I know, I know... Many of you have heard about Couchsurfing, some of you may have even tried it, and many of you may have no clue about it!
In this post I will explain what Couchsurfing is and how to use it when travelling the world for free. Through Couchsurfing you can meet incredible lifelong friends while you travel or you can to let amazing people crash into your life for a day or two (or maybe a bit longer as Gita did into mine).
In my experience, Couchsurfing has brought me a wide range of experiences, interesting people, friends, adventure, and even... Love. I started hosting through Couchsurfing as my life was a bit boring and stagnant, so I decided to open the doors of my house to the world, and in return the world opened its doors to me!
At first sight it might sound crazy and even slightly scary! The idea of welcoming a stranger into your house, or staying in an unknown place with a complete stranger can make many people uncomfortable.
Usually your family, friends and colleagues may think about this
- It's for hippies
- What if I get a Psycho that kidnaps and Kills me?
- Im gonna get robbed
- Im gonna get raped
- Surely I'm going to end up staying at a creepy house with a dude from SAW
What is Couchsurfing?
It is a simple platform where you can be hosted or be a host. Those who think that Couchsurfing is just for having free accommodation have got it all W R O N G! Ok, yes, Couchsurfing is FREE accommodation (even in the most expensive cities of the world), however, the essence and idea of Couchsurfing is to meet, connect and share with other people - like minded or totally different. It is about getting to know histories, different cultures, dishes, ways to party, cool places, everything! Most of all, it is about sharing and creating a bond with the place you are visiting and how else is a better way to do it than with a Pro from the place itself.
How to use Couchsurfing
1. Create a Profile
Go into www.couchsurfing.com and create a profile. In your profile you should try to describe who you really are:
- Try to put all kinds of details about yourself - the is in details
- Share some stories about yourself
- Mention music you like
- Write about things you do
- The countries you have visited
- The languages you can speak
- Things you would like to learn
- What you can share or teach others
- and what kind of person you would like to stay with or be hosted by
You got it ;)
You can verify your account for about U$20 but it is not necessary, this give you just a fully verrified account, it seems to have no influence (I did it anyway).
Once your profile is ready, you can decide to be the Surfer (The one who asks to be hosted), Traveller (just looking to meet others), or Host (The one receiving the Surfer).
2. search for the City or Town you want to go to
3. find Hosts or other people who are travelling
4. See who you like and who is available
TIP: Focus on high response rate and recent activity - less than 48 hours
5. Send the Nicest Request
Once you find your prey, just shoot the sweetest message ever to convince them to host you. Make sure it is as human as possible, and customised - like if you really read the other persons profile. This is what Gita wrote to me:
What you should think about including in your message:
- Why are you travelling to that city, what for
- Make the message interactive, ask for some local advice
- mention why and how couchsurfing would or could be more benificial to both of you (offer something in return - teach or share)
- Mention common interests to show you have read their profile
- Write somethig interesting about yourself
- talk about the curiousity you may have about their culture, language, food....
- Write nicely and politely, make yourself seem friendly and with good energy!
Yes, writing a personalised message and finding the right host for you (based on their profile and reviews) may take some time, but what you may gain from the experience is certainly worth the time! We must put some effort in to get such great opportunities in return :)
TIP: Make sure you read the profiles from the people you are messaging
SEXY TIP: If you are hosting try to have a High Response rate to the requests you get, the higher your response rate is the more requests you get and the more sexy travellers will rain to you ;)
If you are woman, your chances of getting accepted are 10x higher. If you are a man, consider writing many requests (around 8).
Tips when using Couchsurfing
- Remember CS is all about S H A R I N G. Its not about you or him/her. It's about both. Give your best shot of sharing with your host or guest. It's always about the people itself more than the place. Share the ride, that night going out with friends, cook together, have a nice beer, smoke something, meet some friends, go to the park, show them what you do for a living...
- Host and Surf. As all in life, you have to give to take. Ying and Yang, you can be a dirty little bitch that wont spent a penny for a roof to sleep, but Karmic forces will not stay on your side! Join this party, host people too, ask to be hosted. Keep in mind that when using Couchsurfing as a guest or a host, there is usually more pleasure in giving than from taking!
- Describe yourself in detail on your profile. It's a shit watching vague profiles, they are suspicious. It's cool to see full profiles, you can tell a lot by someone on the way they write and it's easier to make contact with them when you find more things in common between you!
- Download the Couchsurfing App. It has almost all of the functionalities as the full site and it becomes super handy to contact Couchsurfers when you don't have them on Facebook, Whatsapp, or Email.
- Be Polite. For example: Please don't arrive too late, Ok! Sometimes I wanna go out! Sometimes surfers and hosts have other things they must do (such as work or meetings) please be understanding, leave the bathroom clean, and be on top of your dishes (or take some time and do the dishes for the family). And so on. Sometimes you may feel a cultural shock or you might find opportunist people. Don't freak out and work it out calmly!
- Share the Costs! It's very polite to do so. The more you give the more you get, but give without wanting anything back! Buy food from the store, bring fresh fruits and vegetables. Help cleaning, cook something, teach... Thats what Couchsurfing is about.
- Write Reviews. They are a key part for the Community and also an opportunity to praise and thank your Host/Guest. There are legends with over 200 positive references, what others say about you is part of the profile people will judge your true characteristics on. Better be nice ;)
- Be Easy Going, Couchsurfing is very tolerant of diversity but not rudeness! Go with the flow, Couchsurfing gives us the opportunity to hang out with totally different people as we normally may do, from different religions, having different beliefs, ages, colors, languages, all! We are all humans.
- Attend CS Meetings. Besides being a 1 to 1 platform, the Couchsurfing community offers amazing meetings, parties, and activities that bring people together. If you don't know anybody go to these meetings to find adventure and new friends :)
- Spread the word about CS. Make the project grow, believe in it, and see how many more people can have great new experiences from it!