Couchsurfing is a fabulous way to travel and see the world, but don’t presume everyone is nice and friendly. When we tell people about Couchsurfing, people always ask “Couchsurfing is it safe ?” So I’ve written this page from a more personal perspective.
There are over 2.5 million Couchsurfing members and every community will attracted some strange people. You must do your homework and research properly – it’s definitely something you don’t do lightly. You need to feel safe.
We have had many nights free accommodation and met lots of wonderful travelers. We also host people and want to feel comfortable about having Couchsurfers stay in our home.
When I first came across Couchsurfing and I was checking people’s profiles and I came across some strange ones, this happened when I was checking profiles against references.
It’s important to read the SAFETY PAGE that the site has developed to help keep surfers and guests safe.
This is what I suggest you do
Profiles - Look at the profiles -
If there are no pictures of their profile don’t go any further – pictures are important.
Photos Look at their photos – what do they tell you? I remember looking at one profile of an older man who was a photographer – his profile picture was of him taking a photo of a young naked woman. If you were a young woman would you be asking to stay with him?
Verified Are they verified? – This is a process where the member has confirmed their identity and address. (It is NOT a police check.) However people who are prepared to do this are less likely to misrepresent themselves.
Vouched Are they Vouched for? – this is a icon of four hands holding in a link. It is a symbol of trustworthyness. If I vouch for someone on their profile it means that I have met this person, trust this person and recommend them. Members can only vouch for someone if they themsleves have been vouched for three times. However you still need to use your common sense.
References Look at their references, what do they say? What don’t they say? A very important thing is cross checking the references by looking at who has given the references. How do they know them? Spending the time doing this helps you find out a lot. I was doing this process and I found a woman who had several profiles on the site – which is against CS rules and it turn out she had some very negative references. I would not have found this out if I hadn’t cross checked.
Couch Information What kind of couch / bed is offered
under "Couch Information" check : Preferred Gender, a woman might request another woman for safety reason, but a man requesting only females could have other ideas.
Shared sleeping surface and shared room will you be sharing a room or even a bed!
Where is it positioned, in the hallway, in the lounge room, a bed in the bedroom with other people or do you have your own bedroom? This gives you an indication of what to expect.
Women If you’re a woman traveling alone – I would recommend that you look for other like minded women to stay with or stay with a family, which is often a good option. We have stayed with several families and they are generally very good hosts.
Communication – email; when you are comfortable with someone’s profile send them a request and see how they respond. Remember you’re asking for accommodation so you need to be humble and talk about them as well as yourself. If you ask questions that has been answered on their profile it shows you haven’t read it properly – so this is another reason to read the profile thoroughly. You'll be surprised what you can find out. If at this stage you don’t feel right about them you are under no obligation to go ahead, but just send a polite email to say you won’t need the accommodation anymore.
If things don’t feel right when you’re there then leave. Listen to your gut feeling. You may have been invited to stay for several days but it’s not working out. Make an excuse and be polite and check into a motel or backpackers. You are not obliged to stay and equally if they don’t feel comfortable with you they can ask you to leave.
We had a young man form Hong Kong who had figured out that if he requested a couch with an older couple, he would usually have his own room and get well fed! We enjoyed his company.
Having said all these things and I cannot express enough how important it is to do your research – make sure your profile is filled in and complete, so people can get a good picture of the type of person you are and read thoroughly through others members profiles so you get a good idea of your guest/host. We have had only positive experiences, but I don’t think that is all luck. Research pays off with anything you do.
Our Testimony for CS - This is what we wrote when were in the middle of our trip.
We are in the middle of a sixth month trip around Europe and have been staying with many CS. We are not the average young, sleep anywhere people, but a middle aged couple who have had 30 + nights accommodation with many different people -the most amazing people. We have made some great friends, learnt loads about other cultures seen things we would not have on a normal holiday and been blown away by peoples friendliness and generosity. In a time where the world is supposedly full of hate, fear and mistrust - we are having the best experience of our lives with the best people in the world who give love, warmth and trust - who before, were complete strangers to us. It is just brilliant and we still have three more months to go!