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How To Couchsurf – Best Practices

Would You Trust This Couchsurfing Guy?

How To Use Couch Surfing

Who is this stranger?

If you’ve been following our journey, you’ll know that Vicky and I are active users of the famous travel website, couchsurfers.org, and have plans to couch surf across Europe and Asia. For some, this may seem completely normal, however, many may find this type of travel foreign, strange, or even dangerous. But, for those who are intrigued, simply waiting for a proper explanation to come along to demystify the site, I hope this article serves as your gateway to the wonderful world of couch surfing.

My first time couch surfing was with a few college roommates during a trip to Europe. In that one trip we couchsurfed twice, once in Copenhagen and another time in Amsterdam. It was a great experience. We met locals who showed us around the city as well as introduced us to their friends; an ideal situation for travelers. Since then, I have couchsurfed several more times as well as hosted, and every time has been a pleasure. In the realm of couchsurfers I probably rank about average in terms of experience (at least, pre RTW trip). Still, here are a few tips, which might help you to have a successful couchsurfing experience.

1. Fill out your profile – in depth!

It amazes me how many people have skimpy profiles, lacking in the basic information such as interests or couchsurfing history. Most peoples’ first experience with couchsurfers is likely to be requesting to be hosted instead of the reverse, and as a result it may be difficult to put yourself in the mind of the “hoster”. The fact that you are “new” to couchsurfing is not an excuse to have not filled out the profile in its entirety. As a general rule,ย  the more information the better, so fill out those profiles!

TIP: Remember to fill in your native language. Just because you know you speak X not everyone else does. More importantly, the search engines won’t if it isn’t there…

2. Friend everyone you know

You have to create a personality behind the profile. Show that you are actually a human being, who exists, and has friends, as we all do. All the time I get requests from people that have no history or friends whatsoever, and it’s a little disconcerting, especially now that CS is linked to facebook and is fairly popular.

3. When requesting a couch, read all the details, and be personal

All of us at some point have spammed emails/requests thinking that this was the best way to get a response. On the contrary, sometimes less is more, and you’re better off sending a few targeted requests as opposed to spamming messages which are clearly mass produced. Moreover, you’re likely to get a group of people that don’t even accommodate your needs. Did you look at whether or not it was shared rooms (and are you comfortable with that)? Did you read the details about the couch? Sometimes a person has specifics hours/days during which they can’t host, or maybe you have to be up really early in the morning because they have to leave for work. Likewise, you always want to check location, as everyone has different standards for what “in the city” means, and transportation isn’t always easy from the burbs. Whatever it may be, be sure to read the profile in its entirety and “get to know” the person before sending a request.

To give you an example, here is a recent request I got that I thought was very well put together, and as a result we offered to host. Note: I blanked out all the personal information.

โ€œAbout Me
Dear Dave,My name is NAME and I am a student from Innsbruck, Austria. I am travelling the United States and Canada together with a very good friend of mine (his name is NAME , hereโ€™s the link to his profile: URL LINK)this summer by Greyhound and we will be visiting DC from the 17th of July to the 22th. We were wondering if your couch was available for the two of us during that time?NAME and I are both very easy going, polite, considerate, mature, interested and humorous guys who love to meet new people. We both took the Austrian SAT equivalent about a year ago and completed our still compulsory 9 month civilian/community service in the last couple of months. This sparked the desire to just get out and travel! ๐Ÿ˜€ In fall, we will both start College, Simon in Innsbruck and me in Cambridge, England.

We know that your home is a very private place and you can expect that we will be at our best 24/7. We’re both non smokers, btw.I have always found that food is wonderful way through which to share your culture with other people and even though I am far from being a perfect chef, I think I am a decent cook and would be glad to either prepare with or for you one of the many Austrian delicacies ๐Ÿ˜€

Thank you very much in advance & looking forward to hearing from you,
Best wishes from sunny Innsbruck,

NAME

Why I’d Like to Meet You
You sound like a really nice and interesting guy and I am sure we’d have plenty to talk about! From your time at Harvard to movies.โ€

The highlights:

  • Took the two seconds it takes to actually use my name in the start
  • Explained who he is, where he’s from, where he’s going, and why
  • Upon mention of friend, linked to his CS profile as well (all in company should have profile)
  • Made an offer to share talent with us (cooking)
  • Polite and Respectful

In essence, this is really all it takes. Also, let’s be honest here, all the above looks like a lot of work, I’d still say 90% of it is something that you could send to multiple couchsurfers.

4. Comment, comment, comment!

If you’ve hosted someone, or been hosted, remember to always comment on the experience to help inform others in the future. It’s just common courtesy.

5. Respond to messages

Do your best to respond to all messages and requests, even if you can’t host. It’s helpful for the person to know whether or not to count you out, and that will be their queue to send out more messages. Also, there is a statistic that shows how well you respond to messages on your profile, which will help motivate more people to reach out to you in the future.

6. Log in and be active

When most people search, they sort by last login, therefore, if you want to be found, log in at least once a week, and you’ll be more likely to show up in searches.

7. Make offers

Making offers is a great way to meet people halfway. For example, if you request 5 days, make it known that you’d be OK with just a few days if they can’t do the full 5. Then, you might be able to double back with another CSer you messaged and change your request, making it more manageable for everyone.

Similarly, it is nice if you can offer something of your own. For example, I’ve had the following things offered to me in my time:

  1. Offer to speak with person in foreign language as practice
  2. Offer to cook local dish from your home country
  3. Offer a couch for when they visit your country or the country of one of your friends
  4. Display a special talent (magic, singing, etc)

None of these are mandatory of course but every little bit helps!

Lastly and most importantly…

8. Host, and be hosted

This website is a community, and it is founded on the principle that there are people out there who need lodging and there are people out there who can provide that lodging, under the auspices that someone, in the future, will provide them lodging when they’re in need. Don’t be just a taker, but a giver as well.

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5 Responses to How To Couchsurf – Best Practices

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  4. Hey guys,

    Thanks for this informative post. One question – would you recommend a couple to have separate profiles for each of them or make a joint-profile together? We’re looking to both host and be hosted together.

    Thanks again!
    Connie

    Connie September 24, 2014 at 6:27 PM Reply
    • I think if you have a joint profile that is fine — that way people can read all about both of you in one place. We had separate profiles from the start and kept it that way. I did notice that sometimes the response rate was higher when I sent the message (as a girl) than when Dave did, but I am not sure how much it really matters. If you’re always going to be hosting or surfing together I think one profile for both of you is just fine. Enjoy!

      Vicky October 1, 2014 at 12:53 AM Reply

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