Couch Surfing 101: How to Avoid Being the House Guest from Hell when Traveling

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What’s that you say? You’ve got a friend who now lives in New York, Paris, London or Tokyo? Instant hotel, right? Hold up there. While many of us like to host friends who are traveling, there are some important things to know so you can avoid being the house guest from hell.

5 Follow the House Rules

If your friend has asked you to always make sure the porch light is on or to take off your shoes in the living room or whatever, do as you’re asked. If they’re not keen on your smoking in the apartment, again, the onus is on you to step outside. Their house, their rules.

4 Be Safe

What’s that you said? You never lock the door at home? Well, you might live in Mayberry, but most of us don’t. When you’re staying with someone else, ask them what they want you to do about locking doors, windows, et al. Be careful with keys. Don’t lose them or give them out. If your friend lives in an apartment building or a gated community with an access code, or has some sort of alarm system with a keypad, remember that those digits are sacred. Never give the code to other people or repeat it out loud, especially when you’re around the building or about to walk in. If you’ve written it down somewhere, don’t put your friend’s address right next to it, and destroy that paper when you leave. Be careful about letting people into the building behind you. If the building has a doorman or concierge, you might get stopped in the lobby — don’t get annoyed, just cooperate. It’s the doorman’s job to check out anyone who looks unfamiliar. If you’re not from a major city some of these safety rules might seem paranoid, but they’re really just common sense.

3 Never, Ever Bring Unexpected/Uninvited Strangers

Many people are uncomfortable about having strangers in their home, particularly overnight. There’s also usually a finite number of guests that can be hosted. If you bring an extra uninvited person along, you’re really putting your host in a terrible bind: you’re expecting her to open her home to someone she doesn’t know, doesn’t necessarily trust, and might not have room to accommodate. It’s just not a cool thing to do. The corollary to this is that if you meet someone interesting when you’re out and about, ask before inviting them back to your friend’s house to hang out.

2 Clean Up After Yourself

Your host will undoubtedly show you hospitality, but it’s nice to make things easy for them. Don’t expect maid service: pick up after yourself. Clean your hair out of the shower drain. Scrape your plates before putting them in the dishwasher. Wash the dishes you use. You know, continue with all the little things you might do at home to keep things in order. If you’re normally a slob and this all sounds foreign to you, keep in mind that the neater and more considerate you are, the more likely you are to be invited back to your friend’s house.

1 Don’t Use your Friend

Your friend isn’t running a hotel. If you’ve been invited, or you’ve planned a trip together, that’s one thing. If it’s an emergency, that’s another. If you’re just rolling into town, you’re not there to visit your friend and you just want to stay with him because you don’t want to pay for a hotel room, it’s an entirely different story. Nobody likes being used. Also keep in mind that a lot of folks who live in major cities might have significant challenges to hosting guests, including very limited space or roommates. If a friend turns down your request to crash, she’s probably not trying to be a jerk. More likely than not, she has legitimate reasons that she can’t host you, and she’s thinking of everyone’s comfort when she says no.
Staying with friends can be a great way to catch up, see an authentic apartment or house in the city you’re visiting, and feel more at home. However, it’s a good idea to make sure your friends don’t regret hosting you.

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