How to be a Good Couch Surfer

18 November 2013

Imagine traveling the world and not spending a dime on lodging. Imagine that you also make a local friend in each place you visit who personally shows you around the city and gives you the inside scoop on things to see and do. If this sounds good to you, then you'll probably like Couch Surfing.


Simple in idea and profound  in affect, using Couch surfing has led me to meet so many interesting people from around the world. Couch surfing really helped me get out of my shell while living in Denver and led me to adventures such as touring a tea factory and doing a road trip around Colorado.

When used properly the site accomplishes its mission goal: "We envision a world made better by travel and travel made richer by connection. Couchsurfers share their lives with the people they encounter, fostering cultural exchange and mutual respect."

However, not everyone uses couchsurfing.org properly. Many people sign up with the allure of just getting a free place to stay and have no intentions of meeting the site's mission of "fostering cultural exchange". It's easy to identify these people and I always refuse their couch requests.

Here are the steps you can take to be a good couch surfer and use the site properly:

Showing Romain around Colorado
Read my profile.
It's pretty obvious when someone just sends out a copy/paste message to several people in the city looking for a couch. There's nothing personal in the message, just a  generic "You seem cool, can I stay at your place?". Prove to me why I should host you. If you can't even take a few seconds to read my profile, you probably don't care about me and just want my couch. This is not what couch surfing is about.

Do not ask for a place last minute
Would you knock on a stranger's door and ask them to let you in, despite what ever plans they have for the  evening? No? Then you shouldn't message people a couple hours before arriving and ask to crash on their couch. This seems like a pretty obvious things to me as it's just common manners but all too often I still get messages like this. This says to me that you're someone just looking for a free place to stay and you have no interest in becoming friends. Plus it's totally rude to assume I should ignore what plans I may have for the evening just to accommodate you. If you truly are in a pinch and need a last minute couch, there's probably a group for that. Take a minute to search the site and find one.

Once I've accepted your request, reply!
Imagine this scenario: Your friend texts you on Sunday "hey, can I stay at your place on Friday night?" and you respond "sure, when will you be over?" After that your friend doesn't respond for several days. You'd probably be pretty annoyed right? You wouldn't be able to make any plans for Friday evening because your friend may potentially be coming over but hey, who knows really? That's what it's like when you don't promptly respond to messages on couch surfing. I don't know when you'll be arriving and that just makes things more stressful and makes me wish I had not accepted your request.

Touring a tea factory with couch surfers
I'm not a hotel
Once you're here at my place, please remember that this is not a hotel. While I love being a hostess and making sure my couch surfers are comfortable, I'm not going to bend over backwards to accommodate you. If I offer you something to drink, offer in return to get up and get it yourself. I hope that you'll treat me like a person and not a waiter once you arrive!

I'm not a tour guide
It's not my job to entertain you. I'm not being paid to host you, I'm doing it out of the kindness of my heart. So please do some research and come with ideas about what you would like to do. It's a lot of pressure on me to have to come up with a fun-packed itinerary on the fly. As much as I want to share my city with you, you gotta give me something to work with.

Pay it forward
Couch surfing is about giving, not just taking. As soon as you have the chance you should try to host someone else. Show them around your city and build up your profile as a trustworthy person. The more you give back to couch surfing, the more you get out of it!

Sampling beers at the Coors Brewery

Do you use Couch Surfing? How's your experience been?


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4 comments

  1. Good rules.... I've been stuck once in London (during wimbledon) and tried to get a last minute couch surf and it did not work out... luckily a friend had a hotel room and the floor was comfortable compared to my options in Hyde Park.

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    1. I understand that sometimes last minute couch requests are legitimate. If something falls through and someone needs a place, I'm more than happy to help them out if they explain their situation. I just get annoyed when I receive a request last minute with no indication that this was their last resort. To me it just comes off as rude!

      But I'm glad your situation worked out, haha. It's always good to have a friend in the area!

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  2. My husband and I love couchsurfing! We've met some awesome people through it. We even go to a couchsurfing meet-up that happens here in Nashville every Tuesday. It's fun to meet fellow hosts and people passing through.

    Your rules are excellent, bytheway.

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    Replies
    1. Glad to hear you've had a positive experience! Couch surfing is such a cool community and I'm glad to see that it's ever growing!

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