Q: I am now officially a Couchsurfer, but is it really that safe?
A: The short answer is yes! Couchsurfing is really that safe, thanks to several precautions that the site has taken and several precautions that you can take yourself. I will discuss these in depth, however let me preface this article by stating that I think the best way to approach Couchsurfing, especially for the first time, is to view it as if you were going on a blind date.
The majority of us, before accepting a blind date, do some background work. We ask numerous questions of the person who is arranging the date. If the potential date does not live up to our standards, then we do not accept the date. If we happen to know other people whom might also know our date, then we ask them their opinions as well. This is the attitude you should have when Couchsurfing.
Under no circumstances do you Couchsurf without doing your research.
The site has created 3 safety measures to provide Couchsurfers with a sense of security. These measures can be viewed on every single profile and you should make certain that at least 1-2 have been met for yourself and for the Couchsurfers that you will meet.
- Personal References: When Couchsurfers meet, they are strongly encouraged to leave each other references whether the experience was positive or negative. These references are permanent. Thus, if someone is left a negative reference, anyone can see this and they cannot take it down. I do not believe that you should necessarily discredit a person if they have 1 negative reference in the midst of many positive ones, but if someone has more than 1, I suggest moving on to another profile. Make sure to thoroughly read each reference. These really inform you on what kind of person you will be meeting.
- Address Verification System: This can be done by either donating some money to the site via a credit card, where upon the site checks your address to make sure that it matches the one you have originally provided them with. Or, the site will send you a letter in the mail with a code that you must then enter into the site once received. This measure is optional. If you plan on really making Couchsurfing a significant part of your life, then this is a good measure to take to insure people that you are 100% honest.
- Personal Vouches:If a Couchsurfer has received 3 vouches, then they are granted the power to vouch for other people. Vouches are taken very seriously. A lot of thought must be taken before vouching for someone, therefore you can feel confident that a person is trustworthy if you see them with multiple vouches.
I cannot reiterate enough that research is of the utmost importance! Not only should you check for the 3 safety measures, but you should also read members profiles to get a sense of their personality and what their home situation is like.
When looking for accommodation you can search for hosts using various parameters that may appeal to you such as: age, location, sex, and activity level. As a female, I recommend female Couchsurfing newbies to surf with other females for maximum comfort in the beginning.
And remember, you might not click with the Couchsurfer 100%, just like you might not with a blind date, since it is a gamble after all. Though keep in mind that it can still end up being a positive experience, since meeting new people always opens the door to learning new things about life and yourself.
Next week, I will be answering the question: ” What goes along with offering your couch?