Learn About Couchsurfing and Getting Started

Maybe you’ve heard of CouchSurfing before or have an account and haven’t used it yet. Have no fear since help has arrived!

There are three primary ways someone can be involved in CouchSurfing: – surfing – hosting – participate in your local CouchSurfing group (get together of fellow CSers in the area)

What I do as a host:

Handling the initial requests….

I’ve been hosting quite a bit lately to the point where I’m probably overdoing it. The first part of the process is to put information in my CS profile. Everyone fills out theirs differently with some including a bullet list of information while others talk about their interests or views on life. I definitely prefer to host someone who has at least some common interests as me or has personalized their CS request. If I receive a request and the person does not mention my name then I’m more likely to decline since that is usually a sign of a copy/pasted message. Personalized requests plus having common interests nearly guarantees a couch with me. Generally I do want to host people but I’d rather host people I feel like I’m more likely to jive with. Messages that are sent 2-3 weeks in advice are hard for me to deal with since my plans might change — of course, I’m not representive of all hosts but I’ve recently received a request that needs a couch in 2 months. I generally know if I can host in 2-3 weeks in advance but not a whole lot more than that.

Accepting a request…

If I accept a request I immediately send my phone number and address in my initial response. Also, some surfers may be arriving at an airport or bus/train station. I don’t mind picking people up and then dropping them off later although I know not all hosts would actually do that. so, you can ask them if they want a ride if you’re comfortable with that. I also try to communicate what my plans might be that day if they want to join, or that there might be other couchsurfers there at the time.

I also maintain a spreadsheet that is easier to work and better tracks the information I need to know for hosting (Name, Arrive Date, Arrival Day of week, Departure Date, Departure Day of week, Total surfers, Notes, Link to Profile).

Declining a request…

I’ll typically say something like “I am unavailable to host, sorry” or something. I don’t need to give excuses.. I just need to say ‘no’ but also say it politely.

Doing the hosting…

For most surfers they’ll be tired when they arrive. If they’re only staying one night, I probably wouldn’t necessarily expect a whole lot from them. My best experiences are when someone stays a minimum of 2-3 days since that allows there to be enough time to hang out and get comfortable with eachother. if I have personal plans I communicate that I have personal plans and try to setup a later time to hang out with the surfer (for example, I have surfers over right now but I had a date with my gf last night so I couldn’t hangout with the surfers and let them know ahead of time). good communication with the surfer and vice versa is key. I like to spend time with my surfer rather then just being a place to stay. I’d expect them to communicate to me some of their plans if they’re not going to have time to hang out with me.

If you’re a surfer:

Getting a couch…

If you’re sending a request into an area that is very popular and it is in peak season then it may be very difficult to get a couch. You might need to send 20-30 requests in that scenario. in good situations hopefully you only need to send fewer than 5 requests or in one case I only had to send one. sending 5-10 is a good start but if no one bites after a day then I send 5 more. If a host doesn’t respond to my request within 24 hours then I sort of expect that they’ll be declining.

My thoughts on the best way to get a couch are to not only send personalized messages but to send requests to people you actually find interesting. I like to have my profile filled out with relevant details such as my hobbies but I also like to describe why I find my hobbies interesting. I also describe some of what I believe and some of the plans/ideas I have for the future. when I send the message I also like to ask at the end of the message if they have ideas of any cool places I should go see.

Here is a loose template I use for my requests: “Hi <Host name>, you have some interests/ideas/hobbies that overlap with mine. you sound like an interesting person. here is a paragraph of details about my plans in your town. do you know of any cool things I should see in town if you are unable to host? cheers! <my name>”

Responding to a host who accepted:

I will include more in-depth details about my plans here, my phone number and so on.

Responding to a host who declined:

I don’t think I ever responded to a host who declined.. we just sort of part ways and move on.

Traveling to the host: I try to communicate any change of plans. some hosts might care especially if your flight is delayed so you’ll be arrving at midnight and they need to wake up early in the morning.

Arriving and leaving the host: I like to chit-chat with them. usually I’m pretty tired if I’ve been traveling all day (although it’s very possible the host is wide awake). usually I try to ‘turn on’ my stored energy. I’ve tried bringing beer/alcohol as a kind of thank you but I find that it might be better to bring something more neutral like a jug of orange juice (without pulp). other times I’ve paid for dinner or left little gifts for when I left (or wash dishes, or cook, etc.). if you want to wash the dishes don’t ask if you can wash them, just start washing them and they’ll probably say thanks.

After hosting or surfing:

I like to leave a reference within a day or two of leaving because memories and experiences are easy to forget. usually i both add them as a friend and leave a reference. if i met any cool random people through the CS host and they have profiles I might leave them a reference or only add them as friends. if they’re some crazy awesome host maybe I’d vouch for them — you are only able to vouch for someone if you already have 3 vouches yourself.

Months down the road:

I moved 1000 miles recently and sent messages to the surfers who stayed with me that I thought were awesome that I have moved and that if they’re in the area they should stop by.

I know there are other surfers/hosts on here… feel free to agree or disagree with anything I’ve said. everyone has their own way of doing things and it would be great to hear everyones perspective and experience.

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