During my backpack trip through Scandinavia, I decided to join the Couch Surfing (CS) community in order to make my trip as cheap and enjoyable as possible. As a CS newbie it might be strange to sleep over at a stranger’s apartment and you might be wondering how you can prepare yourself for the best experience. Well, within this post I will give you some tips and will tell you why you should go CS on your next trip!
1. Try to find a host you feel comfortable with
The biggest concern about CS is safety. How do you know your host will be friendly and not a random freak? Well, there are some ways to select a ‘good’ host. Firstly, it is important to have a look at the references. Surfers and hosts rate each other based upon their experiences, using ‘Negative’, ‘Neutral’ and ‘Positive’ to describe their stay. They can also leave a comment. The more positive reviews a host has, the more safer he or she probably will be. Moreover, you can have a look at how long your host is already CS member. Is your host already member for five years, but (s)he has just hosted two surfers, than you might question yourself how serious this person is with CS. Another simple way to find a host you feel comfortable with, is to have a look at the host’s pictures. Does your host look friendly and does the place (s)he offers looks nice?
2. Find out your host’s expectations
Are you planning to see as much as possible of the town in just a few days? Are you going to experience the night life? Or are you just going to relax in town? Communicate with your host via the CS mailing function and tell about your plans. Perhaps your host works all day and has no time to show you around or perhaps you have to be ‘home’ a certain time. Communication is a very important aspect of CS. Make sure you communication is clear and remains in the CS application.
3. Plan ahead
In order to find a good host you feel comfortable with, it is important to start searching for a host a few weeks or days in advance. You can plan your trip a long time in advance with the CS ‘upcoming travel’ function. Via this way, hosts can see where you are travelling to, and they can offer their place to stay. In my opinion three or four days in advance, is a good timeframe to start looking for a place to stay. When you are not sure yet about your travel plans, you can sign up for the group ‘Emergency CS requests’. Within this group, you have the chance to find a host the evening itself.
4. Use the CS events or hangouts to meet new people
Within the CS application or on the CS website, you can find some events that are happening in your surroundings. Most of the time, it are meet ups or evening drinks. In Stockholm, I went to a Sunday coffee meeting and met around 30 to 40 other travelers. It was so much fun, that after the meeting we went together to a bar and the next day we did some sightseeing together. You can also use the hangouts function of CS. Via this way you can get in contact with people who are ready to hang out right ahead. This can for example be for a beer, cup of coffee or sightseeing.
5. Make sure your profile looks attractive
In order to look attractive for other hosts to host you, you have to have a good profile. Make sure you write about your travel purpose, why you use CS, some other personal information and add some nice pictures of you. You can also add friends to your CS profile and verify it for a small amount. I do not recommend to verify your account. It will cost you money and without a verification you can also find nice hosts.
6. Bring a gift
In my opinion it is always good to show your appreciation to your host by bringing a little gift. This can be a bottle of wine, a little souvenir from your own country or a bag of groceries, so you can cook a delicious meal for your host. Of course, it is not obligated to bring something, but nobody will turn down a free gift.
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