Few years back I heard someone talking about Couchsurfing. I immediately got interested in it and not too long after, I was already a registered member and having the first surfer coming to stay with me and Markus.
What is Couchsurfing – and how it works
Basically the idea is to invite travellers from around the world to stay in your home for free of charge and when you travel, you can also try to find a host in whatever location you will be travelling. I think it’s also about cultural exchange, about letting someone from abroad to get know how the locals live and of course about making new friends from all corners of the world!
So, first you register and become a member. You fill out your profile and decide if you want to host or not. Markus and I have hosted more than surfed, although during past couple of years we have travelled a lot and also moved to a smaller apartment so we haven’t been able to host that much anymore. If you decide to use Couchsurfing on your next trip, just click the “surf” button and follow the instructions.
After hosting or surfing, you need to write a reference where you tell about your experience. Write it carefully and be honest. Others will be reading those references when seeking for a potential host or when getting a request from a surfer. You can’t just click and delete the references from your profile, so whatever someone writes, it will stay there for others to see.
With our host Josephine in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Why I like Couchsurfing
We often travel on a small budget with Markus. Especially when visiting always so amazing but a little too expensive places of this world we can try and save a little money by using CS. Also, we always try to find a host who has similar interests with us and who would be willing to show some places around the city. Having a local friend always gives you a better experience on some place, as they know what there is to see, what to eat and which places to avoid.
I would like to get more people to visit this northern and cold land where I live and many backpackers don’t come, because the accommodation (among many other things) is just too damn expensive in the hotels around here. So, the solution is – come stay with us! There is a tiny tourist guide living inside me and I like to tell about Finland, show the city and cook some delicious foods to our guests. I am always inviting everyone to our house anyway, so why not having a profile in CS then.
Some of my friends have asked me, that how can I host strangers in my house. “Is that even safe?” They ask. I say, yes it is. First of all – I can choose who I want to host and when I want to host. When someone sends me (us) a request, I check their profile and see what’s written there. If there is just a little text, no photos or one poor photo, I probably don’t host the person. I want to know as much as I can about the person before I’m about to host them.
If the person asking for a couch has surfed a lot before or had people staying over, they probably have plenty of references. I read those carefully and if he or she has had good feedback, then there should be no problem.
My tips for surfing and hosting
1. Spend time together. That is the point of CS anyway. If you are busy with something else, don’t host. It’s not probably good to have someone staying at your place if you are not even around.
2. Make a good profile and upload lot of photos. This makes it easier for others to accept your request or send a request to you, as the profile is the only thing they know about you before hand.
3. Bring a gift. As the accommodation is free, I think a small souvenir is usually nice way to thank the host. Maybe something from your home country.
4. Let the surfer know already in your profile, how and when you are able to host. Only weekends? Can you loan a key? Or does the surfer have to leave every morning from the house same time as you head to work? If the surfer wants to party a lot and come back late and you have to wake up every morning early, maybe you are not the best match. The more information you put to your profile, it will be more easier for people to seek hosts that “suit” for them.
5. Don’t forget to write the reference! Writing the reference will help others for finding hosts and deciding whether to host someone or not.
I also have a profile in BeWelcome and Hospitality club, but those I haven’t used that much – and I’m not sure, how they exactly work (do they have references etc.). I don’t know if anyone uses Hospitality Club anymore and BeWelcome is rather new thing but you can also check those for accommodation seeking or becoming a host.
Have you ever tried couch surfing? If not, could you?