Opinion: Seven Unspoken Rules of Couchsurfing

Ryan Shannon

What you should know before using Couchsurfing

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links, from which I earn a small commission.

Welcome to the Couchsurfing bible.

If you want to have a successful Couchsurfing experience, these are the 7 rules you’ve got to follow.

These rules ensure you avoid creeps, are being a decent guest, and create clearer expectations. I recently wrote about my Couchsurfing horror stories from when I was younger — I could have easily avoided those situations had I carved out these rules before!

1. Plan Your Schedule Around Your Host’s Schedule

Most of the hosts I’ve stayed with have trusted me with their keys. However, this isn't always the case. Once you are out, be sure you take everything you need with you (chargers, food, wallet, water bottle — the essentials) since you probably won’t be getting back in til later.

2. Be Gracious and Flexible

It’s important to practice gratitude and be flexible. Your Couchsurfing host is entrusting you in their home, and they often want to teach you about their culture (while learning about yours). Respect your host and practice all those manners your mama (should have) taught you!

3. Remember You’re a Guest

Be clean. Be respectful. Offer to help around the house and do the dishes, cook, and lend a hand where needed. You should buy your own food — don’t expect hosts to cook for you (although some do insist on cooking, which is always welcome and appreciated!) I always try to reciprocate when I’m offered a fresh home-cooked meal — on top of the free accommodation.

4. Be Careful of the Creeps

Be careful of the weirdos, freaks and flakes. Thankfully Couchsurfing has a review system in place where past surfers and hosts can leave reviews. Additionally, you can browse their photos to get a ‘feel’ for who your host may be. Create a backup plan, and trust your gut.

5. The Location May Not Be Ideal

That is another thing to consider: Sometimes the only viable options may be out of the city center or where you’d like to be. Always check the location the host lives in. It may not be worth your while if it takes you over an hour to get to the center of the city from your host’s place.

6. Set Your Boundaries

Profiles that use nudity or refer to sexual things are a no-go in my book. It’s not worth it to be exploited for being young and broke. Many older men use Couchsurfing to take advantage of young travelers (both young women and men). Always check the reviews to avoid entering an awkward — and exploitative — position.

7. Be Complete

Guests also have the right to decline surfers, so increase your chances of having someone host you by completely filling in your profile and uploading some clear pictures (feature some from your travels, too). Be authentic when messaging hosts. Don’t just send a copy and pasted text in desperation.

In Conclusion

Ensuring hosts respect you is just as important as you respecting hosts. If you feel “off” about a host, trust your instincts. When possible, create a backup plan and let a loved one know the address you’ll be staying at. Couchsurfing has been a mostly positive experience — especially when creeps are filtered out.

Thank you for reading my story.

Follow me for more stories & updates.

Click here for my socials, website & books.

Comments / 1

Published by

Digital nomad, I/O psychology student, entrepreneur. Visited nearly 30 countries. Author of 5 books on freelancing, travel, mental health.

Bellingham, WA
739 followers

More from Ryan Shannon

Comments / 0