52.3667° N, 4.9000° E
I haven't really been a member of Couchsurfing for a long time, in fact only about 6 months. The reason I made the profile is so I would be able to see as much as South America on the tiny budget I had. Couchsurfing is a great way to meet new people, travel new places and be able to see the world at a cheaper cost than normal! And its FREE
So after setting up a Couchsurfing account, the perfect time came to use it on my journey back from Austria to England. I had decided to take a detour via Amsterdam because, well, you no. Everybody loves Amsterdam. Anyway, A mixture of being lazy and packing up the car with a winters worth of stuff, meant I left Couchsurfing until the very last minute. As in, I was in the car on the way to Amsterdam.
After sending a few messages, I got some replies back. All negative but telling us they were out the city. With 6 hours to go until we arrived I was getting quite worried, and then another message came through. Fingers crossed "please be positive".
Message: generic request. Haha, you should probably try commercial accommodation'
I read it again, and for some reason it just really pissed me off. I thought what an unhelpful bastard. I read it out to my friend and he agreed. After having a self debate with myself (I do this a lot) I decided to reply. So I just wrote what it made me think.
Reply: I'd love to send you a picture of some generic balls to suck on but that would probably be too commercial for you. Thanks for the help.
A reply from the dude came through and a second later a negative review. I can't remember exactly what it was but it was petty. Unfortunately, I stooped to that pettiness and replied 'very unhelpful and patronizing'. Yes I spelt patronising like that, and will look like a super twat to all couchsurfers ever to roam his page, but I was over it so whatever. 2 days later I get another message of this guy. I didn't reply. Then a day after, an update of his negative review, which was a copy of our conversation followed by a bit of a bitch. Basically he was just a bit of a prick who clearly holds a grudge, but I should probably bite my tongue come next time and that way I guess I'll stay clear of negative reviews before even using the website.
To be fair though, it hasn't really affected any of the other people who we have messaged or surfed with. Although I have realised that people won't host you, unless you send them a message that shows them the kind of person you are and that you have read their profile.
Top tips to getting a Couchsurf
1. Don't message something short and shitty
Hey, how are you ?
I'm in blah blah for 2 days and want to see the city from a locals point of view.
Are you around ?
This is a message everyone sends (including myself at first), so they won't be to fussed about you. If you and the host have a sport in common, let them no. Maybe you've both visited the same places? just don't put that bog-standard shit up there, ok ?
2. READ THEIR PROFILE. Ok this on is in caps because number 1. Why would you want to stay with someone who you don't know anything about and number 2. A lot of people include words/phrases in their profile that they request you to mention in your message to show them you have read it. Sometimes it's on their main profile page, and some people put it on their home info page just to make sure you read the whole thing. But if they have got something they want you to include in your message, make sure you do.
3. Make sure your message is detailed
Refer back to their profile, mention things you have in common and write a little bit about yourself. People want to know who they are having in their house, so tell them as much as you can.
Think of it the opposite way round, would you let Jose from Peru stay in your house if he sent you a 2 line message....erm, no.
4. Give people a few days heads up
I realised trying to get a place to crash last minute can be a pain in the ass and will most likely result in checking in to a hostel. Not everyone spends 24 hours a day on their phone so it may take them one or two days to reply. Some may not reply at all so if that's the case either do a new host search or start checking the web for hostels.
5. Don't rely on just one person
Message a few that sound like the kind of people you would want to stay with and then hopefully if they like the sound of you and they aren't already hosting, bobs your uncle, you've got a couchsurf. Also the state of limbo can get too much when it's nearly dark and you've still pinned your hope on one person. Your pissed of and checking in to a hostel because they didn't reply, whilst they're sipping gin and juice on holiday in the Bahamas. Wise up guys.
6. Keep track of who you are messaging.
I always do a double check the profile of the person who I'm staying with before I leave, just so Im aware of how everything is. You don't want to be like "hey sarah" as your expecting to walk in to her studio flat for 5 days, when actually it's Molly and her 3 kids and Bruno the dog that your staying with. AWKWARD.
7. Read their reviews
This is a great way to find out how the host actually is. If they’re an asshole, people are going to say it. But the majority of reviews reflect hosts as being good people who want to get you involved as much as possible in the culture of their town/city. Reviews also can't be removed or edited unless it's by the person posting it (hence why I have my negative review still) so even if it's something bad about the host, they won't be able to hide it.
8. You can always leave.
If you don't like it or it's not what you thought it was going to be then you can leave. Don't ever feel pressurised in to staying somewhere you don't want to. The internet doesn't always portray the image you have in your head, and sometime people just plain lie on their profile but it's very unlikely. I had a Couchsurfing experience from hell after a last minute message and only scanning through their profile. Read about it here. The worst EVER couchsurf