If you are looking to make a little extra income, want to meet new people, or simply love the idea of facilitating people’s desire to travel, then becoming a couchsurfing host is a great thing to do. Granted, not everyone likes to have strangers in their home, but if that doesn’t worry you, then you can really gain from having a steady stream of openminded and intrepid individuals passing through.
You will also be incredibly surprised at where couchsurfers crop up, so if you think ‘there’s no way anyone would want to stay here’, then you are wrong – the whole world is a potential couchsurfing destination.
Once you take the plunge, here’s how you can be a great couchsurfing host.
Make it clear what you offer
When you advertise your services, be very clear what you offer, and of course what you don’t, especially if the service you’re lacking is a common thing to offer. This is all about setting expectations.
The biggest piece of advice I can give to anyone who wants to be a couchsurfing host is to make it extremely clear from the off what your USP as a host is, but also what you won’t tolerate and what you cannot provide. The point is that this has to be a mutually beneficial transaction, and so the best way to achieve this is to set clear boundaries and expectations before the surfer even makes the booking.
Some surfers, out of politeness, may do things that they’d do at home, like putting toilet paper in the bin rather than flushing it. Therefore you should make some of your local customs and laws clear to potential surfers in your online description, even some things you think are well-known.
Don’t be afraid to say ‘no’
Do not be too accommodating. Often the biggest mistake people make is that they do not vet their surfers more carefully.
Vetting is a key consideration. And when I say vetting, I’m not talking about being snobbish about it, I’m talking about understanding if the person who has contacted you has really paid attention to what you offer as a host, and is therefore selecting you for the right reasons as opposed to you were just the first person they saw. That’s the quickest way to lead to disappointment, from both sides.
Even though most of your surfers will be polite and law-abiding, you should consider locking your own bedroom, your medicine cabinet and other private areas of your own spaces that you don’t want surfers to potentially steal from.
Take notes when you couchsurf
Perhaps the best way to become an incredible couchsurfing host (but this is not mandatory, of course) is to do the activity yourself (as a surfer, rather than the host) and take notes about everything that impresses upon you, meaning the good things and the bad. It’s then just a case of maximizing those positive elements while striking out the bad, but always remembering that everyone is individual, so you need to leave some scope for flexibility and adjustments to the tastes of surfers.
Give them space, but offer assistance
When the surfer arrives, as a good host you need to let them set the tone, so give them the time and space they need to do this – don’t go over the top in crowding them. Make it clear that you are there to help, but let them decide if they want to avail of that help or not. And when they offer to help you, with the cooking and any cleaning, for example, don’t be afraid to accept. In fact, you probably should accept as this will help them feel more comfortable.
Accept that everyone is different
Every person has different habits, and it’s impossible that you will dovetail at all times, so keep an open mind and be accepting of what other people do. Also, don’t expect that rules can apply in every instance, as circumstances are evolving and people are adapting constantly.
As the host, it is imperative that you feel comfortable at all times – if you don’t, then you can be sure that the guest won’t either. If you do feel uncomfortable for any reason, then you have to broach the subject in order to resolve it as quickly as possible. Leaving it to fester will only makes things worse. If you do have a slightly negative experience, learn from it. Understand what it was that made you feel uncomfortable and try to protect yourself against it in the future with your profile and vetting, and perhaps most important of all, always trust your instincts.
The whole system works on references, so be honest in these, and include the information that you think is relevant to future hosts. Also be clear that excessive moaning will put people off your hosting too, so striking a balance with these reviews is key.