At first, I was skeptical about Couchsurfing. That was until I needed to plan my trip to Brazil as a FIFA World Cup volunteer.
I had to plan my trip wisely as FIFA provided neither accommodation nor flight tickets. So I decided to couchsurf my way through Brazil. To my surprise, it was one of the best decisions I had ever made. I met the most interesting people and had the most amazing travel experience ever. Having said that, getting someone to offer you a couch might not be as easy as you think. But here are five tips:
1. Read through the person’s profile before sending a request
This might be the best way to suss out what kind of person you are dealing with, so read carefully.
2. Skip the profiles without photos
It should not be that difficult to upload a proper picture of yourself. If someone can’t even do something as simple as using a proper profile picture, chances are he/she might not be a good host or a good surfer. Trust me, you definitely want to know who you will be staying with, even for just a night.
3. Choose someone with references
It doesn’t have to be 200 references, just a handful would suffice. Make sure you read through them to see what other surfers/hosts have to say about this person. Watch out for negative references. Trust your own judgment and have faith in humanity.
To my surprise, it was one of the best decisions I had ever made. I met the most interesting people and had the most amazing travel experience ever.
4. Know the difference – getting verified and being vouched for
When a person has been vouched for, this means that someone who has met this person, be it via hosting or surfing, thinks that he/she is trustworthy.
Being vouched for is different from getting verified. While all it takes is just US$25 to get verified, only a person who has been vouched for at least 3 times gets to vouch for another person. I would say this is a pretty reliable way to tell if you can trust a person. But at the same time, not being vouched for doesn’t mean that the person is not trustworthy. It could just be someone just starting out, like you.
5. Write a sincere request
Be sincere in composing a couchrequest. Don’t just copy and paste your requests. Take some time to personalise each and every request. Tell them about yourself, the purpose you are visiting their country, the reason you would want to meet them, perhaps offer to cook them a local dish from your home country, bring them handcrafts or souvenirs.
Couchsurfing is a great way to connect with like-minded people. It’s a way to meet others who share the same passion in travelling. People who understand that great feeling of having a deep conversation for hours with a stranger you just met for the first time, the excitement of telling them about your country, showing them your culture and favourite food from home, laughing over silly things and getting awed listening to their stories and experiences in life.
Some things, money just can’t buy.
Find out more about Couchsurfing at www.couchsurfing.org.