There have been several questions and requests relating to Couchsurfing after my hitchhiking trip in Europe. Within 2 months of hitchhiking, I chose Couchsurfing for the whole period as my stay. What could I say about it? Definitely it is a great platform for travellers, especially those on a shoestring. However, I have heard quite some complaints about it – “There are only men on CS”, “It’s so creepy to stay with someone you don’t know”, “Men on CS seem to take advantage of getting girls as couchsurfers”… It’s rather true and it was what I thought at the beginning of my trip. I wouldn’t reject some of those complaints because I acknowledge it myself and I have experienced it as well. However, if you know how to use it in the proper way, you can most likely avoid all the negative concerns.
What is Couchsurfing?
If you haven’t heard about it yet, it is in fact the most popular accommodation site used worldwide at the moment. It is well-known among travellers who are travelling under a budget and interested in experiencing local activities. No matter how old you are, Couchsurfing will always be in trend for you.
Basically, before your travels, you look for hosts located in the city/area you are about to travel to on Couchsurfing.com, contact and inform them the date you will arrive then you wait for their reply. Sounds easy huh? It kinda is, but there are some other consequences in that you as a female traveller must take caution of.
When should I start sending request?
It really depends on where you are travelling to. In big cities, there are several hosts on Couchsurfing but at the same, those cities are likely to be popular destinations. You will ‘compete’ with other couchsurfers to get hosted. It is best to contact hosts at least a month before your travels so that they can tell you when exactly they are available and you could manage to adjust your travel plan. This is applied if you know exact your travel dates of course because you are more certain about your arrival that will be informed to your host.
For those who do not know exact the travel plan and trot spontaneously, it is still possible to get in touch with hosts. It will be slightly more difficult. The chance you get replied is low and most of the time hosts are not available. What you could do is to Create a public trip or Create an event so that your trip will be known by people on Couchsurfing. These ways you extend your chance to be hosted higher.
Don’t write to just one host but several hosts!
Writing a unique request could help you getting hosted faster, too.
Here are some tips for writing a good request:
- Always dedicate a name (Hi John, Dear Tim…): Hosts want to see that you are writing to THEM and you have respect to and interest in them.
- Tell you background and travel story: Who are you, where are you from, why you travel there… Long no needed but it’s important to have it
- Include a little humour in your letter: just to show them that you’re fun
Hosts can be picky as well, you know?
How to choose the right host? (esp. for female travellers)
Hosts on Couchsurfing could be anyone surround you. They decide to be on CS to help travellers as they, either have had travel experiences before, or just want to meet people from all over the world. Some cases, I have to admit, they use CS as a platform to see girls who are travelling alone and taking advantage of that situation. This amount is not big but ugly truth, they are out there. There is no certain trick to spot who they are and especially we are not going to judge people by their appearance. However, you can take these criteria into consideration:
- Verified profile
- Photos (pictures with friends, or with other couchsurfers, not sexy or beachy photos)
- About description
- References (not all negative references are bad, as long as you think that person would fit your characters and you would like to hang out with that person)
Most hosts on Couchsurfing are men, therefore, we as female travellers feel intimidating sometimes. It is a good thing to take caution but it is important to learn to trust people as well. Follow your sixth sense and make the right decision.
It is certainly a great platform to meet people who share the same interest – travelling, and at the same time experiencing a place by the local perspective. We share stories and sometimes we become friends. It is always a good way to save a bit of money of accommodation but please keep in mind that they are offering you their home, not a hotel. Don’t over use it!