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Safety for hosts

a backup of the cs wiki

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Please note that you can find Couchsurfing's official "Safety for surfers" tips page here

Safety is Very Important! This page contains ome tips on Hosting.


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Common sense and first impression

Try to find out what kind of people you will have on your couch. Profiles can give you a first impression (when emailing, you can also get some more info). You may want to meet them in a cafe before you have them come over. Have a talk to see what kind of person they are.

IMPORTANT: If you feel strange, or you don't trust their intentions, be open about it. IT IS OKAY to refuse your hospitality! If you have other accommodations available in your area (hostel, etc.) be ready to redirect them there (and have phone numbers, etc). If you don't have other accommodations available but aren't comfortable allowing them into your home, have a backup plan (and a foolproof excuse, if necessary) ready.


Before you accept a request

Read each of the profiles carefully. Who referenced them? Who verified them? How well do they know each other? Did everyone who stayed with them have positive experiences? How much CS experience have they had? Make sure that the guests have written an extensive amount of information in their profiles, to get a rough idea of what the person is like. The more information, the safer: read carefully 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.

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 ([1]) in order to make the text “Neutral” appear along with neutral references.

You may also find it useful to install the "Reference Statistics" script ([2]). It will give you a quick overview of the references present in the profile and will help you focus your attention in the most relevant ones. This is particularly interesting when the profile has lots of references.

Another good script, that adds to the first two features some other useful info about the profile, is "CS Profile Informer" ([3]).

If there is some basic information missing from your surfer's profile (full name, location, etc.), ask for it. They are asking you for an enormous amount of trust - the least they can do is tell you who they really are.

Don't necessarily refuse travellers because they haven't had any CS experience yet; they have to get it somewhere! But, be especially cautious in these instances. If you live alone, ask a trusted friend or family member to spend the night before accepting a surf request from an unverified or unreferenced member.

A simple, free tool you can use to look into the details of someone from the USA is called "ZabaSearch" ( [4] ). You just enter the first and last names of one of your prospective guests and the state where he or she lives, and you'll get a summary report. It's especially useful when people have not-so-common names or are from less populous states (e.g. "Ferdinand Fernwhistle" from Wyoming) but may return an impractical number of results at the opposite extreme (e.g. "John Smith" from New York). While limited in the information it provides, if the person's name and state returned no results at all, it would certainly be reason to ask your prospective guest for further information. And it does also provide you with links to other, for-pay services, which you could use to dig deeper if this seemed beneficial.


Decide how open your home will be

You can decide how much access your surfers will have to your home. Some hosts offer a spare set of keys and full access to kitchen, computer, garage, etc. Others prefer to supervise their guests more closely. All of this is okay! Just decide ahead of time what you are comfortable with, and stick to it.

Look around your place and think about the things people can steal or break. How important is your stuff to you? If there are things you really can't afford to lose (passports, credit cards, large amounts of money, jewelry, electronics, important information on a computer), put them away before your guests arrive.

Discuss off-limits areas with your surfer(s). Most surfers won't touch anything unless you give express permission, so it is always nice to tell people what they may use and what you'd prefer they leave alone.

A good checklist of things to think about specifically permitting or prohibiting: eating food in the fridge or pantry; use of the kitchen; use of shower and linens; access to bedrooms or office areas; use of computer or printer; important books or papers; pets (i.e., can I take the rabbit out of his cage? May the dog sleep on the bed?); use of electronics such as TV or stereo.

If you are not comfortable lending a spare key to your home, give specific information (in writing, if you can) to your guest(s) about when you will and will not be at home (and stick to it) so that they will know when they can come and go. Always give an emergency number where you can be reached.


Ask trust in return for your trust

Some people choose to ask for something in exchange, especially if you decide to give them a key to your place. You're giving a great gift by lending a spare set of keys and your hospitality, so visitors should give you back similar trust. You could ask for a ticket, identity card, or something else like that. It's important that you are open when you ask for this. Show them that they can trust you too. Keep honest people honest. A Dutch saying goes: Have faith in God, but lock your door.

  • Remember that most travellers are travelling to see the city and meet YOU, they don't travel abroad to steal your TV! :))
  • Should things go sour, ALWAYS leave a negative reference for that person and email CouchSurfing about it. We will take action.

Another idea: When meeting the surfer, before going back to your place, ask to look at their identification (Passport or ID). This step verifies that they are who they say they are. Anyone who is legit will have no problem with this request. You may also consider giving their name and address to a trusted friend or relative just in case you should turn up missing. Ask the surfer's permission first, and let them know what you will be doing with the information and why. Again, most people should have no problem with this.

Yet Another Idea: Take a photo of the person you are meeting and email it to someone you know.

Based on text written by Aldo
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