General questions & registration
- How does BeWelcome work? What is it all about and how can I join?
- BeWelcome is a hospitality exchange network. The idea is very simple: Every member of the network has a profile. Members can search for other members at their travel destination, check out their profiles and send them a message. Most members of BeWelcome offer hospitality to travellers and/or can show them around. If that sounds good to you, just sign up, fill in the form and submit it.
You will need to enter a username, your real name, an e-mail address, your date of birth, gender and your physical location (only city and country, no detailed address). Although this information is required for signup, your e-mail address, real name and birth date will be invisible to other members by default. Only your username, age, gender and location will be visible for other members (in your personal settings you can later choose to hide your age and gender too).
After you submit the signup form we will immediately send you an e-mail to the e-mail address you provided and ask you to confirm your registration. Once you've clicked the confirmation link you can browse the site and use all its features straight away.
- Is joining free of charge? How can you provide a service like this without a membership fee?
- Yes, joining and being a member of BeWelcome is free of charge. The open source website is run by BeVolunteer, a non-profit organisation of volunteers who created BeWelcome to promote "friendship and better understanding across boundaries". We encourage you to dedicate some time and contribute to the community through hosting, meeting other members or helping to run the site.
Although the website is non-profit and completely run by volunteers, we do have some costs (such as servers, domains, administrative fees, etc.) which we hope to cover through donations. For more information, please also read the FAQ about how the project is financed.
- Can anybody become a member of BeWelcome?
- The minimum age for joining BeWelcome is 18. Other than that there are no restrictions - everyone who likes to travel, wants to share stories of his/her adventures, and would like to meet interesting people is invited to sign up. BeWelcome is a great way to meet friendly and like-minded people from all over the world. This website is also a significant resource for travel information and provides many tools that can help you to plan your next trip or document a previous journey.
- Is your service intended for families as well as individuals?
- Yes, of course! Families are very welcome to join and use BeWelcome. To join as a family you have two options: (1) Either you create one profile for the whole family or (2) you sign up individually and link all family members' profiles by adding each other in the section family and close friends.
The latter option has the advantage that you can keep the information about each person (for example, hobbies, interests, gender etc.) separate but still be visibly linked as one family. If, however, you choose to create one joint profile for the whole family, this information can get a bit confusing. Therefore, in such cases, we ask you to distinguish the interests, hobbies etc. of different family members on the profile.
We also have a group for families where you can find other families using BeWelcome or members willing to host/meet families.
- Are couples required to register separately?
- As a couple you have two options when joining BeWelcome: (1) Either you create one joint profile or (2) you sign up individually and link your partner's profile by adding each other in the section family and close friends.
The latter option has the advantage that you can keep the information about each person (for example, hobbies, interests, gender etc.) separate but still be visibly linked as one couple. If, however, you choose to create one joint profile, this information can get a bit confusing. Therefore, in such cases, we ask you to distinguish the interests, hobbies etc. of each of you on the profile.
- How can I be sure that other members of BeWelcome are trustworthy? How can I get information about my potential hosts or guests? What is my protection against criminals coming to visit me?
- Your safety is very important for us. That is why BeWelcome offers several features to help you make informed decisions about who you think is trustworthy enough to be your host or guest:
- A person’s profile is the most important place to get information about this person on BeWelcome. Essentially, it is a self-presentation and you should always keep this in mind. However, a profile can give you a first impression of that person, how he/she presents him-/herself and what are his/her interests, preferences and quirks.
- A profile may also include comments from other members as well as about other members. If you do not want to rely on self-presentation only, these comments will tell you what experiences other members had with this person. However, when reading comments, please bear in mind that for various reasons many find it more difficult to write honest comments about a not-so-good experience than to write flattering comments about a good experience. Comments may therefore not always tell the whole story, or never be written at all. In addition to the comments written about the member in question, also the comments that this member has left on other profiles might be of interest and reveal some of the member's personality.
- The section "Family and close friends" on the profile shows you who this person lives with or who are his/her best friends. This means that you will probably meet these people too if you are staying with this member. Check out their profiles as well to find out more about them too. This section is sometimes misunderstood and may include members who are not that close. The text will often reveal that. Please use this section only for relationships which are relevant for other members in the context of hosting.
- In cases of serious complaints against a member we might put a warning on that member's profile (or depending on the situation, remove this member from BeWelcome completely) to make sure you are aware of reported serious safety issues with this member.
Please always remember that your safety relies on your own judgment and decisions. BeWelcome is dedicated to helping you make informed decisions about hosting/staying with other members and to support you in critical situations. While we do what we can to help you, we cannot take any responsibility for your personal actions and the final decision and responsibility for your safety is yours. If you are nervous about hosting or meeting someone, don't do it. Always use common sense in protecting yourself and your property.
Each member contributes to keeping our community as safe as possible by reporting abuse quickly in order to prevent it from spreading. If you become aware of a member abusing the services or displaying misconduct, please inform BeWelcome through the contact us form or by e-mail to safety [at] bewelcome [dot] org and write a comment as appropriate to warn others who interact with that person.
For more information, please visit our Safety pages.
- Will other members be able to see all my personal data?
- BeWelcome allows you to decide for yourself what kind and how much information you want to make visible on your profile. The only required information that will be made visible on your profile is your username and the city and country you reside in. You can hide your real name (or part of your real name), address, birth date, age, and gender. Since your email address will not be displayed for spam protection and other security reasons, members have to contact you through the site. All other information that you can enter in your profile is optional.
However, please keep in mind that the site is about making connections between real people and most people are very hesitant to reply to or contact users with empty profiles. For this reason, we recommend that your profile adequately presents your personality without revealing your private information such as your address or phone number.
- I have just signed up for BeWelcome but I have not received a confirmation e-mail and cannot log in to my account. Can you help me?
- Please check the spam folder of your e-mail account. It sometimes happens that automatic e-mail confirmation messages are marked as junk by e-mail providers or by the safety settings in your e-mail program. If you find the confirmation e-mail there just click on the confirmation link and you should now be able to access your account.
If you cannot find the confirmation e-mail in your spam folder either, you might have made a typing error when entering your e-mail-address into the signup form or something else went wrong. In this case, please use the "resend" link that shows up when you try to log in or contact us through the feedback form. In the field for your question, please shortly describe the problem and also add your chosen user name and the real name you entered at signup. Please do not send us your password. In the field for your e-mail address, please enter the same address as the one you used for signup.
- I have a second address and I can also host there. How can I inform other members about this?
- At the moment you can only be listed with one address. You could add your second address to your profile summary and thus inform people about it. Please be aware, however, that you cannot be found in the city's list of your second address. In the long run we hope to be able to provide a better solution than that.
- I have lost my password. What can I do?
- Get a new password here.
A new password will then be sent to your mail account. Please change the password soon to prevent abuse and to make sure you will remember your password more easily.
- I heard that BeWelcome is an open source project. Where can I find the source and more information about that?
- BeWelcome is indeed the first non-profit and open source based travel and hospitality exchange network. You can find more information and get access to the source by visiting our developer’s corner.
- What is hospitality exchange?
- Hospitality exchange, also known as accommodation sharing, hospitality services, and homestay networks, often refers to centrally organised social networks of individuals who trade accommodation without monetary exchange. While the concept of free accommodation could also include house swapping or even time share plans, it is associated mostly with travellers and tourists staying with one another free of charge. Polish sociologist Paula Bialski even calls it “emotional tourism”, because meeting locals indeed involves a lot of emotions and maybe this is exactly how it differs from the mainstream package tour.
Since the 1990s, these services have increasingly moved away from using printed catalogues and telephone lines, but members often use Internet websites. These have grown exponentially since 2000 and as of March, 2007 over 500,000 people are registered users of these networks, which vary in operational structure, layout and geographic focus.
However, hospitality exchange offers much more than just free accommodation. Some members do not offer a place to stay, but instead provide dinner, a guided tour, tourist information or will help find a cheap hostel or alternative means of accommodation. Also those travellers who face most difficulties – like people with disabilities – find great opportunity and help in networks like BeWelcome, where members can both invite travellers with wheelchairs (according to the accessibility of their place) and use the search function to find the very same hosts.
Motivation and quality of social networking
Why do people join social hospitality exchange networks? The basic motivating factors for membership - and they very much influence the quality of later social exchange - include:
- to meet interesting, open minded, people
- to meet locals and to gain an insider view
- to save money through the offer of free accommodation
- the wish for flexibility and freedom of choice when travelling
- to get contacts, pursue effective networking
- to improve language skills
Factors influencing the quality of exchange within hospitality and culture exchange networks
Based upon those motivations the main factors which influence the quality of exchange have been identified to be:
- the need to be ready and willing for interaction with other members
- a friendly approach of members resulting in interest and curiosity
- the mutual seriousness and effort put into the process of establishing contact between two members
- an open and positive atmosphere within the network
- a non-judgmental approach towards other cultures
- a common ground facilitating successful communication
Opportunities, risks and limitations
But what are the opportunities, risks and limitations of how hospitality exchange networks can influence the quality of social exchange between host-guest relationships?
The opportunities include:
- to discover culture and traditions through the eyes of a local
- an understanding of cultures which can remove stereotypes and misunderstandings
- broadening of education
- promoting peace
- make people care about situations and conflicts in other cultures
- make them realise differences and help overcome them
The risks include:
- incomprehension, misunderstanding and stereotype thinking based on individual experiences with members
- generalisation of culture according to experience
- ‘black sheep’ abusing the network (burglary, spam or dating)
- failure to cope with confrontation of different habits and customs
The limitations include that:
- hospitality exchange networks mainly address open-minded and curious people
- a high level of tolerance is needed
- members are not representative for entire culture
- access may be difficult to some part of the community: due to lack of technical equipment, financial resources or social prejudices
(Taken from a bachelors dissertation written by BeWelcome member kiwiflave.)
BeWelcome: one project, many target groups
BeWelcome is a project open to many different interest groups and backgrounds. Leisure travellers, ex-pats and business travellers, scientists, local communities and the tourism industry as a whole - all take advantage of BeWelcome.
You want to know more?
List of significant hospitality exchange communities:
- Warm Showers
- How did BeWelcome develop? Why was it founded and by whom?
- BeWelcome is a project of the French non-profit association "BeVolunteer". You can read up on the history of BeVolunteer on the BeVolunteer website.