For those who haven’t heard of it, Couchsurfing is an online community of travellers who open their doors (and couches) to travellers in their cities. It beats the ever-rising costs of hotels and hostels (even backpackers’ seem to have exorbitant costs these days), and it gives you the chance to live with locals. The website allows you to get in touch with couchsurfers and hosts that suit your interests and lifestyle, giving you a chance to make lifelong friends. It also has myriad events (from rock climbing to pub crawling) in whichever city you visit, where couchsurfers and hosts alike get to meet each other.
I haven’t actually couchsurfed that much myself, but my roommates and I are all hosts, and one of our rooms contains 4 bunk beds and a pull-out couch for our surfers. We usually have 2 – 8 couchsurfers staying with us at a time. We all have many positive references, and between us, we receive many more requests than we can accept. I’d imagine it’s the same for most couchsurfing hosts. So here’s how to write a good request and make the most of your couchsurfing experience!
1. Fill in your profile. Besides the obvious security factor, hosts want to get to know you. Obviously, you are going to get along with some people better than you will with others. By filling out your profile honestly, you give hosts a chance to see whether or not you’d be a good mesh for their house. That said, most people on Couchsurfing are the travelling, adventuring type, and the negative experiences I’ve had are few and far between.
2. Leave references. Let other people know if you’ve enjoyed your stay at someone’s place, and if you’ve had a bad experience (the host expected you to sleep in their bed, for instance), do leave a reference to warn other surfers.
3. Know that Couchsurfing is NOT a free ride. Hosts are giving you a space in their home and their life, and you should act accordingly. Share a meal with them and get to know the person who is opening up their home to you. Cook a meal for them, offer to take them on some of your adventures, and join them on theirs. With Couchsurfing, the goal is to make friends in diverse cities, not just score a free place to sleep on your travels.
Most of all, enjoy it. Couchsurfing has put me in touch with people that have become some of my best friends. If any of us had been the sort to see Couchsurfing simply as a free couch, we would have bypassed that connection. Take advantage & enjoy the benefits it offers up!