Written By Jake from BackpackChicago
Couchsurfing can be tricky. After all, you’re asking a stranger if you can sleep at their place. If you’re just starting out as a couchsurfer it’s even harder – you don’t have any reviews, and you don’t know the ins and outs of how exactly the community and system work. But everyone starts as a new user, with zero experience and zero reviews. So, it’s very possible to become a member of the community and Couchsurf all around the world. Here some tips for finding a host, and making sure you’re a good guest.
Complete your Profile
This seems obvious, but I‘ve received a number of requests from individuals who don’t even have a photo uploaded. Before you submit any requests, complete your profile. That means fill out every section with valid information. Take your time to show the community who you are. Write quality content and show readers you invested some time in filling out your profile. Also, include more than one high quality image. Choose good photos that don’t put off a negative vibe.
Get some References
This can be difficult, but the sooner you get references, the easier time you’ll have finding a host. Start with people you know – do you have any friends on Couchsurfing? Do you have any friends you've been urban backpacking with who might be on the site? If so, ask them for a reference. If you’re brand new to Couchsurfing and don’t know anyone on there, don’t worry, as long as you have a strong, complete profile and write a good request, you should be able to find a host.
Write a Good Request
Take some time to review your potential host’s profile. Read through it and look at their photos before you send them a request. Make your request personal. Mention something from their profile that you relate to – this will show them that you actually took the time to learn about them. Be clear on your plans (as clear as you can be). Tell them when you’ll be arriving and when you’ll be departing. Here are some more tips for writing a good couch request.
Once you find a host, keep communication strong, and don’t be flaky. Everyone’s plans change – if yours do, tell them as soon as possible. Share your contact information with them and clarify any unknowns or misunderstandings (do you need to bring a pillow, is it ok if you arrive late at night, etc).
Help Out/Give Them a Gift
The Couchsurfing community is not just about finding a free place to stay – it’s about meeting people, learning, and sharing new experiences and cultures with others. As a host, it means a lot when my guests make an effort to show their appreciation for my hospitality… whether it’s cooking dinner, cleaning up the dishes, or buying me a beer. Something simple like this can go a long way. Always try to spend time with your host. After all, this is what the community is all about.
Always Leave References
References help drive a sense of quality in the community. Hopefully most references you write are positive. Your hosts will appreciate those. On the other end of the spectrum, if you have a bad experience, leave an appropriate reference. The community needs to know about those experiences too. References help others, and they hopefully help you as get one in return.
Couchsurfing is a unique experience. It’s a risk, it’s an adventure, and it’s fun. If you’re not yet a member, www.couchsurfing.org. Now fill out that profile, choose your destination, and surf away!
A self-proclaimed “adventurer”, Jake Bartlett loves to travel. In the last 3 years he’s visited 7 countries and backpacked several locations in the states. When he’s in Chicago, he loves to explore the city as much as possible. A drummer and daily bike commuter, he enjoys hosting other travelers and giving them a local insight into the city. Check out his blog backpackchicago.com, a simple guide for exploring and visiting Chicago.