During my stay in South Korea (I still have 2 more days Gosh time flies), I tried a whole bunch of different kinds of accomodation. But 2 of them I would like to highlight, is Air BnB and Couchsurfing.
I couchsurfed in Daegu, South Korea.
Couchsurfing is an online platform where people all over the world open their homes (or couches) for free to travellers who are looking for local interaction and a place to sleep at. Just make an account on their website and browse some reviews (which are usually summaries of their interaction and you can get some general sense of the process.)
You then have to wait for the host to confirm. Because afterall, you are staying for free. When trying to get a host, do write a short friendly note in the “booking page” (so you don’t look like an antisocial person who wants to sleep somewhere for free). Maybe what you’re gonna do in the city, or even like how their hobbies and yours match (CS, short for Couchsurfing, is a more personal level. Your profile includes favourite movies, hobbies, countries you’ve been to, awesome things you’ve done etc.) Just imagine it as striking a conversation with someone at a party. E.g. “Hey nice shoes. Are those limited edition.” Hahahaha but bottomline just be friendly. I’m saying this because Serena, my host, said that a lot of people just send request to couchsurf with very emotionless messages or even no messages, just a request to crash the place for the night. Who would want to accept those?
And now, for my experience.
Serena met me at a train station to pick me up, then we went to put down my stuff at her house, then dinner at around her area and some drinks. She was really friendly and open and we talked about many things. After dinner, she showed me around the area and then she showed me this outdoor arcade (like those game booth found in amusement parks and batting cages.) Loads of fun
We went back to her apartment and called it a night and I slept on her couch? Because she included a bedsheet and pillows and blankets, thank you so much Serena! She even let me sleep in the next day and told me that I can leave when I want to. I said I’ll leave when she leaves but apparently, I didn’t manage to. When I woke up it was already 11am, hahaha. So much for being a really heavy sleeper HAHAHA
Yeah Couchsurfing is definitely an interesting experience and it allows you to forge new friendships with friends all around the globe. You should try it too!
Some tips on CS:
1) Make sure to hunt for places to look for early. I started about a month before my trip. Sent in about 6 requests for a few different cities in total, 4 rejected me because they are out of town or already had someone staying over, 1 didn’t reply. Those that didn’t accept were friendly too! They explained on why they couldn’t make it and wished me the best for my trip. Look for places early, but don’t book on the same night at once. Wait for a few days after requesting. If he accepts, great. If he rejects, look for another place. If he didn’t reply, wait for maybe 4/5 days before requesting to stay at someone else’s. Because it’s not that nice if you request to stay at 2 different places on the same night and they both accepts, so you have to turn one of them down.
2) If you’re afraid to CS because of safety etc., my advice to you is look for those with more positive reviews, maybe at least 5 or 10. If you’re a girl, find a female host. Read the reviews of who they have hosted, what they can offer you and stuff like that. You might also have more stuff to talk about when you meet.
3) Don’t be afraid. Remember, you are as a stranger to them as they are a stranger to you.
4) Have fun, make new friends!
5) Just do it. You won’t die doing it, so why not. (I have been using this phrase so often the past few months. It’s my catchphrase now LOL)
Initially, I thought Air BnB is just another platform for people to advertise their rented rooms. Well, I was not wrong. But it was not just about that. In Ulsan, I stayed at a house I found on Air BnB. Before I continue, maybe a short intro to Air BnB.
Air BnB has 2 players. Hosts and travellers.
Hosts open up their own private houses and available rooms for people to rent them.
The other player, the travellers, rent these houses and rooms.
What makes Air BnB different from other orthodoxical types of accomodations like hotels and motels is the cultural exchange between the hosts and travellers. But this may not always happen, and I will explain why in a bit.
So on the AirBnB site, you can search for accomodation in an area you would like to stay in and then book it. That part is the same. I will let my experience explain further.
I Air BnBed in Ulsan, South Korea, this Tuesday. While I was reviewing my itinerary on Sunday night, I realised that I don’t have an accomodation yet for Tuesday. Oh man, I thought. I have been sleeping on the floor in different places (Hyunwoo’s house and Jimjilbang) (click here to read about my experience in a Jimjilbang) for the past 5 days and I thought maybe I should get a more decent accomodation. Give some love and care for my back. Hahaha. So I started searching. I used both Agoda and Air BnB to browse. The ones from Agoda were expensive. They were all 3-star hotels and above. When using Air BnB, one particular accomodation looks very promising, and it was not too expensive, SGD38. It was 2am so I decided to just book it and go to sleep.
Shortly after I woke up at 7 the next morning, the host, Sun Young, accepted my booking. You see, unlike hotels and motels, although the room is vacant, you might not be able to stay. Maybe because the owner is away (although I read some reviews that some owners are willing to hide the key somewhere when they are away so that travellers could stay) or he just doesn’t feel like hosting for some reason. This is difference #1 between AirBnb as compared to hotels and motels.
After Sun Young accepted my request to stay at her place (called Cosy House), we discussed on how we could meet and stuff like that. And on the day itself, she was really kind enough to pick me up from the bus terminal in her car. Difference #2: your host can really make or break your trip, because of the higher level of host-traveller interaction involved.
When I reached her place, her 2 kids, Jimmy and George were waiting at the door and greeted me warmly (although a bit shy, they’re really cute hahaha #nopedo). Sunyoung showed me to my room. And it was the exact same as the one in the pictures online! Gorgeous and I just felt like melting into the bed.
It looks like the pictures online were taken just minutes before I stepped in. After I put down my stuff and settled for a while, I went out to the living room and her kids offered me some fruit and we chatted for a while. Despite their limited English, they really tried their best to make me feel welcome. And I really really appreciate that. I tried to practice my Korean too, if that counts hahahaha
Not long after, Sun Young’s husband came home. We chatted for a while and I told them where I was going that night. Sunyoung immediately make some calls to make sure I got the most updated version of transportation route. Ulsan is not very foreigner-friendly. They didn’t have a train system. You have to know which bus to take and from where. And everything is in Korean. That’s why Sunyoung was worried I would get lost (Her previous guests have all been Koreans.) Then they told me not to go first, because they ordered in Fried Chicken for dinner. Wow, seriously, I am seriously like the most satisfies customer then.
After dinner, Sunyoung offered to drive me to the bus stop where I was supposed to depart from (Another Wow).
And because I planned to climb Gajisan, a mountain near Ulsan, on Wednesday, Sunyoung allowed me to put my bags at her place for the day and pick it up the evening.
Yup I was really satisfied with this experience.
Summary of the features of Air BnB (and how they might differ from person to person):
1) You have to wait for the host to accept to confirm your place although you already book.
2) There is a great host-traveller interaction and cultural exchange. The chat during dinner was really fun and interesting.
Disclaimer: This will not hold true if your host is not staying with you. For example, if you rent out the whole house, and he just meets you to give the key. Or if he is away like I explained earlier. But it will still differ from hotels because the house will show a more in-depth understanding of their hobbies and culture compared to commercial hotels, where all the culture you may get is just overpriced local food from room service.
Overall, Air BnB and Couchsurfing are 2 types of accomodation I would like to stay in during my upcoming travels. They offer really great friends along with the accomodation. And who doesn’t like getting to know people and making new friends. Have fun!