With more people seeking new cost-effective ways to travel, the number of people couch surfing has been increasing exponentially. This is especially since one of the most significant expenses when travelling is hotel accommodation and they can cut back on their expenditure through couch surfing.
Couch surfing is essentially staying with local hosts as you travel from one place to another. Couch surfers use a platform called couchsurfing.com to locate locals who can host them and provide free accommodation. These hosts are typically people who were once avid travellers or are expats looking to meet more people and show them around. Many of the interactions between the hosts and couch surfers usually lead to long-lasting friendships and bonds!
However, since you would be abroad in a foreign land and staying with someone you have never met before, it is always the top priority to keep yourself safe. Hence, here are three critical tips to have in mind when couch surfing.
Communicate through the couch surfing platform
As much as it is more convenient to communicate with your potential hosts on other platforms like WhatsApp or Telegram, it is the wiser decision to keep communication purely on the couch surfing website. One of the main reasons is because in the case that your host is not who they said they were, you would have evidence on the couch surfing platform. Also, there would be clear records on your location and the host you are living with in the case that you go off the radar.
It is also critical that you limit the amount of personal information you give to a host until you meet them. Hence, you should avoid providing personal data like your number until you are able to confirm that your host is who they said they are.
Have a backup plan
A common mistake that many amateur couch surfers make is not having a backup plan. As soon as they get a reply from a host, they consider themselves ready for the trip. However, that is a crucial mistake. In the case that the host bails on you unexpectedly, you would be stuck in a foreign land and not have anywhere to seek shelter. On the other hand, if your host is making you feel uncomfortable because of their actions or even lifestyle, you would have no other options but to stay put and tolerate it. With a backup host available, you would be able to have someone else to rely on if things do not work out.
Regarding the backup plan, you should also do your due diligence and note down essential information like the number of the local police station and the ambulance for emergencies. However, if the situation is dire – medical evacuation performed by experienced medical professionals is crucial. Especially in times of need, you may urgently need an air ambulance for an immediate medical transfer.
Read the reviews
When scrolling through the couch surfing platform and looking for hosts, one of the most important things you should look at is their reviews. The couch surfing platform has kept the safety of its users in mind when developing this feature. The reviews of the hosts are made by other couch surfers who have experienced living with them.
Hence, the reviews are a good gauge of the experience you will have with each particular host. With that being said, hosts who have accumulated negative reviews should be avoided at all costs.
Keeping these safety precautions in mind is enough for you to stay safe. One tip before embarking on your first couch surf is to drop all your expectations and try to get as involved as you can in the culture of the country you are visiting.