guides & articles

Related listings

Latest Postings

Subscribe to the hottest news, latest promotions & discounts from STClassifieds & our partners

I agree to abide by STClassifieds Terms and Conditions

Travel & Holiday

Stay in room abroad hosted by S'poreans?

Group to create network of overseas-based citizens willing to open homes to countrymen
The Straits Times - April 23, 2012
By: Janice Tai
| More
Stay in room abroad hosted by S'poreans? Mr Bryan Lim hosted Slovenian Vesna Verbosek, 22, when she visited Singapore. -- ST PHOTO: MIKE LEE

A GROUP of Singaporean students in London are starting up a 'couchsurfing' network of overseas-based Singaporeans who are open to giving visiting fellow Singaporeans a place to spend nights.

The portal will be just as much for those seeking to travel this way too.

To be launched in September, it is based on, a global hospitality-exchange network which pairs travellers with locals willing to open their homes or show them the town for free.

The key appeal of couchsurfing has been in the cultural exchanges that take place when hosts anywhere from Pakistan to the Vatican to Antarctica offer their 'couch' to travellers.

For Singaporeans who have yet to warm up to the idea of staying in a stranger's home, doing so in a fellow Singaporean's home might just be the ticket.

Mr Wong Wen Hao, 23, is looking to develop the portal called Project Host, which stands for Homestay for Overseas Singaporean Travellers, with two friends.

The student of the London School of Economics and Political Science said: 'In linking up Singaporeans with those who live overseas, it's highly likely that they could be your friends, friends of friends or even friends of friends of friends, so some would feel less apprehensive.'

He added that it is not necessarily 'safer' to stay with a Singaporean, but that a sense of familiarity would be there, and connections are more easily made.

He and his friends Gwee Yi Jie and Chen Lujie came up with the idea of a Singapore network after positive couchsurfing experiences with fellow Singaporeans in France and Korea.

To gauge the demand for such link- ups, the trio polled 250 Singaporeans studying overseas, members of Singapore societies and Singapore student associations worldwide - groups that would probably be frequent but budget-conscious travellers. Eight in 10 respondents had not couchsurfed before, but said being able to stay with a Singaporean would encourage them to get into the game.

When couchsurfing took off globally in 2004, Singaporean members numbered only 17. By 2009, the number had shot past 5,000; today, it is close to 17,000. Worldwide, the community across more than 250 countries is four million strong.

Mr Wong is targeting overseas students first, but hopes to expand the portal to include working Singaporeans based overseas and travellers from here.

The average age of a Singaporean who will throw open his home to a couchsurfer or be one himself is 28.

Couchsurfer Bryan Lim, a 21-year-old full-time national serviceman, has stayed with about 30 hosts in countries like Australia and Vietnam on his travels and has, in turn, hosted about 50 travellers in his home in Serangoon in the last two years.

He said: 'Couchsurfing is a different way of travelling. It is not so much about having a checklist of big buildings to visit, but the spontaneity of small connections formed. You see and understand a lot more about a place this way.'

But he is not keen on joining a community of Singaporean couchsurfers. He said: 'What's the point of sticking to Singaporeans in a foreign land? That takes away the fun and being on the edge.'

But account executive Karina Tham, 23, likes the idea because couchsurfer and host are likely to have mutual friends.

She added: 'That will give you peace of mind, knowing that the mutual friend can vouch for your host's integrity.'


Wheelie adventurous

Isle of the gods