Couchsurfing

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Couchsurfing is a website and an app used by thousands of travelers all over the world. The main idea of this website is to experience a new city as a local by staying at someone’s house and having them show you an authentic view of their hometown. All you need to do is create a FREE profile, including pictures, information about yourself themselves and your home if you are open to hosting as well. Each host opens up their home for travelers to stay in whatever free space they have to offer for free, this can be anything, from a private apartment to a couch or even just a sleeping bag on the floor. Why might someone offer to host a complete stranger in their home you might ask, well for one it is a way of paying it forward; it is the belief that if you help a traveller in need, one day maybe that traveller or another will help you when you are in their city. Another reason is to receive a culture exchange of many sorts. One of the best ways to know about a place is to see it through a local’s eyes. Many people are hesitant to use Couchsurfing because of safety issues. There are many precautions set in place such as a verification process and reference system. When you sign up to the website, they verify that you are who you say you are. The reference system helps a lot, after meeting someone through Couchsurfing, you write a reference for each other describing your experience so it is important to make sure that the person has many good references before agreeing to meet. Couchsurfing is such a wonderful resource to use while traveling, it is not about saving money in accommodation but more about meeting amazing, generous and like-minded people around the world. The experience that you get as a couch surfer you could never get as a tourist staying in a hostel or a hotel. To find a host or be a host are not the only ways to use this website, you can also use it just to meet new people either in your hometown or while you are traveling, you don’t necessary need to have a home or have space to use this resource, you can also just use it to hang out with new people and make new friends. On the discussions board or the ‘Hangout Now’ feature, you can find people that want to explore the city, go for drink or see a certain show, so it is also a good way to link up with people that share the same interests. Whether in your hometown or while traveling, this is very useful when you are traveling alone or even if you move to a new place and you don’t know anyone, we would highly recommend checking out Couchsurfing.

TIPS AND TRICKS:

FINDING A GOOD HOST:

♦ Build your profile: Make sure that  you really fill up your profile with as much personal information as you can provide, including lots of pictures so people could really get an idea of the kind of person you are. Do not leave any sections blank. The more information the better. There is no such thing as a profile that is too long! Not only does this help people get to know you better, but it also shows you put a little effort into it. Nothing is worse than getting a simple, copy-and-pasted request and then going to their profile to see it completely blank. Make sure to link it to your Facebook and any other verification process you can complete is even better.

Gain references: The first thing people are going to check is that you have references. Of course if you just make your profile, you will not have many, so from our experience, here are a few ways to get some references before you even start your travels:

 Find Facebook friends on Couchsurfing: When you link Facebook to your profile it will show you how many of your Facebook friends already have an account on Couchsurfing. You can go through, adding these friends and writing them personal references and then contacting them so they can write a reference for you as well.

Meet people that are visiting your hometown: On the homepage you can see a discussions board and events page, which people in the area use to get together. Even if there is nothing on these boards that interest you enough to join, many people are just looking to meet people for drinks or to explore the area. You could even invite someone to join you and your friends for some drinks or meet for lunch at your favorite local restaurant or something as simple as that. Now they also have implemented a ‘hangout now’ feature on the app in which you could find people in your area, both locals and visitors, and plan meet ups for that same day!

Host couch surfers in your home: If you’re comfortable enough and you have some extra space in your home, go ahead and try out hosting! Even if you just have a small couch and only 1-2 nights free to offer, it is still helpful! On the homepage of your hometown, there is a column of travelers in need of a host, you can even filter through those travelers by dates, age, sex, those only with references, etc. Even if someone is requesting for longer time periods but you can only host 1-2 nights, offer this to them as they would probably greatly appreciate any offer.

♦ Create public request: There are two ways to find a host, to post a public request so that potential hosts can offer to host you, and to send private, personal requests to individual hosts. When you create a public request, make sure to put all important information like the dates, how many you are and what you would like to do in that certain city. Make sure to write a bit about yourself, your interests and your travels but do not make it too long as all the other personal information the host would like to know will already be in your completed profile.

♦ Create private request: This is the best way to find a host and usually the way we find ours when we travel, although we have found amazing hosts through public requests as well. For personal requests, make sure to personalize! Many hosts do not like to read boring, copy and pasted messages that were sent to dozens of people. It’s obviously a lot of work to write long personal requests every single time when you want to tell each person pretty much the same thing. So the best way is to copy and paste all the details of your trip, personal information and interests and then personalize the rest. Make sure to address the message to the host. Then make sure to thoroughly look through each profile and mention something you read about the person. Mention why you want that person as a host or why you think you would get along, if they have similar interests, maybe they look like a lot of fun from their pictures, their references say something great about them, etc. Also be on the lookout for a phrase or word that they may want you to include in your message to know you read their profiles. Many people that have been hosting for a long time now do this to filter out people that are using Couchsurfing for the wrong reasons and just copy and paste messages. Additionally, maybe include what you can offer to your host. You can offer to teach them a language that you speak, or maybe share information about where you’re from, share a family recipe, tradition, offer to bring them something from your hometown, or even teach them something that you enjoy that they might want to learn, such as playing an instrument or teaching a type of dance. For example, Patricio speaks Spanish and can always offer some Spanish practice. Erica always travels with her yoga mat and aerial silks and is always happy to teach either of those to anyone that is interested.

♦ Review profiles: This step is VERY important in order to make sure you find a trustworthy host and have a great Couchsurfing experience. Whether sending a private request or accepting an offer from a response to your public request, make sure to review the profile thoroughly. The first thing to look at is their references. You want to make sure they don’t have any negative ones first. Then, your should read at least their last five references to get a feeling of the kind of person they are. The more references they have, the better, as you can learn about the experiences of others and what to expect. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t accept someone that has only a few references because this doesn’t necessarily mean they will be a bad host, maybe they just started using this website. One thing we do in these cases is check the date they created the account. If they just created their account the month before and already have a three great reviews, that is a good sign. It is a little different if it shows that the user created his account five years ago and only has a few random reviews from friends or people they didn’t host. This is especially important for women, even more so, traveling solo. For women, it is also important to check the gender of the references of any men that might offer to host. If every person they have hosted is a female, it is possible that they may have another motive for wanting to host you. To avoid having any awkward, or potentially dangerous situations, make sure to keep an eye out for these things as sadly, many men on Couchsurfing think it’s like Tinder and use it to try to pick up girls. Another important section that you need to read is ‘My Home’, in order to be aware of the sleeping conditions, pets, roommates and house rules. Two things that you should especially be looking out for here is if they have an extra sleeping space for you. Believe it or not, some people offer for you to share the bed with them and that could be quite an awkward situation if you do not know about it in advance and are not okay with it. Also, some hosts have pretty tight work schedules and don’t feel comfortable leaving their couch surfers in their home when they are not there. This is a big inconvenience for us as we would really rather not wake up at 7am every morning to leave the house. Some people may not mind this and might like being pushed to wake up early and get out of the house to explore, to each his own. Never forget that the main objective here is to have an unforgettable, unique, authentic experience with a local in a new place. Yes, free accommodation is great, but the ideal goal is to find someone that you may really get along with and that would show you around their city so that you can be sure to have the best experiences. Therefore, it is also important to read their personal details and make sure you have things in common and are really interested in staying with that person, not just for the free couch.

BEING A GOOD GUEST: Unfortunately many people use Couchsurfing for the wrong reasons. One of the most common misunderstandings about this website is that the main objective is just to find a free place to stay. A lot of people may think that it is easy to be a good guest but there are a lot of things you can do for your host to show you are grateful and appreciate what they do for you. We know that when you are traveling for a long time, the most important thing is to save the most money you can, but sometimes you don’t even need money to be nice and make the other person feel happy to host you. For example, it would be a nice gesture to cook a native dish so that you can show your host something from your country. Another nice gesture that doesn’t cost anything would be to help clean their apartment before leaving. If you can spare a little cash, leaving a bottle of wine with a thank you note is a common token of appreciation. Bringing something that your home country is famous for is also another great idea!

BEING A GOOD HOST: As a host, you should make sure to make time for your couch surfer and show them around your city and include them in some local activities. Even if you don’t have too much time to spend with them, you should at least give them some local advice/recommendations so they don’t waste too much time and money trying to find good places to visit. When you are hosting someone, be sure to make them feel comfortable and welcomed at all times.

The most important thing about being a host is to make some time for your guests. It is understandable that you may be busy with school, work, life in general and just trying to give a traveler a bed to sleep in because that’s all you can do at that time. That’s great! But if this is the case, make sure to let them know before and at least make time to chat them up a bit so you can learn something from each other before they leave. We have had some extremely generous hosts that actually went out of their way to pick us up from the airport/train station, hosts that have offered their own bed so we are more comfortable and they sleep on the couch, hosts that cooked meals for us on top of providing accommodation, and more. None of these are necessary but if you have the time and can help out with something extra like this, it goes a long way. Think about how grateful you would be if you were arriving to a new city, exhausted from the trip and dreading trying to navigate through the place to find your host’s house and then they offer to pick you up right from the airport! 


Some people may not have a place to host people and that is fine but if you are planning on using Couchsurfing as a surfer, you should at least try to get in touch with some travelers in your city and help them out – link up, show them around, give them tips, etc. That is what Couchsurfing is about, you give whatever help you can to fellow travelers in need. The main idea is an exchange, you give what you can and then one day, somewhere in the world, while you are traveling, someone else will help you out – so do your part!

 


 

Couchsurfing es una pagina web/aplicacion movil usada por miles de viajeros por todo el mundo. La idea principal de esta pagina web es experimentar una nueva ciudad como un local, alojándote en una casa de una persona y teniéndola a esa persona para que te muestre una verdadera vista de su ciudad. Lo que hace una persona es crear un perfil de forma GRATUITA, incluyendo imagenes, informacion acerca de uno mismo y su casa. Cada persona abre su casa para que viajeros puedan quedarse en su casa en cualquier lugar disponible que tengan para ofrecer, puede ser cualquier cosa, desde un departamento privado a un sillón o incluso dormir en una bolsa de dormir en el piso. Te preguntas porque alguien quisiera alojar a un completo extraño en su casa, para algunos es una forma de pagar por adelantado, es una creencia de que si ayudas a un viajero cuando lo necesita, otro día quizás ese viajero o otra persona puede ayudarte cuando estés en su ciudad. Otra razón es porque el intercambio cultural, una de las mejores formas de conocer un lugar es a través de una persona que es de ahi. Mucha gente se preocupa de la seguridad, pero se pueden tomar muchas precauciones como ser la verificación de la persona o el sistema de referencias. Cuando te inscribes a la pagina web, ellos te piden que verifiques que sos la persona que decís ser. El sistema de referencia ayuda mucho, después de que te encontras con una persona a través de Couchsurfing tenes que escribir una referencia acerca de como fue tu experiencia, por eso tienes que estar seguro de que esa persona tiene buenas referencias antes de arreglar un encuentro. Couchsurfing es una increíble herramienta para usar cuando estas viajando, no es acerca de ahorrar plata en alojamiento, es mas sobre como conocer gente increíble, maravillosa, generosa con mente abierta en todo el mundo. La experiencias que podes ganar a través de esta pagina web es imposible ganarla si te alojas como un turista en un hostel o un hotel. No es la única razón encontrar a un host o ser un host para usar esta website, también se la usa para conocer gente, ya sea en tu ciudad o cuando estas viajando, no necesariamente tienes que tener una casa o es un espacio para usar esta fuente, también se la puede usar para salir o conocer gente nueva y hacer nuevos amigos. Existe una tableta de discusión donde podes encontrar personas para ir a explorar la ciudad, ir por un trago o ver un show, entonces es una buena forma de encontrarse con gente que comparte los mismo intereses para conocerse o incluso si te mudas a una ciudad sola puede ser muy util este recurso.


TRUCOS

BUSCAR UN HOST:

Hacer un Perfil: Tenes que crear tu perfil con toda la informacion personal que puedas proporcionar, incluyendo fotos para que las personas se puede dar una idea de que tipo de gente sos. Asegurarte de lincearlo con tu Facebook o otra forma de verificación personal que puedas hacer es todavía mejor.

Ganar Referencias: La primera cosa que la gente se fija es si tenes referencias y si es que acabas de crear tu perfil por supuesto no vas a tener muchas, entonces por nuestra experiencia creemos que existen algunas formas de ganar referencias cuando estés empezando tus viajes.

Encontrar amigos en Couchsurfing: Cuando conectas Facebook a tu cuenta te va a aparecer cuantos amigos de Facebook ya tienen Couchsurfing. Podes ver quienes tienen y agregarlos como amigos, y ademas escribirles un mensaje personal para que te escriban una referencia en tu perfil.

◊ Conocer gente en tu ciudad: En la pagina principal podes ver discusiones y eventos donde la gente del area planea encontrarse. Incluso si no hay nada que te interese podes invitar a alguien a que se junte con vos y tus amigos por algunos tragos, un almuerzo en tu restaurante preferido o algo tan simple como eso.

◊ Alojar Couch surfers en tu casa: Si estas de acuerdo y tener alguna espacio extra en tu casa, adelante y trata de alojar gente! Incluso si es un sillón y por una o dos noches libres, es muy util! En una columna esta todas las personas que están buscando alojamiento en tu ciudad, incluso podes poner filtros de acuerdo a fecha, edad, sexo, si es que tienen referencias o no, etc. Puede que personas esten buscando por una semana, pero si les ofreces por 1 o 2 noches seguramente van a estar mas que agradecidos.

Crea un pedido publico: Hay dos formas de conseguir un alojamiento, hacer un pedido publico para que otras personas puede ofrecerse en alojarte o hacer un pedido personal a cada host por separado. Cuando creas un pedido publico, tener que poder toda la informacion necesaria, como fechas, cuantas personas son y que estas buscando hacer en la ciudad. Escribí acerca de vos, lo que te gusta, tus viajes, pero no lo hagas muy largo porque toda la informacion personal ya va a estar en tu perfil.

Crea en pedido privado: Esta es la mejor forma de encontrar un alojamiento y es la forma que lo hacemos. Con pedidos personal, tienen que ser personales! Mucha gente no les gusta que copies y pegues lo mismo a todos. Es muy obvio cuando lista el perfil y no mandaste el mismo mensaje a cada persona. Encontes lo mejor es copiar y pegar los detalles de tu viaje y después personalizar el resto. Puedes escribir algo que leíste en su perfil, mencionar porque te gustaría que te aloje o porque piensas que se van a llevar bien, si tienen los mismo intereses, si parece divertido por las fotos. También puede mencionar que le podes dar a cambio. Por ejemplo, enseñarles un idioma o informacion sobre tu cultura, una receta familiar, una tradicion, traer algo de tu ciudad natal, o incluso enseñarles algo que querian aprender como un instrumento o algun baile. Por ejemplo, Patricio habla español por lo que ofrecemos enseñarles español y Erica practica Yoga por lo que ella podría enseñar eso si a alguien les interesa.

Revisar perfiles: Este paso es muy importante para asegurarse de que encontres a un host confiable y para tener una experiencia increible con Couchsurfing. Ya sea mandando una solicitud privada o aceptando una oferta de tu solicitud publica, asegurate de resivar su perfil. La primera cosa que debes hacer es ver sus referencias. Debes fijarte que no tenga ninguna negativa. Despues debes leer al menos 5 referencias para poder saber que tipo de persona es. Mientras mas referencias tenga es mas porque vas a poder aprender de las experiencias de los otros y saber que esperar. Esto no significa que no tengas que aceptar a alguien que tenga pocas referencias porque eso no significa que necesariamente vaya a ser un mal host, puede que haya empezado en el sitio web hace poco. Una cosa que puedes hacer es fijarte en que fecha creo su cuenta. Si es que creo su cuenta hace un poco y ya tiene 4 referencias, es una buena señal. Es diferente si te aparece que creo su cuenta hace 5 años y solo tiene algunas referencias de amigos o personas que no alojo, esto es muy importante para una mujer que esta viajando sola. Para una mujer, es tambien importante fijarse si los hombres tambien alojaron otros hombres. Si solo alojo a mujeres, es posible que esa es la razon por la que quiera alojarte. Para evitar tener un momento incomodo, o posiblemente peligroso, debes tener cuidado y prestar atencion a esas cosas, muchos hombres creen que Couchsurfing es como Tinder y lo tratan de usar para conseguir chicas. Otra seccion importante que debes leer es ‘Mi casa’, para poder informarte de las condiciones de la casa, si tiene mascotas, roomates o reglas de la casa. Dos cosas son las que debes fijarte, es si tienen un lugar extra para que duermas porque lo creas o no, algunas personas te ofrecen compartir su cama con ellos y eso seria una situacion incomoda si no sabes acerca de eso. Otra cosa a analizar, es que algunos host tienen horarios muy complicado y no se sienten comodos dejando sus huespedes en su casa cuando ellos no estan. A algunas personas quizas no les moleste, pero podria ser un gran inconveniente si tenes que abandonar a las 7am la casa, aunque bueno alguans personas creen que es bueno para forzarse uno mismo a levantarse temprano a recorrer la ciudad.  Nunca te olvides que el mayor objetivo aqui es tener una experiencia inolvidable, unica, autentica con un local en un nuevo lugar. Si, el alojamiento gratis esta bueno, pero el host ideal va a ser alguien con el que realmente te llevas muy bien y que te va a mostrar la ciudad. Por eso, es importante leer su informacion personal y asegurarse de que tengas cosas en comun y que realmente estes interesado en quedarte con esa persona, no solo por quedarte en un lugar gratis.


SER UN BUEN HUESPED: Desafortunadamente mucha gente usa Couchsurfing por las razones equivocadas. Uno de los errores mas comunes acerca de esta website es que el objetivo principal no es encontrar un lugar gratis, es hacer un intercambio cultural donde ambas partes puedan aprender del otro. Mucha gente puede pensar de que es facil ser un buen huesped, pero hay muchos gestos que se puede tener con tu host para mostrarle gratitud. Sabemos que estamos viajando por mucho tiempo, lo mas importante es ahorrar todo la plata que puedas, pero a veces no necesitas plata para ser bueno y hacer sentir feliz a la otra persona de darte un lugar sin esperar nada a cambio. Un ejemplo, es un lindo gesto cocinar un plato de tu ciudad para poder mostrar un plato tradicional de tu pais. Otro gesto puede ser ayudar a limpiar el departamento. Uno mas podria ser, comprar una botella de vino y dejarle una nota agrandeciendo por la hospitalidad. O sino por ejemplo podrias regalarle algo que represente tu pais.

SER UN BUEN HOST: Como host, deberías asegurarte de hacer tiempo para tu huesped y poder mostrarles tu ciudad e incluirlos en algunas actividades locales. Incluso si no tenes tiempo para pasar con ellos, deberíamos al menos decirlos de algunos lugares locales o recomendaciones para que no pierdan tiempo y plata buscando lugares. Cuando estás alojando a alguien, debes estar seguro de hacerlos sentir cómodos.

Lo más importante de ser un hosts es hacer tiempo para ellos. Es entendible que podes estar ocupado con el trabajo, la escuela o la vida en general y estas tratando de dar una cama a alguien porque todo lo que podes hacer en ese momento. Eso es bueno! Pero al menos date tiempo de chatear con ellos, y aprender algo de cada uno antes de que se vayan. Tuvimos host increíbles que se desviaron para poder buscarnos del aeropuerto o de la estación de trenes, host que nos ofrecieron su propia cama para que ellos se queden en un sillón, host que nos cocinaron además de ofrecernos un lugar para dormir. No tienes que hacer eso necesariamente pero si tenes tiempo y los podes ayudar con algo extra, podes hacer muchas cosas. Imagina cuan agradecido vas a estar si cuando llegas a una nueva ciudad, cansado después de buscar donde vas a dormir y tu host te ofrece buscarte del aeropuerto!


Algunas personas puede que no tengan un lugar para alojar gente y esta bien pero si estás planeando usar Couchsurfing como un surfer, debes tratar al menos tener contacto con algunos viajeros en tu ciudad y ayudarlos, encontrarse, mostrarles tu ciudad, darles tips, etc. Eso es de lo que se trata Couchsurfing, dar ayuda a viajeros que lo necesitan. La idea principal, es un intercambio, das lo que puedes y despues un dia, en algun lugar en el mundo, mientras estés viajando, alguien mas te va a ayudar, por lo que forma parte!

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