Six Habits of Highly Effective Couchsurfers

Bunking up on a stranger’s couch in a foreign city is trickier than staying with familiar folk. In addition to basic etiquette, here are six habits to master before you send out that first request through www.couchsurfing.org.

Giny + her brother-in-law Markus from Austria, two of my favorite guests.
Jiny + her brother-in-law Markus from Austria, two of my favorite guests.

Since opening my home to couchsurfers more than two years ago, I’ve welcomed 200+ strangers from around the globe to my Amsterdam apartment. My guests have included singles, couples, friends traveling together, mother-child duos and even a baby—adorable five-month-old Layla, who arrived wide-eyed from Paris with her Argentinean parents. While most have been 20-something students and 30-ish professionals, I’ve also hosted retirees and empty-nesters in their 50s and 60s, many searching for renewal in the second half of life.

French couchsurfers in the kitchen
Couchsurfers Roxane + Caroline made quiche lorraine for an authentic French dinner.

A Cultural Education

From virtually every experience, I’ve learned something about the customs of a foreign land. With tales of his family, a Pakistani army captain shed light on arranged marriages. An Austrian girl showed me post-war guilt up close and personal. A lesbian couple from China illuminated Asian intolerance for gays. Americans from numerous states have helped me see my own culture from afar. I could go on, but I’ll just say this: I would never have known all these things had I not learned them from those who’ve lived them.

Playing dress-up with Renaissance Woman Bernadette Golden.
Playing dress-up with Renaissance Woman Bernadette Golden.

In addition to helping me better understand foreign cultures, my guests have left me a legacy of trinkets, drawings, recipes and other tangible and intangible gifts. From them, I’ve learned what it takes to be a successful couchsurfer, as well as a good host. Being real, flexible and willing to go with the flow are parts of both equations. So is good communication, reliability, open-mindedness and an understanding that couchsurfing is about more than free digs. As Condé Nast Traveler’s William Sertl puts it, it’s an alternative travel resource that “brings hippie wanderlust into the modern age in a smart and open-to-all-ages Internet way.”

What To Know Before You Go

If you’ve ever crashed at a friend’s place, you already know the basics of connecting with people and making global friendships. But bunking up on a stranger’s couch in a foreign city is trickier than staying with familiar folk. In addition to basic etiquette, here are six habits to master before you send out that first request through www.couchsurfing.org:

Adorable Layla + her Argentinean parents
Adorable Layla + her Argentinean parents

1. Authenticity: Be real! Whether you’re a host or a guest, a profile that reflects who you are, how you live and what kind of traveler you are is essential. If you want positive responses, create one with recent photos of you (not the scenery you’ve visited), CS friends and references. Don’t have references? Get verified through CouchSurfing.org for $25 and you’ll automatically improve your CS image. Whatever you do, don’t misrepresent yourself. If you’re a party animal who likes to hit the clubs until dawn, approaching potential hosts as a tee-totalling culture vulture will backfire. Trust me.

Alas, you can’t control everything in your profile. Both hosts and guests can leave references that help other surfers know what they’re all about. Surfers who want to avoid creepy or amorous hosts will check out references if they don’t want to risk a similar experience. By limiting requests to hosts who’ve been verified, e.g., had their address and identity checked through CouchSurfing.org, you can boost the safety factor.

CS guests Kayleen (from the U.S., enroute to India), Daniel from Serbia + Suz from Eagle Rock, CA.
CS guests Kayleen (from the U.S., enroute to India), Daniel from Serbia + Suz from Eagle Rock, CA.

2. Engagement: This starts with a personal, not copied and pasted, request to potential hosts. Make it specific, with details about length of desired stay, how and when you’ll arrive, what you want to see and why you chose that person. Showing interest in both your host AND your destination demonstrates you’re not just trying to travel for free, which is not in the true spirit of couchsurfing. For hosts, knowing something about guests’ interests, lifestyle and sightseeing agenda will foster connection. If it’s clear their eating, drinking, smoking, sleeping and partying habits clash with yours, don’t ask for trouble by inviting people into your home who don’t appear to be kindred spirits.

Annie + Melanie from France
French guests Annie + Melanie

3. Adaptability: If you’re looking for five-star accommodations, book a luxury hotel. Alternatively, turn to Airbnb, which connects travelers with locals interested in renting space. While some CS hosts offer comfy digs and perks like WiFi, keys and sightseeing guidance, the lower your expectations, the better your chances for a happy stay. Going with the flow, even if that means sleeping on the floor or in cramped quarters, goes with the territory. Adapting to that reality will help you avoid disappointment.

4. Communication: Effective surfers understand their hosts are real people, not hotel clerks. While trains and planes can be late and people can get lost in foreign cities, it’s rude to arrive hours after your expected arrival, or not at all, without informing your host. Whether you use a mobile phone, Internet cafe or airport WiFi, be sure to let your host know if your plans change.badge_AmsterdamInterNations

Over your stay, give him or her a chance to show you around, introduce you to favorite sights and share a meal or drink. If you have an agenda that includes no time for your host, there’s really no point in couchsurfing. As a host, it’s also your responsibility to provide guests with the contact info and directions they need to arrive safely at your pad. Once there, discuss their plans and itinerary so you’re all on the same page.

Couchsurfers in the kitchen: Aussie Onnie + chef Decem from China
Couchsurfers in the kitchen: Aussie Onnie + chef Decem from China

5. Resilience: Being turned down is part of couchsurfing. Being able to shrug off rejection and view finding a couch as a worthwhile challenge will help you enjoy the pursuit. To improve your chances, create a complete profile that gives potential hosts a sense of who you are. Avoid generic, prefabricated messages. Throw in some of your hobbies and interests. And don’t forget to include reasons why you’re interested in staying with each potential host.

Find more of my Amsterdam highlights at Afar.com.
Find more of my Amsterdam highlights at Afar.com.

The more personal your request, the more likely you are to get a positive response if your host is available. Sorting potential hosts by “newest member first” could boost your chances, since new hosts may be most enthusiastic about inviting travelers into their home. Also look at the response rate of hosts, which can reveal how interested they really are in having guests. Hosts may be more receptive if you tell them you’re willing to sleep on the floor (if you really are), since that may relieve stress for them.

Americans Margie + Diane, who still keep in touch after meeting in my apartment last spring.
Americans Margie + Diane, who still keep in touch after meeting in my apartment last spring.

6. Reciprocity: Savvy couchsurfers understand give and take. In exchange for your host’s hospitality, it’s nice to show gratitude with a trinket, bottle of wine or favorite food from home. Other forms of giving back include preparing a meal, taking your host out, helping with clean-up, watering plants, or contributing food or toiletries to help support the cost of your stay. By making your host’s life less stressful, you’ll improve your chances of getting a good reference, which in turn improves your chance to finding future couches. Being cheap and rude will give you a bad reputation in a community based on trust and references.

Tired couchsurfers Jorge + Luis
Tired couchsurfers Jorge + Luis from Mexico

Reciprocity also entails feedback; if your host disappointed you, a message explaining the problem might smooth things out. If that doesn’t work, it’s your right to leave a negative reference to let other surfers know what they might experience with this host.

Advertisements

130 comments

    • I agree, I think this stuff should go without being said, but that is just the way I was raised. I started CS years ago when it was still a fledgling site, and like most social sites it really has taken off, which has it’s ups and downs. It also results in more no’s than I was originally used to. It should be shared and expanded and I welcome the wealth of new hosts and hostees to the site, but unfortunately this takes away a certain level of charm and expands the gap of disconnect that is inherently present due to its technological base. I’m only slightly discouraged by the slew of nos, but find myself spending a lot more time consciously crafting requests only to receive the one word response of “Sorry”. I just hope that CS remains true to it’s original intentions and misuse remains only and undertone.

  1. As a new couchsurfer I can say that these points help you to understand what is the real meaning of being a guest or a host by couchsurfing. I will use your advices in order to be a good guest or host !

  2. After reading your article, I must just say that I really want to test this amazing experience ! You’re reason, son much people wants to couchsurfing in order to get free accomodation. But it’s too much. It must be so enriching to meet new people from all countries ! I’m an “amateur” couchsurfing, but I can’t wait to start… Thanks for the points , they gonna help me in this new experience!

  3. It is imperative to understand all these points before embarking on such a unique experience as CS. It`s true, Couch Surfing can be what you make it, if you stay flexible and are considerate, you can have a great time 🙂 looking forward to joining the club!!!!

  4. Wow, this is an excellent and thorough post! I’m curious about all different ways to travel but I am yet to try couch surfing. I have tried Airbnb and had a bad experience, but couch surfing seems like something where both parties are equally invested in making it a nice experience. Maybe one day I will know! 🙂

  5. Being new to CS, I find this post extremely helpful! I’ve heard about it from other people and have always wanted to try it but haven’t had the chance. All the tips you give are great and make me even more excited for my first couchsurfing experience. I love all the photos you included of surfers you’ve hosted. How cool to meet so many different people from all over. It sounds like such an enriching experience for both the host and the guest, and I can’t wait to try it!

  6. So true – the essence of couchsurfing is not the free accomodation but the experience of living with a local, understanding and being flexible to a new lifestyle! What better way to gain the perspective sought during travelling than by living with a trustworthy stranger!

  7. So I’m about to embark on my first Couchsurfing adventure, traveling to Amsterdam and then throughout Spain and not really knowing much about couchsurfing or how it works, this article is really helpful. Especially the part about not getting discouraged. I’ve been contacting many people and it hard to get denied when you do try a lot in your approaches. But luckily I’ve been getting more yes’s and I’m super excited to learn more from experience!!!

  8. Thank you for this great advice, as a neophyte to couch surfing this provides great insight.

    I absolutely love the idea of giving a gift, will provide me something fun to think over in the next few weeks to come up with something that is unique and a reminder of hopefully great times.

    Thanks again for these great tidbits of knowledge

  9. I’m very glad that you asked for me to look over your blog before beginning my Couchsurfing endeavors. I feel like I have a better understanding of how to best use the CS system now and I am very excited to begin learning about other cultures through those who know them best!

  10. I’m a first time couch surfer so I think reading this has cleared a few things up for, what is to be expected of me, how to get the most out of it and also what fantastic amazing people there are to meet on the website…will def go on to read some more blogs

  11. Thank you, that is a wonderful blog regarding couchsurfing, expectations and treatment. I agree with all 6 points in that:

    1. Be authentic – present a true and honest picture of yourself, as you need to be compatible with your host. If you enjoy partying, smoking and drinking, there are hosts who enjoy that company and look for couch surfers in that domain. I on the other hand, would be extremely uncomfortable in those scenes, and hence I present myself as a true academic and artist, which I am.

    2. Engagement, – I agree that people need to communicate with you personally and tell you why they would like to stay with you. I don’t think that vague messages such as “I am looking for a couch” are sufficient.

    3. Adaptability – This is a couch surfing website, not a five star, bed and breakfast hotel – Adjust your expectations!

    4. Communication – Communication is the core essence of human beings and their existence. COMMUNICATE – time, date, arrivals, exchange numbers, details, and communicate when things go out of plan, as they will do in life. Don’t Assume – it is rude to keep a guest or host waiting, without and information or communication.

    5. Resilience – In life, people generally need to strengthen their resilience, as not only on couch surfing, but in other domains as well, you will be rejected, you will be told NO, you will be pushed away, you will be excluded. Don’t sit and whimper – Stand up, empower yourself, do whats needed and learn to walk in life.

    6. Reciprocity – Help around, your host is not around to wait on you. Make your bed, clean up, do the dishes, show a certain kind of respect to your host. Don’t expect to be served or waited on. If your host is late, you wait for him or her, as remember, they have chosen to host you – don’t make them regret that. And of course, trinkets or some small gesture to say thank you, always leaves a good feeling behind.

    Yes, this is my 2 cents worth, regarding The 6 Habits of Highly effective couchsurfers – I love your heading, and I think that this is a wonderful blog.
    Rizwana

    • Too right you are. The spirit of couchsurfing is not really about accommodation but exchange and real human interaction. My experiences in the cities where I have been able to couchsurf have been vastly more enjoyable and real than the cities where I have had to stay in hostels. For example when my partner and I traveled through Italy, we flew into Bari and stayed with an amazingly true hearted host and had a wonderful time in a city I did not expect to even stay long in and had not heard many good things about. But we enjoyed our stay there so much more than in Rome, where we couldn’t find a host and had to resort to a hostel, it was so much less of an authentic experience.
      These are great tips to keep couchsurfers good and true!

  12. We are doing the couchsurfing for the first time. It is so nice to learn those tips from you. We found it very useful to know how it all looks like and that what’s important is not free accomodation but communication and sharing between host and guests. We are now very excited about this experience and looking forward to meeting you.

  13. These six suggestions are so helpful and honest. Being new to couch surfing, it’s interesting to see how to go about surfing the proper and polite way. I find it useful to know how to communicate and accurately surf with complete strangers. I hope to be able to meet you and explain and exchange even more ideas about surfing and traveling! 🙂

  14. First of all, thank you for suggest us to read this blog. It shows how to live this experience. It’s our first time at couchsurfing and we are so excited for it. We think that this way of travel is the best way to know other cultures and meet new people.

    Hope to meet you soon!

  15. This article informed me so much about couch surfing, as A newcomer, I used to have no many idea about this activity, now I realize how amazing couch surfing is, it is like a community of open-minded, caring, and passionate people round the world, who help each other to realize the dream of travelling and to understand world and life better. They learn from each other, and from the experience. After reading, I felt like people have to be real, to trust, to care, to give in order to earn trust and the acceptance of this nonofficial community, which is amazing and based on the good side of humanity, which also encourage and nurture the goodness of one’s heart as well.

    Thank you for sharing this with us, and you, as a host of more than 100 couch surfer coming from all over the world, amaze me as well. People always get used to close themselves to protect themselves, but you open your door to welcome stories. I am so looking forward to meet you and I believe it would be a wonderful experience to talk with you in Amsterdam two days after. 🙂

    Best wishes.
    Shuangman

  16. Thank you Melissa for transferring us the opportunity and the philosophy of “couchsurfing”. We agree with the characteristics: authenticity, engagement, adaptability, communication, resilience and reciprocity. For us, these are the most important concepts when we travel and get to know more people. Those ways of sharing your life also help you to discover more things about yourself, which is the one of the main goal for us 🙂 Cheers, Alexiane and Nuria.

  17. I love your spirit about giving and taking, that is really what CS is about!

    Your article makes me feel very exited about my travel through Amsterdam and Belgium – to meet people over CS. Your text is a good help, since I dont have so many experiences of couch surfing. And I believe, that through your blog you help and inspire a lot of people.
    You are inspiring,
    Being available to so many surfers and write about is is amazing!

  18. This was written really clearly! I just started couch surfing this year, and have come across several of these topics. CS is a beautiful exchange program when done correctly- if not, it can be disappointing on both ends! Thanks for the tips!!

  19. Everyone who’s doing couchsurfing should read your text! Especially “new” couchsurfer, because only with (kind of) this information the new people could get a feeling for couchsurfing. In my eyes it’s really important, that couchsurfing is NOT only a free couch, but definitly more (much more) if the surfers are respectful and follow your advises… And I’m not using cochsurfing for a free couch, but for the exchange with wonderful people AND to get to know a city from another point of view!

    Hope to get to know the person behind this article in a few days ;-)…
    Best wishes
    from Karo and Hannah

  20. I got some CS-requests like: “I will be calm as a mouse, you won’t even recognize me” and was surprised by it. “Why don’t you go to a hostel then?” I thought. Next time, I will simply give them a link to your helpful list here! Tanks!
    A list for the other side would be lovely, too: Too all people who are afraid to host surfers: Six reasons why hospitality is a wonderful value…
    😉

    Cheers,

    Beate

  21. I am not new to sharing my home with others and vice versa – but I am new to the http://www.couchsurfing.com community. The internet has changed the way we crash at friend’s houses and share our stories and our culture! In addition to tips on being a good guest – your post reminds us that everything is shared now via social media. Couchsurfing.com is a great way to get out and about but also to start a travel log of sorts on your adventures. Thanks for the tips!

  22. I have not got a chance to share because i am always living with a gastfamily as a student. But if I do can share, I would print your blog out and send it to the potential Couchsurfers. I think Couchsurfing is not only a web for knowing new people and sharing space. It’s somehow a education, teaching people knowing how to love human-beings and respect.

  23. After reading your blog, I believe that I will become a good host in the future as soon as I will have a fixed abode-):

    I like that you’ve categorized 6 habits to be actively on “couchsurfing ” , especially “resilience “, “communication” and “reciprocity” are wonderful creeds to behave ourselves as hosts or guests.

    It is a good learning experience for me, I would like to follow this blog, when one day I will start to host my guests, I want all of us to respect the “rules”.

  24. It’s really an excellent guide for being a couchsurfer!
    It’s true that the essence of couchsurfing is not the free accommodation but the experience of living with a local. Communication is most important in my view. Resilience and reciprocity also impressed me a lot.
    Couchsurfing is a new understandable and flexible travel style. I haven’t joined it for long, I still need to learn how to be a good guest and host as well. This post helps me a lot.

  25. Amen. I’m a frequent traveler and will start hosting this summer. As long as you follow the rules of common courtesy, many of which are mentioned in this article, couchsurfing is a breeze. Most hosts are pretty easygoing: they like meeting new people and they want to show you around, but they do not want you to break their stuff. Simple as that.

    • Accidents do happen, but that’s not the worst sin a CSer can make in my book That award goes to folks who ignore the few rules I have regarding curfew time, Those who don’t get the CS spirit of reciprocity, who just come to take, take, take get a runner-up nod.

  26. I am not a first time CSer now! Thanks to Dace from Prague gave me a fantastic experience on my first couchsurfing! I think no matter which kind of culture background are we from, there is one thing in common that to be honest, polite and consideration!
    My English is … kind of “broken” and all my host so far are not native English speakers as well. The thing is our language is enough to help us understand each other. The more I communicated with westerners, the less different I find between each other. Hope I have the honor to talk with you at some time. 🙂
    Jie

  27. Thank you for this lovely article! As an a first time CSer, this is a fantastic 101 guide. Though, it is sad that such things have to be made clear. As a guest, you should already be respectful of the home and person who opened said home to you.

  28. As a 41 year-old woman traveling throughout Europe beginning next week–solo–I realized that CS looks so much better that Airbnb because of the connections with people and the empathy created between guest and host–we need more of that. I’m from NY State and have been embarrassed of other Americans traveling abroad who were jerks (during my travels to Brazil, I unfortunately saw a lot of this). If more Americans experienced CS, perhaps they’d become less ignorant and demanding. I know I will have a greater respect for the locals and destination.

  29. As a new couch Surfer I am very grateful for these tips! I can’t wait to create new memories and have exciting adventures traveling and meeting wonderful people through CS.

  30. I’m glad I found this post before I went couchsurfing this summer. I’m excited to learn about other cultures! Do you have any more tips for what might be appropriate and travel-friendly gifts?

  31. Thanks for the tips! I’m glad I read this before leaving to CS this Summer. Any more ideas on travel-friendly gifts? Especially if you plan to CS with multiple hosts?

    • It’s always nice to bring a trinket that somehow represents your home town or culture. If you don’t want to carry stuff, you can’t go wrong offering to treat your host to a meal! Just asking the question shows me you understand the spirit of CS.

  32. Really great article with some awesome tips – am signing up for a couch surfing profile shortly, will take all of the above under advice!! x

    • Aw, thanks, Cynthia. CS has been very enriching for me + I try to spread the love by helping people become better surfers. You’d be amazed at the number of lame copy/paste requests I get!

  33. Next week my friend Kira and I will start our first big CS-trip. We have planned a quite long tour and will meet hosts from all over Europe. We are really excited, especially because we are CS-virgins 😉
    We hope all of our hosts read this article and take these tips to heart so that the next 3 weeks won’t be a total flop. As for ourselves, we will try our very best to be good surfers!

  34. This is wonderful advice for all us amateur couchsurfers out there! THIS is what the wanderlust is all about- connecting with new places and new people. Thanks for sharing your vision.

    • You’d be surprised how many people buzz through a city just to say they’ve been there. They see all the tourist spots but never connect with locals. Not my style or, I’m guessing, yours ;-).

  35. In Hermann Hesse’s novel, Goldmund would wander around forests and villages restlessly, hungry to experience the world, which during his years as a scholar he only knew from books or a glance out of the window. He would walk around and knock on doors in anticipation of hospitality; sometimes it was the only way for him to survive a hard winter. Where he went he would help out whereever he could; and leave impressions and stories behind. And today, as the world increasingly develops more comfortable standards and the horror of not surviving the cold or starvation is, at least in the western world, not too common anymore, people still feel the longing to connect to strangers in a sense of hospitality. So today we knock on doors via cyberspace, which does not cost as much effort, but is still done in the same spirit: it is wanting to connect with somebody you wouldn’t get into contact that easily otherwise, it’s about reciprocity and experience.

  36. Excellent advice! It’s funny how the things important in CSing (authenticity, communication, reciprocity, adaptability, engagement) are also so important in life. It seems that our culture has traded many of these person-to-person connections with computer screens, iPhones, and televisions. It’s awesome to know CS is still keeping them alive!

  37. As an amateur couch surfer, I really appreciated the insight from this post! I look forward to reading more…

  38. Very good and complete article. All those tips and advice should be natural for everyone. Call it whatever you like : politeness, respect, civic virtue, this should be natural (and not only in CS).
    However, this is a very good intiative to recall all these principles here. Even if I’m not new to CS and I already hosted and surfed several times, those tips will be very useful for me in the future.

  39. This is perfect, thanks for sharing your experience, I re-posted in my facebook group who will taste the fun of couchsurfing coming from Hong Kong also ;D Friendship and sharing culture is really a blast ~ I am working on which local cuisine and gifts that are portable from Hong Kong to Europe !!

  40. Perfect tips for any couch-surfer. I totally believe that one of the most important aspects is the authenticity, being genuine and being yourself is a must. What’s the point being anyone else?

  41. With this article I am very sure you know what is the most natural interaction between people. Also, I can know more about requesting couch and hosting other people in my city. Thanks for this article I will share it to my friends and make them know more about the real spirit of couchsurfing.

  42. I found you on couchsurfing and wanted to send you a couchsurfing request hoping you would host us. I think we would had a really good time together but Doug can’t do the smoking.

  43. Great post, i recognise alot of items in the list. When i talk to my friends i often get the comment: “i’d never do that”. When i ask why they wouldn’t it’s usually a lack of trust. It’s sad but true. I only had positive CS expierences. I usually write to hosts who are different then myself. It keeps things extra intresting. The more positive sounds about this great network go out the more people will start trusting other people and that’s a huge benefit!

  44. Great insight into the CS world. I did my first CS experience when I lived in Asia (KL, Malaysia). Many (young) people are coming to Asia to travel there. I was living and working there, we had a great community of expats in this city. We helped each other a lot and also the other travellers. It was just a really great experience which I believe nowhere else I will live again. Now I want to meet people from different countries and that’s what CS is giving me.

  45. A really informative post indeed! I’m planning to couchsurf during my eurotrip next month and i’m glad i chanced upon this post. It’s really important for people to understand these points if they want to have a good experience couchsurfing.

  46. My first couchsurfing experience was about 4 weeks ago. Very new to this, I hope I become more comfortable and gain more experiences through CS. It’s quite challenging traveling alone, but meeting people along the way is definitely worth it.

  47. Hi all
    The first thing I did was put a link on my profile of this site.
    This site says everything how you can get through hosting and surfing a richer lifestyles thank you Wordgeisha
    Now I’m going to try to make a good couch request 🙂
    gr,oetje

  48. Beautifully said! I think that you put CSers thoughts into words! Everyone who is signing up to CS should read this, to understand its true spirit.

  49. Beautifully said. I think you put the thoughts of CSers into words 🙂 Anyone that signs up for CS should read this! Then they will understand what we are all about

  50. absolutely love the quote by William Sertl! Two of my friends and I are hoping to stay with you in a couple of weeks, we would love to meet you!

  51. As I’m new to couchsurfing, this post is really helpful and informative about what it is all about and how to make the most out of the experience. I find your blog really helpful, I especially like the “Free things to do” posts, since I’m a student and a budget traveller!
    Anyway, I’ve sent you a couch request, my friend and I would really want to meet you : )

  52. I’ve just been recently introduced to the couch surfing community and at first I had a few reservations about the idea. Safety is probably the number one concern for most first timers as I imagine many people have issues with trusting complete strangers both as surfers and as hosts. I think my skepticism was largely due to ignorance and once I started to explore the website further I began to realize how wonderful the community is and how ground breaking the concept was. Many people have an interest in the history and culture of the world but what better way to experience it then from the people who define and live it. It’s possible to read about the history and culture of these magical places in books but to truly understand what makes these places so unique is to know the individuals that together create the community. The idea to open your home to a traveler is so wonderful. It is an intimate invitation that encourages the sharing of culture and ideas. In today’s rapidly changing world where the exchange of data and information is digital and often feels impersonal, the members of this community open their homes to their international guests; share my shelter, share my table, share your stories and your travels, and both traveler and host can learn so much. I have always thought of myself as a citizen of the world, and this community helps to open up the borders and invites and encourages us to travel, learn, and explore. Fare thee well on your adventures.

  53. I`ve never tried couchsurfing and really want to feel it! I`ve read a lot about it but this post describes coachsurfing exactly as I understand it – like a friendship! Host and surfer are friends (maybe not very close friends – no familiarity or friends rudeness!) but they respect each other, try to do the best of them and enjoy communication! I think that`s really great and waiting for my first couchsurfing trip!

  54. These seem like excellent tips for life in general! Thanks for the advice. I’ve gotten used to couch surfing friends’ couches, but I’m so excited to make new friends by couch surfing and broaden my horizons this way. It’s must help immensely with what John Green calls ‘imagining others complexely.’

  55. Reblogged this on UnClogged in Amsterdam and commented:

    It’s summer in Amsterdam—high couchsurfing season, which translates into 10+ daily requests for me and my couch. Most of these requests ignore basic couchsurfing principals and get template responses from me. Guests I accept seem to have a great time, if 100+ positive references are any indication. To help more surfers understand how to better land a couch, I’m re-posting this story.

    • But I think it’s great, that they get a response from you…
      There are not many things I dislike more than not taking a few seconds to reply to a couch surfing request…
      Thank you for this nice impression of what couchsurfing really is about!
      Hope you have a good time and that you choose the right people to host 😉
      take care, nina xx

    • Hallo Melissa,
      since we are new in this couchsurfingcommunity it was like a guideline to read your thoughts about the habits everyone should respect for having remarkable experiences. We agree to the fullest! And we would like to meet you in Amsterdam soon – if your L-couch will be available?!
      Regards from mother & daughter
      Katharina & Raphaela

  56. I am brand new to the CS community and philosophy — though I’ve been attracted to the idea for years. I only joined the site a few days ago and had a lot of questions. Now I don’t. You have answered them all! Thanks so much. Perhaps we will meet when I am in Amsterdam this fall.

  57. Fantastic post, I love couchsurfing and although currently travelling really miss hosting. I truly believe it is the best way to learn about the world from real people glad to see others enjoy hosting too…

  58. Great post, Melissa! Everything makes total sense when you understand that couchsurfing is about giving as much or even more than what you take.
    I cannot wait to try it out.

  59. Great post, Melissa!
    It totally makes sense when one approaches couchsurfing as a way to give as much or more as what you receive.
    I cannot wait to try it out. 🙂

  60. Fantastic post! A great insight into the couch surfing world. If surfers and hosts adhere to these guidelines, couch surfing can be a great way to meet people and have fun!

  61. CS is really cool site. I’ve started using it for real 2 months ago and hosted one girl from Hong Kong. She was kind of the ideal of a Couchsurfer. She had all the habits you’re writing about. Probably read your article. 😀

  62. This is a super useful blog post! I’ve included a link in my couchsurfing profile to help new surfers 🙂 As someone who has hosted a bit but is relatively new to surfing, it’s a great refresher on how to be a good surfer too. I’ve had great experiences hosting, but they would’ve been even better if some of the surfers had paid more attention to the communication part (i.e. arrival time, keeping informed of plans, etc). Completely agree that copy & paste requests are a waste of everyones time.

  63. Great post! Especially for a new CS like me. It’s nice to have guidelines for what hosts and surfers should expect. After reading this and many negative comments on CS profiles, it has solidified my belief that communication is key! I will definitely be looking up wifi hotspots/ cafes before I arrive in any new city!

  64. Whoa, I was truly blown away by what I read! I feel (theses days even more since i’ll be doing a lot of travels in the next months) that the essence of what CS truly is, is being lost. I’ve read numerous profiles and people sometimes (not to say most of the time) miss the point. It’s not really about sleeping or having a roof over your head or just saving some money or hooking up even (ho god..), it’s really, as you write; sharing, being honest, wanting to learn (about culture, life of others, ect). If every Surfer and Host would think like you, Couchsurfing would have been (at least for me) much easier and somehow much more useful than it is right now. Great read.

  65. This is so helpful, and really embodies what CouchSurfing is all about! I used CS a few years ago while traveling through Asia and stayed with an Indonesian family during Ramadan. On Eid, sharing in the celebration with them was one of the highlights of the entire trip. I hope that when people stay with me in Rome or Chicago that I can provide similar memorable experiences. They’re much more important than the quality of the couch/bed or amenities a hotel can provide. Thanks for sharing!

  66. As someone new to the couch surfing community this article is so incredibly valuable to my traveling partner and I. Few resources exist which describe couch surfing for its true nature, meaningful connection and an opportunity to learn about a culture from a local point of view. While a great way to save money, I’m glad you address how cost efficiency is not the true mission statement for cs. How lucky we are to have such a community in existence in an increasingly technological age! Thank you for inspiring me to make connection my couch surfing priority, as well as gratitude and hospitality when I have the opportunity to host myself.

  67. Hello Melissa! Thanks for posting this. Can’t agree more to everything you wrote. I actually plan to write quite the same thing based on my experience.
    I think the challenge starts from the process of sending and receiving request. Everyone needs to learn how to be respectful. For example, even if our request is rejected, it is nice to reply again and say thanks. That is to appreciate him/her because not everyone kindly makes time to reply request, particularly if they can’t host. I feel bad if I told people that I am not able to host them and they disappear without saying anything. It’s like they need me just because of my couch, not me as a person.

  68. I am hoping to have my first CS experience with Melissa at very short notice. I told my friend about it & he said he couldn’t think of anything worse – isn’t it funny how people are so different. When Melissa told me that if I can stop with her there will also be someone from Portugal & someone from America, so it might be a bit of a squash, my immediate reaction was – GREAT!! how exciting, it just gets better & better & I began to visualise how interesting & fun it will be. I fall into the empty nester category and CS has the potential, literally to open up a whole new world for me. Another friend I’ve told about it (also an empty nester) feels envious that I’ve got the confidence to do this, but as Melissa says on her profile, once fear is overcome, life is there to live (words to that effect, not a direct quote). It is now my mission to encourage my other female friends to come with me on future trips. Doing something outside your usual experience can be daunting, but I think CS makes it easy.

    • Getting out of your comfort zone is the 1st step toward growth. So kudos for being brave in middle age, Vicki…I look forward to meeting you soon!

      • Oh Melissa, you literally brought a tear to my eye because I do feel like I’m being brave! However, I also have a gut feeling that I will be making lifelong friends, and that is very exhillarating!

  69. I noticed your tweet saying you woke up to 51 couch surfing requests, this is the reason why! You know the etiquette and are so genuine in your opinion of how it all works. For that I have a lot of respect. Furthermore you’ve given a full and open description of yourself and your experiences, which allow people to feel familiar to you. I come at this from a purely surfer perspective as I have no ability to host, and many other hosts come across as standoffish, or write so little about them it feels very risky or dangerous to try staying with them.

  70. This is great advice! I am new to Couch Surfing and it’s great to get upfront information about what it’s like to consistently host different types of people. I am currently in the process of becoming a verified member since I have no references to speak on my behalf 🙂

    Your blog is wonderful! Keep it up!

    Amanda

  71. Such a great and real post! Couch Surfing is in its basic essence and amazing and priceless way of travelling and getting deeper in various cultures, but mostly.. it helps people open their eyes. Sadly that some user decided to misinterpret this concept or even worse, abuse it. It’s people what makes it so wonderful, not couches. Everybody should read this article to understand 🙂
    Let the real CS souls make friend around the world!

  72. I am new to couch surfing and looking to go to Amsterdam in 2015. I big dream of mine!! I found this post on your couch surfing profile. Thanks for all the great tips! Makes complete sense!

  73. Thanks for this great post! I’m new to couchsurfing and am about to couchsurf through a few European cities (including Amsterdam), so this is helpful to know before I start the process of finding hosts.

  74. I appreciate this post as a relatively new CouchSurfer. I found your blog on CouchSurfing and I think I’ll be utilizing it even more during my stay in Amsterdam. It would be fun to meet you and hear about your life experiences, so I’ll send you a CS request right now! 🙂

  75. Hey Melissa. I whizzed through your blogs and i am def going to try some of those places out….the pointers on this blog are great. I have surfed from Congo to Brazil and had a great time without exception because of a genuine interest in my hosts. I still have a handwritten note of thanks from 2 singaporean girls who stayed with me a couple of years back in Nairobi! Although i dont insist on a gift or anything like that from a surfer its nice when they cook for me or leave me a message or we keep in touch….

  76. Hi Melissa! I just stumbled on this post and as a new couchsurfer this is seriously invaluable – can’t wait to keep trying and continue with my CS journey!

  77. Hi, feedback from a novice trip to Angers – really cool. Severine received me graciously, fixed me a snack, let me fix dinner the following day, took me site seeing – she felt like family. This is definetely what I prefer to cold hotels, empty spaces on the planet …… we got on like sisters. I was very grateful to meet such a warm and genuine person. Thank you Severine ! Do drop by when you are in town closer to Paris. The door’s open. Jean Anne

    • Hi Jean Anne,
      I think you’ve written to the wrong person. I do have a CS profile, as well as a post on couchsurfing on this site. But my name is “Melissa,” not Severine, and I don’t remember hosting anyone named Jean Anne. If you do visit Amsterdam, enjoy my adopted city!

  78. It Is a nice way to clear the air between the guest and host. Moreover, I stress on the point that if I am offering someone to stay at my place that means I trust you have some mannerism. You have to respect the decorum of home, its as simple as it gets. People should understand the difference between a house and a home then only you come to respect someone’s property. In India we have a saying that it doesn’t mater how big is your place, what matter is the fact that if you have big heart to accept someone.

  79. Very useful article for newbie couchsurfers! I could sense a lot of these things from my intuition but it is really nice to see it all written down and to find some extra tips I didn’t think about. I really liked how you said lowering your expectations can lead to better couchsurfing experiences! I can definitely see how that will be true! I also liked reading about different ways you can give back to your hosts, because it gave me more ideas of things I can do to show my gratitude.

    • Not really, Francisca. Maybe some people are interested in tarot readings, but I’m not one of them. As a non-believer, I think such gimmicks can replace real human interaction. I’ll try to keep an open mind, but trust that I’ll be a hard sell!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.