Believe it or not, many people around the world are glad to give you a free place to sleep for the night. It may be your own room, it may be a couch, it may be a spot on the floor or in a tent. But it’s a good way to meet locals who know the scene and to cut down on expenses as well. Here are the most notable programs for couchsurfing, though others spring up now and then. Read the article at the bottom for advice on how they work and how to be a good guest.

Homestay Programs

Global Freeloaders— With a name like that, there’s no pretension here. Free for everyone who joins and the service intends to stay that way. A simple “crash pad” exchange with few formalities.

Servas is the grandaddy of all homestay programs, with a history that stretches back half a century. Their purpose is to advance understanding, tolerance, and world peace, so don’t expect a list of places to sleep off a hangover. You’ll need to apply, be interviewed, and pay $65, but you’re sure to meet interesting, intelligent, and insightful people.

The Hospitality Club is based in Europe and though aiming to support cross-cultural exchange, is more laid-back than Servas. It’s also free. Their depth of members is quite good, with a sizable membership in countries you wouldn’t expect, such as Chile, Argentina, Turkey, and Lithuania.

Couchsurfing was founded by an American in his twenties and as its name implies, you don’t have to offer much to be a host. Travelers may get a room–or surf a couch! A huge membership base and growing fast.

Read homestay article “Lay Down Your Head, but Not a Lot of Cash.”

Couchsurfing Travel Takes off on the Web