Couchsurfing is a super important part of many budget trips. It gives you the opportunity to sleep for free, to poop and shower in a place that’s not a forest, and to make some delicious instant noodles. Most importantly, couchsurfing gives you the chance to meet really incredible people and fellow travellers that will shower you with stories about their journeys and maybe even help you get inspired when it comes to your own trips.
There is a big chance that you already know what couchsurfing is – it’s difficult to consider budget traveling without hearing about it – but we will quickly and briefly explain it for those who are unfamiliar with it. Couchsurfing is a website that helps you find a local person that will offer you a couch, bed, mattress or just anything to sleep on. It is completely free (you can get a verified account but we don’t recommend that – you can read about it later); you just need to use the ‘search’ option, find a nice person, message them and you have a place to sleep!
Of course, since you are probably already a traveler and know how to use the internet, we won’t teach you how to sign up on couchsurfing but we will focus on how to easily, and without stressing out too much, find a great host. Here are our 9 sacred rules of couchsurfing:
1. Make sure your profile is full of important information
Imagine you are a host. You don’t want to offer your safe place to someone you have no idea about; you don’t want to spend time with a person with a completely different approach to life (or maybe you do?); and, definitely, you don’t want to have a creep in your house. That is why your profile is super important. You can write a lot about yourself there – how cool you are, how many countries you’ve visited, what amazing things you’ve done in your life, add your interest, your passions – everything that you enjoy doing.
Couchsurfing’s way of earning money is asking users to verify their accounts through payment. This is not obligatory and actually won’t improve your cs experience; People usually don’t care about it. It just means your cs browsing is ads free.
2. Upload some nice photos showing your beautiful face
Besides information on your profile, photos are also extremely important. People want to know that you are a real person and that the pics you uploaded are of you and not some fake, download ones of Donald Trump- We once found a profile of a guy who only had pics of helicopters, tanks, and the white house. Judging by the cover is not good, but, as we all know, people tend to put more trust into someone who doesn’t look like an always grumpy and unhappy asshole.
Your face should be clearly visible. Your host is reassured that you are a real human being and it also makes it way easier for you to find each other when you decide to meet up somewhere.
3. Find a host with similar interests
Since you will be spending some time with them, you might want to make sure that you have some topics to talk about. You can find some help using the couchsurfing tags. We know that a lot of people don’t use them and don’t even know they exist but for us they’ve been a big help. When we are looking for a new host, first we look in the “queer” tag; it’s super nice to talk with some other LGBT+ people and there are a lot of them on cs! If tht fails, we try the “vegan” tag, “dumpster diving” tag, “cat” tag and so on. That way we are more sure that we won’t end up in some homophobic, rasist, transphobic, sexist place; and maybe we will also have a cute kitty to pet.
4. Write personalized- not copy-paste- requests
Everyone wants to know that you’ve read their profile and you know who they are. This is why copy-paste requests are a no-go. Each and every request has to be personalized: you should mention something from your future-host’s profile to reassure them sure you’ve read it. Sometimes people want you to prove that you did it and they hide some info that you need to write in your request- like a secret password or an answer to some riddle. Sometimes they are easy to find; but sometimes, even if you read carefully you can have some trouble with it and it may feel like you private little treasure hunt.
There are situations that you might find yourself in- emergencies where you need to send millions of requests in a short time. To make it easier, we recommend you to copy the beginning of your message since they all usually start the same way. You write who you are, where are you going, how many days you want to spend there and so on. There’s only so many ways to personalise that, so we think it’s acceptable to copy this part of your request. But -of course- later, you need to write personal stuff about your future-host.
5. Exchange basic info
Be sure to exchange basic information about yourselves like phone number or address. You want to make sure that you have the ability to contact your host in case of any emergency; even if something happens and you are offline.
We recommend to do it just after both you and your host confirm your stay at their place -so you are sure you have a place to sleep in and can look it up on a map.This will also make it easier for you to plan your trip.
Let’s assume that you did everything right and you found yourself a warm and cosy place to sleep in, and that you managed to get to your new short-term home. Now you need to know what to do there.
HOW TO BEHAVE AT YOUR HOST’S PLACE
6. Respect your host and house rules
The most important part is to respect house rules. Be a nice guest and show some respect. We know that you want to visit every tourist attraction in town and you do not have time for cleaning up, but try to keep your part of the room clean and tidy, do not make a big mess. Even though that’s the opportunity to shower that you’ve dreamt of after a busy day – don’t take too long. Try not to be loud in the middle of the night. And remember that some places also require some additional caution: in some houses you shouldn’t cook meat; in some, where the children are, you should be quiet after 7pm; and in some you need to remember to keep the doors to the bathroom open because a cat is also pooping there.
Also, show respect and try not to judge your host. Everyone can have a different opinion on some topic and if your new friend is convinced that they won’t be able live more than a week without a steak – don’t call them a cow murderer; just remember to be nice. You can show your point of view, you can even try to convince that person, but don’t offend anyone. Also, be tolerant – remember that people come from different regions, have different skin colours, have different religious beliefs , have different sexual orientations and so on. As a traveler you should always try to be open-minded.
7. Spend time with your host if they are up for it
Couchsurfing is mostly about meeting new, great people; exploring the city like a local and making new friends. Remember that! Your host’s place is not a hotel. You are not sleeping for free – you are sleeping at their place in exchange of your company, your stories and your time. So make sure to hang out with your host if they want to. Of course, sometimes you want to have some free time and you are allowed to feel fed up with people – especially when you are both couchsurfing and hitchhiking. You might want some alone time and just enjoy the city in silence. In that case, just tell your host that you want to explore on your own; But still, remember to spend at least mornings/evenings together if they are up for it.
8. Make sure to communicate; Keep in touch with your host
Make sure you and your host are on the same level and both of you know at what time are you going back to their place; if you are going to meet up for dinner with them or not. Remember to be specific – say you’d be home ‘around 8pm’, not ‘sometime in the evening’. You don’t want to end up with your ‘afternoon’ being in fact host’s ’11pm’ and ending up locked outside for an entire day without any food.
Keep in touch with your host in case yours or theirs plans has changed. If you meet some amazing people somewhere on the street and they invite you to hang out with them and go rock climbing -you can go with them; But first, remember to ask your host if they are ok with you coming back later.
9. Write a decent reference
After your stay remember to write a reference! Your host will certainly leave you one- and you will need it – it’s going to make your future host finding way easier, since everyone checks number of positive references you have on your profile. So always remember to give them one back – it will make them happy and it will make you a thoughtful guest. Don’t write only one sentence; explain in the reference what you’ve done together, what their house looks like, what kind of person they are and recommend them to the next potential surfer.
If you haven’t used couchsurfing – definitely give it a try! For us, it’s a great adventure and opportunity to meet new, amazing people. Spending time with the locals gives you a chance to explore the city from their perspective. They can give you tips and a lot of information that you won’t be able to find in any guide. They will tell you about their own lives, their own travels and there is a big chance that they will inspire you!
Because of couchsurfing, we made a lot of changes in our own life: we are now starting a foodsharing project in our city; we are making a delicious vegan bread spread made from avocado; we are more inspired when it comes to art; we are more comfortable with our bodies and now we know that it is ok to not shave it we don’t want to; we tried local cuisine and now we are more open when it comes to food; and many many more.
If you use couchsurfing, tell us in comments about your tips and tricks to increase your chance of finding the perfect host for you!