Since its first member was recorded in 1994, Warm Showers has been building a global cycling community one member at a time. This free hospitality exchange currently has 90,000 active members and 38,000 hosts around the world. It’s one of many popular hospitality sites like Couchsurfing and Global Freeloaders, offering low or no cost lodging for tourists, but it’s the only one specifically for touring cyclists and it’s totally free.
Warm Showers hosts are probably cyclists themselves and therefore understand the challenges of touring by bike. I can’t imagine a host any better than this when you’re on a cycling holiday! Whether you’re a cyclotourist or dream of becoming one, whether you’re a host or a guest, Warm Showers provides an opportunity to become part of the global cycling community.
Warm Showers is a non-profit corporation based out of Colorado. The very informative, easy-to-use website is managed by a small group of volunteers, something I find amazing! If you’re not already familiar with this organization, do yourself a favor and take a look. I think you’ll quickly see how unique this organization is for the worldwide cycling community.
Here are 10 facts about the Warm Showers hospitality network:
- The network is for private individuals or couples touring by bike. The network is not intended for non-cycling tourists.
- The network is completely user friendly, uncluttered and simple to use. The following chart from the website summarizes the whole process:
- 46% of the organization’s members are from the European continent, 29% from Great Britain and 36% from North America. France has the most members in Europe, almost 11,000.
- When you register, you must agree to be a host at some point in time, even if it’s not until the distant future. Registration is required in order to access the maps of possible hosts by region.
- While membership is free, the organization has launched a donor program to raise funds to improve and update the site and infrastructure. As the network grows, members are looking for more enhancements, donations help make these improvements. During the registration process you’re asked to make a donation. If you can’t, no problem. All donations are fully tax deductible.
- As a host, you specify what type of accommodations you have: a bedroom, sofa, place to camp in your yard, whether a shower is available, and is there access to a kitchen, laundry or meals. You can specify if you are willing to take the guest to dinner or sightseeing. All forms of hospitality for the touring cyclist are welcome. Hosts are not permitted to require payment for the hospitality they provide. Guests are always encouraged to contribute when dinner is provided.
- The organization provides very detailed steps for insuring personal security for both hosts and guests, with an emphasis that security is ultimately the member’s responsibility.
- Member feedback to Warm Showers is overwhelmingly positive: 99.2% of feedback in 2016 has been positive, with 17,889 positive reviews. 62 “less than positive” reviews have been submitted in 2016.
- There’s a very active Looking for Cycling Companions Folder in the Forums Section of the website. Through the last week of June there were 51 entries in the folder.
- Members are encouraged to send comments on improving the service and website organization. This can be done either by using the contact form or in the Forums Section.
In speaking with people who have used Warm Showers, it’s interesting to hear that saving money is often not the top reason for using this unique hospitality network. Rather, it’s all about community and the experience. Bicyclists enjoy traveling on two wheels because it enables them to see the world in a way few traditional tourists do. Finding special places to stay where you can interact with the owners: small B&B’s, local gites, campgrounds and hospitality networks like Warm Showers create lifelong memories. The fact that Warm Showers is free is just a bonus.
Kudos to the Board of Directors of Warm Showers for developing this wonderful network for the global cycling community!