A Broke-Ass Guide to Couchsurfing

I love traveling. It is what makes me happiest in life and is what I save my pennies for. Unfortunately, traveling today is effing expensive. While the cost is a definite deterrent, it only forces me to be craftier in my planning, and to take shortcuts whenever possible.

One of the biggest money sucks are accommodations. I prefer traveling places where I know someone, not only because they’ve got the skinny and you can get a better feel for the local culture, but also because of the possibility of hanging ten on their comfy sofas. Yes, I am a couch surfer, and am damn proud of it. Even if you don’t know someone in your destination, there are awesome organizations that help you find cool people willing to let you crash for FREE! This all grood (great and good) but here are some key guidelines of etiquette required to make everyone’s lives easier and guarantee you and invitation back!

1. Bring a little something. You don’t need to splurge on anything shmancy, but giving a small token of your appreciation acknowledges that you are aware that they are doing you a solid by letting you sleep on their furniture.

2. Don’t lose their keys. If your hosts have gone to the trouble of making you an extra set of keys try extra hard not to lose them, as you would lose your own.

3. Bring your own towel. Not many people I know have tons of extra clean towels lying around in a lavender scented linen closet, so bringing your own will keep your hosts from stressing, and keep you from using a towel that smells like cat.

4. Be as tidy as possible. Even if you and your host have known each other since your were four, and they themselves are a bit messy, this does not give you license to sprawl your dirty underwear everywhere.

5. Make your bed…disappear! This may seem like a no-brainer, but your bed is actually a functional piece of furniture. During the day, fold your bedding neatly and place it away from the couch, so that you aren’t monopolizing their living space.

6. Don’t bring in the riff raff. It would be weird for you to throw a party of strangers without the permission of your hosts, and is equally weird to throw a party in your pants with said strangers. If you find yourself madly in vacation fueled lust with a local, hopefully you trust them enough to go to their place, because nobody wants to wake up to a half naked weirdo raiding their fridge.

7. Light a match. ‘Nuf said.

8. Do nice things. You don’t have to re-paint their bedroom, but doing nice things around the house like making dinner, or doing the dishes shows you care.

9. You break it, you bought it. Try not to leave a path of destruction in your wake. Chances are it was a total accident but if you break something, replace it to the best of your ability.

10. Give back. If you’re a stingy a-hole who doesn’t like people crashing with you, get a hotel. Seriously, it’s an unspoken rule of reciprocity and if you’re going to be a little bitch when your friend comes into town after you spent a week at their place last year then it’s best just to stay somewhere else in the first place.

12. Get lost. This is a two part-er. Don’t rely on your hosts to entertain you every minute of every day. Go out on your own and explore. And please, don’t spend six of your seven days in town sitting on their couch watching TV.

13. Don’t move in. It may be a sweet set up, and your friends may say it’s cool to stay for however long you want, but don’t act a fool and stay any one place for too long. If necessary, switch to another friend’s couch mid-trip. Also, don’t actually move in. That’s just rude.

14. Respect their schedule. If your friend has to work at some ungodly early hour, don’t roll in at 4:00 AM every morning drunk and noisy. At least be drunk and quiet.

15. Wear pants. I cannot stress this enough. Nobody wants to see that.

This post is dedicated to my roommate, who went to New york for a “few days” and will now have been there for a month.

Photos by: papermag.com, movieposter.com, cm1.theinsider.com

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About the author

Alison Lambert - Half Price Headliner

Ali was born and raised in the Wholesome/Creepy capital of the world, Salt Lake City, UT. Once she was old enough to blow that pop stand she escaped to the place that was the anti-SLC: The Peoples Gay-public of Drugifornia aka San Francisco (holla 30 Rock!). You can now find her throughout this glorious city slurping Pho and scheming with her best friend Pinky doing what they do every night; try and take over the world.

5 Comments

  1. Tom says:

    Haha this is brilliant advice! I blogged about being a good couchsurfer but yours is more complete and funny. Permission to repost on mine? :)

  2. Sure go ahead and repost it. Just make sure to give us credit and link back here. Thanks!

  3. Greg says:

    Couchsurfing.com is a great site. I have used it around the world with no problems. I’ve also had a bunch of peeps stay on my couch and the only sketchy thing that happened was that one guy ate my granola.

    Oh, and when me and my gf were couchsurfing in Vietnam and I decided to take the night off and get some sleep while she went out with our host, the guy spent half the night hitting on her and trying to get her in bed. Other than that, zippy problems and tons of great memories!

  4. Mike Fried says:

    These guidelines are key when you are couchsrufing. I too am addicted to the whole notion of hospitality exchange and cannot get enough.

    I think you have to always keep your eyes open even though the majority of the people on these websites are good hearted, trustworthy people.

    Recently I have started to hear buzz about a new website with a safety program and an anonymous rating system for travelers to use (all for free). Check it out! https://www.tripping.com . I have become a huge fan, it is like Couchsurfing but more user-friendly.

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