How to Do Couchsurfing Like a Pro
Nowadays, the poster child for the sharing economy is Airbnb. However, many people forget that CouchSurfing was leading the way for close to a decade. It’s true that many hosts left Couchsurfing for the financial benefits of Airbnb, but the platform is still going strong.
One of the biggest appeals of CouchSurfing is that there’s no money involved. As such, the connections between travelers work mainly through generosity. Because of that, you’re a lot more likely to create friends for life.
Once you understand the core values and rules of a “perfect” CouchSurfing host and surfer, you’ll be able to make the most of your Couchsurfing experience.
Remember It’s Not a Hotel
A big mistake new couchsurfers make when they start using the platform is believing it’s just about free accommodation. They look for couches and beds in amazing locations, don’t interact with their hosts, and merely treat them as hotel staff. That’s a massive no-no!
Not paying for your bed is arguably the smallest benefit you’ll get from a CouchSurfing experience. The idea is to enjoy the host’s home, learn about their culture, teach them about yours, and have the chance to truly see a new destination from the local’s perspective.
Imagine you’re going to visit a childhood friend living in another country, what could you do to bring a smile to their face? The act of couchsurfing is not too different; the host is just a friendly stranger who you haven’t had a chance to meet yet.
Is there a local delicacy that you could give them to show a bit of your own culture? If you’re an expert painter or excellent craft artist, could you create a memorable piece of art to give as a gift? At the very least, remember that a bottle of wine or box of chocolates will always be welcome.
Set Up a Killer Profile
Having a killer profile is extremely important for both hosts and surfers as it’s the main way people can find a little bit more information about you. If you just fill out minimal details about yourself or do it in a sarcastic or vague way, people will be less inclined to accept your couch requests or decide to stay at your place.
Ideally, you should be as thorough and honest as possible. Talk about your hobbies, recent trips, job, interests, and anything else that might make it easier for a stranger to truly know who you are. In that way, it’ll be a lot easier to find like-minded people or avoid the ones you know you won’t click with.
Cook a Meal for Your Host
Much like bringing gifts from home, cooking a meal for your host is another great way to show a different side from your own culture. It’s true that you might not always be able to find the ingredients you need. However, the whole point is about giving something back in a fun way.
You could surprise your hosts by cooking a delicious omelet for breakfast or maybe some yummy pancakes? If you’re actually a good chef, why not go all in and cook a Michelin-starred meal they will never forget? It might seem like a small gesture, but your hosts will surely appreciate it.
Create Clear House Rules
When you decide to host people from other countries in your home, it’s important to remember that cultures vary wildly. What’s normal for someone might be shocking for you. To avoid any misunderstanding, it’s better to create some house rules.
If you prefer that people left their shoes outside your house or that they didn’t cook a specific time of meal, or even no noise after 10 p.m., you should write it all down and let them know in advance.
Show Them Your Favorite Local Places
One of the reasons people couchsurf is to move away from mainstream tourism and find the gems that are not usually available for outsiders. Your “job” as a pro host is to give the surfers exactly that — an experience that will make them feel like they’re locals — even if it’s for just one evening.
Is there a bar or restaurant where the majority of the patrons are locals? Or maybe a nearby park with a lovely walk by the river that not many tourists know about? Just remember that what might be something ordinary for you, could be something spectacular for a traveler.
Make Sure Your House Is Clean
It goes without saying that if you’re opening your house for other people to stay, it should be clean and comfortable. Every now and then, there are some horror stories of people staying in homes they describe as filthy pigsties.
Of course, you shouldn’t necessarily go out of your way to have everything spotless as if the queen is staying with you. At the end of the day, it’s your home and its imperfections are what make the experience more authentic.
It’s Better to Over-Communicate
Much like creating house rules, proper and clear communication is the best way to avoid future and unnecessary headaches. Nowadays, it’s quite easy to find traveler SIM cards all over the globe, which will help you communicate with your host.
For instance, if you agreed to arrive by a certain time and you’re going to be late, make sure to let your host know immediately. This gesture will ensure they don’t have to worry about your safety.
Send Personalized Requests
When you’re using Couchsurfing as a host, it’s super easy to identify the requests that were carefully created specifically to you and the ones that were blasted to all hosts with the intention of scoring a free night somewhere.
It’s not uncommon for hosts to add a code word such as “bananas” at the end of their profile and ask surfers to add it to their requests to check if they really read it through. By sending a personalized request, you’re showing that you are interested in your host and want to create a meaningful connection with them.
Think About Safety
Unfortunately, couchsurfing is not without its risks. A quick browse online will probably unearth the worst cases. While you can’t always predict if someone is an evil person, it’s possible to take precautions against it.
It’s important to read the reviews thoroughly and gather as much information as you can about your host and surfer. If you arrive at the person’s home and still feel something is off, trust your gut instincts and just move out as soon as possible.
Find People with a Similar Vibe
When you meet people who are extremely different from you, there’s a strong chance you can learn more about each other, see their points of view, and probably grow as a person as you both become better humans. However, it can lead to some unwanted clashing.
For instance, if you host someone who’s 50 years old, they might not be as inclined to go partying with you as a 20 something would be. Or a strictly vegetarian household could have problems with an outspoken carnivore.
Make an Effort to Interact
Traveling is all about exploring a new city, its sites, the local cuisine, and much more. But when it comes to couchsurfing, one needs to take into consideration the interaction between hosts and surfers.
Even if you’re visiting a place with dozens of amazing attractions like Rome, it’s essential to reserve some time to enjoy the host’s company. You may forget statues and parks, but you will never forget a traditional meal cooked by a local.
Respect the Host’s Schedule
If the host leaves every morning at 7 a.m., comes back at 6 p.m., and specifically requested that you left the house during that period, you should do as you’re told. Just remember that while you’re traveling and having fun, they probably need to go to work like everybody else.
Most of the time, if they agreed to let you in their home, they’ll try to find time to get to know you better. However, unexpected events might arise. If that’s the case, just be grateful you got to see a bit of their world and try to meet again in the near future.