Either you are currently using Couchsurfing and you want to improve your progress or you are completely new to Couchsurfing and want to look into the possibilities. Not to worry, I have put together this blog post to completely help you along your journey towards finding your first successful Couchsurferng host.
It’s the one helpful website that puts you into contact with a local to engage in a unique travelling cultural experience with someone you’ve only exchanged a few emails with, it’s for this reason I enjoy using Couchsurfing and want to help others to gain the same experiences.
I’ve been lucky as I’ve not yet to have one negative Couchsurfing experience and I hope by offering the below advice you can give it ago and have many successful surfing experiences for yourself.
Couchsurfing is much more than a method used for free accommodation, it’s much more than that; it’s a community.
Couchsurfing puts travellers and people who live in the local communities together. It allows you to network and share your culture by offering whatever you have to share with people.
For a large majority that like to use the project, they will offer their couch for the night, maybe even a spare room if they have it or a blow up mattress or some floor space.
Some prefer to just meet up for a coffee and a conversation or maybe even half a day of sightseeing around their city or maybe even a meal. Lots of endless possibilities and every Couchsurfing experience will be a different one.
For me travelling is about the people you meet and Couchsurfing offers that gateway directly into a local person’s life. You can see how someone lives their life differently, culturally and socially, and you learn way faster about the local culture than you would reading a book, or exploring the city.
The rare chance to step into a local shoe and see the place you’re visiting through their unique eyes. You could visit the same city and have a totally different experience whilst using Couchsurfing. I think it’s bloody brilliant and I hope you enjoy using it too on your next travelling adventure!
Rules to help you find your first successful Couchsurfing host
Finding your first successful Couchsurfing host can be tricky and confusing, as you have to learn a lot very fast. Once you get into the swing of things, you unlock many great future Couchsurfing hosts. Here are some tips on how to make your first couchsurfing experience successful.
Fill out your profile
Very important. When Couchsurfers gather requests they want to get to know what you’re about as a person. Hosts don’t just host everyone because they are friendly they generally want to meet people they can connect with to make the experience enjoyable on both ends. Filling out your profile will attract people who share the same interests as you. This might even be the languages you speak or the places you have travelled to. No info then no reply, its that simple, who wants to host someone with no information? It works both ways and they need to gain your trust to.
Upload a bunch of recent pictures of yourself doing things you love and visiting the places you said you have been to. People want to see what you look like and if they can match your pictures up with what you’re saying in your profile, then trust comes into the picture and helps hosts to feel good about putting you up. They can also inspire talking points for your future meeting. Couchsurfers love to talk, so photos help break the ice when it comes to bringing up topics to talk about.
Don’t just send requests out to everyone, read their profiles as well and check them out. It’s just as important that you understand the person you’re messaging as much as it is for them to find out stuff about you. Avoid hosts that don’t have photos or much information on their profiles and check if they have had past guest and referrals to backup who they are. Just because they are offering a couch doesn’t mean that they have good intentions. A large majority of Couchsurfers are good people, but it doesn’t automatically mean everyone is. Anyone can create a profile on the web in a matter of minutes, so it’s important you do your research as well. Read up on the people you request and make sure you’re comfortable and satisfied that you like them well enough to message them. After all, it’s not just about a free place to stay its about a unique experience with someone new so make sure you have enough in common to make it enjoyable for both.
Send personal messages
Don’t send copy and paste messages to hosts as they will just ignore you, make it personal. Write about what you read in their profile and what they have in common with you that you like and let them know that you have read their profile. It shows that you have taken the time to do it and will make it a fun Couchsurfing experience for the both of you. I like to bring up similar destinations that we have both visited or destinations they have been to that I’ve not yet discovered, this means you have something in common or at least something to talk about.
Demanding everything on arrival is horrible, bring along your own bedding and towel and mention this in the email, hosts will be grateful that they don’t have to worry about you and you can look after yourself. Helping out the host in this way makes it easier for them to agree with your hosting request as they don’t have to worry about a lot of things if they don’t have them. But a lot of the time they will be happy to share towels and sheets if they have them, just don’t expect them as it comes across a little rude. They are not a hotel company just a friendly host wanting to help out a traveller in any way they can, if this means just a floor space then that’s just the ticket. You can purchase a small pack down towel and silk sheet that takes up no space at all in your backpack.
Don’t be seen, be heard.
You will most likely be sleeping in the host’s social area on the couch, which means that they can’t use that room if you’re using it. Be mindful of this and respect the host’s space. Every morning wake up when the host wakes up and fold your sheets and put them away neatly so it’s out of the way and the room is usable. Don’t dominate all their space and make them feel unwelcome in their own home. It’s not your home so respect this and make it clear that you don’t want to take over their house, they will get along with you so much better if you do. Your Couchsurfer host could be either a student sharing a house or living in a small apartment in the city so freeing up space when the host wishes to use it is very helpful. This is the same for your bag, make sure you pack everything up again after use and don’t leave everything all over the host floor.
Smelly backpacker’s syndrome
If you smell and you know it, ask your host nicely when you arrive if you can freshen up and apologise whilst saying you’ve been on the road. This is very polite as it shows you want to be nice and presentable around the host and your host’s friends. If you smell and don’t say anything, it can be uncomfortable for the person hosting you. If you highlight it, they will completely understand as it’s what happens when you travel and respect you for wanting to deal with it. Many hosts will also offer the use of laundry if you want to clean clothes but don’t expect it. Wanting to be clean in their house is very polite and they are normally very happy to offer the use of a shower.
Never expect anything
Be grateful for whatever your host can offer. If it is just a space on the floor, then so be it, be prepared for it and don’t complain. They are not a hotel and are going out of their way to help you out. If they do have a spare bed, great! And be grateful to them for doing that for you as well, they don’t have to put that on for you.
Arrange a meeting?
If you arrange to meet up, make sure you are not only on time, but early, leaving a Couchsurfer waiting for you is incredibly rude. Also make sure you leave enough information and have an easy to reach phone number available to make contacting each other as easy as possible. If you are delayed do communicate this with them so they can find out as they might have other plans or arrangements they can get on with rather than waiting for you.
The worst thing you can do, is arrive at a host’s place and have nothing to do. It comes across as if you’re just staying with them for no reason. We all have ideas of what we want to do in the places we visit, so make sure you have a few suggestions up your sleeve. The best thing you can say is ‘I was hoping for some unique things to do that only locals know about’, along with your few suggestions this will help make it easier for your host to come up with some fun things to do and help you to get along.
Be able to be independent
Some people can only offer a couch overnight and will have work during the day. Always suggest that you’re happy to be alone and to do your own thing. Make sure that you’re up and out of the house with them so they are not late for work as that would be horrible. Also use the toilet room quickly so you’re not holding them up when they are preparing for work, this helps to make them feel happy they are hosting you and not stressing them out by making them late for work. If they do work, meeting up for a meal or drink when they finish can give your host something exciting to look forward to during the day, so do suggest this.
Food and drink
Never under any situation expect that you will get food. Always pay your way for everything and if anything is offered be very grateful for the host for doing such a thing. If you go to buy food, offer to help pay for items or go Dutch with the shopping bill. It’s just as polite as they shouldn’t be paying for you as they are doing a lot as it is. But if they say ‘please, no it’s not a problem I’m happy to pay’, don’t keep pushing them to pay, just be thankful for the food they are providing and preparing for you. You can always offer to cook the next day, which is a nice gesture.
When out drinking I always offer to buy my host a drink and the same goes for museum fees or bus tickets. They are taking you out and being a guide, so the least you can do is offer to pay for their things, especially the tourist attractions. Again, if they want to pay for themselves, don’t force it, just offer the polite gesture in the first place. You don’t want to offend people because they might get the impression that you think they can’t afford to pay for themselves, which can be offensive in some cultures, but offering first time won’t offend anyone.
Give them something at the end
It’s always polite to say thank you to your host when you leave. They have just let you stay at their place for free and I’m sure you have both had a memorable experience. You don’t have to shell out on a bottle of wine every time you Couchsurf (of course you’re very welcome to if it’s in your nature to do so and you’re happy to do it, it’s a lovely gesture). But even a box of chocolates, a nice, thoughtful letter, or maybe even an offer to cook one night as a thank you gift. Be creative and give something back, it will make them remember you and they will feel grateful inside for you doing such an awesome thing.
Always offer to host back
Couchsurfing is not a one-way project, you should give back too. Hosting can be a wonderful thing to do after travelling around the world and you miss meeting new people and learning about new cultures, so why not do it in your own place and host travellers that come to you? Also, always offer your hosts to come and visit and stay in your city if they ever pass by, it’s the least you can do for their travels and will make them host more people in the future.
Always leave reviews
It’s a very polite thing to do and spend as much time as you can to write a nice long message as it helps future Couchsurfers when finding a host and makes the host feel good for hosting you in the first place.
When you first start Couchsurfing you’re going to find it hard to find your first couch so do make sure you write a nice message to the host and fill out your profile with lots of updated pictures. I’m sure someone will host you if they find you interesting and have the time. Stick at it, as it’s tricky to find your first host, but once you have a good 10 reviews from successful surfing experiences it will open the door to many more opportunities in the future.
As you have learned by now Couchsurfing is not a resource for free accomodation its much more than that. it’s a unique gateway directly into a local culture and the chance to meet new people and create friendships that can last a lifetime. Hosts want to equally experience what surfers get out of Couchsurfing its a two way street and with this in mind you will have a great time Couchsurfing. Just remember when you return to host others that are travelling, you were once in there shoes and the community needs hosts as much as surfers to keep this great community going.
Finally you don’t even need to use Couchsurfing to find a place to stay, the community has many other uses which you can read about here: Using Couchsurfing for other reasons than a place to stay
Best of Luck with finding your first successful Couchsurfing host !