So you’ve registered on Couchsurfing, because you’ve heard it’s a great way to meet locals when travelling. It absolutely is, but it can be a bit daunting working out the CS system. I’m here to help you navigate this strange new world and get you on your first Couchsurfing experience in no time!
Verified; To Be Or Not To Be?
In short, paying for verification will not help you get hosts or surfers in the beginning. References are what will help get you hosts or surfers. Admittedly, it can be easier for hosts to pick up their first surfer, especially if they live in an area that doesn’t have many other couchsurfing hosts. If you host a verified couchsurfer and get a positive reference from them, you will earn a temporary verification, which can be extended by hosting more verified couchsurfers.
So you’re not ready to host yet, but want to find a couch for an upcoming trip? No problems! There is still hope. Keep reading to find out how to maximise your chances.
When you’re starting out, your profile is your most important commodity, so treat it as such! Make sure that you’ve included at least one picture, but 3 to 5 is better. It’s vital to fill out every section, as this is what people will use to gauge if you’re the kind of person they want in their space. It’s where you need to let your awesomeness shine through!
In the ‘Countries I’ve Visited’ section, list all the countries that you’ve been to and update the list as you go. If you’ve been to a variety of countries, people are more likely to want to meet you. If you’ve been to a country off the tourist radar, hosts will sometimes want to meet you to hear your fabulous stories and ask you for advice about it. It’s also a commonly held belief in the Couchsurfing community that well-travelled people make better surfers, as they’re more aware of how to carry themselves in many different situations.
Getting References Before You Surf/Host
If your profile is your greatest commodity in the Couchsurfing world, then references are the currency. This is one of the major hurdles you need to overcome as a new member, because without references your chances of finding hosts are significantly lower. Luckily, Couchsurfing has two kinds of references; hosting/surfing references and personal references.
Any member on Couchsurfing can leave a reference for another member. So if you have friends using the platform, ask them to leave you a character reference. What if you don’t have any friends on the platform? Get yourself to a Couchsurfing event, either at home or abroad. These are held regularly in cities around the world and will show up on the website. If you hit it off with another Couchsurfing member, ask them to give you a personal reference on the platform. These are not as good as surfing or hosting references, but they can increase your chances of finding surfers or hosts.
Finding Your First Host
You’ve poured your heart into your profile and gotten some personal references, now it’s time to find a host. I have to be honest with you at this point and advice you that some hosts will flat out refuse to host some surfers. I think this is ridiculous in the 21st century, but I guess they have their reasons. If you are male, female hosts may refuse to host you, due to ‘safety concerns’. I’d strongly suggest that, unless you can see a history of references from both males and females on a prospective host’s profile, don’t send them a request.
Through the app or the website, you can do a host search by location. You can also use filters, such as date, languages, age, etc., to narrow down your search. It’s always best to search for the exact dates that you need, to make sure that only hosts that are available on your dates will come up in the search.
Requesting a Couch
Once you find someone you’d like to host you, you can send a couch request by pressing the ‘Request to Stay’ button. This will send you to a screen where you can type your introduction message. You need to sell yourself here. Don’t cut and paste from your profile. Pick something specific in that person’s profile that makes you think you might get on well. Maybe you both love science fiction, or you have both been to Bangladesh. Whatever it is, find some common ground.
Also, let them know what you can offer them. Can you teach them a language? Can you cook some traditional food for them? Can you tell them crazy travel stories? Can you bring them a unique souvenir from your country? Can you provide them with experiences they have mentioned in their profile?
One thing to keep in mind is that you can only send 10 couch requests a month. If you don’t travel much, that’s fine, but if you’re on a bigger trip, you might be better off messaging someone first so as not to waste your requests. If the person you’re talking to agrees to host you, you can easily send the couch request through later.
Offering a Couch
This is a fairly similar concept to the one above, but this time, sell the wonders of your local area as well as yourself. Are there traditional temples in your area? Nature parks? Something different and quirky? Does it have awesome transport links? Great nightlife? Think about what amenities you would love to have in an area and how your area can provide them. Again, don’t cut and paste from your profile and try to focus on something your perspective surfer has mentioned that they like in their profile.
Another useful feature on the site is the ability to create a public trip. Your public trip can be seen by hosts in and visitors to your target area. This means that, aside from helping you find a host, this function could also help you find a travel buddy who’ll be in the same place at the same time as you! I’ve used public trips for most places that I’ve travelled to and have had unforgettable times with wonderful people.
When hosts see these public trips, they can send an ‘offer to host’ if they like your introduction and think that you’d be a great surfer. There is no limit on the number of offers someone can make to host people, so often you can end up with many offers using this function.
Couchsurfing is an amazing platform for connecting like-minded people all around the world. The knowledge of a local is invaluable and can take your trip from great to super awesome. I’ve used Couchsurfing for years and some of my most fabulous experiences, from the South Pacific to Africa and everywhere in between, have been a direct result of it.
I cannot recommend it enough! Even if it seems difficult to begin with, just stick with it! It will enrich your life in ways you never would’ve imagined.