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