- Özgür Töre
Create a profile on Couchsurfing and connect with a global community of like-minded people. It can help you find a place to stay while traveling. Or it can help you share your home and the area you love with travelers.
Whether you want to share your home or your city, or you want to stay somewhere more personal than a hotel, hostel, or Airbnb, here’s how to get to know people safely using Couchsurfing.
Take responsibility for your safety
When using couchsurfing.com, you must make an effort to stay safe, just as you would if you were traveling without using the Couchsurfing service.
Have a backup plan
Before you leave home, research the nearest hotels and/or have a backup host at the ready. If you meet your Couchsurfing host and you feel it’s not working, don’t let not having somewhere else to go keep you in an uncomfortable or potentially dangerous situation.
Have a backup plan for your backup plan
Life’s like that. So make sure you have more than one backup option. Identify safe places in the area before you travel, get the details of local authorities, including the police. Take the number for your embassy; you can call them for expert help.
Whatever you do, don’t stay in a situation with someone creepy. If your backup plan is to stay awake all night in a public place, that’s likely better than staying alone with someone you distrust.
Arrive during the day
Places are generally safer during the day, so it’s wise to get to your destination during daylight hours. This will help you find your way around, and give you time to check out the host and make alternate arrangements if necessary.
Meet in public
Whenever meeting strangers – that includes people you’ve only “seen” online – it’s recommended to meet in a public place. There’s no reason to change that good advice because you intend to couchsurf. Meet the person in a public place and get a feeling for the encounter.
Open discussion is a good first port of call. Failing that, know that you can end the interaction if you are uncomfortable. If you are the surfer, leave. If you are the host, you are within your rights to ask them to leave.
Check verified members, profiles, and comments
A verified member is identifiable by a green tick, which signifies they are veteran Couchsurfing members with ample positive reviews. Staying with these hosts is recommended for Couchsurfing safety.
References are super important, making it challenging for new hosts to get started, as it should. As you would imagine, hosts with more references tend to be more trustworthy. And it’s a good idea to get in touch with some of the referees for more information before meeting the host.
If you feel more comfortable staying with women, you can state this in your preferences. Likewise, hosts can also set a preference for males or females. Be aware that there is a subculture on Couchsurfing focused on sexual experiences, but this isn’t automatically the case if you see a host that prefers females.
Read between the lines
Some comments are subtle. The reviewer might not want to offend the person or invite any backlash. Read all comments carefully.
If something a member says or something someone else says about them makes you feel uncomfortable, move on. There is a wide choice of people. You needn’t compromise on what could be a positive experience of a lifetime.
They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but most people do, and most people are aware of that. While you can’t tell everything about a person by their appearance, you can get a feeling.
Consider the setting of the photo and the kind of photo to get a feel for the person. Whoever posted the photo did it by creating an impression in mind, so feel free to analyze their choices!
Watch out for unsolicited host offers
Some members refuse to visit anyone that asks to host them rather than waiting for a hosting request. It is an unusual practice and may be considered a warning flag.
Start a conversation
Chat for a while with potential hosts or surfers. Talk about possible activities. Couchsurfing isn’t just about a place to stay, but an experience with people, so check whether the people seem to be on the same page as you and whether you have some things in common.
Get the host’s number and email
The host’s contact information is useful in case you get lost. Any reluctance giving you contact information or being deliberately misleading demonstrates a lack of openness that you can consider a red flag.
Do some research
Use Nuwber to search for the address where you’re about to stay. See if the host really owns the place, check if there is some weird history behind the property. Feel free to check your potential guest’s/host’s social media accounts - that will give you an idea of what kind of people they are and what interests they have. Doing some research will help you understand the situation better and decide how to communicate with that person later.
Share the host’s address and Couchsurfing details
When you have the host’s contact details, share them with friends and family so people have a record. Check in with friends and family regularly while travelling
Increase the numbers
It’s safer when you are with people you trust, so consider surfing with a friend or as a couple, especially if it’s your first time. You may also have a safer time by opting to stay with families or couples.
Know where you are going
Research where you are going, just as you would if traveling to a hotel or another location. Knowing your way around will make you less vulnerable.
Understand the local culture
This can help you look less like a tourist and thus, less like a target. Understanding cultural and religious considerations can also prevent you from offending anyone unintentionally.
Don’t drink too much or do anything that puts your safety in the hands of others. If you’re not fully conscious, you can’t be responsible for your own safety, which is tip one.
Trust your instincts
Don’t be afraid to say no or to change your mind. If you are uncomfortable, whether it’s with a profile or an encounter, end it.
Report safety concerns to the Couchsurfing Trust and Safety Team. It’s confidential and helps keep the Couchsurfing community – your community - safe.
Most Couchsurfing experiences are positive. We’ve provided these tips to ensure that you have a safe, enjoyable trip. Follow these suggestions and they will help you stay safe so that you can get the most from your Couchsurfing experience and keep improving this incredible community.