Since its foundation in 2004 Couchsurfing has become one of the biggest alternative means of finding accommodation in the world. While the primary core of couchsurfing revolves around meeting local people and saving money with free accommodation there is also a vibrant Couchsurfing community where you can find local meet-ups and events, hitchhiking and travel offers and even the occasional job offer. With over 9 million members worldwide there are potential hosts in just about every major city in the world and with so many different people it’s important to stand out and to get yourself noticed when trying to find a potential host:
Create an attractive profile
Unlike some other social network sites and apps creating an attractive profile is about showing off your personality, rather than your physique. Take the time to fill in the boxes and fill in as much information as possible, from your favourite bands and current travel plans to your skills that you can teach others and your hobbies. The more information displayed to potential hosts the more likely you are to get accepted. Likewise one sentence answers for every box are unlikely to make you stand out and come across as someone that hosts would want to spend time with.
Use a variety of pictures
While you may have several photos of of you taken from various different angles in the bathroom mirror this is not the time to show them off. Instead look for 5-7 photos showing off who you are as a person such as photos with friends or photos at various events or locations. Ensure that you have at least one photo where you are the only person in it, as a profile full of group photos will only confuse potential hosts, as they are unable to establish exactly who you are.
Build up your references
Even with a fun and vibrant profile with several great photos some hosts may balk at the idea of hosting someone who’s never surfed before and has no experience in doing so. While this may be in part to do with previous negative experiences it’s also because the host has less of an idea about what you’re expecting from your Couchsurfing experience. With two months up your sleeve until departure date now is a great opportunity to start hosting other travellers for a day or two to get a feel of what Couchsurfing is all about and to build up those valuable reviews from other travellers. If you’re unable to host look to meet up locally with travellers or other hosts for a drink, or alternately ask friends who use Couchsurfing to leave you a review.
Contact your hosts early
While two months may be a little too early for some hosts, one month out from arrival is about the perfect time to start looking for potential hosts. Search for active users who have good feedback from other users and fit your desired criteria. Additionally you can put up a general request as well with your intended arrival and departure dates, as well as your plans while you are visiting.
Personalise your message
While it may seem practical to take the Nigerian scam email approach and message as many people as possible and praying for a response you’re far more likely to succeed when sending out five to ten messages to different hosts who you feel you have something in common with or you would like to meet. Spend a few minutes letting them know when you intend to arrive, who you’re travelling with if you have companions, what you plan on doing when you arrive in the city and why you would like to meet and stay with them in particular. If you receive an offer be sure to remove your general request, to allow other Couchsurfers a better chance to find a host as well.
While this may seem like a lot of work just to meet people or find a bed for the night the entire process takes only a couple of hours and the rewards in meeting people and experiencing a city from a locals perspective make setting up a Couchsurfing profile more than worthwhile and you will often find your experiences with other Couchsurfers can be the overall highlight of your trip abroad.