My site is full of posts about Couchsurfing. Unless this is the first article you jumped into, you know how much I love the concept and the app and the website. In order to get started it’s important to make a good couchsurfing profile.
Making a good profile helped me have success in making new friends, learning about different cultures and staying on budget when traveling. I love traveling and do it as much as possible. Couchsurfing helps me save money so I can do more traveling.
Couchsurfing may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it can be right for anyone that is open-minded. If you’ve never tried it before but are willing to branch out a little and try something new, I highly recommend it. Everyone that I meet has a different story on how they found, or why they started, Couchsurfing. I love hearing the journey that brought each of my guests to the experience.
Personally, I found it through a google search. I started using it as a way to connect with other people and bring travel to me. There was a time when I was unable to do much traveling. I learned through this program that it’s possible to bring the travel experience to me. I was successful in the beginning because I was able to make a good profile.
The basics: Four types of people Couchsurfing is ideal for:
1. The Solo Traveler
The freedom when traveling solo is great. You get to design your ideal trip. Even better, you don’t have to worry about taking other people’s opinions when making decisions. Having this level of freedom when traveling can help you improve your own confidence. If you are in need of some introspection, solo traveling is ideal.
On the other side traveling solo can get boring sitting when you’re in hotel rooms or camping alone. Using Couchsurfing as an alternative ways of connecting with people and making friends can ease that boredom. You also have an opportunity to hang with the locals. I mean, there’s no better way to get insider information about a place than making friends with the locals.
2. Budget Conscious Travelers
Traveling on a budget? Couchsurfing is an ideal way to help you save your budget for the experiences you’d love to have while on a trip. Couchsurfing does not cost the surfer any money. You can find people to stay with for free; however, it’s not a handout. It’s common courtesy to do something for your host. It could be anything from leaving a small gift to helping out around the house or even buying a meal. Any type of a token of appreciation. After all, someone is opening their home to you for free.
3. Flexible and Adventurous Travelers
Looking for a new travel experience? Couchsurfing may be for you. It has given me the opportunity for experiences that I never would have had otherwise. It continues to be a source of inspiration and adventure for me. This is true whether I’m hosting surfers or I’m the one doing the surfing.
It does require the ability to be flexible and go with the flow but if you remain open to the experience, Couchsurfing can enhance your travel experience.
4. Small Groups of Travelers
I know this may seem like a stretch. Groups consisting of more than 2 may have a harder time finding a host but it is possible. I have hosted groups of 5 before so it’s not out of the question. I’ve also had requests for families with children before. Just because there’s multiple people or kids involved, doesn’t mean that this isn’t an option worth considering. I would say that about 1/2 of the requests that I get are for 2 or more people.
After deciding if Couchsurfing is for you, the next step is to get your profile set up. Couchsurfing is more than finding a place to sleep. It’s a community and your profile is your face in the community. Having a stellar profile is important. It can make a huge difference in the success that you have in getting started.
Tips to Create a Stellar Couchsurfing Profile
You should be authentic and not afraid to share who you really are. You are the only you there is and the world needs you just as you are.
Potential hosts will read your profile when you request to stay, and potential surfers when you are the potential host. People will look at other things as well, but they will start with your profile. If you are not being authentic, it seeps out. People can tell.
Oftentimes, hosts are more likely to say yes to someone that they have similar interests with. Being real on your profile allows your hosts to get to know you and form a connection before they even talk to you. These shared interests can also lead to a more enjoyable experience for you. Having an experience with someone that you have nothing in common with can be challenging for both the surfer and the host.
2. Add a Photo of Yourself
Post at least one picture of yourself in your profile. I do not accept chats or requests if there’s no photo posted. In my opinion, if there’s no picture posted it feels like the person may not be real or that they may be hiding something. This may or may not be the case, but for those reasons I won’t even consider hosting someone without a photo.
3. Get Some References
It’s difficult to get hosted if you don’t have any references but not impossible. The good news is that it’s possible to get references, even before you’ve hosted or surfed.
Check out Couchsurfing events in your area. Go, meet other surfers and then ask for references. Trading references is a nice way to pay back the favor someone is doing for you by leaving a reference.
You can also use the hangout function to find someone to hang out with and trade references with them.
If you don’t have any references yet, don’t give up, they will come.
4. Get Verified
This is not required, but may be helpful. You CAN use the website and the app without being verified. That said, having a verified profile may be slightly easier way to get started in the community. Even if it’s not mandatory.
There is a way to obtain verified status without paying a fee that I’ll cover in a second. The easiest way is to shell out a small fee. This way you can get verified instantly. As of the time of this post the price is $60 USD and this provides verification for life.
The verification process serves to prove that you are a real person and not a bot. This is what makes it helpful when starting out, but again, is not mandatory. I have no issue hosting guests that have not been verified. Other hosts that I have talked with feel the same as I do, but I’ve also talked to hosts that prefer verified guests.
As Promised, Here's How to Earn Verified Status Without Paying
It is possible to earn verified status without a financial investment, but only hosts can earn the status this way. There is a downside to this type of verification. When you pay for verification it’s for life and the verification is temporary.
The longest period of time you can earn verification for is 12 months. Each time you host a guest and you both write a reference for each other as a host and guest you earn 3 months of verified status. There is a limit though and you can only earn up to 12 months of verified status at a time. I know that was a mouth-full so let’s look at an example.
- Let’s say I host a guest on January 7th, I would earn verified membership until April 7th.
- If I host another guest on January 30th, I would earn verified membership until July 7th.
- If I host a 3rd guest on February 10th, I would earn verified membership until October 7th.
- If a 4th guest stays my verification would continue to January 7th of the following year.
As long as I continue to host at least one guest per quarter from this point on my verified status will remain in place. I can continue to host and each time I do it pushes my verified status out 12 months from the date I hosted.
- Continuing on the example above, let’s say I host a 5th guest on March 20th. My verification status would then extend to March 20th. The verification status would continue to extend in this fashion going forward.
An important note that I glossed over earlier is the mandatory references. The verification status is only enabled if both the surfer and the guest write a reference.
Once you have completed your profile you are ready to start hosting or traveling. If you’ve ever used Airbnb in the past, I like to compare Couchsurfing to the shared space option on Airbnb. There are a few key differences though. The fact that no money is exchanged is the biggest difference, but another big difference is the hosts ability to decline a request.
On Airbnb, if you decline a valid guest, you get a “ding” on your profile. Airbnb penalizes you for that. It ensures that hosts keep their calendars up to date and don’t turn away paying guests. It keeps people using the app because much like a hotel they are strongly encouraged to say yes to all requests. This is not the case on Couchsurfing. Hosts have complete discretion with no downside to saying no. This means that it can take a little effort on your part to get that yes. Never fear, I recently spent 28 days on the road and couchsurfed every night. It is possible to find those hosts and it makes for an awesome adventure when you do.
How to get Accepted by Couchsurfing Hosts
Read the Hosts Profile
Read the profile and reviews for the person you are asking to stay with. This may seem like a no brainer but trust me, many surfers don’t read the profiles before requesting to stay. Reading the profiles for hosts you are requesting to stay with allows you to personalize your request. You also get the opportunity to look for red flags that may help you avoid a place that isn’t right for you.
Personalize Your Request
Personalize your request. Good hosts are in high demand and receive a lot of requests. You want to stand out from other requests to improve your chances of getting a host to accept your request. You do this by personalizing your request.
- Find something in the hosts profile to connect with them on. Talk about it in your request. Do they like sports? Do you like the same music as them? What do they do for a living? Can you relate to that?
- Look for specific requests in their profile. I’ve seen a couple of hosts place a pass code in their profiles. They request that you use that word in your request. It shows them that you are paying attention to their profile.
- Use your hosts name when sending out requests to say. Check, double-check and re-check that you are using the correct name for the request you’re sending. I get lots of requests where they address me with the wrong name. It would be better to not have a name on the request than to get a request with the wrong name in the salutation.
When I get a request addressed to someone else, I immediately feel like it’s the exact same request that they are sending to the 30 other hosts that they are asking to stay with. You may actually be sending 30 other requests. That’s OK but most of the time is unnecessary. A few thoughtful and personalized requests are going to yield a much better response than a copy and paste request sent to the masses.
The truth is that surfing is an amazing experience for both the guest and the host but it’s also very taxing on the host. Guests take up a lot of resources for hosts. Hosts are happy to do it but feeling like the surfer doesn’t care about where they stay doesn’t make a host want to say yes.
How to Have an Epic Couchsurfing Experience
Communicate Communicate Communicate
Communicate with your host. Let them know what time you’ll be arriving. Sometimes that can be hard to tell in advance but even an estimated time-frame is good. Be sure to let them know that it’s only an estimate if that’s what it is. Also let them know immediately if things change and your arrival time changes.
Exchange phone numbers
Give your host your phone number. Communicating via the Couchsurfing app or website is great but wireless signal isn’t always reliable. You may not be able to send or receive messages. Your host may not be able to send messages. Messages may be delayed in coming through the app or someone may have notifications turned off. Having a phone number is a good security measure.
If you are traveling overseas, or hosting an international guest, WhatsApp is your friend.
Be considerate of your hosts time and space
Stay tidy. Just like if you were in a state or national park, a leave no trace mentality is a good one to adopt.
Give back to your host
This can be accomplished in a multitude of different ways. It could be by taking them out to dinner, cooking a meal, helping around the house if there’s chores, or bringing them a small gift. These are a few ideas but there are many ways to give back to your hosts so find the way that’s right for you and your host. Although it’s not required that you do this, it’s a good practice.
Leave a reference
A reference will give your host something to remember you by. Even better, it could help them find a couch when they need it. If you find yourself at a loss for words, describe their home, how you felt during your visit, and an experience that you shared with your host.
You may not always share and experience with your host. It happens sometimes that I don’t even meet the guests that stay in my home. In that case I will describe how they left my home and whether I’d allow them to stay again or not.
Don’t be afraid to leave truthful references. I’ve had over 100 Couchsurfing experiences. In that time, I have had 2 that I would not want to repeat. Truthful references will help other surfers have the best possible experience when they are following in your footsteps. If you do have a negative experience, it will happen to someone else unless you leave a truthful reference.
Bonus Tip: Leave a Thank You Note
This isn’t something that I experienced a lot of when I first started hosting but over time it has changed. As I received more notes from surfers as they headed out in the morning, I grew to love those notes. Eventually, one of my guests left a Couchsurfing Log Book (a small notebook with a sticker on the front) and I love it. I ask all my guests to write in it and it’s so much fun to look back at. All the notes I had collected from former guests have been stapled or glued in to this notebook. I have made it a habit to leave a note on a postcard for any hosts that I stay with because I enjoy this practice so much.
Now that you know the basics, log on, plan your trip and have a blast!