Would you open your home to a traveller free? Well, some Kenyans have and are ready to let you sleep on their coach or spare room.
“Couch surfing” which refers to the practice of temporarily lodging with a stranger — free of charge is picking up in Kenya.
Simon Wanjonah, who has hosted non-paying guests in his Malindi villa for years, says he does it not just to let stranger sleep on his bed or couch.
He gets to meet new people and learn about their culture. The 'couch surfers' immerse themselves in local culture as the host will often show them round the city and welcome them into his or her daily life.
“I have a spare bedroom where I have hosted visitors from Canada, Tanzania, Peru, Germany, Uganda, Sweden, Chile, Hungary and the UK. We do not charge them. They come and learn our culture. Some who had preconceived ideas of Africa, come here and they get a culture shock,” says Simon. The downside is that tourists who want free accommodation are now abusing the CouchSurfing.org hospitality-exchange network whose popularity grew in the interest of cultural exchange.
“Sometimes it is tricky because there are people who want to tour places not for them to understand the culture but because they do not want to pay for accommodation,” says Simon.
He has however made friends in UK and other countries.
“If I want to go to the US, UK and South America I am sure I cannot stay in a hotel. I have made very many friends from there,” he says.
As a host, he is wary of people who mention that they are looking to party or free accommodation. It also helps to send honest and personal couch surfing requests.
If you are interested in finding a host, fill out your online profile in detail with information such as hobbies and cities or countries visited, skills you can teach others, favourite music or books. Post photos of yourself.
For safety, if you are looking to be accommodated, read the profiles of the users where you want to stay, reviews and their references carefully. Choose people who are verified and rated well on the Couchsurfing website.
Simon also advises one to spend time with their host and get to know them well besides enjoying the free accommodation.
The most important of all is to keep the host’s house tidy and do not outstay.