Even though a lot of people have heard about Couchsurfing and use it to travel, to host people, to show someone who’s new in town around or to have a cup of coffee – there’s still a lot of people who don’t have a clue about what Couchsurfing really is and how it can change your life. Not only have I traveled way more since I started using it, not only have I had great experiences with my hosts… I also made some really good friends through this lovely and useful social network. Therefore, I have decided to create a little Couchsurfing INTRO and HOW TO – to get more of you to try it 🙂 :
1) DISCOVER WHAT COUCHSURFING IS
Couchsurfing is a social network for hospitality exchange, meeting new people, hanging out with the locals or having your own tour guide in the city you have decided to visit. It’s a great way of traveling more with less – as you don’t pay anything to stay at someone’s place. It’s a great way of getting to know the place you’re visiting better – as your host surely has better tips than the guidebook you bought. And it’s a great way to make friends all over the world and to learn and experience new things.
2) CREATE A PROFILE
Once you have decided to join Couchsurfing, just like on every other social network you have to create a profile. The important thing is to write a fair amount of things about yourself and to fill in all the sections. The more information there is about you, the bigger the chances of someone accepting your Couchsurfing request.
3) BE CLEAR ON YOUR HOSTING AVAILABILITY
You also have to know that in order to be hosted by someone you DO NOT have to host them back. Some people prefer accepting guests more than traveling elsewhere, some people prefer traveling but do not have their own flat or a couch to offer… That’s all fine – on Couchsurfing you can either host people, get hosted or do both – no counteroffers are required. There are also people that don’t even need accommodation but use Couchsurfing to find people who are willing to show them around the city, to have a coup of coffee or to show them the city’s nightlife. There’s a section on your profile where you should state your hosting availability.
4) GET GOOD REFERENCES
There’s a Reference section on every person’s profile and that’s really crucial in order to get hosted, to host or to meet up with someone. Every time you stay with someone or someone stays with you – you’ll write references about each other at the end. The more positive references you have, the bigger the chances of getting hosted or meeting new people are. It’s also important to be honest – if you had a bad experience with someone – you should write a bad review (you don’t want other couchsurfers to have to go through the same hustle you had to). The good news for newbies on Couchsurfing is that you can get reviewed even if you’ve never had a Couchsurfing experience. Just like on Facebook – you can add your friends that have a Couchsurfing profile as well – and you can write reviews about each other. It’s true that reviews from hosts or guests are more valuable but in the beginning that’s the best you can do.
5) START SURFING
Now that you have your Couchsurfing profile and it looks damn good – start to surf! Decide on where you want to go and type the name of the city in the search bar. You’ll get a list of hosts in the destination of your choice. I suggest sending as many requests as you can – some people don’t reply, some people reply late… And it’s always better to be safe then sorry.
6) WRITE A NICE AND CLEAR CS REQUEST
Don’t send a generic request – couchsurfers don’t react to that well. Check out the host’s profile and see whether you have something in common, then emphasize it in the request. If you happen to know the language the host speaks I find it a nice touch to say something in his/her language. Tell the host why you’d like to meet him/her. Be clear about the arrival and the departure time – so the host can organize his time. If you’re the one hosting people make sure they’re very clear as well. If you’re just looking for someone to show you around or have a cup of coffee it’s not necessary to go into so many details. Once someone accepts your request try to communicate through another social network or to talk on the phone – you’ll get a better feeling of what the person is really like.
7) BE FLEXIBLE
Some hosts offer a separate room, some offer a bed in their own room, some offer a couch and some offer a floor where you can sleep. Since you’re the one who is saving money on accommodation through Couchsurfing you have to be flexible and adapt to the situation. After all you are the one who decided to couchsurf.
8) BREAK THE ICE
It might be a tad bit unpleasant to arrive at a host’s place – after all you don’t know the person and you’re supposed to spend a couple of nights there. It can also be unpleasant for the host. So try initiating conversations, show an interest in what the host/the guest does or likes. You want to avoid the unpleasant silence considering the fact that you might be spending a lot of time together.
9) DO SOMETHING IN ORDER TO SAY THANK YOU FOR ACCEPTING MY REQUEST
Each time I couchsurfed I brought a small gift for my host in order to say thanks for welcoming me in your home. Usually it was a small thing from my home country – like a bottle of rakija (our traditional drink) or some traditional sweets. That’s always a pleasant surprise for the host. Also, one of the evenings I’d spend at my host’s place I’d offer to buy the groceries and to prepare dinner – that won’t cost you much, but it shows you’re making an effort and feeling grateful for the host’s acceptance. You can also offer to help around the house, to clean something up or run an errand.
10) RESPECT THE HOUSE RULES
Even though most of the people that participate in Couchsurfing are extremely laid back, outgoing and flexible – make sure not to put your host or guest in inconvenient situations. If he/she needs to work late, find your own entertainment around the city and adjust to his/her timetable. If he/she needs to sleep early, try to be quiet – after all that’s the host’s place and his/her rhythm should not be disturbed because of you. However, in most cases hosts will go out with you to show you the nightlife, give you advice on what to check out in the city and try to hang out with you as much as they can.
11) CLEAN UP AFTER YOURSELF
Once your stay is over, clean up and leave everything like it was upon your arrival. There are no housekeepers here like in hotels. You were staying with a person that welcomed you into his/her home and the least you can do is keep everything clean.
12) LEAVE A NOTE OR A CARD
I think it’s very nice if you write a note or a card in order to thank him/her for hosting you. I always write something funny and nice referring to the days I’ve spent in someone’s home. That’s a nice final touch. Once your Couchsurfing experience is over – write a review and try to keep in touch (of course – if you enjoyed spending time with that person. A guy that hosted me once is one of my best friends now).