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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.

Understand[edit]

With the Internet, new kinds of hospitality exchange have emerged. They can be a side income for hosts, or a hobby. Some exchanges have also attracted commercial actors, who may even be the majority in some regions. The stay can be for free, in exchange for money, in exchange for a stay at the guest's property either simultaneously or at another time (home swapping)

While this article will not concentrate on opportunities in exchange for help on the host's property, this topic is covered extensively under Volunteer travel.

A hospitality exchange network is the organization that connects travelers with locals in the cities they are going to visit. Joining such a network usually just requires filling out an online form; although some networks offer or require additional verification. A listing of available hosts is then provided either in print and/or online, sometimes with references and reviews by other travelers.

Each network has its own niche: free, commercial, 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. Most networks listed here operate worldwide.

Hospitality exchange can provide several positive advantages to guests:

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

Hospitality exchange on the other hand may also have disadvantages over hotel/hostel accommodation:

  • A paid hospitality exchange is not automatically cheaper than a hotel or serviced apartment; for one, hotels are economically efficient by having many rooms.
  • The exchange 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

However, it always depends on a case by case basis whether a home stay is superior over a regular hotel or hostel. A generalisation is difficult and travelers must decide on a case by case basis whether to prefer a hospitality exchange or a regular commercial accommodation like hotel, hostel, motel, etc., specifically:

  • Standards vary independently of commercial or non-commercial provider.
  • A marketing facade does not say anything about the service in real life.

Overview[edit]

The following are the major hospitality exchange networks, classified by commercial grade. Follow the link to get more details on a specific network below.

Free (or minor flat fee)[edit]

Name Link No. of listings/hosts Registration necessary? Cost/fees? Business model / financing Other services
BeWelcome https://www.bewelcome.org 120,000 (Jun 2019) Yes free volunteers, donation social network, event sharing
Couchsurfing https://www.couchsurfing.com unknown Yes US$3/month or US$15/year; free for people from some lower-income countries monthly/annual fee, verification fee social network, event sharing
Global Freeloaders https://globalfreeloaders.com 115,000 (supposedly active) Yes free donation
Horizon https://api.horizonapp.co 4,500
Hospitality Club http://www.hospitalityclub.org 328,629 (users) Yes free volunteers, advertisement
Pasporta Servo https://pasportaservo.org 1,350
Servas http://www.servas.org 14,000
Trustroots http://www.trustroots.org 8,500 Yes free volunteers, donation
Warmshowers https://www.warmshowers.org 71,281 (active) Yes free volunteers, donation

Exchange[edit]

Name Link No. of listings/hosts Registration necessary? Cost/fees? Business model / financing Other services
Green Theme International https://www.gti-home-exchange.com 1,575 Yes 3 months US$17, 6 months US$25, 1 year US$35 flat fee
Home Exchange https://www.homeexchange.com 65,000 Yes US$150/year, €130/year flat fee, affiliation
Home Link https://homelink.org thousands of home exchanges Yes €140/year
HomeForSwap.com http://HomeForSwap.com 9,000 Yes US$70/year flat fee
Intervac https://us.intervac-homeexchange.com 4,017 Yes US$115/year, €110/year + potential rental fee flat fee, service fee/commission
Staydu.com http://www.staydu.com 3,619
Switch https://switchhomes.net/ 2,000 Yes free volunteers

Commercial[edit]

Name Link No. of listings/hosts Registration necessary? Cost/fees? Business model / financing Other services
9flats https://www.9flats.com 6,000,000 Yes (ad-hoc) service fee/commission
Affordable Travel Club http://www.affordabletravelclub.net 2,400+ Yes US$65/year, US$15/night/single - $20/couple flat fee Home Exchange House/Pet Sitting
Airbnb https://www.airbnb.com 4,000,000 (incl. hotels, hostels, etc.) Yes (ad-hoc) service fee/commission, venture capital event sharing
Booking.com www.booking.com 5,720,034 vacation rentals, 628,066 apartments, 145,094 guest houses, 79,349 BnBs No (email required) service fee/commission, advertisement, affiliation
Evergreen Bed & Breakfast Club http://www.EvergreenClub.com 2,000
Google Maps https://maps.google.com countless No No (for direct contacts) advertisement, user data
Innclusive.com https://www.innclusive.com
Knok http://www.knok.com
Mennonite Your Way http://www.mennoniteyourway.com 1,700+ No US$30 for host list, US$10/nigh/person, US$2/meal (all recommended) donation
Misterbnb https://www.misterbandb.com 210,000 Yes service fee/commission, venture capital social network
Noirbnb.com http://noirbnb.com
Obunia.com http://www.obunia.com
WorldEscape http://www.worldescape.com
Zotel http://zotel.com Yes US$40/night/stay

Hospitality exchange networks[edit]

In the following, all networks, again classified by commercial grade, in order of size or reach (website), respectively.

Free (or minor flat fee)[edit]

This chapter focuses on accommodation which is free, but the related service/website needs to cover maintenance costs and may be commercial.

BeWelcome[edit]

# of hosts: 120,000 (Jun 2019)

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. BeWelcome is similar to the Couchsurfing community and supposed to be its free successor. All features of the website and stays are free (a must). 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 financed by donations of €1,700 per year and has annual operating expenses of €4,200 per year.

Trustroots[edit]

# of hosts (yes/maybe): 13,000 # of members: 67,986 (Dec 2021)

Trustroots is the new kid in town. It was launched in December 2014 targeting hitchhikers and other more alternative niche groups, though it's open to everyone. 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. It is comparable to BeWelcome with a nicer website, but might not work everywhere. It is best to register with both and just choose the right one depending on the region.

Warmshowers[edit]

# of hosts: 71,281

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

In case you are planning to hitchhike, it can be a good option to bring a foldable bicycle along to bike part of the journey and take advantage of Warmshowers. This community is very welcoming but a little closed to no-bicycle outsiders.

Couchsurfing[edit]

# of active hosts: unknown

Couchsurfing was once easily the largest free hospitality exchange platform, with both a website and mobile app. Though, it now charges a monthly (US$3) or annual fee (US$15) for access (with exceptions for users from lower-income countries). Therefore, many users have left for BeWelcome or Trustroots. 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.

Global Freeloaders[edit]

# of (supposedly active) hosts: 115,000 (Alexa rank below Trustroots)

Global Freeloaders is based on the concept of getting a free place to stay and "seeing the world from a local's perspective". It predates CouchSurfing, having been founded in 2001, but has much fewer users. Members do not send individual requests for accommodation; they blast a request to several hosts at once. According to the website, one should only register if planning to host within the next 6 month, in an attempt to guarantee an active host community. In reality however this fact is not validated. On thing that distinguishes Global Freeloaders from similar networks is that it specifically asks members to host just as often as they are hosted by others.

Hospitality Club[edit]

# of members: 328,629 (Alexa rank below BeWelcome)

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 (a must) and members can leave references for each other. However, the site has limited features and an antiquated interface.

Servas[edit]

# 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.

Pasporta Servo[edit]

# of members: 1,350

Pasporta Servo ("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.

Horizon[edit]

# of members: 4,500

Horizon is an hospitality 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.


Exchange[edit]

This chapter focuses on accommodation in exchange for your work or your home. Usually, a minor service fee is required for the associated website, see the Summary below.

Home Exchange[edit]

# of listings: 65,000

Home Exchange facilitates home-for-home exchanges of various types across the world. Members, who are then eligible to exchange homes, pay an annual fee. The website has several international affiliates, like https://www.haustauschferien.com in Germany.

Home Link[edit]

#: "thousands of home exchanges"

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.

Intervac[edit]

# of listings: 4,017

Intervac dates back to 1953 facilitates home-for-home exchanges and discounted home rentals. Annual membership fee.

Staydu.com[edit]

# of hosts: 3,619

Staydu.com 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 travelers who are looking for a long term stay. Hosts can offer their accommodation for three categories: for work, for money, or for free. However, the website seems to be badly maintained and not up-to-date.

HomeForSwap.com[edit]

# of listings: 9,000

HomeForSwap.com is a facilitator of home-for-home exchanges. The service requires an annual membership fee.

Switch[edit]

# of members: 2,000

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

Green Theme International[edit]

# of members: 1,575

Green Theme International facilities reciprocal home exchange, like HomeExchange, whereby members exchange their house for a short or long period of time with someone else. It puts a focus on eco-friendliness and had a yearly membership fee.


Commercial[edit]

This chapter focuses on accommodation which the host will earn money with (per night). Often a commission and sometimes even an annual flat fee is charged by the website. For all costs, see the Summary below.

Google Maps[edit]

# of listings: Zillions of guest houses, BnBs, and homestays besides the ones from Booking.com (as affiliate) and Airbnb

Google Maps is actually a map application but supports searching and finding countless hospitality places. The advantage of using Google Maps is that for many places you will find direct contact information like a website, email address or a phone number (for WhatsApp). If you use Google, you are potentially tracked and exposed to commercials, but direct contact to a hospitality place makes things much more personal and should be less expensive in general. And like Booking.com and Airbnb, places are often rated and reviewed on Google Maps.

Booking.com[edit]

# of listings: 5,720,034 vacation rentals, 628,066 apartments, 145,094 guest houses, 79,349 BnBs

Booking.com is mainly a hotel reservation website for commercial purposes. However, it also offers many listings of private people, like vacation rentals, apartments, guest houses, and BnBs. Especially in remote regions, it can be of advantage over other websites offering similar places. Often places are listed on several places concurrently, like hostels on Booking.com but also on Airbnb, or private apartments on Airbnb but also on Booking.com.

9flats[edit]

# of listings: 6,000,000

9flats is a website for finding and renting other people's apartments in 104 countries around the world. It was founded in 2010 by a former executive of lastminute.com and has an active host community.

Airbnb[edit]

# of listings: 4,000,000

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(s), or couch in exchange for monetary compensation. Members can read reviews left for other members and their accommodation. Accommodation 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. Many hotels, hostels and guesthouses use Airbnb, which makes it harder to distinguish between a "real" host and a hospitality business entity.

Misterbnb[edit]

# of listings: 210,000

Misterb&b was envisioned as a LGBT-friendly alternative to Airbnb. Co-founder Matthieu Jost had used services like Airbnb in the past with mixed results. After several uncomfortable experiences, Jost looked into starting his own alternative. The site is modeled on Airbnb. The main function of the website is to match prospective LGBT travellers with LGBT-friendly hosts in numerous cities throughout the world. The website encourages its hosts to make their apartments or rooms available during major LGBT events in their city. It also acts as a social networking service, travel guide, and community for gay travellers throughout the world.

Innclusive.com[edit]

# of members: unknown (Alexa ranking higher that ATC)

Innclusive.com, formerly Noirebnb.com, also aims to address issues of discrimination on other home-style platforms.

Affordable Travel Club[edit]

# of members: 2,400+

Affordable Travel Club is a bed and breakfast hospitality exchange club founded in 1992. It is for people over the age of 40. It has members all across the US and Canada, as well as Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Asia, Africa, and South America. The annual membership fee is US$65, and guests pay their host a nominal gratuity of US$15 (single) or US$20 (double) per night. Registration is online and 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. Home Exchanges and House/Pet sitting are also available through the club. ATC is a community-oriented club with regular events. It is supported by a small 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 US$75 and guests pay their host a nominal gratuity of under US$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.

Mennonite Your Way[edit]

# of hosts: 1,700+

Mennonite Your Way is focused on Mennonites, although members do not need to be Christian to join. Hosts offer guests accommodation on a donation basis, but donations are recommended. The offline lists of hosts can be obtained by a recommended donation.

Noirbnb.com[edit]

# of members: unknown

Noirbnb.com aims to find a solution to the racial discrimination experienced while using other home-sharing platforms. However, the activity and volume of the website seems to be rather limited.

Knok[edit]

# of members: unknown

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

Obunia.com[edit]

# of members: unknown

Obunia.com aggregates vacation rentals listed on other sites such as HomeAway and RoomORama.

WorldEscape[edit]

# of members: unknown

WorldEscape 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 hr a day, 365 days a year. This makes a huge difference on those rare occasions when things go wrong.

Zotel[edit]

# of members: unknown

Zotel is a website for finding places to stay around the world, with all properties costing US$40 a night. People the hosts don't know aren't allowed to stay in a property, but if you are in their "LodgingCircle" you can stay (people such as friends of friends are in your "LodgingCircle"). There are also quality standards for the properties, which include bathrooms cleaned every day, and the hosts showing guests how things like Wifi, TVs and laundry facilities work.

See also[edit]


This travel topic about Hospitality exchange is a usable article. It touches on all the major areas of the topic. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.