Couchsurfing Tips For Women
By Sally Kay
The Couchsurfing Project is a great tool for the curious and thrifty traveler. The project idea is a cultural exchange in which members are the type of people who want share their culture and to learn about others. Couchsurfers want to get to know more than just the tourist attractions: they are travelers, not tourists.
I have been a member for almost three years now, surfing, showing people around my city, and hosting. As fantastic as couchsurfing can be, there can be a dark side too. Because of that, as a woman, especially if you are a woman traveling solo, you do need to be careful. In some countries, in the Middle East for example, it is better to couchsurf with women. However, I do not like to limit myself as far as hosts. Here are a few guidelines to make your experience the best it can be.
Read your potential host’s profile carefully
Couchsurfing isn’t about getting a free place to stay; it’s about cultural exchange, getting to know the real place. Don’t send a request to people you don’t think you’ll get along with. Everyone has different criteria for choosing hosts, but I try to contact people who share my interests, have hobbies I find interesting, seem like I could learn from, or who would just be fun to spend time with. Traveling is a lot more fun when you’re with people you like.
Only contact members with filled-out profiles
If a person hasn’t taken the time to fill out their profile, they probably aren’t the best choice for a host (or for a guest). How can you tell what interests you share, what their views on life are, or really anything about them unless they have filled out their profile?
Only contact people with pictures who have pictures
As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. If a member hasn’t taken the time to upload a picture then one has to wonder why. (Editor’s note: you also want to make sure the picture is the same individual you meet in person)
Read over the Couch Information
This tells you what the bed is like, if you’ll have your own room, and what the sleep set-up is. It is couchsurfing, so you shouldn’t expect to have your own room, but I stay away from men offering to share their room. Even if there are two beds in the room, I feel like it’s best not to tempt fate.
Make sure your potential host has references…
and read them carefully. References are there as a safety measure, and you can learn a lot about a person from them. Sure, everyone starts out without references, but for a woman couchsurfing alone it’s safer to send couch requests to hosts with good references. If you want to be extra careful then look at the profiles of the people who’ve left the references.
Another safety measure in couchsurfing is vouching. It signifies the person vouching for the couchsurfer trusts that member. Members who are vouched for are safer to contact.
Stay away from male hosts only offering couches to women
There are always exceptions, but often when a man puts “preferred gender” as “female” this means that the man is using couchsurfing for the wrong reasons: to meet women. One of the first rules of couchsurfing is that it is not a dating website. Of course romances can happen; sometimes there is chemistry between two people. However, if the host assumes something romantic will happen with their guests, tries to manufacture a romantic connection, or feels that the guest is in some way obligated to him, then that is definitely not okay.
Always trust your instincts
If anything gives you a bad feeling about a profile, then don’t send a request. Intuition is a powerful thing and it is always better to be safe than sorry.
Stay with families
I prefer to stay with women, or men living with their family. Living with your family into adulthood is extremely common in many countries, and the families are generally extremely kind.
Talk to your host first
Send a few email exchanges back and forth, chat on Skype or MSN messenger to get to know your host a little before staying with him or her. At least for your first few times couchsurfing.
If you don’t feel comfortable in a place then leave.
Go to a hostel or check into a hotel. If something in the back of your mind says that this isn’t the right place then listen. Just because you’ve sent a couch request does not mean that you are obligated to stay the exact number of days requested. If you feel awkward telling them the truth, then invent an excuse, but always remember: your safety is first.
By following these guidelines and by using a little common sense, you’ll have a fantastic time. In fact, I find that couchsurfing is actually a safer way to travel; you have a friend wherever you go. To make things better, you are under the auspices of a savvy local who knows his or her way around the city, give you advice, and want to help. So what are you waiting for? Get couchsurfing!
After graduating from the University of Kansas’ school of Journalism Sally hit the road and hasn’t looked back. She has explored Europe, Africa, South America, and North America, lived in Slovakia, Hungary and Argentina and is currently traveling in South America. She writes about her adventures in the blog www.adventuressetravels.wordpress.com, has had articles in various online travel magazines, and is a travel guru for the website Tripeezy LLC.
19 thoughts on “10 Things She Should Know Before Couchsurfing: Tips for Women”
These are all great tips, not only for women. We couchsurf as a couple and pretty much follow the same guidelines. Good job! I’m such an advocate of couchsurfing. I love getting people signed up and hosting/surfing. I love it.
(p.s. your title about making sure they have a photo needs to be edited) :o)
Great tips. I couchsurf everywhere in Latin America and it’s been a wonderful experience.
Once quick tip on men only offering rooms to women. I stayed with a male host in Peru and he lived with his family (very common) and so he only accepted female guests so his mother would be more comfortable with the experience.
Totally agree that some people are looking for love on CS but some are just family guys 🙂
I have never tried couchsurfing for the whole safety reason. I know, I know, it can be safe, but staying with someone I don’t know seems a little risky. However, with these tips, I wouldn’t think I would have reservations about doing it.
I’m so happy to hear it. Go for it! Couchsurfing is fantastic!
These are great tips, especially for women. I always read the persons references. If they don’t have any references, I probably wouldn’t stay with them. It’s no wonder I can’t get people to respond to my couchsurfing requests because I don’t have any references either! Looks like I need to start hosting.
@Christy Another great way to get references is to meet couchsurfers as you travel. You’d be surprised how many people I meet along the road that are on CS, and we don’t realize it for a while after being together. Even if you’re on the bus together or stay at the same hostel and get to know them a little bit, you could leave references for each other.
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A great way to dip your toe in the couchsurfing pool and meet active couchsurfers and get to know the community is to participate in local events. You don’t need to be hosting or surfing to attend. Many cities have some kind of a weekly event. A pub night, a pot luck, a board game party …. These events can be little less pressure than arriving at someones home. And they are usually quite fun.
Meet hosts and travellers alike. Hear real stories about couchsurfing experiences. You will find out very quickly that negative experiences are very rare.
Attend an event in your home town … or while you are travelling. Just check the Groups section and see what is going on!
Good advice David, Thanks for adding that.
am a kenyan, and i openly invite any cs. so that we can exchange different ideas. and for the last 3 years i have been on cs. i have been visited with 23 both male and women cs, and they all went appreciating my email@example.com
I’m wary of surfing with men whose profiles show exclusively hosting women. I made the mistake once when I was new to the site, and while it wasn’t a bad experience for me, I can see how easily women could fall into their “trap”. I’d say – if you’re AT ALL nervous – stick to someone you’re confident in. Have a conversation through the message system & make sure you feel them out. Couchsurfing is a wonderful experience if you use your intuition.
i known Sally by couchsurfing
i think the hoster is a hard jab too
because you must try to known your guest before he or she arrives
you must think about a lot of thinks
about food, sleep habits, etc.
she is a very special people
and i trust her
we have a good time together
I’m a pretty small traveler (5 feet!) and have couchsurfed through Europe and Japan, and remained no worse for wear – had a few interesting experiences though! The best ones are here: http://thriftyfingers.blogspot.com/2010/06/couchsurfing-verdict.html
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Nuri from morocco fes im 25 years old my studies informatique and Professor Swimming informatique i live in the new city of fes for more info just ask me my gsm +212602147548
Mission i want to have a big number of new friends in all over the world and share with them culture and others things…..
I argue that couchsurfing is used as a dating website from more than the half of the community. If you want to find out, just do a little experiment: grab normal photos of a guy with 6 packs and some muscles and make a fake profile with them. Send a message of drink/coffee for local girls. More than 80% will answer and all of them positive answer. Do the same from a normal profile ( a normal guy without any 6 packs or physical attraction), I dare you to get more than 20% of answers … and almost they are negative!!!
The real CS spirit wasssssssssss long time before … now it doesn’t exist anymore! even the CS moderators are using it dating 😉
Thanks for adding your comments, Hassan. You may very well be right. But I hope there are still people with the true spirit of couchsurfing out there.