CouchSurfing Review and Guide to get Started

So! I just came back from Couchsurfing in Orlando this weekend and was reminded, once more, of how wonderful is the community and how much spice they add to my travels, even locally! While I was absolutely exhausted from an all-day affair with NKOTBSB (VIP event + long freakin’ AWESOME concert!) and thus could not enjoy the city with my host as I usually would, it still put yet another smile on my face *grins* and so, I was inspired to write this post! Here you have a couchsurfing review and guide to get started =D (click on any picture to enlarge!)


Couchsurfing Rome

Tram party in front of the Colosseum organized by my Couchsurfing host in Rome, Italy!

Are you a CouchSurfing Virgin? I’ll take it! For the past 3 years, this community has dramatically shaped the way I see people, other cultures, and life in general. Honestly, I don’t even quite remember how I found Couchsurfing. I do know, however, that it has changed my life. Seriously. My travel tales would have never been the same without the wonderful Couchsurfer, as they call themselves. And as the veteran Couchsurfer that I am, today I will introduce you to this popular subculture, hopefully brushing away your fears and taking your Couchsurfing virginity in the process *wink* I have taken it from several of my friends and they are all glad they did it with me (twss lol…), so I’m hoping this entry will do the same for you!

First, let’s start with a visual (right-click, open new window): Click here for my Couchsurfing profile.

Now that you have my profile as sample on a different window, keep reading this entry and put this window side-by-side with my profile so I can guide you through it!

Scroll down the page until you find a highlighted (light yellow) box saying “References.” I’ll start with that, as it is (in my opinion) the most essential feature of the site. Basically, you can “trust” the site as it has this feature, which happens to be similar to eBay’s feedback system. Here, you may read detailed references left by other Couchsurfers about your potential host or guest. They are categorized as positive, neutral or negative. This section is one of the deciding factors on whether I stay/meet up with the person or not. Not only do I look for positive references, but I also read them to make sure the Couchsurfer and I will be “a good fit” or so to speak. Needless to say, Couchsurfing is NOT a dating or free accommodation site. You stay or host people with the purpose of “traveling further” (if surfing) or “traveling without leaving home” (if hosting). This is a way of seeing and learning about a place from a local’s perspective, or a way of learning about a new culture from a traveler’s perspective. So, you want to make sure not only this person can be generally trusted, but also that you guys have some things in common so a connection is likely. See it as finding a travel buddy: While you may want someone different in order to learn new things, you also want to have certain things in common so you can connect. With all that said…

Couchsurfing Rome

My couch in Rome, Italy!

Read a person’s profile thoroughly before accepting or sending a couchsurfing request. This will further confirm whether you have things in common or not with this potential host/surfer. Also, if surfing, read the Couch information section carefully. It can be found on the left side of the user’s profile, right under the picture and Couchsurfer’s general info/interests. Read the rules, understand them. If you don’t agree with them, it isn’t a good fit, so don’t stay with that person. This is where house rules are usually displayed, so make sure you agree with them prior to sending a request.

So! Read this far and think you are up for it!? Want to get started!? Let’s do it!

Step 1: Register on Couchsurfing.org and fully fill your profile. Add a picture, talk extensively about your travel style, your personality and interests (specially if you haven’t traveled much yet). Many CSers will not accept a couchsurfing request or request your couch (if you wish to host) if your profile is empty and without a picture. So be sure your profile is presentable and a bit of a reflection of your personality prior to exploring the site further.

Step 2: Once your profile is dully filled, hover your mouse over the “Surf / Host” tab, then click on “Tips.” Read this section carefully and understand the community.

Couchsurfing Iceland

Oskar, one of my CS hosts in Iceland, his gf, and me at a local rave concert they took me to. I look tiny!

Step 3: While you could go straight to waiting for surfers to request your couch or go to “Couchsearch” immediately, I recommend you gather some references either from friends of yours that are already CSers and got references on the site or by joining Couchsurfing events on your community. You can simply go to the “Community” tab and browse through groups in your area. If traveling, see what CSers are doing in that city. This way, it is more likely to get surfers or have CSers accept your couchsurf requests, as you will already have some “credibility” in the community by having some positive references stacked up. This is how I started in Egypt and it helped me not only with getting CSers to host me, but also for me to trust the community and understand it a little better prior to surfing.

Step 4: So you got some nice references decorating the wall of your Couchsurfing profile? Then start Couchsearching (found under the same Surf / Host tab) or wait for the surfers to start requesting your couch!

Step 5: If you are a surfer, this is for you! Once you click on Couchsearch, fill in the appropriate fields. The form is quite self-explanatory and the site easy to navigate, so you should have no problems. Now, once you submit this form, follow the advice given by Couchsurfing under the “Tips” section and what I told you about references and couch requests above.

Couchsurfing Madrid

with my CS host Angel in Madrid, Spain! Me on left

Step 6: Now let’s get to writing a Couchsurfing request! So you followed the tips? Read the couch information? Agree with the house rules? Now write your couchsurf request as personable as possible. Maybe comment on something you found funny on that Couchsurfer’s profile, or how you also visited Australia and loved it, or how you love dogs and can’t wait to meet his/hers. You get the deal! Also, read the couch info carefully more than once, as some Couchsurfers love to put “passwords” or keywords that you must insert into the couch request or else your request will be declined! For instance, I may say “please put ‘COLA’ on the title of your request so I know you read this section and my profile–or else I will not respond your request!” Some Couchsurfers go even further and hide this “password” somewhere in between their interests or even caption of their profile picture. So what’s the morale of the story: READ the profile and couch information carefully, more than once! Not only for the passwords, but this will simply let you know your potential host (or surfer!) fairly well so it is a blessing in disguise, really.

That should be enough for our Couchsurfing 101 course! I shall write some tales of my couchsurfing experiences worldwide later on, so stay tuned for more!

Have you ever gone Couchsurfing? If yes, tell me about an experience! If not, what else would you like to hear about Couchsurfing!?

11 thoughts on “CouchSurfing Review and Guide to get Started

  1. Hehe! Great post and guide to Couchsurfing! It’s certainly something I’m looking forward to getting to grips with here in Spain.

    Don’t worry about feeling small next to Icelanders – they’re all bloody huge. And I know a fair few of them!

  2. After so many years traveling I still haven’t couch surfed.

    In my pursuit to get to know cultures at a more personal level, I think I’m going to give this a shot on my next trip.

    Thanks for the guide and the inspiration!

    • You’re more than welcome! Please come back and let us know about your experience! As long as you follow the steps I outlined, you should have nothing but wonderful cultural encounters through Couchsurfing 🙂

  3. Hello. Great post on Couchsurfing. I’ve actually had a profile for a long while but I haven’t yet put it to good use. I’m planning on doing some traveling abroad going into 2012 so Couchsurfing is a great idea. To get my feet wet I will start locally by going to a few ATL events and possibly surf in Florida.

    Thanx for posting.

    • Sounds great! I am glad you find the post useful. Would love to have you come back and tell us about your experience! 🙂

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  5. Great tips. Some of the same things I advise people myself. I have to start up some events soon. It has been too long.

    • Please do! I wish I lived in a city where CS were more active. One of my best friends here in Tampa though I met through Couchsurfing, though. It’s been too long as well — gotta phone him! 🙂 thanks for the comment, glad you liked the post

    • Can’t wait for you to experience it Mina! Make sure you follow the tips on this post. Most people (if not all) that have had bad CS experiences is bc they were not careful who they chose to stay with and/or wasn’t a good fit. Make sure you find someone you know you have some stuff in common with in order to have the best possible experience. Come back with your story once you do surf, btw! 😉

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