It was about time. After having really nice experiences while hosting some lovely people using Couchsurfing we finally had our first experience being on the receiving end of Couchsurfing hospitality. We were guests at a fellow Couchsurfers place. And I would like to share with you how it works and what to expect.
If you aren’t familiar with Couchsurfing yet, check out my blog post here where I explain all the basic functions and how to sign up. After that come back here to read on about being a guest using Couchsurfing.
Search for people whose status is “maybe hosting” or “hosting” and go to their profile. Read the profile and if you like that person send them a personal message asking them if you can stay with them. Here are some things you could look out for on the profile:
- Does the host have any experience hosting and do they have reviews?
I really love staying and also hosting people without any experience, but if you want to be on the save side it might be a good idea to look at the reviews of a potential host.
- Do you have anything in common?
It would be nice to stay with a host that kind of fits if you know what I mean. So look at their profile and find out about the persons’ interests, job, age etc.
- Is the host verified?
Verification is supposed to give you peace of mind that the person you are going to stay with is a real person and not going to do anything bad or illegal. I don’t really care if the person is verified or not but if you want to make sure look out for the symbol for verification, and also if they have registered their phone number and home address.
When you have decided that you would like to stay with a person send them a message. If you want an example what a good and what a bad message is, I suggest you go to my post about how Couchsurfing works, at the bottom is a good and bad example on how to message a potential host.
Many people that you reach out to won’t reply. Don’t get discouraged by this. Even though this is the case I am an advocate of sending viewer personal messages rather than a lot of impersonal ones. If you are lucky, one (or more) of the messages, you have sent will get a reply. Now is the time to decide how many nights you will stay, where and at what time you will meet with your host and any other questions you both might have.
A Gift for your Host
It is a nice gesture to bring a little thank you gift for your host. So don’t forget to prepare and pack something. You can of course also buy something at the airport like some typical sweets from your country. I bought some KitKat at the airport for our Taipei host Emma as it is very typical to give sweets as a souvenir to other people in Japan and I love this tradition.
If you don’t want to buy anything you could also cook for them as a thank you or invite them to have drinks or a meal.
Make sure you have a phone number and address of your host before you start out to meet them. I almost got stuck on immigration when entering Taiwan because I didn’t know the exact address and hadn’t asked for a phone number so I couldn’t even ask. I knew the nearest station because that was the place we had agreed on to meet for the first time. This was not enough for the immigration officer. She wanted an address, so make sure you prepare ahead of time.
The Surfing Experience
If you didn’t know it yet, guests using Couchsurfing are called surfers. From our example below you can see exactly what you can expect as a surfer. I have added some tips to the story that you as a surfer could follow.
Day 1 - Arrival and Dinner
We arrived in Taipei on a Thursday and our host Emma had to work until 7 p.m. We made a plan to meet at the closest station at 7:30 p.m.
Tip 1: My tip is making sure you have an internet connection or a way to call, just in case plans change or you have problems finding each other.
We met without a problem and went straight to her apartment. A one-room place with a private bathroom.
Tip 2: To avoid any wrong expectations, ask about the place you will stay at and where you will sleep. In some cases it will be a bed or a sofa or the floor.
We had already made plans to have dinner together with Emma and her friends through the messages we sent on Couchsurfing so we made our way to the restaurant together after some time to relax and get to know each other.
Tip 3: Communication is key. Get to know each other, understand what to expect from each other. Maybe your host doesn’t have time to hang out because of work or other plans, maybe they would like to show you around or have dinner with you. Asking is the fastest way to make plans that everyone is happy with.
After our dinner, we were really tired and went home. We decided the order we would take a shower.
Tip 4: If you are not sure about the use of the shower, ask. If you need a towel, ask (but I do recommend you always bring your own towel just in case).
Although I already had done some research and came quite prepared, I told Emma about our plans and got some feedback and some new ideas for the next day.
Tip 5: You are staying with a local so tell them about your plan and ask them for feedback. They might have other good ideas or comments about your plan. The whole point of staying with someone is to get to know your destination in a different way to make use of the knowledge of your host. If you get a tourist map at the airport it will help you communicate and make plans together, especially if you have language issues.
We then decided we would all try to sleep squeezing into her bed, rather than one person sleeping on the floor. It worked out surprisingly well and we were all able to sleep just fine.
Day 2 - Sightseeing and Drinks
The next day Emma had to go to work early. We left a little later and spent our day exploring Taipei. You can read our complete itinerary here. It was a fantastic trip with so many interesting sights, cultural attractions and delicious food that we would have wanted to stay much longer than our 2 and a half days.
At night we met up after Emma had finished work for some drinks. It was a Friday night and she wanted to have some fun. We were glad to join her at Commune A7 a modern outdoor place to drink, enjoy music and the company of other young people.
Day 3 - Shrimp Fishing
Our last day was dominated by the Taipei Eats Food Tour. You can read our review here. It had been raining all the time during the tour and when it finished around 3 p.m. we were looking for an indoor activity to finally get out of the rain. We couldn’t come up with anything good by ourselves so we decided to head back to Emma’s place and ask her for ideas. She had the best idea ever: Shrimp Fishing. It is a typical Taiwanese past time that we really wanted to experience.
Emma had never done it before, but she had a friend who fishes shrimp regularly and he took us to a shrimp fishing place. It was a great experience we could otherwise never have had. Emma translated all the instructions her friend gave us and we tried our best catching some shrimp. We were not very successful but every one of us managed to catch at least one shrimp in one hour.
When the time was up we prepared our 6 shrimp to be grilled. The owner had pity on us and gave us each 6 more shrimp to grill and eat. Which was great, because who doesn’t love shrimp. Our shrimp fishing experience was definitely the highlight of our stay with Emma and we are so grateful she took the time to share this experience with us.
If you have the chance you should definitely try Couchsurfing whether as a host or as a guest, all experiences we had so far were amazing and unique.
If you already have some experience let me know about the details in the comments. I would also love to interview you and write about you if you want to. Just let me know.
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Lena is the creator of the Social Travel Experiment. Planning her trip around the world took a lot of effort. To make it easier for future world travelers she has made it her mission to teach others how to have an unforgettable trip around the world, through short stays with locals, without wasting valuable time or money.