If you are new to travelling solo or new to the concept of Couchsurfing then you may be wondering ‘is Couchsurfing as a solo female traveller safe?’. I certainly wondered this myself before my first time using the site. But being addicted to travel and making friends abroad means Couchsurfing has a certain appeal. It might be considered weird to talk to strangers in everyday life but the rules don’t apply when travelling. Even more so with Couchsurfing! Not only are you creating the perfect environment to build a lasting friendship but you are experiencing life like a local, with locals. I use Couchsurfing as a solo female traveller regularly and could not recommend it enough.
COUCHSURFING AS A SOLO FEMALE TRAVELLER!
So back to the question, ‘is Couchsurfing as a solo female traveller safe?’. From my experience, yes. As a host and guest, I have only had positive experiences. However, I also actively avoid negative or unsafe situations when using Couchsurfing. I stick to the advice I have been given by fellow solo female travellers and a few of my own self-made rules to make sure I stay comfortable and out of trouble. So here is my advice on how to best use Couchsurfing as a solo female traveller, I hope you find it helpful!
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM COUCHSURFING – Generally, hosts are very flexible. However, most will be expecting you to hang out and be sociable. You shouldn’t be asked for any money as that really isn’t the spirit of Couchsurfing. The idea is to exchange cultures, create friendships and maybe have your hosts stay with you one day! However, I have stayed in a few places where I have been asked to cook a meal and contribute towards the wifi.
TYPES OF HOST
My experience of Couchsurfing hosts can roughly be divided into two halves. The first half are the serial super hosts! My first ever Couchsurfing experience as a solo traveller was in Harlem, New York. I had one night ‘booked’ and thanks to a delayed flight, arrived late at night. My host was really lovely about it but I was still nervous. To my surprise, when he let me into his flat, there were about six people asleep on his living room floor. I learnt later on that this guy continuously had a full house of Couchsurfers because he just loves to host!
The second type of host are the casual hosts. These are the people that host every now and then because they have a spare room while a flatmate is on holiday or they just fancy meeting someone new. I generally prefer these situations because I feel like I become better friends with the host and the occasional other guests. All of the friends I have made through Couchsurfing have been through these situations. However, the first situation is also fun so I wouldn’t rule out staying with a super host either.
ADVICE ON STAYING SAFE WHILE COUCHSURFING AS A SOLO FEMALE TRAVELLER
GUYS OR GALS – First of all I think you have to decide if you mind staying with guys. I would encourage you to be open to all hosts on Couchsurfing but it is also completely understandable if you would rather stay with girls. Once you know, you can filter your search on the Couchsurfing site.
THOROUGHLY READ PROFILES – Make sure to thoroughly read everyone’s profiles, you don’t want any unexpected surprises. I once almost stayed at a nudist flat because I hadn’t read the profile properly! You can gather a lot from how/what people write about themselves so if you get a bad feeling from a profile, count them out. Likewise, if you get a really positive feeling about someone from their profile, you know to go for it! Also, make sure they have a verified profile as another level of security for yourself.
THOROUGHLY READ REVIEWS – I only stay with people who have 5+ positive reviews from other guests. Reading other peoples experiences with a host can sway my decision immensely and make me feel confident in the character of my potential host.
WARNING SIGNS – If there is any important information missing on someone’s profile, ask yourself why. Likewise, if a host has any bad reviews I would avoid them on principle. Then, the best advice I can give is to follow your instinct. If you feel uneasy or uncomfortable while messaging through Couchsurfing it won’t be any better in person.
HAVE A BACKUP PLAN – Just in case something does go wrong, make sure you know where the nearest hostel is so you can jump ship if need be. Don’t worry about feeling rude, if you don’t get on with someone or don’t feel comfortable in their house that’s just life!
MY EXPERIENCE WITH COUCHSURFING
My favourite Couchsurfing experiences were on my backpacking trip from New York to Montreal. I stayed with an amazing host in Toronto who also had two other Couchsurfers staying at the time. We spent all of our time together playing cricket at the park, relaxing with a few beers, cooking meals! It was perfect and I am still in touch with all three people. I also had a great host in New York who was incredibly generous, letting me use his museum pass, and was generally just a really interesting guy. In Montreal I stayed in a student house and that was really fun too. They took me slacklining and again we cooked together and relaxed.
I have only ever hosted one Couchsurfer due to the fact I have always lived in shared houses and people aren’t always happy for me to host! But the one time I did manage was great and I really enjoyed showing him the sites. He insisted on cooking for me which was great too and again we are still friends, three years on! So as you can see, Couchsurfing has served me very well and I think everyone should try it at least once. It’ll push you out of your comfort zone at first but with worthwhile results!