Airbnb vs. CouchSurfing: All you need to know

In the past few years, the home-sharing industry has grown tremendously, with Airbnb taking a significant portion of the market share. Airbnb was founded in the year 2008 in America and continues to expand to other countries. Before Airbnb’s popularity, many people opted to use CouchSurfing to host guests as well as book travel accommodation. CouchSurfing was founded in 2004, and although there is more competition in the home-sharing market compared to back then, the company boasts of 10 million users in over 200,000 countries around the world. The similarities between Airbnb vs CouchSurfing can result in hosts being confused about what platform is suited for them. Here’s everything you need to know about the similarities and differences: Airbnb vs CouchSurfing.

A brief overview of Airbnb and CouchSurfing

Established in 2008, Airbnb has become a global phenomenon with over 4 million hosts and 6 million active listings across the world. Present in over 100,000 cities, Airbnb has garnered a vast user base of more than 150 million worldwide, resulting in over 1 billion stays booked on the platform.

In contrast, CouchSurfing predates Airbnb, originating in 2004. This platform was designed to offer travelers spaces for short-term rental stays, emphasizing a holistic travel experience that involves immersing oneself in the social culture of the host and the broader community. CouchSurfing operates in approximately 237 countries, fostering an international community of about 14 million people.

The similarities between Airbnb and CouchSurfing

  • They’re both short-term rental stay platforms 

The most visible similarity between Airbnb and CouchSurfing is that they were both created to allow people to book short-term rentals. Hosts can register on either platform (or both) and list their properties for short-term rentals.

  • They provide alternative accommodation to hotels

Booking a stay at a hotel is usually more expensive than booking a short-term rental stay. Both Airbnb and CouchSurfing provide cheaper (with CouchSurfing being free for guests) accommodation options than hotels and therefore provide more options for people to choose from. This means that hosts can expect a variety of guests when listing on Airbnb and Couchsurfing. Hotels are often associated with the ‘serious business type,’ whereas short-term rental stays often attract younger crowds or travelers who are searching for adventure.

  • They provide flexibility

Due to the number of listings on each platform, Airbnb and CouchSurfing provide a broad range of properties for guests to choose from. Guests can book their stay in advance, as well as decide what type of property they’d like to stay in. For example, guests can choose to stay in a villa, an apartment, or a cabin. The flexibility is appealing to young guests and travelers seeking new experiences. As a host, this is an advantage because you aren’t limited to listing one certain type of space, you’re able to host your unique accommodation on either platform with ease.

  • They allow guests to immerse themselves in the culture of a particular place

Both platforms encourage guests to immerse themselves in the culture around them. CouchSurfing guests stay with the host and Airbnb provides Airbnb Experiences for guests to partake in.

  • You need to sign up to become a host

On both Airbnb and CouchSurfing, you must sign up to become a host. Airbnb requires you to sign up to become a host and verify your ID through their verification process. You will then be required to create a detailed listing with a price and set booking guidelines. Lastly, communicating with guests and responding to queries in a timeous manner is important.

On CouchSurfing, you sign up as a host by filling out a detailed profile about your lifestyle and personal values. As a new host, you can learn more about the process from other hosts as well as by attending local events. Your couch status should always be set to ‘yes’ or ‘maybe,’ as this allows you to communicate with potential guests in order to find a good match.

The differences between Airbnb and CouchSurfing

  • Service fees and booking fees

Airbnb charges host service fees. Airbnb charges based on two models: the split fee and host-only fee. The split fee is split between the host and the guest, with the host paying 3% and the guest paying under 14,2% of the subtotal booking fee. The host-only model results in the host paying 14% to 16%.

Couchsurfing doesn’t charge hosts any service fees and booking fees. Using the platform is free for hosts, they have $14,29 annual fee for surfers.

  • CouchSurfing provides a more intimate experience

Prior to confirming a booking on CouchSurfing, hosts are expected to engage with guests to find the best possible fit. The platform also encourages hosts and guests to be transparent about their lifestyles, allowing the guest and host to get to know more about each other. 

On the other hand, Airbnb only allows the guest to confirm the booking and answer queries. There is no opportunity to know more about the host’s lifestyle and vice versa with Airbnb. Furthermore, CouchSurfing guests stay with the host, whereas Airbnb hosts often do not, allowing for more privacy.

  • Searching for a homestay is different 

Finding a homestay on Airbnb is quite simple. All you have to do is fill in the relevant details, book your desired accommodation, and await confirmation. On CouchSurfing, you have to contact multiple hosts in the city you plan on visiting and wait for a response and confirmation. This may feel more time-consuming than booking on Airbnb.

  • It’s easier to confirm a booking with Airbnb

Once your booking is confirmed on Airbnb, it’s guaranteed, whereas, on Couchsurfing, a confirmed booking isn’t necessarily final. Hosts may decide to cancel and because you aren’t paying for the stay, there’s less of an obligation to follow through with the booking. 

Who won between Airbnb vs Couchsurfing?

Choosing between Airbnb and Couchsurfing as a host depends on your preferences, hosting style, and what you’re looking to offer:

  • Airbnb:
    • Ideal if you want to earn income from your space.
    • Provides the opportunity to list entire homes, private rooms, or shared spaces.
    • Guests on Airbnb typically expect more privacy and amenities, and you can set your own pricing.
  • Couchsurfing:
    • Suited for hosts looking to foster cultural exchange and meet travelers.
    • Hosting is generally free, emphasizing a more social and communal experience.
    • Best for those who enjoy sharing their space and connecting with diverse guests.

With the information above, you can make an informed decision about which platform to host on or to use for your next stay. Ensure that you’re getting the best deal, use our coupons to obtain a discount on your first stay or for the first guest that you host. Before signing up you should also check our the other alternative in Vrbo, another top-rated vacation rental platform.