A Beginner's Guide to Hosting Couchsurfers

Couchsurfing was first introduced to me when I was planning a lengthy trip to Europe. Not only did I not have the budget to stay in hotels (or even hostels) for the whole summer, I also didn’t know anyone anywhere abroad. Couchsurfing filled both of these voids for me as I spent three months using it to travel around Europe. My experiences were so positive that once I got back to town, I couldn’t wait to start hosting and giving back to the Couchsurfing community. That was 3 years ago and I’ve been a happy host ever since.

I have made some life long friends through Couchsurfing and now have friends all over the world, which also means free places to stay and built in friends and tour guides! I have never had a strait up bad experience hosting. Not every one is your best friend, and some people have turned out to be extra quirky or socially awkward, but that’s about it, and it’s all only temporary. I’ve never had anything damaged, stolen, or ever felt unsafe. And the wonderful, enriching guests make up the majority of people that I host so I am more than motivated to continue opening my home.

One of the #1 benefits to being a host is that it keeps your life fresh and in perspective. It breaks up your routine and provides opportunities for new connections and learning experiences.

People often ask, “You host strangers? In your home? Do you lock up your valuables??

My response is always, “Yes. Yes. And of course not!” There are lots of misconceptions and fear based reactions to Couchsurfing, and everyone asks the same questions. So I figured I’d simplify it all and answer them in one place.

#1 – What exactly is Couchsurfing?

  • Couchsurfing is a fantastic social networking website made up of travelers and hosts. Travelers need a place to stay, and hosts offer their couches, spare rooms, tents or anything else in between. The energy behind Couchsurfing is a sort of pay it forward exchange. It's free to Couchsurf, but you’ll be better off using Couchsurfing if you’re motivation is more than just a free place to stay, as the focus is on true cultural exchange and relationship building. You don't necessarily have to be a host in order to surf, but Couchsurfing is built upon everyone contributing in some way at some point.

#2 Do I have to have a spare room, comfy couch, quiet house, etc. in order to be a host?

  • The short answer is: No. As long as you are up front in your hosting profile and transparent about your living situation, then that’s all you need to worry about. After that, it’s up to travelers whether they think your place is a good set up for them. Trust me - I’ve offered a tent on my back patio next to my chicken coop and have had many humble and grateful Surfers sleep in there.

#3 I don’t have time to be a host. Won’t I need to provide breakfast? Give them a key? Show them around?

  • You do not need to do anything special with Couchsurfers. You can give them a key if you want, or you can have them adhere to your schedule - if you do this though, be very up front about it. I for one, wouldn’t want to stay somewhere that I had to be out at 8am when the host left work for work, and it would be great to know that up front. You do not need to provide breakfast, show them around, or do anything above any beyond providing them with a safe space to sleep. You certainly can do any extra stuff, and it will be met with humble appreciation, but there are generally very low expectations with couch surfing. Again - just be up front about your situation and your host style in your profile.

#3 Do I need to lock up my valuables? Will they steal all my shit?

Again, the short answer is: No, and no. But this is where your intuition and screening skills as a host come into play. There are many different steps that offer opportunities for red flags to come up. Trust your instincts about people, even if you can’t articulate why you don’t want them to stay with you. I turn down just as many people as I accept, and sometimes it’s just based on the fact that I didn’t like the way I felt when I looked at their picture. Check out travelers profiles. Read their past reviews. Message with them a bit. And always go with your gut.

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#4 Will my home address be published?

  • No. Your home address is published nowhere on Couchsurfing. It is up to you as the host to message confirmed guests with your address.

#5 Do I have to accept every couch request?

  • Of course not. As the host, you have full control over whether or not you accept or decline couch requests. It is completely up to you.

#6 How do I sign up to be a host?

  • Go to CouchSurfing.org and create a profile. Upload some photos of yourself and fill out as much information about yourself as you can - the more informative and transparent you are in your profile, the more you will attract like minded travelers who will fit right in. Once your profile is complete you can then sit back and wait for inquires from travelers, or you can go on the local message board for your city and see if travelers have posted on the general board needing somewhere to stay. You can then reach out to anyone that resonates with you and invite them to stay if you would like.

#7 What if something comes up and I have to cancel on a Couch Surfer?

  • Obviously try not to do this, and try not to accept requests unless you’re really sure you’ll be available. Of course we’re all human and things happen so if you need to cancel, get in contact with your traveler as soon as you possible can to let them know. Even better would be to have some alternative options for them - other couch surfing hosts in your neighborhood, the local hostel, a friend of yours who wouldn’t mind hosting them for a short time, etc.

#8 I can’t host if I have kids/am a single woman/have a roommate {insert any other excuse here}, right?

  • This question cracks me up because it’s usually from the safety angle, and it implies that to be a host, you have to be recklessly willing to put yourself in danger by hosting random strangers. Again - see the answer to question #3. If you have kids - maybe you just host families, or people traveling with kids. Another concern with kids is that your kids are loud, your house is messy, etc., and again - my answer is the same - just be honest. If I rented a tent next to my chicken coop, you can rent a couch within earshot of your baby, or within steps of your toddlers tornado destruction. If your are a single woman, maybe you don't host men - that's up to you. Just use your intuition, be up front about your scene and let the traveler decide if they can hang with your crowd or not.

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A Beginner's Guide to Hosting Couchsurfers | Cock & Crow Blog #travel #couchsurfing #hosting

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