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!
cabecera11. 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.

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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.

Author: Daphne

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9 Replies to “6 Tips for a nice Couch Surfing experience.”

  1. Good beginners guide to CS :). I have been using it for over 6 years, hosting over 30 people and staying with over 20 hosts. In recent years it has been unfortunately seen more so as a way to get free accommodation rather than a cultural exchange which is what it’s intended purpose was. Still there are some really great hosts and surfers on CS who are genuinely interested in meeting new people and making these connections. Being as real and genuine as possible in your request (e.g. highlight your common interest with your hosts and why you think you will be a good match) will increase your chances of finding a good host.

    1. Wow, so you are a Couchsurfing professional Chantell! Hope to host and stay with so many people as well within the next years. It is so much fun and interesting to meet people from all over the world.

  2. Some great tips here. I think communication, safety and respect are so important when couch-surfing, and a modest gift is a lovely idea.

  3. Some great tips here – especially communication! I think safety has to be your number one priority and after that engaging with your host and enjoying yourself. Love that you suggested bringing a gift.. they are always appreciated

      1. When I first started surfing I used to arrive with a gift. But then lots of people don’t drink, plenty of houses ban sugar, and people are allergic to flowers. I quickly started leaving a gift when I left, by which time I could usually pick something up that I knew they’d like. I had a stack of postcards from my home city to leave a nice note on – the thank you note is key. Hosts also really love it when you send them a postcard from further on in your trip.

        You’d be shocked by how many people don’t read references. I use my screenname on my account, so you have to read my references to find my name. Any request I get without my name goes straight to the trash.

        1. Hi Cori, yes I can also recommend to bring the gift after your stay. Then you know indeed a bit more about the habits of your hosts. Anyway a postcard or little souvenir from your own country are indeed always safe things to bring. I also don’t react on a request without my name in it or any requests from somebody without any references. Thanks for your nice comment.

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