Couchsurfing Part 2: Getting The Host You Want & Being The Best Surfer They Have Ever Had.
In the second part of our couchsurfing series we'll cover a range of tips on finding and appealing to a couchsurfing host along with the basics of surfer etiquette. You can read more about couchsurfing and some pros and cons here if you missed it.
I love couchsurfing but it can be unnerving not knowing what kind of experience you're walking into. To make it easier to find a host you will be comfortable with, I have included a bunch of points I have learned over years of surfing.
How to appeal to a host:
As a new couchsurfer there are several things you can do to improve your chance of being hosted.
- To start with, complete your profile - ALL the sections - they let the host get to know you a little.
- Load at least three pictures, people are very visual. Try to make sure one shows your smiling face and it can be handy to have one showing you doing something amazing as a good talking point.
- Next, connect with your local couchsurfing community through meet-ups, or find friends that are already on the site to try and get yourself some references.
How to find an ideal host:
Now, to find the perfect host!
- First, think time period: about 5 days before your arrival has worked best for me. Too far out and hosts don’t know what they will be doing, too close and they may already be booked. (There are emergency last min boards on the forum if you get stuck)
- Now search the city you will be in: on the right you will see a range of search options to help you narrow your search. There are a range of things that may influence your decision.
- If you are new to couchsurfing or travelling solo you may want to approach hosts with lots of references or verification, as you can feel safe that they will be good hosts. As you grow more confident you can try some newer members.
- Area is important: as I seldom have my own transport, it is important to find a host I can get to easily if I am only staying a few nights. No one wants to be trapped in the middle of nowhere!
- Look at their response rate and last log in: this should give you an idea if they are online regularly and likely to get your message in time.
- Read their "my home" section: check to make sure you understand what circumstances you are likely to be walking into. Do you get your own room? Is it a party house? Is there public transport? Do they only take women?
- Read their profile: do you have common interests or philosophies? Not only will it make your stay more pleasant but mentioning shared interests in your approach is more likely to get a response. (Sometimes people mention something in their profile that they want you to say in your approach, so if you miss this they just won’t respond)
- Check references: all of them, not just negative ones! People will often hint at things in positive or neutral references that can be vital to you having a good stay.
Contacting your host:
- How long to stay? In my opinion 3 nights is perfect, it’s not too big a commitment for your host but will give you time to settle in and time to get to know them. You can always ask to extend later if you get along well and it seems appropriate.
- Create an authentic approach message: mass messages aren’t the way to go. Make sure you address the surfer by name and try and mention something about their profile or reason you want to stay in the area.
- I usually send 3-4 messages to find a host however I am a girl with more than 20 references, I am also a circus performer and this peaks peoples interest. What could you include that sets you apart?
- If someone responds: thank them! Confirm time of arrival and address, it is also handy to have a contact number to confirm on the day or get in contact if you are late or lost. This person has invited you into their home. Be courteous and show up when you said you would if at all possible.
- It never hurts to leave the details of your host with a third party or organize to txt someone the next day and confirm you’re ok. Safety is important! If your gut tells you to get out, do it, you should never stay anywhere you feel unsafe.
How to be a good Surfer:
Be a good guest
- Show up when you say you will, keep your belongings tidy and don’t take advantage of communal food or resources. It’s not rocket science but too many surfers forget they are a guest in someone else’s home.
- Gifting: many people recommend bringing a small gift for your host. Often I don’t do this; however I try and cook a meal for each of my hosts to show my appreciation.
- Chip in: you are living rent free; it wouldn’t hurt you to grab some TP or milk for the house. If you are short for cash, doing the dishes or cleaning the bathroom is a great way to help.
- Consider your host: what do they get out of having you there, racking up their bills? Their timetable may not be convenient but respect it anyway and put some time aside to get to know them. Hosts are a great resource and some of the few people you may meet who are actually interested in your travel stories. Do you have a game or skill you could share to enrich your hosts experience?
- Don’t overstay your welcome: if you agreed on staying three nights, stay three nights! There are times when it is possible to extend your stay but make sure your host has the opportunity to say no and if they do, leave gracefully, they are doing you a favour, don’t take advantage of that.
- Write a reference: this is a great way to thank your host and continue their experience with couchsurfing. It is also an important way for surfers to learn about potential hosts so be honest in recording your experience.
If you have gotten this far through, it is a good bet that couchsurfing has something to offer you! To get the most from your surfing experience make sure you have read all the information and understand what to expect, that you have confirmed all the details and are mentally prepared. Then throw all that out the door and simply come armed with a positive attitude, things may not work out exactly as planned but some of the most amazing travelling experiences come from spontaneous adventures.
If you’re still a bit nervous you can always start with a meet-up group or coffee meet to get some experience before you head out surfing. I have met many friends for life through couchsurfing and will always advocate this amazing approach to travel.
Author of Stress Free Adventure Planning