Hospitality Exchange (“hospex” for those who are into Internet lingo!) is a rising way of traveling. I’m personally a major fan, since my amazing meeting with an Indian family in Amber, just outside Jaipur, Rajasthan, during my stay in India during fall of 2012 (see pics here!)
Though my issues with Couch$urfing (C$) are well-known (should you want to know more, you can read my 5-part post about C$ endorsing fat-bashing) and even if they’re a major player in the online hospex world, I think there is still a way to host and be hosted, for free, and with better alternatives…
Exists since: 2007
Based in: Rennes, France
Fee: none (donations are welcome but not mandatory)
Very well designed site and easy to use. One of my favourite features on that site is that you can link all the people close to you (family, partner/spouse, etc.) to your profile with the “family and close friends” section. For families, you have the options of creating multiple profiles (every person has to be 18 or older to have a profile), linked with the “family and close friends” section, or create one profile for the whole family. Same applies for couples.
Exists since: 2009
Based in: USA
Fee: 15 US $ for validation (payable via PayPal)
Short-term rentals meets hospex. (I won’t elaborate on the short-term rental option as this post is about free hospitality-oriented resources.) You have the possibility to create a profile and browse through fellow members profiles, based on location and all. To find the hospex section from the home page (links above go straight to that section), scroll down a little and check the section name “Free Homestays” on the right-hand side of the page.
You can also join groups, called Networks. These Networks have 2 level of access: basic access (automatically granted) and a more “restricted” yet easy to get access that an administrator of the group you want to reach can grant you. You just click on the group and ask. I’m a currently co-admin on the Plus-Size Travelers Network.
Validation is done through a face-to-face Skype meeting during which a Validation Team member will confirm your ID (by checking your passport) and proof of address (utility bill, bank statement, mortgage or lease papers, etc.) Click here to know more about Tripping.com Validation Process.
Exists since: 2005
Based in: USA
Fee: 9.99 US $ for lifetime membership & get access to all features of the site
Very dynamic page design, it is relatively simple to use, especially for those who know the drill with that type of site. A bit like Tripping has a short-term rental, TravBuddy partnered with HotelsCombined to offer a hotel search engine. This site offers a bunch of different features, from blogging to travel map and reviews and has cute options like “smiles” and a bunch of funny nicknames – from Couch Potato to Explorer – and awards – from Bedbug to Spambuster – to “pimp” your profile!
The basic free registration is very limited, but considering the price of a membership and all the possibilities it brings, it’s worth upgrading your account (Click here for more info about TravBuddy’s membership.)
Exists since: 2001
Based in: Australia
Fee: none that I could find (donations are welcome)
The interface is a bit dry (forget about colorful headers and pretty pictures!) and the FAQ section is very limited. Also, I question why they discourage the hosting of domestic travelers (when host and guest are from the same country of residence).
Yet, the system is pretty efficient and straight to the point, once you’re familiar with the site. There must be a reason why they come up so often as a search result! Will require some more exploring, but hopefully it will honor its reputation!
Hospitality Club (www.hospitalityclub.org)
Exists since: 2000
Based in: Germany
Fee: unknown (said to be free on their homepage –
will know more if I’m accepted as a member!)
Though I do appreciate dedication from a website and screening of members, I think that everybody should be accepted automatically, and then screened out if the user is “misbehaving”. That is one point on which Hospitality Club differs from other hospitality website. As my application is still being processed by their acceptance/rejection team, I don’t have as much info as I would like but will keep you posted should I be granted access and can discover more!
If you have/had any experience, good or bad, or comments you would like to share, I’m sure all backpackers, whatever their size, would love to hear from it!