YOU CAN EDIT THIS PAGE! Just click any blue "Edit" link and start writing!

Hospitality exchange

From Wikitravel
Jump to: navigation, search

    This article is a travel topic

Hospitality Exchange or Home Stay is a form of accommodation whereby visitors stay in a house or apartment of a local of the city to which they are traveling. The stay can be for free, in exchange for monetary compensation, in exchange for a stay at the guest's property either simultaneously or at another time (home swapping), or in exchange for help on the host's property.

Advantages and disadvantages for the guests[edit]

Home stays can provide several opportunities to home stay guests:

  • Savings on accommodation costs
  • Personal connections with people from a different culture and/or social class
  • Local perspective and information about the city that is not easily found in guidebooks
  • A deeper understanding of the life of the locals
  • More interactions with foreigners, thereby strengthening intercultural understanding and reducing prejudices and intolerance
  • Opportunities to stay in areas under-served by hotels or hostels
  • Opportunities to stay in unique properties such as igloos, cabins, and castles
  • Compared to staying in a hotel, a home stay may result in a lower carbon footprint

Home stays may have disadvantages over hotel/hostel accommodation:

  • May require additional planning before travel
  • Last minute changes or cancellations by either the host or the guest may inconvenience others
  • Accommodation and sleeping surfaces may be less comfortable and/or have less privacy
  • Guests may be required to adhere to a schedule or follow rules set by a host, which restrict freedom
  • Accommodation may not be close to tourist attractions
  • If the guest and host do not get along, the home stay can make a visit to an otherwise pleasant city unbearable

Home stay networks[edit]

A home stay network is an organization that connects travelers with local residents in the cities they are visiting.

Joining usually just requires filling out an online form; although some networks offer or require additional verification. A listing of available hosts is provided either in print and/or online, sometimes with references by other travelers.

Each network has its own niche: some are based on monetary exchange while some require accommodation to be free, some cater to older travelers while some attract younger students, some encourage more social interaction between host and guest while others are more of a financial transaction, some are focused on home-for-home swapping while others are focused on lodging in exchange for work. Almost all networks operate worldwide.

The following are the major hospitality networks that are currently operating, in order of membership size:


# of members: 100,000,000+

Airbnb was founded after two San Francisco locals rented out their airbed during a conference that made it hard to find accommodation. The service enables members to rent out their spare house, apartment, room, or couch in exchange for monetary compensation. Members can read reviews left for other members and their accommodation. Accomodation can be searched for based on several parameters including specific neighborhoods, privacy, and price. The amount of interaction between the host and the guest varies: in some cases the host will spend a lot of time with their guests and in other cases, they will never meet at all. Airbnb collects service fees from both the host and the guest from every booking. If the guest damages the property of the host, the host may be eligible for reimbursement from Airbnb under its $1,000,000 guarantee.


# of members: 10,000,000+ (includes many inactive and never-used accounts)

Couchsurfing was easily the largest free hospitality exchange platform until recently, with both a website and mobile app, though it now charges a monthly or annual fee (US$3/$15) for access (with exceptions for users from lower-income countries) and some users are leaving for BeWelcome or Trustroots. It was founded in January 2004 after computer programmer Casey Fenton found a cheap flight to Iceland but did not have a place to stay. He emailed students at the local university and received an overwhelming number of offers for free accommodation. It later registered as a commercial company, took investments, and came under new and controversial management. The optional US$60 fee for lifetime identity verification is expected to be lowered now that the site charges a monthly fee. However, unlike Airbnb, monetary exchange between the host and guest is forbidden; beyond the subscription fee, stays are completely free. Guests can either message individual potential hosts with whom they want to stay or they can post their upcoming trips publicly and receive offers of accommodation from potential hosts. Members fill out a detailed profile that includes their interests and pictures. Guests and hosts can write references for each other, which cannot be deleted. Members can also use the mobile app to "hangout" with each other. Members can also set up events and many major cities have regular member meetings. The site's gradual commercialization has been controversial among its members, many of whom originally volunteered to help build the site under the understanding that it was strictly not-for-profit.

World Packers[edit]

# of members: 1,000,000+ is an online hospitality exchange platform for travelers and hosts from 170 countries, individuals, hostels, inns, NGOs, communities and ecological projects that you can work-exchange with and in exchange receive free stay, food, lessons and other benefits. The exact terms of any exchange are agreed in advance between the host and volunteer and worldpackers only acts as a conduit. The duration of an exchange hospitality can range from a few days to over a year and beyond upon renew an agreement.

Hospitality Club[edit]

# of members: 328,629

Hospitality Club lists over 300,000 members, although based on the limited activity on its website, it appears to be defunct. Its concept is similar to Couchsurfing, in that accommodation is provided by hosts for free and members can leave references for each other. However, the site has limited features and an antiquated interface.

Global Freeloaders[edit]

# of members: 115,000

Global Freeloaders is based on the concept of getting a free place to stay and does not necessarily encourage cultural exchange as does Couchsurfing. Members do not send individual requests for accommodation; they blast a request to several hosts at once.

Be Welcome[edit]

# of members: 120,000

BeWelcome was founded in early 2007 and is grouped in the non profit BeVolunteer organization. It is based on the free and open source BW Rox. BeWelcome is a website run by BeVolunteer, a non-profit association legally registered in Rennes, France. Members of BeWelcome do not have to be members of BeVolunteer. All features of the website are free. There are no ads. It is 100% volunteer run. Travelers can contact each other via the website with accommodation requests and leave references for each other after they meet. The website also includes a forum, contacts management, map search, and allows for set up of events. Profiles can be translated into other languages to make finding a host easier. The website is currently financed by donations of approximately €2,000 per year.

Warm Showers[edit]

# of members: 100,000

WarmShowers is an online hospitality exchange organization for touring bicyclists that want either indoor accommodation or just a break from cycling and a warm shower.

Home Exchange[edit]

# of listings: 65,000 facilitates home-for-home exchanges of various types. Members pay a fee of $150/year.


# of members: 50,000 is a portal that aggregates vacation rentals from various sites including Homeaway, Homestay, and The site was founded in 2009 by executives of and Expedia.[edit]

# of members: 34,000

Trustroots is a non-commercial Couch surfing replacement. I was launched in December 2014 targeting hitchhikers and other more alternative niche groups. As of November 2018 you can only search by map, and the website is very usable on mobile phones, and there's an app for Android. The software is open source and the network is run by a UK non-profit foundation.

Home Link[edit]

# of members: Tens of Thousands

Home Link was started in 1953 as a way for teachers in different cities to swap homes for the summer. It facilitates home-for-home exchanges of various types.


# of members: 30,000

Intervac dates back to 1953 facilitates home-for-home exchanges and discounted home rentals. Members pay a fee of $99 per year and a free 20-day trial is available to new members.


# of members: 30,000

Trampolinn is a network whereby members earn points by accommodating others in their homes, which in turn can be used to stay at other members' homes.


# of members: 27,200

Help Exchange, or HelpX, was launched in April 2001 by computer programmer Rob Prince from England. Hosts offer guests long term accommodation in exchange for help. The website is most popular in Australia and New Zealand.[edit]

# of members: Over 24,000 hosts offers an opportunity for travellers to provide help for about 5 hours per day to local hosts in exchange for food and lodging.

Volunteers (or "Workawayers") build an online profile listing their specific skills, interests or ambitions along with a video and photos of themselves. An individual exchange worker sign-up account subscription costs a fee of $42 USD (€36 euros, cost as of 2019 year) per 12 months, after which it can contact any of the hosts on the website and discuss a possible exchange arrangement. It is free to register as a host. Hosts also create a profile outlining the exchange they are proposing and the type of help that they need. The types of help are varied include gardening, permaculture, computing, car driving, children care, domestic animal-care, household, cooking, manual labor, construction, others.

Workaway is aimed at budget travellers and language learners looking to become more immersed in the country and culture they are journeying through while allowing local hosts to meet like-minded people who can provide the help they require. The exact terms of any exchange are agreed in advance between the host and volunteer and Workaway only acts as a conduit. The duration of an exchange can range from a few days to over a year.


# of members: 17,200 was created by two German students who had the vision that everybody should be able to travel without spending a lot of money. Everyone can use staydu, but the focus is on low-budget traveler who are looking for a long term stay. Hosts can offer their accommodation for three categories: for work, for money, or for free.


# of members: Over 14,000 hosts

Servas was created in 1949 by Bob Luitweiler, an American who lived in Denmark. Servas recommends that guest apply at least 4 weeks in advance of travel. Participation in Servas requires 2 letters of reference and paying a membership fee, which varies by country, and a personal interview with a local Servas coordinator. After the interview, the traveler gets a "letter of introduction" that's good for one year of travel, and a list of hosts in the countries he or she is visiting. Travellers contact prospective hosts in advance (lead time varies as defined by each host), giving estimated dates of travel, and they may be asked to reconfirm one or two days in advance of visit. They can stay with hosts for up to 3 days and 2 nights. Hosts provide sleeping space. Meals may be provided as well as assistance in visiting the city or area. At the end of their trip, Servas travellers are expected to provide a report to the local coordinator with any information that may be useful.

Go Cambio[edit]

# of members: 5,200

GoCambio is an exchange website that connects people who have a place to stay with someone who has something to share. Hosts share their homes, and guests share their skills in music, sports, cooking, or languages. In most cases, the host accommodation and breakfast in exchange for 2 hours of tutoring from the guest. The host and the guest agree on the conditions before the cambio takes place. A cambio usually lasts 1-2 weeks.


# of members: 4,500

Horizon is an exchange network designed to promote hosting and travel within specific trusted organizations. It allows travelers to reach out and connect with hosts with whom they belong to a common group or have a mutual friend. It therefore also allows various groups and organization to strengthen their community by promoting travel, hosting, and sharing within the group.

Affordable Travel Club[edit]

# of members: 4,000

Affordable Travel Club is a bed and breakfast hospitality exchange club founded in 1992. It is for people over the age of 40. Members pay an annual membership fee of $75 and may receive a printed directory or access to an online directory. Traveling members pay a gratuity of $15-30/night to their hosts. ATC is a community-oriented club with regular events. It is supported by staff.

Evergreen Bed & Breakfast Club[edit]

# of members: 2,000

Evergreen Bed & Breakfast Club is a hospitality exchange network for people over the age of 50 and is mostly active in the United States and Canada. There is an annual membership fee of $75 and guests pay their host a nominal gratuity of under $20/night. Registration is online. Members receive online access where they can search for hosts in locations they want to travel to and interact with Google Maps to help plan trips. There is also a Member Lounge for blogs, managing accounts and profile and classified ads such as Home Exchanges. The Club has paid-staff and a toll free number.

Working Traveller[edit]

# of members: 1,700

Working Traveller allows travellers to 'negotiate' what they would get in exchange for their skills from hosts. The site allows hosts to set what they are willing to pay, in terms of a bed, food, or money using a barter point system and a traveller can set what barter points they want to charge. This makes the site different from more traditional volunteering sites and more focused to career minded travellers looking for references on their return home to get a job.

Pasporta Servo[edit]

# of members: 1,350 ("passport service") is a home stay network for speakers of Esperanto, an international auxiliary language. It's sponsored by TEJO, the World Organization of Young Esperantists, who publish a book each year listing thousands of hosts in 80 countries. Travelers pay a fee for the yearly host list. Hosts ask no fee for rooms, but each sets their own requirements for duration, number of visitors, contact ahead of time, and whether or not food is offered. Some hosts ask for compensation for food. Hosts receive the host list for free. All travelers are expected to communicate with their hosts in Esperanto. Coordination with the service is in Esperanto, and the host list is in Esperanto.

Green Theme International[edit]

# of members: Unknown

GreenThemeInternational facilities reciprocal home exchange, whereby members exchange their house for a short or long period of time with someone else. Membership costs $40/year.

Handy Travelers[edit]

# of members: Unknown is an online hospitality exchange organization that offers homestay for travellers. Hosts can offer their homes and show Travelers how Locals live.

Help Stay[edit]

# of members: 2000+ is a community of people who travel with a purpose. HelpStay makes traveling and volunteering easy, safe, affordable and accessible to everyone. HelpStay provides a highly-vetted and trustworthy online community where Helpers can connect with Hosts to find a safe stay, that suits their skills and interests for giving back.

HelpStay facilitates the introduction of travellers and hosts for short-term work in exchange for accommodation.

In general, a host will provide 1-3 meals a day and accommodation in return for about 20-30 hours of work per week from a volunteer. Hosts may also provide additional perks such as free internet, laundry, language lessons, use of kayaks or bikes, and local excursions. Some may offer live-in accommodation with the host family, a separate guesthouse, or lodging in a hostel, sailboat, or beach hut. Stays are usually at least one week in duration, allowing for a real local experience. ‘Work’ can be anything from working with animals to help around the house. New members can register as a volunteer and/or host. Searches can be conducted by age, gender, nationality, work type, languages spoken, travel dates, etc. A feedback mechanism also exists for rating other members and leaving comments about their experience with one another.

Hippo Help[edit]

# of members: Unknown

Home For Swap[edit]

# of members: Unknown is a facilitator of home-for-home exchanges. Membership costs $93/year.


# of members: Unknown facilitates home exchange and apartment rental for families traveling with children. New members pay a listing fee of $29/year.

Mennonite Your Way[edit]

# of members: Unknown is focused on Mennonites, although members do not need to be Christian to join. Hosts offer guests accommodation on a donation basis.


# of members: Unknown aggregates vacation rentals listed on other sites such as HomeAway and RoomORama.


# of members: Unknown

Switch is a facilitator of home-for-home exchanges. The site is free.

World Escape[edit]

# of members: Unknown offers peer-to-peer short-term rentals focusing on unique and stylish accommodations in 40 cities around the world. Properties are hand-picked by WorldEscape representatives before being entered in a database organized by city. Booking service is very hands-on with WorldEscape managers on the ground in each of the cities that support both guests and property owners in person 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. This makes a huge difference on those rare occasions when things go wrong.


# of members: Unknown provides $40/night lodging worldwide with specific quality standards as well as trust built through chain of connections between hosts and guests. Zotel leverages six degrees of connections to build the chain of connections between hosts and guests. This chain of connections provides an immense amount of trust for everyone - so much that more people are willing to open their doors for hosting at a fixed price of $40/night worldwide while maintaining specific quality standards. It also enables guests to have a trusted travel experience in every corner of the world - even more trusted than unknown hotels run by unknown managers. The reputation among the chain of connections also provides a huge incentive for hosts to exceed the specified quality standards.

This is a usable article. It touches on all the major areas of the topic. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!