Selecting a 'couch' can be a daunting experience. So here are a few tips to help potential couchsurfers overcome their fear of the unknown when trying to choose a comfortable and safe couch:
Before you send a request
1. Read each of the profiles carefully. CS prides itself in being a platform for meeting people and creating friendships. Do you have interests in common, hobbies, profession, outlook on life? Does this person seem like somebody you could get on with? Make sure that the hosts have written an extensive amount of information in their profiles, so you can get a rough idea of what the person is like.
2. Who referenced them? Who verified them? How well do they know each other? Did everyone who stayed with them have positive experiences? How many guests have they had? Carefully read references and comments from friends. Read between lines. Look for subtleties. If a reference seems to be suspicious, send a message to the person who posted it to get more details.
3. Pay special attention to Negative and Neutral references. To easily find Negative references you can search for the text "Negative" with the browser's search function. The same method can be applied to find Neutral references, but then you'll need to install the "Neutral References" script in order to make the text "Neutral" appear along with neutral references. You may also find it useful to install the "Reference Statistics" script. It will give you a quick overview of the references present in the profile and will help you focus your attention on the most relevant ones. This is particularly interesting when the profile has lots of references.
4. Always read the couch info. Many hosts will keep their couch availability icon on, but may not be available. Also, keywords you may be asked to mention in your request could be hiding in there, as many hosts do not like the impersonal copy-and-paste approach by potential guests. Reading this information will give you a good idea of where you will be sleeping while there so that you know what to expect. Some hosts put up many people at the same time; some don't; some have housemates to consider too; some have a small flat and you may have to share the same room as them.
5. Plan a bit in advance, so that you have the time to send out enough requests so that at least one will be positive. Obviously 6 months or so in advance may be too long as a lot of hosts don't plan that far ahead. Either way, give yourself as much time as you feel you may need.
6. A back-up host. In addition to your main/first choice for a host you may want to have a look for a "back-up" host. Once you have a couch arranged, you could optionally contact another host, and ask them to be your back-up, in case the first couch doesn't work out. Life happens and it may well be that you arrange to surf in one house, and due to unforeseen circumstances, your host is unable to put you up, at the last minute. In this case a back-up host could save the day.
7. Hostel budget. Couch surfing enables everyone to have a more inexpensive trip. Having said that, a guest is always advised to allow in their budget for at least one night at a hostel, just in case everything that can go wrong does. So, always keep an affordable hostel's details handy.
Now get surfing and enjoy the trip!!