Hello! The purpose of this page is to provide an introduction to Couchsurfing and tips on how to use it properly and successfully. And no I am NOT talking about being homeless and crashing on your neighbor’s couch.
Couchsurfing is a social networking site that connects travelers (“surfers”) to people who would like to host visitors from out of the area at their house or apartment (“hosts”). Ideally, all Couchsurfers who have a profile on the website are expected to both surf and host. The aim of the site is to promote travel, connection, cultural exchange, and mutual respect.
If you want to experience a place through the eyes of a local who lives there, Couchsurfing is the way to go. If your host has time, they will likely show you around the area and take you to hang out with some of their friends, so you can see what everyday life is like.
Couchsurfing is very safe because of the precautions built into it. First, there is a verification procedure that a host can go through to verify that their address on file is actually where they live. Second, there is a vouching system where a Couchsurfing member who has been vouched for 3 or more times can vouch for others. Basically, vouching means, “I would trust this person with my life.” (Update: the vouching system has been discontinued but you can still see people who have received vouches in the past.) Third and perhaps most importantly, there is a reference system built in where anyone can leave a reference for another member, whether positive or negative, based on their experience. Since all activities on Couchsurfing are entirely optional, you could choose to only host or surf with people who have vouches and lots of references, all of which are positive.
I have used Couchsurfing for over 7 years and have hosted and surfed at least 50 times. Every single experience I have had has been positive and it has shown me how good people can be, even to complete strangers. I have had so many amazing experiences Couchsurfing that I would have otherwise never had, and have made some good friends by Couchsurfing. In fact, Couchsurfing is my preferred method of travel, especially when I am alone.
Anyway, if you do want to use Couchsurfing, here are some good tips to follow:
- NEVER stay with or host someone who has a negative reference, even if they have positive ones too. Over 5 years, I have only heard of one Couchsurfer having a bad experience, and it was because she stayed with someone who had a bad reference. Be smart, don’t take the risk, and choose someone else.
- Give back. Don’t be that person who just signs up for Couchsurfing to travel for free. Host before you go if you can, and take your host out for dinner or give them a small gift to show them your appreciation (although neither of these things are expected or required).
- Fill out your profile completely and put up some pictures of yourself to give people a good sense of who you are. Would you want to host or stay with someone who only has a one sentence description about themselves?
- Don’t stay with someone for just one night, unless you will have a chunk of time to spend with them the day before or after. I will just book a hostel instead if I am only passing through somewhere. The point of Couchsurfing is to get to know your host.
- Obtain a reference from an experienced Couchsurfer, if possible, before you begin. This will make you more trustworthy and more likely to find a host/surfer. Since there are about 7 million Couchsurfers in the world, that means about 1 in 1000 people have Couchsurfing, and that number is probably higher in developed countries. Chances are, you have a friend or acquaintance who already has Couchsurfing. There is a nice tool built into Couchsurfing where you can see if your Facebook friends are using it. (If I know you well enough, I’d be willing to write you a reference to help you get started.)
Well, now that you know what it is about, what are you waiting for? Visit the Couchsurfing site to learn more or sign up!
Best of luck,
Photo by quinn.anya