Couchsurfing is a great way to meet people & save money while traveling
If you are a budget traveler who loves meeting locals and enjoy conversations with strangers, than couchsurfing is perfect for you. However, just as it is important to be a good couchsurfing host, it’s even more important to be a good couchsurfing guest – after all, the guest is the one that needs the favor. Here are a few tips on how to find the perfect host to how to being the perfect guest everyone would love to host!
Complete Your Profile
This is one of the most important things about couchsurfing. Couchsurfing is a community built on trust and it’s really hard to judge if someone is safe/trustworthy if there’s no information to judge from. Make sure to put in an effort to complete your profile and make it sound like yourself as much as possible. This is what sets you apart from other guests who might be sending requests to same hosts as well. Put more than 5 photos that show YOU. The reason hosts check out photos on the profile is to see what you look like not a photo of the sunset you saw in Hawaii or the wine you drank in Spain. Make sure the photos represent who you are as well.
Remember, couchsurfing is a group for people who love to experience new things, travel and share experiences with others. It’s about meeting people and wanting to learn from their experiences so keep that in mind when you are filling out your profile!
Writing an Itinerary
Once you create a couchsurfing account, you can write an itinerary for where you are going. I’ve been very successful with this tool. I’ve gotten invites from hosts without even having to send them a separate request! If you are still a month or two away from your trip, don’t send personal requests just yet (no one is planning that far ahead especially when they are not traveling). Instead, write an itinerary and see if you get any invites. Don’t get any invites? Don’t worry, you can start sending individual requests later when it gets closer to your travel date.
When writing an itinerary, try to be as specific as possible and show a little bit of personality! The usual ‘I’m going to be in Boston from March 6 – 10. I need a place to stay” is boring and has no character. Instead, tell people why you are visiting the city, what you would love to do and what kind of a guest you are. Here’s an example of what I wrote:
” I am on my way to Berlin from Copenhagen for a conference and couldn’t resist stopping by Hamburg. If anyone could host me for a night or 2 or 3, I’d love to meet ya! I’m pretty easy to host – I’ll sleep on the floor if I have to. I just want to meet people and have someone to show me around if anyone’s available. If you have to leave the house early, don’t worry – I can be an early riser too!”
Choosing a Host
Choosing a host, whether it’s from the list of people that invited you to stay with them or it’s people you are looking to write requests to, is the most important part about couchsurfing. Just because someone sent you an invite doesn’t mean you should accept it right away.
Like I mentioned before, couchsurfing is more than just having a free place to stay. A stranger is being kind enough to offer you a place at their home. In order to be respectful, it’s important to read their profile and make sure that they are actually the right host for you. Will you get along? Do you have similar interests? Making sure that you choose the right host who you’ll spend great time is doing both you and the host a favor!
There are of course safety issues as well. Even though I’ve never encountered any myself, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Read their profiles thoroughly. Read their references. Are there any negative references? What do the hosts say about the people that have stayed with them? Check their photos out and see if they are verified (they don’t always have to be verified). Once you’ve read the profile thoroughly, your judgement and gut feeling will work the rest out.
Writing an Individual Request
Most often than not, this is how you will find hosts. Don’t write requests to people months before you arrive. It actually inconveniences a lot of people. Instead, wait at least a month or even two weeks before your trip to start sending requests (there may be exceptions – such as NY where hosts get a lot of requests). The worst you can do with your request is copy and paste. I’ve had so many requests from people who just copy and paste. How do I know? Because my name isn’t ‘Ramon’ or ‘Jennifer’. If you get my name wrong, chances are, I probably won’t host you. It shows that you didn’t take time to write or even to proofread your request.
Show your personality. Boring requests are so hard to read and can be even annoying to have to decline. Similar to writing itineraries, share why you are traveling to the city and what you would love to explore. Then, with all the information you collected from reading the host’s profile, let them know why you chose THEM specifically and what things you have in common. Even things like “I want to learn more about this/that from you” is great. I’ve had some requests that made me smile or laugh out loud – I will host you if you genuinely sound like a fun, nice and caring person. Here are some fun requests I’ve received from people:
“I`ll be heading over to Boston this Saturday and was wondering if you could perhaps help me out with a place to stay? I`ve been stuck in New York for the past days and hoping to make it out this Saturday. I would greatly appreciate it!
PS: I`d love to ask you 1,000,000 questions about South East Asia, heading over there in December.”
“I’ve been going through some Boston profiles, and I really love yours!! You seem like such a fun, interesting and positive spirit, and we completely share the same (couchsuring) philosophy and believes in the small things in life, so I really hope you can host us and find some time to hang out with us as well!
I too love brunch, coffee, whiskey, wine, dancing etc. and Mishca shares a lot of those as well, so I have no doubt, that we would have a great time and lots to talk about!”
“I decided to contact you since you have presented yourself as an outgoing and communicative person who likes coffee, straight whiskey and wine. It would’ve been better if you also liked beer, but that’s good enough hahaha. Also, I found it interesting that you were born in Cambodia. I don’t know that much about your country but I have already read something about Angkor Wat and in history classes I recall being taught something about the Khmer Rouge.”
I would host these people in a heartbeat!
Still no luck finding hosts? There are emergency couch request groups in pretty much all cities. Hosts that are part of the group are usually more likely to accept last minute requests if they can. So, make sure to post it on those forums as well. If not, do go back to the ones that you requested before just to double check. Sometimes people may miss the request or plans might change! If you are in trouble trying to look for a place to sleep, it doesn’t hurt to try!
Did you successfully find a host? Congratulations! Now, the most important part of surfing; remember to be respectful, friendly & thankful. A stranger has invited you to their home for free so going the extra mile to make sure you are not in their way and showing them that you are grateful of their kind gesture will go a long way. And even more importantly, have fun and make new friends!