In case you have not heard of Couchsurfing, it is an idea where people open up their homes to strangers by offering a place to sleep, either in the form of a couch, a room, or a space on the floor. All for free. The idea might seem intimidating at first to both a host and a surfer – how can you trust a stranger?
Well, Couchsurfing has the safety of their members in mind as well and they have built in mechanisms to help ensure that your couchsurfing experience is a safe way to learn about the local cultures as well as to give back to the traveling community.
If you've just recently joined Couchsurfing, here are some tips to get you started as a host or as a surfer.
1. Fill up your profile as much as you can.
Your profile is your chance to show potential hosts / surfers that you are not simply interested in looking for a free ride. Couchsurfing is supposed to be a cultural exchange. Blank profile pages scream that you do not really believe in the whole spirit behind the site.
2. Add a picture (or 10)
Pictures are worth a thousand words. If you're hosting, pictures of where your guests would be staying would be ideal. Do not dress it up and be up front about the accommodation you are offering. If you're looking to surf, a nice, clear pictures of yourself is paramount. No one would really care about what your cat or the back of your head looks like.
3. Take time to read a profile
t is in your best interest to get to know the person you'll be staying with as much as you can. Take the time to read their profile and their interests. If the person you are interested in hosting / surfing goes to bed early because he or she has to work in the morning, and you are a party goer – it might not be a good match. But there is no way to tell other than reading their profile thoroughly.
4. Do not send cookie cutter couch requests
Cookie cutter requests are obvious. It is always better to personalize your couch requests by including little tidbits about yourself or your host to show that you have taken the time to read their profiles. By doing so will increase the chance that your requests will be approved.
5. Update your host / guest with your travel plan
If your arrival date may change, mention so. If you're planning to host but you might be away around their arrival day, warn your potential guest. Keep each other abreast with your travel plan because showing up at an empty house or waiting around for a no-show is a sure way to ruin your couchsurfing experience.
The best thing to do is simply to give it a try. Couchsurfing community is a wonderful, open-minded, and welcoming community. It does not matter that it's your first time surfing or hosting being assured that if you are guaranteed a cultural experience that staying in a hostel or a hotel will not be able to provide you with.