Hospitality exchange is an amazing way to travel without spending much money. You get to stay with locals for free. And when you're home receiving guests is a bit like traveling yourself.
There's a history to hospitality exchange networks. The gist is this: CouchSurfing is now by far the biggest but is generally considered to be in decline (partly because it's now a for profit corporation). BeWelcome is a much smaller but growing nicely.
Main Hospitality exchanges
- BeWelcome(often abbreviated as BW) is a hospitality exchange service that is run by a non-profit organization. The website was founded in February 2007. As of September 2013, the organisation has more than 48,000 members in more than 150 countries all around the world who offer free accommodation and help during travels. Joining is free and the software behind the site is free and open-source software.
- CouchSurfing is the most popular and well known of these particular 'free accomodation' community sites. It connects surfers with hosts all over the world. Not as popular with some since it was sold to the private for-profit corporation Better World Through Travel in 2011.
- Warmshowers is a free worldwide hospitality exchange for touring cyclists. People who are willing to host touring cyclists sign up and provide their contact information, and may occasionally have someone stay with them and share great stories and a drink.
- globalfreeloaders is an online community, bringing people together to offer you free accommodation all over the world. Save money and make new friends whilst seeing the world from a local's perspective!
- Hospitality club aims to bring people together—hosts and guests, travelers and locals.
Other notable Hospitality Exchanges
People offering places to stay in rural areas (villages and farms).
How to be a good guest
Couchwiki's page on how to be a good guest is a great read to get started.
Find a host directly from the streets without any need of internet or technology is often a great asset and skill for nomads. If you don't have an easy access to internet nor a personal device or a mobile phone, sending requests, waiting for answers and fixing a meeting with your host can be annoying. Go to the streets! If you busk it will be even easier since you call more the attention and people "frame" you more, you easily give a quick impression of who are you, what are you doing and what do you need; if you don't busk no worries it will work anyways, the technique is the same. Grab a panel, same style as for hitchhiking, bigger may be better, and write on it "any couch for tonight?" "any nice host for couchsurfers?" "may i sleep with you tonight? :)" or similar; hang it behind your backpack and walk around (it will be more visible) "possible hosts'" transited places such as train stations, universities, city centres, commercial streets etc. If you stop for busking leave it well under the spotlight so that people can see it (often they ll be surprised thinking you were asking for money on it..) if not you can also leave down the backpack and start holding it with your hands (free hugs style; you can also free hug meanwhile, people will consider you more nicely); it seems weird but it definitely does work, at least in Europe, western countries where a good amount of people, especially young, know the concept. In other type of countries, poorer or simply from a slightly different culture (e.g Georgia or Iran), often the hospitality is a inner spontaneous concept and you won't have problem to be invited at home and feeded by people if you say you'll sleep in tent or don't have any place to stay (and don't want to/can't pay for hotels). Being invited by your driver if you hitchhike is also a good option. couch:Hospitality exchange