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european couch surfing and short term stays Are you are travelling on a limited budget in Europe? Want to meet people who are native to or resident in your proposed destination? Would you like to develop friendships with international travellers? Then couch surfing in Europe opens the door to these possibilities allowing you to realise an alternative means to temporarily live in a European home. The advisory on this page covers the most relevant issues. Click on any of the following links that are of interest to you.

What is a Couch Surfing?Who is the Host • Who is the SurferCreating a ProfileSafety ConsiderationsDo's and Don'ts • Couch Surfing FAQ

 

What is Couch Surfing?
Couch surfing through ECHS is a non-commercial arrangement that allows travellers from around the world to be a guest of a host in a home of various European countries and principalities. However, your host's accommodation can go beyond (and possibly below) just offering a sofa. As a surfer you may have a talent or ability that is desirable to a host. In return you may be surprised at what hosts are offering; a house on a hill with a room with a sea and sunset view may not dominate listings offered by a host, but nor will a car garage with a salvaged Cadillac back seat. What this means is that when the right connection is made between a host and a surfer, the experience should be unique.

Who is the Host?
The status of your host will vary. Some may appear to have a small guest-house type presentation providing basic meals, tours of their local surroundings and limited stays of 2-3 days where you may share your simple sleeping area with one or more people allowing you to meet other surfers. Some hosts could be like visiting an aunt or an uncle who you've not seen for years and you are their exclusive guest, with full access to their home, who they want to spoil.

Who is the Surfer?
A surfer’s status can be as varied as that of a host. A surfer is keen to experience the host’s environment inside (their home) or outside (the locale of the home.) The age group of surfers is on average younger than that of a host. Surfers are not planning a long term stay with a host and this is expected by both parties. As a user of ECHS, you can seek a fixed agreement for living by renting a home in Europe, exclusively, or house / apartment sharing with others.

Creating your Profile.
When you advertise as a host or surfer, it is important to have your profile contain facts that will reassure the reader and encourage them to contact you.
Therefore, including a proper name, clear pictures of oneself and preferably the couch or sleeping area, will give a boost to your profile. Showing that you are humorous, interesting and trustworthy does create a foundation for open communication. What can you as a host or surfer offer that is mutually beneficial? As host have you surfed or vice versa?

Safety Considerations.
Receiving a surfer, staying with a host and meeting other surfers create interactions that do raise matters of safety. If communication with an advertiser raises doubts, credibility wise, then discontinue further contact. Here are some considerations to take into account:

    1. Pre-meeting communication – ECHS provides an instant messaging system for its registered users to communicate privately using your ECHS username. E-mail addresses are not displayed with your advertisement and including your telephone number is optional. Additionally, Hosts and surfers should review the tone and content of profiles of an advertisement to gain perspective for suitable a match.
  1. Cultural differences – Europe is very diverse linguistically and cultural differences are quite evident regionally. Northern Europe is less populated and tends to show greater tolerance amongst its people, whilst central to southern Europe has a richer mix of history and tradition. Parts of Eastern Europe still struggle in dealing with diverse views and the disparity in wealth is clearly visible compared to Western Europe. Taking this into account, inform yourself, whether it is as a host or surfer, of the cultural nuances that surrounds cuisine, clothing, religion and social interaction.
  2. Alternative arrangements – As a surfer, you may find yourself with a host and/or surfers that provide little or no pleasure or comfort and it is advisable to investigate lodging possibilities beforehand, en route to your intended destination, locally or elsewhere.
  3. Female travellers – Your gender as a female should not exclude you from the benefits of couch surfing. However, being a female in any country is not without its vulnerabilities and expected gender roles. As a female, your security should be a priority in situations that do pose a threat. When you advertise, you can include in the creation of your profile as to who you would prefer as a host, such as a female, a couple or family and then expand on this in your Advert description. No matter your gender, be sure to check a host's references and reviews of other surfers. Whether you are single female host or surfer, do your best to ensure your expectations are met, as described in paragraph a. above.

Some Do's and Don’ts.
When hosting or surfing, not everything that serves as a basis for a pleasant experience would have been thought of or covered. So here are some considerations to remember:

  • Do personalise your e-mails or messages to a host. The initial written communication of a surfer should show a genuine interest towards what a host is offering and areas of compatibility that make you and a host a desirable match after reading the host's profile. Avoid sending a circular and impersonal or simple one line e-mails or messages. Keep your potential host informed of your arrival and departure dates.
  • Do bring a gift for your host. This excludes money! If you have communicated well with your host before meeting you could have an impression of what they would value. A surfer giving souvenir from their town, city or country goes some way to appreciating your host.
  • Do ask about the rules of the host’s home. Will you have access to a kitchen and/or laundry facilities? Is alcohol or tobacco use allowed? Is there a curfew?
  • Do ask about the level of privacy. Your host may have more than one surfer at a time visiting and/or not have a separate sleeping and bathroom area. So reassure yourself of what privacy you can expect.
  • Do have a backup strategy. Preferably, you should have a mobile communication device that will work when you arrive at your destination and beforehand let friends or family know where you are and have them contact you if you have not contacted them within a specific time frame.
  • Do not unexpectedly arrive at your host’s residence. Surfers should remind themselves that hosts have a life beyond hosting and would have to make certain arrangements for the arrival of surfers. Contacting a host between 7 and 20 days before arriving gives a host enough time to prepare for guests.
  • Do not remain with a host if you feel uncomfortable. Discuss with a host, in a composed manner, what is causing you discomfort. If a resolution is not satisfactory, then remove yourself from the host’s residence.
  • Do not outstay your welcome. Surfers should normally not remain with host for more than three (3) nights, unless a host states you are welcome to stay beyond this time.
  • Do not expect a host to clean up after you. Hosts are not providing a hotel service! A host will welcome that surfers are tidy and will maintain cleanliness in the areas they allow you access to in their home.

Couch Surfing - Frequently Asked Questions.
Click on any of the following links, for answers to couch surfing FAQs.

Is couch surfing safe?
Is private messaging between ECHS users monitored?
If I contact ECHS with a problem about another registered ECHS couch surfer is my identity made public?
Some hosts charge for their couch. Is that acceptable?
I can’t contact a family member who I believe is couch surfing through ECHS. What help can you give me?
I found some couch surfers on the ECHS site not to be cordial? Can you ban them?
What can I do if I receive a spam or offensive message from another user?

Is couch surfing safe?
Safe couch surfing has become a positive experience for the majority of people who make this travel accommodation choice. As with staying anywhere in an unfamiliar place take precautions for your safety as outlined above on most parts of this tips page.

Is private messaging between ECHS users monitored?
Messaging between ECHS registered users is not monitored. Messages are kept in the database after being transmitted and can, of course, be retrieved by the users who have written and received messages from other users. However, messages are kept, but not viewed, by ECHS for a limited time, for investigation, if an abuse claim is made by a user as a violation of the ECHS terms of use.

If I contact ECHS with a problem about another registered ECHS couch surfer is my identity made public?
No! Your identity is not disclosed. If the matter raises legal issues, ECHS would require you to submit, if necessary, additional information to resolve the matter. Furthermore, the details of your concern can be given, with anonymity, to the ECHS Watchdog forum.

Some hosts charge for their couch. Is that acceptable?
No! Couch surfing is a non-commercial agreement between host and surfer. However, hospitality is not without its costs and guests should be able to show their gratitude by inviting a host to a meal, the cinema or other means of entertainment. Additionally, a host's profile should state what they are able to offer unconditionally. If certain costs are inevitable between host and surfer, the cost should be discussed, but not as the basis of a couch surfing agreement.

I can’t contact a family member who I believe is couch surfing through ECHS. What help can you give me?
If you want third parties (family and friends) to contact ECHS if they cannot contact you, provide them with your username and or e-mail address to allow ECHS to investigate who you have been in contact with regarding couch surfing. However, subject to the ECHS privacy policy, these details would be shared foremost with an embassy and/or police department that you've contacted and the authorities would have to provide the contact details to ECHS.

I found some couch surfers on the ECHS site not to be cordial? Can you ban them?
Excluding users from couch surfing because they appear controversial will not alone result in a ban. An assortment of preferences, views and personalities gives couch surfing the opportunity to be an international and inclusive community. Nevertheless, users who violate the ECHS terms of use will have their profile removed when the infringement is identified.    

What can I do if I receive a spam or offensive message from another user?
Please contact us with the username of the user who has sent the message and when. If the user is in violation of ECHS terms of use they will have their ECHS account suspended, if not removed.

In addition the above couch surfing FAQ, ECHS has a site wide general question and answer guide. See the ECHS FAQ page.

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