This is Part 7 of the Art of CouchSurfing Awesomely Series.
Allowing a complete stranger stay in your home is a deliberate act of kindness. It can create a bond for years to come and it can ignite their commitment to hospitality exchange and social traveling. However, simply letting someone stay over is not hospitality, it’s only the first step of the process.
These are just a few ways to being an awesome couchsurfing host.
1. Do Your Due Dilligence
You owe it to yourself (and anyone you’re staying with) to check references before accepting a couchsurfer. It’s great to be open-minded but basic common sense applies, as well. This is especially important if you are hosting multiple people who don’t know each other, as it would be awkward if someone steals from another. Tip: If they seem to be lacking references from previous hosts, try writing directly to those old hosts to see if there’s anything you need to know.
2. Emergency Contact
It’s good to give your phone number and exchange personal email addresses for emergency contact, in case the website goes down. It’s also helps, in case plans change at the last minute.
3. Be Flexible
Realize that plans change when you’re traveling. You couchsurfer may be delayed somewhere, gone on a detour or may just want to stay an extra couple of nights. This doesn’t mean that you need to be waiting at home all day for your couchsurfer to arrive. As long as they communicate any issues ASAP and are respectful, there is no reason to be inflexible. If for whatever reason you aren’t able to accomodate changes, it’s nice to communicate this in advance, so they know to look for another host if need be. Tip: Ask them to send a final confirmation email 1-3 days before arriving to make sure their plans haven’t changed. It’s also a good reminder, in case you’ve forgotten!
4. Help Find An Alternative
If you have already agreed to host someone but your plans have changed at the last minute, no problem. But what would be wonderful is if you offered to find your couchsurfer another host. If you are already active in your local community, it’ll be much easier for you to find someone for them.
5. Set Clear Expectations
Every host is different, so it’s good to set clear expectations for your couchsurfer. This could include some basic notes such as asking them to bring a towel/sleeping bag or reminding them that they have to leave the house when you do, in the mornings. Or simply to inform them you have pets and/or housemates. Also a clear description of the sleeping arrangements is a must, eg. will they be on the couch in the living room or are they sleeping on the floor in your room? I also like to add gentle reminders such as “make sure to clean up after yourself” and to advise that there may be multiple couchsurfers, staying at the same time.
6. Create An Information Pack
This pack could include google maps and directions on how to get to your place from the airport, bus or train station. Also tips on how to use the public transportation system, emergency contact numbers and a brief list of must-sees while in the city.
7. Make Them Feel At Home
It can be weird being in a stranger’s home, so try your best to be welcoming and friendly. Give them a tour of the house and have a chat with them.
8. Mutual Respect
Yes it’s your home but make sure to respect the cultural/personal boundaries of your guest. You are in a position of power, so you need to be especially careful not to make them feel uncomfortable. Also basic hygiene and tidiness is a must.
9. Share And Exchange
Hosting is not just about giving a couch, it’s about a shared cultural exchange. Take your couchsurfer to your favourite spots, even if that hidden gem is your local dive bar. See your city through the eyes of your couchsurfer. Expand your knowledge from your couchsurfer experiences. Enjoy each others company and appreciate the opportunity for two strangers to become friends. If you wish to feed your couchsurfers, by all means do so. But know that you are not oblidged to spend money on your guest.
10. The Local Experience
Take your couchsurfer to any local meet-ups. It’s a good opportunity for them to meet more locals and to network with other travelers. Or even better, give them the local experience by inviting them to hang out with you and your friends!
11. Allow Guests To Say Thank You
Some hosts feel embarrassed when couchsurfers offer to cook or clean for them. You are allowed to accept such favors! Some couchsurfers feel oblidged to offer a token of appreciation but are on a tight budget, so something like cleaning is a win-win. Just don’t request it because that’s a bit awkward.
12. Leave A Reference
Definitely leave a reference after their stay. This is the most important safety feature that CouchSurfing has and it’s everyone’s responsibility to support it. Positive encouters need to be celebrated. And if you unfortunately experience a neutral or negative encounter, do try to write a factual, diplomatic reference rather than ignoring it altogether.
So, what tips can you add to help being an awesome host?
[cruisesurfer’s log sea-date: 89:9:2 | 4:48]