Khoollect tips: etiquette for couch surfers

Those who love to travel will know that there are times, when you’re alone and a little short on cash in a foreign country, when you may need to crash on the couch of a friend (or stranger). Couch surfing can be mutually beneficial experience for the surfer and the couch owner — both have a chance to learn something new about other parts of the world and local cultures. But, their are some unspoken rules, or matters of etiquette for couch surfers, that can make the experience a more enjoyable one for all.

Here’s our guide to etiquette for couch surfers:

Homework before homestay

If you’re booking a couch through a stranger, it’s a good idea to use a reliable site like this one, and make sure you have a thorough snoop at your host’s profile. Be confident about asking questions if you think anything’s missing on your host’s profile, try to avoid profiles without photographs or detailed information, and ensure you have a clear idea of what’s included or available to you during your stay. That way you can avoid any awkward confusion when it comes to your visit. Communication is key!

If you’re staying with a friend, or friend-of-a-friend, find out if and when they’ll be home, if they’re expecting you to pay or provide anything during your stay (like meals to share), and if they need you to arrive or leave at a particular time. In most couch-surfing situations, it’s often best to keep your stay between one to four nights maximum.

In both cases, make sure you have a clear meet-up plan (we recommend meeting in a public place like a train station first if you’ve never met), and a solid idea of how long you’re staying.

Ride on time

Once you’ve set a specified meet-up place and time to meet, it’s always best to be punctual. You’re setting a first impression for your stay, and don’t want to start on a sour note. A great way to keep both parties in the loop (in case something happens that causes you or your host to run late) is to download an app for your chosen site (try this one for Apple, and this one for Android) so that you can receive notifications if anything goes awry.

Keep it clean

It may seem like an obvious point, but if you’re staying in someone’s living area, it’s important to keep your sleeping space and belongings tidy. You might have very little room to move, but it’s a good idea to keep your bags zipped up, without having things spill out, and is best not to leave your things around on tables or the floor in the way of your host. If you use the kitchen, be sure to clean up after yourself. And unless your host has provided you a space in their bathroom, it’s best to keep your toothbrush and other toiletries packed away too.

Pay it forward

Although you may be paying a little to stay in some cases, it’s important to remember not to expect a hotel-quality experience. Breakfast foods are not often included in your stay (especially if you’re there for free), so make sure you’re not taking advantage of your hosts. If you can, try cooking a meal or two for everyone (check that they’re okay with this first and don’t have any special food requirements!), or even take your hosts out for a drink. If this isn’t really an option, it could be nice to leave a small parting gift (such as food or a bottle of wine) when you leave. Little good deeds can go a long way.

Avoid the overstay

If you’ve booked a stay with a stranger through an organised site, you’re likely to have an agreed check-out time; and it’s important to stick to this. Your host may have plans or another guest coming soon after your visit.

If you’re staying with a friend or friend-of-a-friend, you might start to feel at home in your lodgings. Just remember your hosts aren’t likely to be on holiday and may need to return to their normal lives soon enough. Unless an offer to extend the stay seems sincere, it’s usually best to part ways on your agreed leaving date.

Have you tried couch surfing? What were your experiences like and would you do it again?

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Sonya Gellert

Sonya Gellert is a contributing writer and associate editor for Khoollect. She lives in Sydney....

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