Wondering how to use Couchsurfing as safely as possible when you're going it alone? After you've read the other tips pages, here are a few extra ideas to help you get comfortable as a solo Couchsurfer.
- You are never obligated to meet another member. Be picky when accepting a Couch Request or choosing a host. Read profiles carefully. If you see that other solo travelers have hosted or surfed with the person whose profile you're reading, consider sending them a note to ask about their experience.
- Keep your contact information private. Don't put your email address, phone number, Skype name, or other outside means of communication into the text of your profile. Other members should contact you through the CS messaging system until you feel comfortable giving them more information.
- Let CS know about inappropriate messages. If you receive messages that make you uncomfortable, be sure to flag them by using the "report as spam" button from the message in your CS inbox.
- Trust your instincts. If an uncomfortable situation arises, don't feel bad about leaving a host, or asking a surfer to leave your home. It's important to protect your safety even if it feels a bit awkward.
- References protect community safety. Whether it's positive or negative, leave a clear and specific reference after you've hosted or surfed with another member. This is an essential step to take to help other members make educated decisions about their own safety.
- Consider taking a self defense course. It helps to feel confident that you know how to handle any situation. In many countries, universities offer these classes for low rates. Couchsurfing members also receive a 20% discount at Impact classes (taught in the US, Canada, the UK, and Israel). CS is not affiliated with Impact, but a volunteer has evaluated the classes and found them useful.
Tips for Surfing
- Always have a back-up plan. Know what to do if your hosting situation doesn't work out: bring a guidebook, know the phone number for a local taxi company, and keep a list of a few hostels near by.
- Keep your travel plans quiet in public places. Don't risk giving someone the impression that you wouldn't be missed if you failed to arrive at your next destination. After all, with Couchsurfing, you would be! Make sure your host knows when to expect you, and keep people at home updated on your itinerary.
- Know where you're going. Have a written copy of the directions to your host's home or meeting place, as well as her phone number. If you do get lost, walk firmly and strongly. Looking confused will make you a target, so it's better to walk a few extra blocks out of your way than to show the world that you're baffled. Check your map in a café, restaurant or other safe place.
- Consider how different cultures view gender relations. In some cultures, a solo traveler staying with a member of the opposite sex is unconventional and can be perceived as inappropriate. You can limit the risk of misinterpretation by staying with members of your own gender or with a family.
- It's never too late to say no. When you arrive or during your stay, if something makes you uncomfortable, you are always free to leave. If you feel awkward, just politely explain that you're leaving the city sooner than expected -- and then check into a hostel across town.
- Connect with other Couchsurfers. If you're looking for safety in numbers, remember that you're part of a community. Check out the CS groups and activities for the places you'll be visiting!
Tips for Hosting
- Set your boundaries. Write detailed guidelines in the Couch Information section on your profile. Be honest about who you feel comfortable hosting and what behavior you expect from them. Some hosts have found it helpful to put in a 'password' that surfers must include in their Couch Request. This helps you see right away who's read your profile thoroughly and who hasn't.
- Look for personalized Couch Requests In a good Couch Request, Couchsurfers will introduce themselves, tell you when they'll be in town, and talk a little bit about why they'd like to meet you. If you think you'd like to host them, start developing a connection before they arrive by exchanging a few messages.
- Set a meeting place. If it makes you more comfortable, you can ask Couchsurfers to meet you at a café or park before you show them where you live.
- It's never too late to say no. If any Couchsurfers make you uncomfortable, whether it's when they arrive or part-way through their stay, you should ask them to leave. Surfing is a privilege, not a right. It may be awkward, but don't be shy about fibbing a last-minute emergency that makes your couch unavailable.
- You decide how much access Couchsurfers have to your home. Remember that your comfort is more important than the convenience of your surfer. There is no set way of letting Couchsurfers into and out of your home: you can set meeting times, give them a phone number to call, or whatever you feel comfortable with.
- Explain your guidelines early. When Couchsurfers arrive at your home, let them know right away what's available to them and what isn't. Show them which rooms they can be in. Be clear about whether or not they can use your computer, your phone, your washing machine, or any other possessions.
- Be a part of the community. It helps to know people near you who can share ideas and advice. Get to know other hosts in your area by joining groups and joining activities!
Safety is very important for all Couchsurfers. By keeping yourself safer, you help keep all of us safer! Every time you write a reference or choose who you meet carefully, you're helping create the positive experiences that make Couchsurfing strong. Thank you!