A 6-Step Guide to Hosting Couchsurfers

December 14, 2017
travel
A 6-Step Guide to Hosting Couchsurfers

A 6-Step Guide to Hosting Couchsurfers

In May, I was at home in my Madrid apartment when I received an email notification from Couchsurfing. Someone was requesting to stay with me. I hadn’t used the platform for several years. Couchsurfing is a social networking website that primarily serves to connect travelers with hosts. Unlike Airbnb, there is no monetary exchange between hosts and guests.

I was about to decline the request when I saw it was a solo female traveler. Her name was Arina, and she was from Moscow.

“Hey Alex,” she wrote. “I came to Madrid for a festival, and now, I’m trying to decide if I should go to Barcelona or stay for some more days.”

Well, it’s not like I have anything else going on, I thought. Arina had yet to book a hostel, and it seemed like a good opportunity to help a fellow traveler. After all, it was just for one night. I accepted.

Hosting is a fun way to meet new people, show off your city and give back to the travel community.

If you’re interested in couch surfing but not so into the idea of sleeping on a stranger’s couch, consider hosting. Put that spare room, air mattress or couch to good use! Hosting is a fun way to meet new people, show off your city and give back to the travel community.

But how? Here’s how to go about hosting couchsurfers.

A 6-Step Guide to Hosting Couchsurfers

Step 1: Make a profile

I know you’re excited to host your first surfer, but before you do anything else, you need to make a Couchsurfing profile. Like with all user profiles, there’s lots of basic information to fill out, including name, age, location and languages spoken.

In the “About Me” section, let your personality shine through. Tell potential surfers why you’re on Couchsurfing and what they can expect if they stay with you. Be open and honest. Include photos.

In my profile, I have a quote that I like to think says something about me as a traveler: “Be a traveler. Not a tourist. Try new things, meet new people and look beyond what’s right in front of you. Those are the keys to understanding this amazing world we live in” (Andrew Zimmern).

Step 2: Set your preferences

When you’re making your profile, you also set your preferences. Consider your home and living situation. Which nights are you available to host? What are the sleeping arrangements? I set my availability for every night of the week and fixed the maximum number of guests at one. You can also set preferences for gender, children, pets and smoking. Do what’s right for you (and your roommates, if you have any).

This is also your chance to share any house rules. Having something in writing can save a lot of confusion down the line.  

There is also a section to give information about your home. As a surfer, I especially appreciate when hosts let me know about public transportation access and how far their home is from the city center. This is also your chance to share any house rules. Having something in writing can save a lot of confusion down the line.  

Step 3: Accept Requests

If you live in a popular tourist destination, get ready to be inundated with messages. In Madrid, I’d sometimes receive as many as five messages in a single day! While I responded to every message, I only accepted requests that were personalized in some way.

I feel more comfortable letting someone into my home when I know they have taken the time to read my profile. Some surfers will just spam an entire city with messages in the hope of getting a free place to stay. To me, that’s not what couch surfing is about. I look for surfers with whom I think I’ll have a genuine connection. Review their profiles and references carefully.

Step 4: Prepare your home

Once you’ve accepted a request, it’s time to get your home ready. Don’t freak out. It’s a couch surfer, not your in-laws. Prior to my guest’s arrival, I lay out fresh bedding and a clean towel.

As always, do whatever you’re comfortable with. Even a little hospitality can mean a lot to a tired traveler.

Some hosts I’ve stayed with have offered maps to make navigating the city easier. Others have had a spare key for surfers so they can come and go as they please. As always, do whatever you’re comfortable with. Even a little hospitality can mean a lot to a tired traveler.

Step 5: Meet your surfer

Regardless of whether you’re the surfer or the host, it’s advisable to meet in a public place. When I hosted in Madrid, I would offer to meet the surfer at the metro stop closest to my apartment. From there, we’d head someplace for a coffee or drink. The chance to chat made both parties feel more comfortable.

It’s also an opportunity to go over house rules again, if you have any. I always let the surfer know if I have something going on the next day and need them out by a certain time. It’s your home, not a hotel. Don’t make it into a lecture though! You wanted to share your space.

After giving the surfer a quick tour of my tiny apartment, I’d let them know they were welcome to anything in the fridge. I also gave suggestions for nearby places to eat and off-the-beaten-path things to do in the city.

Step 6: Have fun

For hosts and surfers alike, the most important part of couch surfing is to have fun. Invite your surfer to spend time with you. Show them your favorite hangouts, and introduce them to your friends. On the surface, couch surfing may just look like giving someone a free place to crash. However, it can be so much more than that if you let it.

Religion, politics, love: we talked like old friends. We were from opposite sides of the world, but I felt like I had more in common with her than I did with most of the people I grew up with. We’re still in touch, and I hope our paths cross again someday.

I’ll never forget the night Arina and I spent wandering from terrace to terrace in Madrid. Over glasses of wine, we chatted about the places we’d been and the places we want to go. Religion, politics, love: we talked like old friends. We were from opposite sides of the world, but I felt like I had more in common with her than I did with most of the people I grew up with. We’re still in touch, and I hope our paths cross again someday.

Open your home, open your mind, open your heart.

 

Related Reading

Couchsurfing in Barcelona
A Conversation with Couchsurfing’s Jen Wong
How to Choose Between Hostels, Airbnb and Couchsurfing
How I Learned Couchsurfing Safety Rules the Hard Way

Have you tried Couchsurfing? What were your impressions? Email us at editor@pinkpangea.com for information about sharing your experience and advice with the Pink Pangea community. We can’t wait to hear from you.

About Alex Wittman

Alex WittmanAfter two years in Madrid, Spain, Alex recently moved to Querétaro, Mexico. In addition to traveling, she enjoys reading, running and red wine. You can find more of her writing on her blog Backpacking Brunette.

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