During my trip, I plan to couchsurf if I can when camping isn’t possible. I’ve been couchsurfing before, both in my home country and abroad, and I absolutely love it, but I feel it gets a bad rep. One of the most common questions I get about couchsurfing is whether or not it’s safe. This is a valid question; after all, anyone would be a little nervous staying with a complete stranger. So here I’m going to outline a little about what I’ve learned from my previous couchsurfing experiences.
1. Couchsurfing is an excellent way to meet people
Couchsurfing is a great way to meet locals who know all the best places to see. Even if they aren’t available to show you around, they can make recommendations and you’ll have someone to hang out with when you get back.
2. But you have to be willing to make an effort
I’ve been guilty of this as well as had this happen to me. If you don’t make an effort to get to know your hosts you’ll come out with a lukewarm experience at best and somebody may end up feeling snubbed. Remember, it’s not just a free bed!
3. Reviews are the most important thing to check out
The reviews from previous couchsurfers are there to help you. I feel a lot better about a person if I know that other people have had good experiences with them. Specifically, as a solo female traveler, if I’m looking at a single male couchsurfer’s profile I look for reviews from other solo female travelers. On the other hand, I realize that everyone has to start somewhere, which brings me to my next point.
4. A fully filled out profile is a wonderful thing
I’ve stayed with people as their first couchsurfer twice before. On one of those occasions, I felt safe because the person had a fully filled out profile and was a female living with other people. On the other hand, I’ve had many offers to stay at houses where the person had no reviews, no verification, and absolutely nothing filled out on their profile. Don’t accept those. Ever. That’s a HUGE red flag.
5. Nevertheless, a scarcely filled out profile may just indicate poor English skills
The other time I stayed as a person’s first couchsurfer it was a single male whose profile, while filled out, had little information. I’ll be the first to admit that this could have ended really badly, and I wouldn’t do it again. However, in this case the poorly filled out profile was due to his low English skills. Depending on your personality, this may still be a reason to reject a person as a potential host. If communication is poor, a bigger effort will have to be made by both of you to have a good experience.
6. Always have a backup plan
Your backup plan can be as detailed as a specific hotel to go to if things go wrong or just a general plan to head in the direction of downtown, but you should always be prepared to bail. Furthermore, it’s a good idea to have emergency numbers. A friend back home you can contact, your country’s embassy, the number for the local emergency services. Whatever. Have them on speed dial, and try to have at least the emergency number memorized. You never know when you’ll need it, not just couchsurfing, but in general.
As a final note, these tips are based on my experiences staying at people’s houses, but I’m sure the general principles would work just as well for hosts looking for somebody to host. So there you have it, 6 tips to keep in mind to make your next couchsurfing experience a good one! Next time you’re planning a trip, just head on over to the couchsurfing website and try it out!