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Do you use Couchsurfing, Hospitality Club or similar services to meet like-minded people when you travel? How do you stay safe when using these networks?

Recent news reports about an American volunteer being bashed to death in Nepal by her Couchsurfing host have solo travelers — particularly women — worrying about their future plans. The 27-year-old teacher from Austin, Texas was killed for her iPhone and some money she’d taken out of an ATM.

Staying Safe Couchsurfing

Many people have also brought up reports of an Italian man who raped a 16-year-old girl who was Couchsurfing, and possibly other people. Both cases are, of course, awful and are, from the victim’s perspective, clearly the result of running into the wrong person at the wrong time.

While there is always some risk involved when traveling, this is not the only safety issue we can control. Meeting with strangers you’ve encountered on social networks 5 Signs You Shouldn't Date That Guy You Met On The Internet 5 Signs You Shouldn't Date That Guy You Met On The Internet I was an online player. Here are the tricks I used to win women's hearts – and how to spot them. Read More is the primary risk worth noting here, and there are lots of things you can do to minimize that risk and meet somewhat more safely.

There are many useful travel apps The 6 Best Social Media Apps for Travelers The 6 Best Social Media Apps for Travelers There's no better way to explore somewhere than to do so with advice from people who have traveled there before you – and social media apps are the best way to connect with these insiders! Read More to help you get information and meet people 6 Tools to Find Awesome People with Similar Interests 6 Tools to Find Awesome People with Similar Interests Connecting with new people can help you get more out of life. Take the plunge and start making new friends who share your interests Read More while one the go. Keep these tips in mind, whatever social network you’re using.

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Couchsurfing Web-Of-Trust

A lot of people don’t know this, but there was a web-of-trust style system within couchsurfing. It’s known as “Vouching” and there are still badges that note whether someone has been vouched for.

Couchsurfing WOT

The system has been discontinued as people were using it differently than intended, but for the most part, people with a “Vouch” badge have actually met someone who has been vouched for, and have then been vouched for themselves. It’s one step above regular reviews in that the person reviewing them has already been deemed worthy.

Even though the system has been removed, the badges live on at the bottom of profiles, letting you know that this person has an extra special endorsement from someone who has also been endorsed. It’s worth knowing.

User Reviews and Verification

These days, Couchsurfing directs you to read reviews and stay with verified users — also remember people that signed up after the vouching system was canned will only have reviews and the new verification system to their name. That said, it’s really important to read these reviews properly, on whatever site you’re using.

Couchsurfing Verification

Aside from avoiding creepy people and criminals, these reviews will let you know what to expect. A couple I hosted turned up with a kitten, which was a little unexpected. Their kitten was really well-behaved though, and the guests vacuumed the room before they left, so there was no problem with it at all. So, I mentioned all of this in my review — future hosts will a) know they like to travel with pets and b) know that these two are impeccably neat and will clean up after their pet. Worth knowing, I think.

Know The Culture

It’s really important to understand the culture of the place you’re traveling to and that of your guests. I would also add that the socio-economic climate is worth noting, too. In the case in Nepal, the killer was tempted to steal from the teacher after seeing her use an ATM. What was probably a normal amount of money to her was obviously quite a lot to the Nepalese man — enough to kill for.

Couchsurfing stats

Get Lots of Details

At The Hospitality Club, visitors have to give hosts their full name, passport number and the user name. Members are also encouraged to share that information with the security team in advance for added protection. While this will never protect against senseless acts of violence and career criminals with fake passports, it will at least prove that people (on the whole) are who they say they are.

Communicate Via The Site

It’s also important to limit the amount of personal information 5 Life-Ruining Ways You Can Be Victimized Online 5 Life-Ruining Ways You Can Be Victimized Online The Internet is not as anonymous as you might think it is. If somebody wants to find out who you are and where you live, the tiniest bit of information can lead back to you... Read More you give other people. Instead of giving out your phone number and email address, users are usually encouraged to communicate via the social network. This may seem unnecessary, but it means the site in question has a record if you go missing. That could be important. Also, if you have a bad experience, your future contact will be limited somewhat.

Stay With Families and Women

Couchsurfing recommends that if you’re a solo woman traveling that you try to stay with other solo women or families in order to stay safe. While this is by no means guaranteed, and also seems a little discriminatory, statistically this is seen to be the safest option.

Tips For Women Travelers

More Safe Travel Tips

Traveling safely is more than just being careful about who you stay with. You also need to consider identity theft from passports 8 Crucial Things You Should Know Before Travelling Abroad With Your Phone, Tablet, Or Laptop 8 Crucial Things You Should Know Before Travelling Abroad With Your Phone, Tablet, Or Laptop If you're about to go international with your smartphone, tablet and/or laptop there are a few things you should know before you go. You might need extra peripheral devices and plugs, entertainment and maps pre-downloaded,... Read More , the theft of your belongings, the repercussions of losing your laptop Your Chromebook As The Ultimate Travel Device Your Chromebook As The Ultimate Travel Device If you're deciding which device to get for your next trip, you may consider checking out Chromebooks. But why choose a Chromebook for travel? Because, when it comes to travel, they are spot on. Read More or phone, making sure you have access to your money, medical emergencies and so much more.

Also worth noting is Facebook’s Safety Check How Safe Are Your Friends? (And How To Securely Donate To a Disaster Area) How Safe Are Your Friends? (And How To Securely Donate To a Disaster Area) Facebook has really moved on from being just a place to poke your friends and play Farmville, although many people haven't quite realized that yet. Have you noticed Facebook's disaster efforts? Read More feature. So, if you find yourself in a disaster zone, you can quickly update all of your Facebook friends with one click to let them know you’re okay.

One more random tip for you travelers: on iPhones you can enter your medical information in the Health app and allow that Medical ID to be accessed from the lock screen. On Android Android 5.0 Lollipop: What It Is And When You'll Get It Android 5.0 Lollipop: What It Is And When You'll Get It Android 5.0 Lollipop is here, but only on Nexus devices. What exactly is new about this operating system, and when can you expect it to arrive on your device? Read More , there isn’t a specific place for medical information, but you can add important data to your lock screen if you like, such as an emergency contact or allergy information.

What Are Your Travel Safety Tips?

Have you tried Couchsurfing or Hospitality Club as a traveler or a host? What was your experience like? Would you recommend it?

When you travel, what is the most important safety tip you always adhere to? Tell us in the comments!

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