Have you ever Couchsurfed? How about Bla Bla Car'd?
If you are anything like me, your answer is no to both. Carly and a few friends decided to backpack Europe entirely through these two websites. In hearing her story I learned how both of these tools are great for traveling especially if you are on a tight budget. These are a great way to save money and meet locals for a not so text book experience. Here are her tips and insight on what to do while backpacking around Europe.
To Couchsurf is to stay temporarily in a series of other people's homes, typically making use of improvised sleeping arrangements. You probably knew a "guy on the couch" when you were in college. Today, its one of the coolest lodging options you have while traveling.
Couchsurfing is a website, also available as an app, where you can search for people to stay with for free. With Couchsurfing, you get a unique travel experience by staying with a local. These hosts typically enhance your travel experience by giving advice on things to see and do. Some of these hosts will even show you around town or cook you a nice meal.
Here's how to use it:
- Select the city you are going to
- Use the filters to narrow your search
- A list of profiles will pop up with interests and background information
- Message one of these folks. Don't just make it sound like a mass message you are sending to everyone, make it personal. For example, Jonathan, the host Carly stayed with in Berlin, said he liked Chet Faker, German beer and chocolate in his profile. When Carly messaged him she mentioned in her message that her group happened to love all three of those things too. Bam! Match made in Couchsurfing heaven.
Now, of course this concept defies everything your mama told you about strangers. Not only will you be staying in their home but they very well may also offer you candy. Should you be hesitant about who you stay with? Of course. It is ALWAYS important to be alert and trust your gut. One great safety feature of Couchsurfing is that you can see how many positive reviews the host has and also if they are verified on the site.
Travel tip: Get your Couchsurfing host a little gift whether it's a bottle of wine or a souvenir from a place you've been before. After all, they are letting you crash for free.
Bla Bla Car
Similar to Couchsurfing, this travel tool is another great opportunity to get out of your comfort zone, meet locals and ask about the world around you. Where should you visit? What is the driver's favorite place to eat? Most of the time the drivers are trusted people just looking to spend less on gas. You can see their ratings on the site to ease your nerves.
How to use it:
- Once on the website, enter where you are and where you hope to go.
- A list will pop up with other users showing who is going there, when they are leaving, and how many seats they have open in their car.
- Reserve your spot in the car and pay up front.
- Bla Bla Car gives you a code. At the end of your journey, the driver will ask you for the code so they can unlock the money you have already paid. So if something happens you won't be out of money.
Carly's Europe Must Do's:
Try foi gras on a warm baguette, a french delicacy typically served on special occasions. We wont tell you how they make it... just try it.
Don't skip Montpellier, France, and Galway, Ireland. They are smaller cities but super rich in culture.
Whatever you do, do not make plans. Play everything by ear. You'll never know where you'll end up or who you will meet.
If you get the chance, go to the Amsterdam Dance Event a festival where parades through the city start in the early afternoon and the party goes all night.
To follow more of Carly's adventures, follow her here on Instagram @carlybitme
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