If Couchsurfing is a new word for you then let me explain exactly what it is. Couchsurfing is a global community of people who host and surf people’s homes across the world. What does this mean? People open up their homes to other travellers and like-minded people and allow them to stay for free in their homes. Couchsurfing is much more than just a free place to stay, it’s an experience where guests and hosts both get to know each other and share aspects of daily life for however long the stay lasts.
I’ve been a Couchsurfer on and off now for 4 years. I have hosted and been a guest, so I can see things from both perspectives. I know in the past I may not have been the perfect guest in the early days. As I was getting a feel for the experience, I certainly could have done with some tips on how to be a better guest. Plus, since hosting I have realised that many people are new to the experience as well and could do with some advice on how to make their first experience a great one.
1. Ask About Roommates’ Approval
It might seem silly, but you should definitely ask your host this. Sometimes Couchsurfers are so used to hosting people that they forget their roommates might not be 100% onboard with it all the time. By asking your Couchsurfing host this, in turn this should prompt them to ask their roommates (if they have any). That way when you arrive, you are greeted by a whole host of friendly faces!
2. Ask About House Rules and Daily Schedules
By asking about the house rules and daily schedules, not only do you see if this is a good fit for you, but you also are prepared beforehand for what to do and what not to do, meaning you don’t have to ask questions constantly about how things work and how things are done in the house. You should know beforehand if you will get keys or not and what time you might be able to enter and leave the flat. You should also ask normally what time do your hosts get up and what time do they go to sleep. By communicating these simple things you can make sure that your hosts are really right for you, and that you are not surprised if every night everyone is partying until 6am.
3. Bring a Gift
If you’ve been on the road, bring a gift from the last place you visited or if you’ve come straight from your home country, bring a gift from there. It doesn’t have to be something big or expensive, just a token of your appreciation. If you really don’t have time or space to fit one in beforehand, then get a feel for what your hosts like during your stay and leave something nice for them upon departing. Remember that your hosts are travellers too, that just can’t travel at the moment, so a unique gift is a way for them to experience something new. Food or drink always goes down well in my opinion.
4. Clean Up After Yourself
People have opened up their home to you and you should respect this. Make sure where you’re sleeping is always kept neat and that you clean up after yourself in the kitchen and bathroom. Not only will this make for a better experience while you are there, since your host won’t have any reason to nag you, it’s also great for the future as your host will leave a better reference.
5. Offer to Cook
People like food, people don’t always have the time or energy to cook it. Find your signature dish and nail it! It’s best to always have a healthy, hearty vegetarian meal in your skill set that is cheap, easy to make and pleases all. Not only does it show appreciation for your hosts, but it also gives you the perfect opportunity to sit down together and get to know one another.
6. If You Have a Skill, Share It
Good at fixing things? Are your massages the bomb? I can tell you I am so much more likely to host someone if they have another skill to offer, massages in my book are always a winner. Sharing skills means you are more likely to bond with your hosts over this said skill, and by offering your skills you show how much you appreciate the fact that someone has let you stay. Always keep in mind that Couchsurfing is not just a free place to kip.
7. Don’t Leave Unwanted Stuff Behind
Leave gifts, leave food, leave memories, but do not leave unwanted things in the house on purpose. Those mini shampoos aren’t going to make their way to the rubbish bin by themselves. If there’s something you don’t want, make sure you tell your host so they can either use it, give it away or chuck it.
So those are my top tips for being the perfect guest when Couchsurfing. Have any more? Tell me your tips in the comments below. If you haven’t signed up for Couchsurfing yet, you can do it here.
Article by Chloe Lloyd