Finding accommodation while traveling can be costly and it can be risky staying at a stranger’s house. Having traveled the world alone for over 2 years, Couchsurfing is my favourite tool for meeting locals and finding a place to stay for free. Here are my tips to finding a good host.
Pictures and References
Make sure the pictures are all of the same person and that the references are positive. This is couchsurfing’s foremost security net. Although I once had a pleasant stay with a guy who had no pictures nor references (I was desperate and had the opportunity to meet him in a cafe before staying over), I’d recommend you follow this rule for safety. Even so, remember that despite most references being reliable, you’re not obligated to write one nor tell the truth after meeting a couchsurfer.
Gender Ratio in References
There is an underlying sexual tension on couchsurfing- men tend to have more references from women and vice versa. Although a man or a woman who has only hosted women or men before may be on couchsurfing for the right reasons (personal/ cultural exchange), be wary that he/ she may try to make advances. This has happened several times to me and although attempts at a kiss were easily turned down and apologised for, do bear this in mind.
Read the profile
Try to familiarise yourself with their personality to see a potential to get along and also understand why they use the site.
Ask for at Least One of the Person’s Social Media Accounts
Beyond references, social media accounts are a great way to gauge trust by seeing how the person interacts with others (and an easier way to communicate as couchsurfing’s messaging service is terrible). Although some may not actively use social media, you can at least have a voice or video call to verify the person for yourself.
Check the writing style of their profile and compare it with references they’ve left for other people. If there is a noticeable difference in writing style, it is possible that the profile has been copied from somewhere else, which means the person likely cannot be trusted. I stayed with a guy like this once in Malaysia. It was only later that I found out he’d been banned from Couchsurfing before for unwanted sexual advances and stealing cash, credit card information and IDs from guests.
Lastly, if any of these points feel iffy for a potential host, you can either accept the risk or of course, not stay with them!