Thursday, 6 May 2010

Essential Tips for Couch Surfing

The Sofa Surfing Handbook: A Guide for Modern Nomads

For those taking the plunge and sleeping on random sofas around the world, here are a few essentials for making the most of your couch surfing experience.

Creating a profile is always a good way of putting yourself out there, making sure you do not come across as a psychopath and more of a sociable person. If you have the time, try and be thorough, otherwise whilst messaging potential couch owners- be polite and be specific in dates and times.

So what are you looking for in the profiles? Here we have a few tips:

• Check the percentage replied. In this way you know how reliable the person is, and how long to expect a reply especially if it’s an emergency. Also check how often the person logs in to their account. If it dates back to 2009, then they may not be checking their profile very often.

• Look for references, just to make sure they haven’t escaped an asylum, even more so to check if their claims are true. Similarly, look for the ‘Vouch for’ symbol that resembles a piece of card being stuck down, for reliability.

• The amount of friends the person has and photographs also clarify if the person is real

• Depending on how much you want to learn the language, checking whether they are beginner, intermediate and expert in English and other languages is also vital.

• Ensure that they actually have a couch. Look for the sofa with a white tick on it otherwise; chance the image of a sofa without one which means that they don’t have a definite couch available.

• Another way before actually couch surfing with someone, is to send them a message first to scrutinize them, giving any queries beforehand and then request to actually couch surf with them. It's always good to have some friendly dialogue before you meet them.

• Leading on from the last point, remember couch surfing is NOT a sexual exchange, whatever the profiler may tell you. Do not feel obliged to do sexual favours to stay. In this way, perhaps staying with your preferred gender is the safest option (especially for women.)

• There have been a few unnerving stories about botched up surfing, which is why the main thing is to use your instinct. If something smells fishy, it usually is. A good way of picking cities and countries to stay at, is seeing the number of couches in that area. If there are a fair few- ranging from the hundreds to thousands- then it's a common trend there and should be safer. Usually avoid anything under 100 couches in a country.

When you find the perfect couch:

• After you have come to a mutual agreement to stay, remember to leave all your main details including- name, contact number, date and time with them. Even more so, remember to get their information otherwise it may be impossible to find them!

• Be polite, they are being courteous enough to let you stay for free. Make plenty of conversation and get tips and advice for places. They may be kind enough to show you around.

• Be clean, last thing they want is to fall over your mess wherever you stay.

• Keep your valuables in a locker or with you in a secure pouch.

• When you leave, it would be a nice gesture to give them a ‘thank you’ card, or anything small to show your appreciation. You never know, you may even be given the opportunity to stay there again if you are nice enough!

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