Staying in a complete stranger’s house for free. What could go wrong?
Nothing so far for me, and I’ve had seven Couchsurfing adventures.
With this modest amount of experience, I have put together some suggestions on how you can navigate Couchsurfing.com like a boss.
So what is Couchsurfing?
- Couchsurfing is hosting strangers in your own home for free.
- Couchsurfing is also staying with strangers in their homes for free.
There are over 12 million Couchsurfers in 200,000 cities across the world according to their website.
This website can seem intimidating for a first time “surfer”, so the following steps will help alleviate any anxiety you may have using the website. We will start with hosting because hosting gives you a great feeling helping others and also helps you build up positive references for your future travels.
Sign up on Couchsurfing.com. Set up a profile about yourself. Share interesting unique details about yourself. Basically, give surfers a reason to be interested in meeting you. Upload at least 5 nice photos of yourself doing something cool. Make sure you are honest and include details such as having roommates, specific sleeping accommodations, and house rules.
Set your status to “Accepting Guests” if you are free and have a legitimate space to host someone at.
A stranger has requested to stay at your place…..Panic!!!!!!!!!! You don’t know them! Why did you even sign up for this site in the first place?! Breathe. Settle down and read the message this stranger has sent you about potentially staying in your home.
Look at the surfer’s profile! For me personally, I make sure surfers I host have at least 3 positive references and over 10 references is preferred. I read the comments that others have left about them. If even a hint of anything negative has been said about a surfer in their references I do not host them. If the dates they are requesting don’t work for me I do not host them. If you have a roommate or spouse, first check with them before accepting anyone.
Click Accept or Decline as soon as you know your answer. Try not to reply with “Maybe” as this in my opinion gives false hope, and you’re really just trying to say no in a nice way. Message the surfer back. Ask for your surfer’s phone number and give them any details they might need to find your place.
Prepare for your surfer to arrive. They may not easily find where you live. When they arrive show your surfer where the bathroom is and where they will be sleeping. It is not your responsibility to provide meals or anything other than a place to stay, so anything you do beyond this is bonus for your surfers. I personally only host when I know I have free time to talk with my surfers or perhaps do some kind of fun activity with them. They will often want to know what they should do in the area, so if you are free you can go on “vacation” with them.
After hosting someone, leave honest feedback about your surfer. If they were messy or disrespectful in any way leave negative feedback about them. If you have positive things to say about them don’t hold back and shower them with sincere praise.
Alright! You are about to ride some Couchsurfing waves bro! Get stoked!
You have built up a reputation as an accommodating host with at least 3 positive recommendations. It’s your turn to search for hosts now.
Determine where you want to stay and on what night(s). The further ahead of time you request the more likely they are to reply. I try to send requests to hosts at least a minimum of a day beforehand, but sometimes even the day of before 2 pm I have had hosts accept me.
Look through hosts profiles that are “Accepting” or “Maybe Accepting” guests. Make sure they have no traces of negative comments said about them. If they have 3 “Confirmed positive” comments from people staying with them send them a request if they look interesting and safe to you.
I personally send out requests to 4 different hosts in the location I would like to stay at. About 50% of the time 1 of the 4 hosts will accept my request. Request the day(s) you would like to stay and include something interesting about yourself. Tell hosts where you’re headed and point out something you find interesting about them as a host from their profile. I try to keep it relatively short and authentic.
Hey RANDOM STRANGER! I am a National Park Ranger traveling from Alaska back to my home state South Dakota. You seem pretty cool from your profile. Let me know if you are able to host me.
Get your host’s phone number and address as soon as possible. Let them know what time you are likely to arrive.
Upon arriving. make conversation with your host and get to know them asking them questions about their life. Don’t expect them to feed you or do anything other than provide you with some basic place to sleep. Be thankful that they are providing you with a free place to stay. Make sure anything you use including a bed or bathroom looks better than the way you found it.
Do something fun with your host if you both have the time. Examples of this that I’ve done are having a bonfire and watching movies as well as tailgating after the host’s co-ed hockey game. Look for any way you can possibly repay your host by doing their dishes or whatever they may need. One example of this I did was driving my host to work the next morning.
Leave an honest comment about your host. Let them know how truly awesome they are for offering their home to a stranger to stay at. Any small thing they did for you make sure you let them know specifically how appreciative you are to them.
I hope you feel more comfortable using the Couchsurfing website now. Another very helpful Couchsurfing resource is Nomadic Matt’s website.
Remember one big reason to host others is not just to meet awesome people and feel good about yourself for helping others. When you host people you are setting yourself up to be hosted in the future. When you give, you get.
I still keep in contact with surfers I have met in my journeys and I am so thankful that this website exists. Thankyou Couchsurfing 🙂