5 tips for couch surfing

I recently wrote about how wonderful our first experiences couch surfing were on Guadeloupe and it got me thinking whether I could offer some advice to all those first time couch surfers out there.

Dave and I learnt quite a bit during the week we couch surfed and I thought I could share some tips with y’all.

Me and Dave with Renaud - our newly found friend from couch surfing

Me and Dave with Renaud – our newly found friend from couch surfing

5 tips for couch surfing

1. Use the couchsurfing.org website to its full potential

When you join up to couch surfing, acknowledge that it’s going to take you some time to fully complete your profile.

No one is going to host you – or want to stay with you for that matter – if you can’t be bothered filling out your profile.

Try and be as honest and open as possible when describing yourself. If you’re struggling for what to say, ask a friend to help you or think about what a mate might say if they had the chance to describe you to a stranger.

When applying to surf on someone’s couch, read their profile. I cannot emphasise this enough. If you’re a 40 year old woman who likes to go to bed at 10pm and get up at 5am to meditate, you don’t want to be crashing on the couch of a 20 year old man who is only just getting back from a nightclub at 5am all weekend long.

Read the reviews of the people you want to stay with to make sure they’re all positive and that their previous couch surfers have only had nice things to say about them. This is vital if you want to stay safe in a stranger’s home.

I was pretty particular about the couches we asked to surf on because I knew it’d influence the time we had on Guadeloupe. And it must’ve paid off because we got along really well with Renaud and Sandra – the two people whose couches we crashed on.

Carmen's couch surfing home page Double-Barrelled Travel

Our relatively detailed couch surfing profile

2. Bring a gift

Those who host couch surfers do it for the pure enjoyment of meeting new people from different cultures and don’t expect to be paid.

This isn’t to say that you should take their generosity for granted however.

It’s good manners to always bring a gift when you stay with someone. You wouldn’t turn up to dinner at a friend’s house without a bottle of wine or chocolates would you? (If you wouldn’t, couch surfing isn’t for you!)

Same goes for couch surfing – bring a gift.

It’s nice if this gift is something from your home country that they can’t get in their country. Dave and I couldn’t do this as it’s been a long time since we were in Australia, but we bought some rum from Dominica for each of our hosts, along with some Dominican jam for Sandra and some local aftershave lotion for Renaud.

Carmen and Renaud rum distillery Guadeloupe Double-Barrelled Travel

Me and Renaud at a rum distillery in Guadeloupe – he brought us here on his day off

3. Be organised but flexible

You don’t want to impose on your hosts. We were rather disorganised when we got to Guadeloupe and if I could have my time again I would’ve been a bit better with my planning.

For example, we didn’t try and hire a car to the last minute when we realised there wasn’t much public transport. We also didn’t book our tickets to Petite Terre – a neighbouring island we really wanted to visit – until the last moment either.

Dave and Renaud Le Moule Guadeloupe Double-Barrelled Travel

Renaud shows us the sights on Guadeloupe

This meant that Renaud probably spent half an hour ringing car hire places and tourist boat offices on our behalf. He didn’t mind doing it but we felt like a massive annoyance.

But don’t plan your trip to a tee. The whole point about couch surfing is getting to know your host, so make sure you have free time when they’re available so you can hang out.

By all means suggest things you’d like to do but be open to suggestions from them and be willing to take the time to get to know them.

Dave and Sandra La Soufriere Guadeloupe Double-Barrelled Travel

We hiked to the top of La Soufriere volcano with Sandra – it was great even if it was a little cloudy at the top!

4. Be grateful

Make sure you show just how grateful you are that the host has offered their spare room or couch up for you to stay in. You were a total stranger to them and this extreme kindness should be rewarded.

Dave and I like to cook dinner at least one of the nights that we stay with our hosts. We make sure we buy all the ingredients and do all the washing up.

It also means you can have a leisurely meal together and get to know each other.

It’s little things like these that’ll make your hosts glad they had you come to stay.

Carnivale on Guadeloupe Double-Barrelled Travel

Sandra took us to the carnivale in Guadeloupe – it was great!

5. Be considerate

Have you ever had an inconsiderate house guest? We have, and there’s nothing more annoying.

Don’t forget that even though you might be bosom buddies by the time you leave, you’re still a guest.

Work around their living patterns and habits. Do they get up early? Then you should too so you’re not sprawled out in the middle of their living room so they have to tip-toe around you.

Have you been doing loads of washing during your stay? Buy some washing powder to replace what you’ve used.

And even if they have a cupboard full of toilet paper, by a couple of rolls while you’re there – it’s the little things that help.

Carmen and Sandra La Soufriere Guadeloupe Double-Barrelled Travel

Me and Sandra hiking the volcano

So there you have it – my top 5 tips for couch surfing.

Do you have any to add?



About the author

Carmen has been nomadic since May 2013 and the co-founder of Double-Barrelled Travel. She loves experiencing new cultures and learning new languages. She is having the most fun when skiing down a mountain, scuba diving in the Caribbean or curled up with a good book.

22 comments on “5 tips for couch surfing”

  1. Flyingdagger Reply

    Great tips, though I have been brought up in such a way that I don’t need them. In addition I would like to add that the gift can be replaced by house work, repairs, invitations to dinner, movies etc. Though I love cooking, I’m not so comfortable cooking in a kitchen that isn’t mine. Unfortunately many new members don’t see the need for material reciprocity. Recently I met a German couple who told us that in Western cultures a gift wasn’t necessary. They were looking to save money and since hosts weren’t stupid nobody wanted to host them. My last tip would be: Be considerate to the local culture. In some cultures a certain modest dress code is preferred

  2. Anne Reply

    Great tips! Actually I just wrote about the same subject to my blog few days ago and now reading this, I noticed that I had written very similar tips. I think these are very basic things, but not everyone thinks them when using CS. Especially the filling out your profile part! It’s so important to have a good profile, otherwise nobody wants to host you or send a couch request.

  3. tenywa emmanuel Reply

    Hi, your profile sound great due much of experiences in it.How ever, you steel have much to discover because i have not read any thing about Africa in you profile .may be let your 6 trip head to Africa {UGANDA}for you to sea the source of the River Nile,Mountains many people’s cultures.so i do request to host you .here is my phone no;+256779201207.Thanks.

    • Carmen Allan-Petale Reply

      Hi Tenywa,
      Thanks for the offer. We do hope to get to Africa within the next five years. And if we make it to your part of the woods we´ll certainly be in touch!

  4. Dustin Brett Reply

    Gifts are not necessary at all. For the people of this site to suggest CS isn’t for you otherwise just shows that they don’t fully know what CS is. Either way, don’t feel obligated just because these people do. I didn’t expect it when I hosted and I don’t do it when I surf. If you expect a gift when you host then your doing it for the wrong reason.

    To condone someone saying that hosts would have to be stupid to not expect a gift is just nonsense, although they did just that in the comment section.

    • Carmen Allan-Petale Reply

      Hi Dustin,
      I don´t think they were saying people wouldn´t accept a gift, I think they were saying people surfing didn´t want to buy gifts because they were trying to save money.
      We always think bring a small token of your appreciation is nice – even if it´s not necessary. It´s a nice way to begin the stay. We´d bring a gift even if we were staying with our friends so it´s normal for us to do it when we couchsurf.
      Thanks for your comment,

      • Dustin Brett Reply

        I know what they were saying. I was saying that you don’t need to bring a token of appreciation. If you can’t appear appreciative by yourself a gift won’t help. Feel free to bring a gift if you feel obligated, with your friends or otherwise. But it’s not what I do or would want from my surfers. I host to meet people and so they have a place to stay, not to get gifts.

        • Karly Reply

          I agree 100%! I have surfed and hosted and you definitely don’t need to bring a gift! The best “gift” to bring is sharing experiences, learning from each other, and creative a long lasting friendship with your host/surfer.

  5. Tamara Reply

    Hi, I would have to disagree with the ‘avoiding people with negative references’. I would definitely read all (as long as there aren’t hundreds, if that is the case I’d go for the last 50 and the neutrals and the negatives) references, but a negative one is by no means an automatic no no. There are many people who will write retaliatory negative references, and if everyone started automatically excluding anyone with a negative reference, a lot of people wouldn’t dare write deserved negative references for fear of a retaliatory one, thus endangering the couchsurf experience of the next person hosting/surfing the person causing the problem. Apart from that, what’s negative to one person, might be very positive for the next.

    • Carmen Allan-Petale Reply

      Good point. I agree. I guess I’d just avoid them if they had lots of negative reviews – that’s probably not a good sign! But yes, if it’s just the odd one I would certainly still consider it.
      Thanks for your comment,

  6. Maura Cherney Reply

    Great article! I especially agree with being considerate of the little things, like replacing the toilet paper. When my friend Molly and I CouchSurfed around Italy and Greece we did similar things, but loved to take our hosts out for a meal (plus it was the best way to find the local’s favorite restaurants!)

    I also enjoyed the comments from other readers. Because of the many interesting perspectives, I would love your input in a study I’m doing about trusting strangers online.

    My name is Maura and I am a graduate student at Illinois State University. I study how people build trust online, especially through the medium of CouchSurfing. I realize that CS members sometimes get bombarded with opportunities to participate in research (that sometimes does not seem very legitimate) but I would like to offer you the opportunity to participate in my study. My research is legitimate, scholarly work that will result in national or international research presentation and possibly publication. Hosts, please see the message below for an invitation to participate in this study. I would love your input!

    You are invited to participate in a research study regarding your experiences and opinions about hosting CouchSurfers using CouchSurfing.org.

    Maura Cherney, a graduate student in the School of Communication at Illinois State University, is conducting a research project regarding how CouchSurfing hosts make decisions about whom to host. This project is under the direction of Dr. Daniel Cochece Davis.

    In this study, participants are asked to complete a 15 minute questionnaire regarding how they make decisions about whether or not to host CouchSurfing members based on aspects of their profile. Participation is completely voluntary, and participants will remain anonymous.

    Participants for this study are required to be at least 18 years of age. Because this study is focusing on American CouchSurfing hosts’ perspectives, we request that all participants for the study be citizens of the United States and have had past experience hosting “surfers” using CouchSurfing.org.

    If you are interested in participating, and at least 18 years of age, please follow the link below to complete the survey.

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  8. Vanessa @ Green Global Travel Reply

    Good tips! I’ve done a little bit of couch surfing too, and I agree with everything you say. The best part is you get to live like a local and see things you wouldn’t as a regular tourist! Plus making a friend on the other side of the world!

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