Most do this out of a sincere desire to meet interesting people, and many are in it for the good karma, having couch-surfed themselves. This service is a boon for laid-back, budget-minded extroverts who aren't too picky about where they rest their head.
Safety is a concern for any smart couch surfer. My best tip for crashing with strangers: Always arrive with a backup in mind (such as the name of a hostel). If you don't feel comfortable with your host, just leave. Don't worry about hurting their feelings. Never let budget concerns take you outside your comfort zone.
House swapping is another free option. This works best for people with an appealing place to offer, and who can live with the idea of having strangers in their home. Unsurprisingly, those living in swanky Manhattan apartments and beachside villas have the best pick of options in Europe, but you don't need to live in an amazing home to find a workable exchange. Good places to start are HomeLink, HomeExchange, or Intervac Home Exchange.
Of course, there's nothing more culturally intimate (or inexpensive) as staying with a friend, relative, or someone you have a connection with. They don't need to be next-of-kin. If it's the son of your aunt's friend, that’s probably close enough.
Email your potential hosts, tell them when you'll arrive, and ask if they're free to meet for dinner. It should be obvious from their response (or lack of one) if you're invited to stop by and stay awhile.
If you're afraid of being perceived as a freeloader, remember that both parties benefit. A Greek family is just as curious about me as I am in them.
Armed with pictures from home and a bag of goodies for the children, I make a point of giving as much from my culture as I am taking from theirs. In the end, whether you’re paying or staying for free, you'll likely be greeted with genuine enthusiasm and a warm welcome.
Cut pounds of stomach fat every week by using this 1 weird old tip.