A new trend of local accommodation has sparked amongst budget-travelers called couchsurfing. No, it does not mean riding on a couch down a mountain, but simply staying on a stranger’s couch, at their home, for free. The whole concept originally just meant crashing at a friend’s house for a couple nights. Now, it is commonly known as the social media network that has over 12 million users that network throughout 200,000 cities. It may not appeal to everyone, but it is merely a new way to meet locals and make new friends. Here are some tips on how to have an incredible Couchsurfing experience on your next trip.
Do Your Research
With so many options and so many hosts, the options of where to stay can be exhaustive. Look for people with like interests, and those who you may feel you will connect well with. If your host responds to your request, try looking them up on Facebook, just to make sure that they are legitimate. It is very important to be safe when considering a place to stay. Know exactly where you will be staying and always trust your gut feeling. When looking through their profile, make sure that you read your host’s profile thoroughly. This can help you be more sensitive during your stay. Are your hosts vegetarian? Are they cleanly? Do they have pets? All these could help you determine whether or not you should stay at a certain place.
First impressions are important, right? In this case, it could really be the make or break of your Couchsurfing experience. Introducing yourself thoroughly is important as it will help your host decide why they should or shouldn’t host you. Think of it like Airbnb; there are hosts and guests, or in this case, couchsurfers. In order to confirm your spot at your host’s house, send them a message to introduce yourself and politely ask to stay on your visit. Make sure you give as much advance notice to your hosts as possible. If they are available, then you should have no problem staying at all! Writing a personal email is always nicer—and more professional. The more personal you are in an email, the more likely you are to win your host over. Also, the more references on your profile that you have, the more likely you are to be accepted.
Show Your Appreciation
The cool thing about Couchsurfing is it’s free - the hosts cannot charge. However, there is nothing nicer than receiving a gift when doing something nice for someone. So why not bless your host with one? This could be anything from something from your hometown or a gift card to a restaurant in their area. As an act of kindness, this is a good way to thank your host for opening their home to you.
The Golden Rule
We all know this one: “Treat others as you’d like to be treated.” If you had someone come and stay in your home at no charge, and they used things like food or toiletries, you would expect them to replace it. Therefore, you should do the same. If you offer reimbursement, the host will probably decline, but it’s at least nice to offer.
NOT a Dating Site
Let’s just get this out of the way now: this is NOT a dating website. This is not Tinder. Couchsurfing was never intended for such habits or practices. It is recommended that if you are a male, reach out to males or couple hosts only, as things could get messy if you’re not smart. Just be wise and balance your options.
Cherish the Relationship
The whole point of couchsurfing was for one individual to be able to go to another’s home and crash, but it’s developed into something better. Now, the philosophy is to bring people together and to expand worldviews and the travel picture. An important aspect of this is developing friendships, so treating your host as you would your own friend could make all the difference.
Be cleanly. Clean up after yourself. Ask what you can do around the house. Ask if you can cook your host’s dinner. Offer to clean the home. Offer your host to come visit your house. After all, to be a friend, you must show yourself friendly.
Words of Wisdom
If you’re new to the Couchsurfing thing, try looking for an experienced host. You certainly want your first experience to be a good one, so pick a Couchsurfing veteran. Whether traveling alone or in a small group, this is an excellent chance for you to cut costs, all while making the world a smaller place.