WarmShowers.org is a FREE community-run website that enables individuals traveling by bike to find hosts around the world who are willing to put them up for a night or two during the middle of their travels.
If you are familiar with websites such as CouchSurfing.com or GlobalFreeloaders.com, then you are already familiar with the concept. The only difference with WarmShowers.org is that this website has been designed specifically with bicycle travelers in mind… and many of the hosts are bicycle tourists themselves, so they understand the needs of traveling cyclists more than someone on the CouchSurfing or GlobalFreeloaders website(s).
I’ve been using WarmShowers.org as both a host and a traveler for more than a decade now and I have stayed with dozens of WarmShowers hosts all around the world over the past 20 years as I have slowly made my way around the planet on my bicycle.
The experience of being invited into a strange person’s home and spending the night in their presence can be a bit frightening at first, but in most instances, this experience is incredibly rewarding.
As I mentioned previously, many of the people who host bicycle travelers on the WarmShowers.org website are bicycle tourists themselves, so when you stay with someone on the WarmShowers list, you will almost instantly have something in common to talk with your hosts about. Many of my hosts have been quick to share the photos, videos and stories from their own bicycle touring adventures with me when I have stayed with them in the past… and swapping stories is a great way to instantly connect (host and traveler) during this somewhat uncomfortable initial exchange.
While there are many benefits of using the WarmShowers website to find free accommodations when you travel by bike, there are some disadvantages to using the WarmShowers list (or any of these other free lodging travel websites).
As I discuss in the video/podcast at the top of this page, the main reason I so rarely use the WarmShowers website myself is because I find the back and forth exchange of emails with the hosts to be extremely difficult and time consuming when I am traveling by bike.
Often times, when I’m traveling on my bicycle, I am not in an area where I have phone or internet access, so I have to go to a public library or find another way to access the WarmShowers website in the first place.
Then I need to send out an email to at least one or more WarmShowers hosts in the area where I wish to stay. This email usually needs to be sent several days in advance, so your hosts know when they can expect you to arrive at their home… and the act of estimating the time of your arrival in a far off, unknown city can be extremely difficult when you are traveling on a bike.
Finally, there is the issue that many of the WarmShowers hosts simply never respond to your requests for free lodging… or if they do respond, they may respond too late. By the time you arrive in town, you have yet to receive a response from any of the hosts, and are forced to find accommodations elsewhere.
Sometimes the email exchange between hosts and traveler is quick and convenient, but many times it is not. And this is the main reason I have personally chosen to only use the WarmShowers website in rare instances.
The other reason I rarely use the WarmShowers website (and this is something I did not mention in the video above) is because after a long day of cycling, I find it exhausting to have to be social and entertaining with my WarmShowers hosts. I don’t want to just come into their home all tired and smelly and then completely ignore them. I want to be a good guest… and that usually involves staying up and talking with them (sometimes late into the evening). After a long day of cycling, I usually just want to take a shower, eat some good food and relax or go to bed. I don’t want to have to be extremely social (which I find to be quite tiring) and/or stay up late talking with my hosts.
While I do rarely use the WarmShowers website nowadays, there are three main instances when I look to WarmShower.org as a source for free accommodations…
The first and most common reason I use the WarmShowers website is because I am traveling into a big city and I don’t want to pay the overinflated prices for accommodation in that city. For example, the last time I was in London, England, I stayed with some people on the WarmShowers list instead of paying outrageous fees for a hotel.
The second instance when I usually opt to stay with someone on the WarmShowers list is when I am either starting or finishing a bicycle tour. This is especially true when I am flying into a big city at the start or end of one of my bike trips. This is a good time to use the WarmShowers list because with my airplane tickets booked well in advance, I know exactly when I will be arriving and departing in that city… and I can easily communicate with my WarmShowers hosts well in advance to let them know what my plans are. In some instances, a WarmShowers host may even come to the airport to pick you up…. or will drive you to the airport at the end of your bike tour, which not only gets you a free place to stay on your travels, but also a free ride to or from the airport as well.
Finally, I will stay with individuals on the WarmShowers website when I am conducting a short, circular-style bike tour with my vehicle. I will drive my car, for instance, to a city where a WarmShowers host is located. I will spend one night with the WarmShowers host and then leave my car at their home for a number of days while I go off on a multi-day bicycle tour. Then, at the end of my trip by bicycle, I’ll return to my vehicle at the home of the WarmShowers host, where I will take a shower, visit with my hosts once again, and then take off either that same day or the following day in my vehicle. This is not necessarily the way that the WarmShowers website was designed to be used, but it is a way that I have repeatedly used the WarmShowers service for myself, and it is something you might also like to try for yourself in the future.
So, there you have it! That’s a quick introduction to WarmShowers.org – a free, community-run website that enables individuals traveling by bike to find free accommodations from a network of hosts all around the world.
If you have not yet signed up for WarmShowers (as either a host or a traveler), be sure to head on over to the WarmShowers.org website right now to sign up.
And if you are already a member, leave a comment below and let me know what your experience has been with the website.
Have you hosted others traveling by bike? Have you stayed with WarmShowers hosts on your own bicycle touring adventures? What have been the best and worst moments when using the WarmShowers website for yourself? And what advice or recommendations would you give to others who hope to use the WarmShowers website for themselves in the future?