Business / Industries

Couchsurfers get more than they bargain for

By YU RAN (China Daily) Updated: 2015-04-13 07:57

Couchsurfers get more than they bargain for

Tilman Resch (left) chats with friends at the apartment of his host Su Xiaofang (second from left) in Shanghai. The 24-year-old student from Germany spent just 1,600 yuan ($258) on his recent 10-day trip to Beijing and Shanghai. [Photo/China Daily] 

Surf's up for young adventurers as more Chinese open homes to the international couchsurfing community, paving the way for budget travel in exotic landscapes and busy metropolises

Su Xiaofang from Fujian province cannot afford to travel the world so she is making the world come to her-by hosting couchsurfers from overseas.

The 27-year-old, who works and lives in Shanghai, is an active member of, the largest hospitality organization for travelers to find free accommodation and meet new people of all races and creeds.

"I don't have enough money to globe-trot but now I don't have to because so many people, from America to Russia, sleep on my couch," said Su, who started hosting strangers in early 2012.

Inspired by her first experience of couchsurfing in Moscow, she came back to Shanghai and rented an apartment in the city with her sister.

In the past two years, she has hosted over 100 people from about 40 countries, as well as one cat and a rabbit.

"It has allowed me to befriend a shocking range of people-two scientists from the Czech Republic, two French street performers, a British practitioner of tai chi, a Russian cyclist-and I didn't even have to leave home," she said.

The couchsurfing website was launched in the United States in 2004. It now has over six million members from more than 100,000 cities. Most of its registered members are aged 20 to 30.

"Couchsurfing is definitely the best choice for low-budget travelers," said Tilman Resch, a 24-year-old postgraduate student from Germany who spent six nights on Su's sofa.

"From the moment I landed in China, I spent just 1,600 yuan ($258) on my recent 10-day trip to Beijing and Shanghai-and 1,100 yuan of that went on train tickets."

In China, the culture of couchsurfing is growing as more young people seek adventure on a shoestring.

Li Xuanran from Zhengzhou, Henan province, decided to take a gap year so she could couchsurf her way along China's prosperous east coast.

"I wanted to prove to myself that I was independent and ready to face any challenges society will throw at me," she said.

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