There are many alternative lodging options to choose from when we travel but Couchsurfing has got to be one of my favorites. You get to truly experience the culture of the locals, make new friends and it goes easy on your pocket because it’s FREE!
Couchsurfing is a community whereby most backpackers leverage on to find lodging for their short stay as they are always on the go and spending a hefty sum on lodging deems to be rather impractical. Every country has someone whom opens up their home to welcome foreigners to stay a few nights. These hosts have nothing to benefit from, they enjoy meeting new people from other countries and for some, it is an opportunity to practice English. If you are not looking for a place to stay, they have many events organized by Couch-surfers in many different countries you are headed, which you can join to know more people! Here are some tips you need:
1. Sign Up for Free
Simply sign up for an account to navigate, communicate, find and confirm a host!
2. Finding Hosts
There are many black sheeps among the lot who prey on females so ladies, take extra care when you are in a lookout for a place to stay. If possible, avoid male hosts. To have a glimpse of how the hosts are, read up on feedback left behind by past travelers who had stayed in their place. You can simply post a request for a place to stay in the forum but for the ladies, to avoid having a swarm of interested parties (especially males) to drop you a private message to take you in, I would suggest you to drop a PM to female hosts one by one. You can scrutinize by filtering your search on the right hand side and narrow down your choices.
Different hosts have different conditions (i.e., a specific time to leave and return home), do read up on their profiles and ensure they fit your living or traveling habits before you send your requests. Only confirm with the hosts when you feel comfortable. In some situations, you might end up having to find multiple hosts as some hosts are only able to put you up for a few days in 1-week span of your travel, so do plan and communicate well with these hosts.
3. The best time to find and drop my request to the hosts
Most of the hosts are always either traveling or have other commitments hence they are only able to confirm with you at least 1 week before your trip. There is no hurry to find hosts few months before your trip only to receive no confirmation in the end. Alternatively, you can start browsing through the list of hosts and bookmark those shortlisted ones whom you find favour with and send them your requests nearer to date. 2 weeks leading up to your departure date should be a sufficient buffer to allow some time for the hosts (especially inactive ones) to get back to you. To be safe, drop a reminder and another round of confirmation 2-3 days before your arrival.
4. Don’t go empty-handed
Sure, it is lodging for free BUT don’t forget to bring gifts as a token of appreciation. As mentioned, these awesome hosts have nothing to benefit from; express your gratitude towards them. You can bring souvenirs and local delicacies from your home country or something meaningful from your travels/home country.
5. Don’t expect too much
If you’re hoping to live like you’re in a hotel room with soft comfortable bed and marshmallow-like pillows served with breakfast everyday, you’ll be disappointed. Some hosts don’t cook and on some occasions they might but it’s rare; some hosts provide you with only a sofa and blanket sans bed. To avoid being utterly surprised or disappointed upon arrival, you can check out the living condition on their profiles that they have posted. If they don’t, just take a leap of faith – anything is better than spending nights on the streets with nothing. It’s FREE, don’t expect luxury so long as you have a roof over your head and it goes easy on your pocket for a few nights.
6. Not every members on Couchsurfing accepts guests.
Whether they accept guests or not, it is stated on their profile. Otherwise, you can try your luck and ask politely. If they can’t host you, you can still arrange for a meet up when you are there! Couchsurfing is also a platform to know and meet people from all over the world.
7. Traveling in a big group
If you are traveling in a big group, I would suggest you to opt for Airbnb/hostels/guesthouses. Most hosts only accept maximum 2 pax.
8. MIA Hosts
I’ve heard of stories that some confirmed hosts didn’t turn up to pick up the travelers eventually. They simply went missing in action (MIA). Stay calm and drop an ’emergency’ request on the forum. That’s one plus point about Couchsurfing, it is still possible to get a place on a last minute request. However, if all else fails, you can try Airbnb or nearby hostels for a night before securing another host.
9. Be nice, be kind and be neat
Imagine yourself having foreigners in your home or room. I believe the last thing you want to experience is a messy and rude traveler who messes up your place, disrespects you and come back drunk or tipsy. Be how you want these foreigners to be in your abode! Do free up some days to go places with your host, you don’t wanna make their place like a hotel where you come and go without establishing pleasant friendships or contacts.
[Post contributed by Gen. N]
If you have further questions or doubts on Couchsurfing and how to go about doing so, do leave a comment and we’ll try our best to help you! If you have some tips to share, do leave a comment because we would love to hear from you! :)