospitalityClub.org claims over 300,000 members from over 200 countries. Membership is free, and volunteers verify each member.
GlobalFreeloaders.com claims over 60,000 members from over 200 countries. Membership is free.
Servas.org is the website of the hospitality exchange organization that was started in 1949. It does charge an annual fee, and two letters of recommendation and a personal interview are also required for membership. However its goal is to provide much more than a free place to stay. As a non-profit, non-governmental organization affiliated with the U.N., Servas International and its members strive to build understanding, tolerance and world peace through the open exchange of ideas.
Here are some tips and guidelines to think about when arranging hospitality exchanges:
- Try to get to know each other to some degree before making a commitment. If you think there might be some kind of a personality clash or too much awkwardness in general then maybe a match with someone else would be better for both parties.
- Both the host and the guest need to communicate clearly. Each person needs to fully understand the expectations as far as arrival and departure dates and times, what the sleeping arrangements will be and the rules of the home as far as smoking, alcohol, food, etc.
- As a guest it’s a good idea to bring a gift of some sort for your host, but remember to be culturally sensitive in doing so. Something somehow connected to your own culture or hometown usually works great. And offering to help out with any chores during your stay is always a plus too.
- A guest needs to be flexible when it comes to the host’s schedule, and he or she should be prepared to be completely self-sufficient as far as food and transportation are concerned unless any other sort of arrangement is offered by the host.
Have you used any of these organizations for your travels before? If so, what were your experiences like?