Throughout my travelling around Europe, I haven’t been staying in hostels, not to even say hotels because I was either staying at my friends’ places, or I was couch-surfing. From there, I knew that my travelogue contents will be missing out on accommodation, because I simply have nothing to review about on the accommodation in Europe in general. But then again, I have something in return – a trend that is up and coming, Couchsurfing.
I remember I once had a conversation with a lady from California. We were on the city night line train from Munich to Florence and I was alone. We started chatting with each other and she started asking if I stay in hostels when I travel because she’s worried for her daughter’s safety when she stays in hostels (gosh imagine what I was thinking in my mind when I hear her worrying about hostels. CS must be so much more unacceptable to her). In fact, I wasn’t surprised at all when she was so shocked to hear that I do couchsurfing.
Couchsurfing is basically a platform to bring travelers and locals together. The locals of the city would either host you by giving their couch for you to sleep, meet up with you to bring you around or just chat with you over a simple meal. All these do not and should not come with a price or any forms of compensation (like sex).
Not many people believe that there are such ‘free lunches’ in the world, me neither initially. Truth is, there are. There are genuinely nice people around with no ill-intentions. But do not take your own safety for granted because there are unfortunate cases too, which I’ll may you in a while.
To enjoy the full benefits of couchsurfing, you first have to get accepted by your potential hosts! Here’s some very basic tips that you can also find on CS’s tips for Couchsurfing, but I am hoping I can illustrate the tips to you with my own examples. Have fun reading!
1. Fill up your own profile
2. Read your potential host’s profile
A profile tells a lot about a person. You have to know about the person you’re gonna stay with for one or two nights, be it your host or your surfer. Hobbies, past experiences and personal philosophies can let you decide if you really want to meet the person. Also have a look at the photos and they may suggest whether you both would click well. For eg, a person with a lot of clubbing photos might not appeal to one who doesn’t like to club.
From there, it kind of gives you some common topic to write about in your request. You can include one or two sentences that tells the host that you’ve actually read his profile. Sometimes, a host likes to ask for the password in your request. Such a password is usually hidden in between words in his profile, and is in indication whether you’ve read his profile. Without password, it’s a straight rejection.
3. Build your references and number of friends
While profile tells a lot about a person, references are more truthful because they are left by other people. As you couch-surfed at more places, you’ll eventually accumulate enough references. You can start off by asking your own friends to leave a reference for you, or add your as a friend, so as to let you get the first CS host successfully. You can also decide who’s place to surf at by looking at their references. From there, you may also be able to decipher hidden message if there’s any. Some people who didn’t had a good experience might be reluctant to leave a negative reference, hence they try to write it in a nicer way.
I’ve came across a few male hosts, some of which explicitly mention they only host females, while some with references left by only females. Here you yourself gotta decide if you feel comfortable with it. All in all, reading reference is the best way for both a host and a surfer to decide if they want to meet each other.
4. Write a good request
Getting accepted to surf at someone’s place is not easy. Think about it, there are so many tourists and travelers in ratio to the number of hosts in a city, so how do you make the host pick you rather than someone else? This is where you have to write a good sincere CS request. As for how to write a good request, I’ve dedicated a separate post on it. Read how to write a good CS request.
You should also include reasons and incentives for the host to meet you. I usually tell them that we can cook some simple asian dishes for them if we happen to surf at their place, and I guess this method works because food is always the best incentive! 😛
5. Be nice, and you’ll make friends
|Portuguese + Chinese fusion dinner!|
That’s vague, what’s nice?
As a surfer, you are asking a great favour to stay at your host’s place. DO NOT take it for granted and start treating the house as though it is yours.
Do not leave your things lying around, in a mess.
Do not use your host’s items without permission.
Try not to disrupt your host’s living habits. Eg: don’t disturb his/her sleep if he/she sleeps early.
Finally, leave the house in its original state. Sounds like lecturing young children but there ARE people who are so inconsiderate that it’s overwhelmingly annoying.
And most importantly, always be respectful and thankful to your host. After all, they chose to host you out of goodwill, and I think we should be appreciative for that. Eventually, by being a responsible surfer, your host may leave you a good reference too, which will increase your chance of getting accepted by another host the next time you travel. But bear in mind that couchsurfing hosts are not obliged to leave you a reference, while surfers are expected to to express gratitude.
|With my host from Prague, who’s a medical researcher|
6. If all else fail, post on “last minute requests” groups Sometimes it works, sometime it doesn’t. It really depends on your luck and the popularity of the city, and never bank on this option entirely because like I said, it doesn’t always work. A general idea is that the bigger your travelling group is, the harder it is to find a host. The best number is two persons travelling together because it’s easy on the host while you and your friend can still take care of each other.
|Learning the ‘pro’ way of preparing dinner from my host, who used to be a chef!|
Alrighty! That’s about it for finding a couchsurfing host. I guess I can say goodbyes to hotels and hostels next time I travel because to me, the benefits of CS certainly go beyond the savings on accommodation. I’m also in the midst of writing step- by-step guide in writing a (maybe?) good request, so stay tuned! Thanks for reading! 🙂
Celine Chiam is a Singapore Lifestyle, Beauty and Fashion blogger. Welcome to her world of beauty reviews, travelogues and every day tips! She’s on #dayre (@chiamhuiy) and instagram (@chiamhuiy) as well.