Meeting New People While Traveling Just Got Even Easier With This Online Community

Technology can be an excellent ally when traveling. Along with GPS assistance, searching for local events, and, of course, reading restaurant reviews, staying connected online can also help you meet new people — both locals and fellow travelers. While there are a few online travel communities, the popular Couchsurfer app has evolved in recent years to include a hangout feature that helps facilitate meetups, aptly named Hangouts.

For the uninitiated, Couchsurfer has been around since 2004 and has remained popular among travelers. The app promotes budget traveling by inviting individuals on the road to crash at locals' homes free of charge. In turn, Couchsurfers are encouraged to host other travelers when possible as a way to pay it forward.

While the Couchsurfer app isn't for everyone, as some may feel uncomfortable staying at a stranger's house for free (or hosting someone for free), the trust and open-mindedness required to join Couchsurfer does lend itself to Hangouts, one of Couchsurfer's most popular features. Added in 2016, Hangouts follows the same social dynamic of Couchsurfer, but without the couch or the overnight stay. If you're someone who really enjoys meeting new people while traveling, then Hangouts may be something worth exploring.

How to join or create a Hangout

Couchsurfer was initially created to help people travel on a budget — and it still does. However, over the years, Couchsurfer began to morph into a community of like-minded travelers, with member meetups and message forums. The Hangouts feature promotes this community aspect of Couchsurfer, providing a platform for members to meet one another in person.

Similar to other social apps, such as Tinder, Couchsurfer members create a profile with a short biography, picture, and traveling status. When traveling, users can hit the "Browse Hangouts" button to browse other members in their area. If there's someone you're interested in meeting, you can connect over the platform first, chat online, and decide if you'd like to meet. You can also ask to join a group that has already made plans to meet.

Unlike Tinder, there is no romantic inference when you choose to meet people. However, people are people, and some travelers have experienced uncomfortable incidents using Hangouts.

Member reviews of Hangouts

While Hangouts isn't designed to facilitate romantic meetings, some Couchsurfer users on social media shared incidents of local males scanning Hangout pages, presumably waiting for opportunities to meet female travelers. However, members pointed out that simply ignoring these questionable profiles, which usually lack profile information or connections with other members, was easy.

On Reddit, Couchsurfer members discuss a range of opinions concerning the Hangout feature. While some users did mention the need to avoid "creepy" profiles, many female members felt this threat was a bit overblown. "I use hangouts, and so far, I found it to be an amazing experience. I meet so many wonderful people from different countries in the hangout, and we had a great time," wrote Reddit user littlepanda1983. "I'm a lady by the way, but I am also very selective with the profiles, and I rarely ever hang out 1x1."

Reddit user Cld8 said, "Yup, I've used hangouts and events. They are hit or miss, but I've had some good experiences." This was largely the consensus of others who've used the Hangout feature. Overall, many people felt that Hangouts were usually positive, especially group Hangouts in popular tourist destinations, such as Prague or Barcelona.

It's worth mentioning that Couchsurfer is now behind a paywall, requiring members to pay a nominal monthly fee to join the community. Although some members were critical of the firewall, others felt that the fee actually helped to weed out bad actors.