The following is a Guest Post written by the travelling couple of Illia and Nastia of crazzzytravel.com on their tips for Couchsurfing taken from their own travel experiences.
Couchsurfing is one of the biggest travel inventions of the modern era. Not because it allows you to occupy someone’s couch for free – read exactly why ‘Couchsurfing Is Free’ is a myth – but because it holds unlimited possibilities of cultural exchanges, language practice, food sharing and other countless opportunities to learn more about people and countries you are in.
We’ve slept on quite a few couches and want to share some tips and experiences with you.
The Couchsurfing community has its own code of honor which must be respected and followed by every couchsurfer. The list of rules is pretty long, so we offer our shortlist.
- While sending a CS request, write a friendly message, clearly stating what you expect from a host. If you like to walk around a city together, but hate cooking or drinking alcohol, say it!
- Be open-minded and never ever judge the host! This person accepts you as a guest, you do not have any moral right to tell him/her that their dog/baby is ugly.
- Be neat and tidy. The worst thing you can do is to leave dirty underwear in the bathroom and dirty dishes in the sink. Even if you do not commit these mortal sins, make sure you change the linens after yourself and do not leave your belongings all around the place.
- Bring a necessary present. Our experience shows that the best present is food or a drink. People adore getting a bottle of wine or a package of organic coffee. Nobody needs fridge magnets or souvenir statues.
- Spend with your host as much time as possible, but be mindful of their personal time. People invite you to stay at their place, because they need communication, not because they are altruists who decided to open a free hostel.
Couchsurfing community gave birth to numerous myths and we are going to debunk them now.
- Give your host as much advance notice as possible. Nope, your average host does not plan his/her life several months in advance. The best time to send a request is one or two weeks before arriving.
- Leave positive feedback. While it is good to be grateful and write a reference at host’s CS page, your feedback must be not positive, but truthful. Think about people who will stay at this person’s home after you. If you experienced communication problems, sexual harassment or anything else that you didn’t like, warn others about it. Be honest!
- Stay with an experienced host. Popular hosts are hardly accessible, moreover, their homes are usually crowded and you have no time to spend with them. We prefer hosts with a couple of positive references. They already have some experience of hosting people, but at the same time they have enough time to devote to you.
- Share a detailed itinerary of your trip with a host. No! Definitely not! A person, receiving a CS request does not want to read 1000 word description of your adventures. Be merciful, write only what you would like to read.
- Cook food for your host. Not all people like your food, don’t be that self-confident. Before cooking ask a host if he would eat that at all.
Couchsurfing in Europe
Everyone knows that Couchsurfing in Europe is pretty perfect. It is safe, clean, easy and in general just great. We surfed in more than 10 countries in Europe and must recognize that people are equally friendly and open-minded throughout the continent.
In particular we remember having true French dinner with oysters, wine and strawberries with the best French-Ukrainian couple ever in Strasbourg. It was one of those nights you remember the rest of your life. They were so friendly and hospitable that we took back home only the warmest and the sweetest memories.
We met the weirdest CS host in Switzerland. The guy was obsessed with some idea of global governance by one corporation (created by him and having around 10 likes in Facebook) and told us about it 24 hours per day. He was also lonely and unemployed, so he spent all his time with us (which we don’t mind) and shared sad private love stories with some Asian girls (which made us feel uncomfortable). Apart from that he was super hospitable and super friendly, we shared our meals and walks, and after all our experience was positive.
Couchsurfing in Asia
Many people mistakenly believe that Asia is a bad place for Couchsurfing, as it might be dangerous. We are deeply convinced that CS in Asia is perfect, especially in warm countries, where very often in addition to a couch you get access to condominium swimming pool.
Couchsurfing with locals and foreigners living in Asia differs a lot. While staying in a Thai river house in one of Bangkok suburbs, we had a unique possibility to learn about modern Thai culture: about popular TV shows, typical breakfasts (“Europeans can’t eat that!”), prayer hours, average salaries and even attitude to dogs. At the same time whilst staying at the Bangkok condo apartment of a European girl we felt like we were in Europe.
We experienced one of the most amazing CS stays in Sri Lanka, where we stayed in a country house of one cheerful local family. There were so many family members in one house that we didn’t manage to count them all. We were invited to the birthday party of the youngest daughter (9 years old), where we were fed with birthday cake from her tiny hands and found out that there is no tradition of present-giving in Sri Lanka (a doll brought by us was the only present this girl got for her ninth birthday).
Couchsurfing in North America
Well, it’s pretty similar to European with the only difference that couch is not considered to be a must. Once we arrived to a girl who didn’t have furniture at all and offered us to sleep on the floor. Luckily, the apartment was big enough and packed with people, so we managed find a couch which belonged to her neighbors.
Interestingly enough, sexual harassment is wide-spread. It’s not about us, since we travel as a couple, but a good friend of ours had serious problems in a couple of American cities. According to her, guys thought it was OK to sleep with them if they offer a couch.
Couchsurfing is a great service which unites not only people’s couches, but people’s hearts. We are extremely grateful to those who created it and those you host and surf. CS community is one of the strongest and biggest travel communities in the world and it’s a big honor to be part of it!
Illia and Nastia are passionate about each other, traveling around the world and sharing their experiences at crazzzytravel.com, a blog where you can find plenty of budget travel tips as well as practical information about numerous destinations. They have already been to 33 countries on 4 continents and ain’t no stopping. Visit their website to learn more about traveling around the world or check their latest story about how to travel around Europe for just 3 Euros a day.