How to Find a Good Couchsurfing host

How to Find a Good Couchsurfing host

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I’d like to say I’m an expert at Couchsurfing, but I haven’t really done it that much. I have been a host in the past here in Christchurch – my housemates and I hosted three people a few years ago. The reason we stopped? Our last Couchsurfing guest stayed a whopping 6 months and by the time he left we were a little heartbroken

Couchsurfing host

I’ve Couchsurfed in Mexico, San Diego and in a few places in Spain: San Sebastian, Rota and Bilbao. The truth is, I love Couchsurfing – it’s a great way to meet locals and to get a really unique experience. The problem is, though, I also love hostels… so I haven’t Couchsurfed as much along my adventure as I would if I wasn’t so fond of hostels.

I’ve had a lot of great experiences; I did a road trip with my Mexican Couchsurfing hosts to Ensenada and with my Rota Couchsurfing host to Gibraltar. I drank Sangria with my Couchsurfing hosts in San Diego and in Bilbao. But I had one bad experience with my host in San Sebastian and I think it could have been avoided.

This isn’t quite a Couchsurfing horror story, but if I wasn’t being so cheap I don’t think I would have found myself in this situation. You see, my host clearly stated on his profile that he wanted a girlfriend from every country. I kind of ignored it, because I thought it was some quirky Spanish thing and made it clear to my host that I had a boyfriend (well, a guy I was seeing back home) and that I wasn’t interested in anything than hanging out and getting to know him and San Sebastian.

San Sebastian Couchsurfing

We went out for Pintxos and drinks and everything was going well, until we went back to his mother’s house (where I was not entirely welcome? I had to be quiet and come in a different door as to not rouse her). I was removing my ridiculously hilarious rainbow pajamas from my backpack when he decided to slap my ass. I was caught off guard and turned around and told him it was not appropriate, I had a boyfriend and was not interested. He started quoting my profile saying that I love to live in the moment and that I should do so with this opportunity he was presenting me. I declined and he pushed. It took about twenty minutes of very clear “this is not going to happen, should I leave?” for him to stop the advances, and they never really stopped.

I felt kind of delated and a little offended, I simply wanted a great Couchsurfing experience and I hadn’t done anything to give this guy the wrong impression. He had raving reviews from other people who stayed, but if I’m completely honest I went against one of my first “rules” when choosing a Couchsurfer or Couchsurfing host:

Couchsurfing in Spain

Choose someone you think you’d actually want to be friends with.
You see, accommodation was really expensive in San Sebastian and although this host and I had no outstanding similarities, I had chosen to lower my standards and “give it a go”. I don’t know whether it’s superficial to say, but I think you can get a pretty good indication of how much you’ll get along with someone by reading their interests and hobbies on an online profile.

There are a few other things you need to do to make sure you find a good Couchsurfing host:

Look at their references, like, stalk them.

I don’t mean this in a creepy way, but if they’ve got references from other people gushing they’re the “best Couchsurfing host ever” then chances are you’re going to be well looked after. My Couchsurfing host from Rota was awesome, had incredible references and he even invited us to stay, although we were originally looking to go to Cadiz, which is a short ferry ride away. In the end we were glad we chose Rota and to stay with him because he was an incredible host that really made that trip for us.

Start looking in advance.

The further you look in advance, the more likely you are to find someone that you’ll really want to stay with and that might end up being a real friend. Read their hobbies, beliefs and where they’ve been in the world, see if you’ve got anything special in common or to bond over.

Those are my tips for finding a great Couchsurfing host. Do you have any suggestions? Have you Couchsurfed anywhere?

20 Comments

  • Michele says:

    That is the funniest story. I host a lot and for single women travelling I think you really need to read between the lines. Have heard similar stores from a few girls I have hosted. I agree about the looking for something you have in common I am happy to take pee without references however if their profile is not filled in or they just give the impression they are party people I normally don’t accept. I hope you go on surfing and have more amazing experiences

    • Izy Berry says:

      I think I was being a bit naive… things always go wrong when you lower your standards. Yes, I think I’ll definitely do some more surfing in future :) I’m the same about party people… I feel like I’m past that stage of my life 😉

  • Franca says:

    This isn’t the first time I hear this kind of CS stories and I have to admit that they make me a little sad.
    I love CS and me & Dale used it a lot so far. In fact anytime we felt we found somebody compatible with us we tried to spend time with them. It worked always for the best, we had some great experiences and some a bit bland, but each one of them has something to be remembered for.

    • Izy Berry says:

      I’m glad you’ve had such a great experience. I think it would be a lot nicer traveling as a couple, because then at least no one has any hopes of scoring with you 😉 I’d definitely love to Couchsurf more in my future! x

  • What a great post! I love these tips you suggest and your fantastic writing. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences and we’re so glad they were so positive Happy travels!

  • Eww… creepy! I would have been out of there in a flash.

    Great advice on how to choose a couchsurfing host. I’ve hosted but not actually couchsurfed with complete strangers before.

    • Izy Berry says:

      You and your family should try surfing with a family somewhere expensive. I think it’d be really fun, especially if they have kids around Rubey’s age.

  • Beth says:

    And that’s why I’m slightly afraid to try couchsurfing!

    But otherwise those are some helpful tips… maybe I’ll give it a try sometime :)

    • Izy Berry says:

      It’s totally worth trying! When I was in San Diego I was a bit nervous about couchsurfing for the first time so booked into a hostel and met up with my host for dinner. Not only was he a really fascinating guy, but he bought me delicious Mexican dinner and refused to let me pay… It’s definitely worth trying out :)

  • Ellie says:

    I hope you left the pushy, inappropriate host in San Sebastian a reference after all of that. Even a neutral reference with a short, factual description of the experience will be a great help to other women traveling in the area, or anyone who might consider hosting him. Thanks for the tips and for sharing!!

    • Izy Berry says:

      Definitely left some neutral, passive aggressive feedback. Wish I’d been braver to be completely honest about it, but in the end it was a good lesson for me.

    • Izy Berry says:

      I left a neutral response, which maybe wasn’t strong enough in the end. I later moved to Madrid and found that the “forwardness” I had experienced in my Spanish couchsurfing host’s home, seemed to be a typical way that many Spanish men tried to get my attention. I’m not sure whether it was a personal or cultural thing – I imagine it was a mix of both. The funding of his life side of things was really odd… but I guess I learned a lot from the experience.

      Thanks for dropping by and happy travels!

  • Jeremy says:

    I like your write up. You told your story albeit not a horrible experience, its still something other single woman should know about. What happens when another girl surfs with this guy and he has a few drinks and doesnt care tha she says no, or she has a boyfriend…what happens when she gets raped? The reason we have the feedback and vouch system is so you can let people know about experiences both good and bad. You made a blog! Good for you, what you need to do is go edit your feedback to negative and let people know what happened, why are you so scared. If he rapes a girl its partly on you. Grow up and speak the truth. gawd

    • Izy Berry says:

      Hi Jeremy,

      Thanks for taking the time to post your comment. I do not think for one second that this guy was capable of rape, if I did then I would have said something. I think he was just a sly guy looking to make a move. In the end, when I clearly explained I was not interested and he was upsetting me, he did back off. In some ways, he was a nice host, in others, not so much. If I had taken the time to read through his profile quickly, I think I would have understood that he was not really a good host option for me.

      Trust me, if I felt really concerned for my safety I would have written something. In the end I stayed with him for the two days as planned, so I felt safe enough to return. I do not think he is a rapist or any real threat to a girl beyond someone who’s trying their luck, in a more forward way than I’m used to – but seemingly typical for Spaniards as I learned when I later moved to Madrid.

      Cheers again for dropping by and leaving a comment.

  • jeremy says:

    Instead of own up you delete my comment you coward

  • Garreth says:

    Hey,

    Great article, I was reading a lot of horror stories and your article has convinced me to give it a try when I travel to Europe next year. I found out about couch surfing yesterday and it sounds like a good idea. How long beforehand must I scout people?

    • Izy Berry says:

      Hey Gareth, thanks for your kind words. I would say a month is generally a good time frame so you can ‘book it in’. I’ve done last minute requests and it’s worked out fine too, but I think the earlier the better :)

  • […] be really appropriate in your home country, might send the wrong signals in another. When I was Couchsurfing in San Sebastian I found myself in an uncomfortable situation where my host decided that I would be his […]

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