Mishaps in CouchSurfing
Usually I’m the first to brag about how wonderful the world of CouchSurfing is, but today I had one of my few negative experiences. I was fuming mad. But after some time to cool down, and having backup plans, I am calm and collected and ready to relay the story, as well as tips on how to avoid your own negative experience.
I found a host to surf with for my 3-day stay in Krakow in advance of the Christmas Festive Trek I have booked. I sent out maybe 15 requests, but being Christmas I knew that even with 70 positive references, I wouldn’t have much luck (everyone goes home to see their family). I ended up having 1 definite yes to the 3-day period, from a Polish girl who was already hosting a French surfer. Her profile wasn’t that filled out, but from what I could gather she had over 20 positive responses, she wasn’t
I read the first few responses, and her and her husband seemed like a very friendly couple. I got in touch with her, and let her know my arrival plans. She replied in the normal way, with the address, what bus/tram to get, and just told me to come anytime someone would be home. I got her number, and sent a text message, but it went unanswered. Feeling a bit unsure of the address and what time to arrive, I made a backup couch request with a few positive responses; one from a girl saying I could stay in her University dorm room as a backup, but she could only host me 2 nights. The other from a Mexican-Polish couple who met through CouchSurfing, but they could only host me 1 night (more on that later).
I stayed with the Mexican-Polish couple for the night and had a lovely experience. I used their internet to try and get ahold of the married Polish girl. She replied saying her mobile was broken, so she didnt get my text, but it was no problem for me to come a day later. She cleared up the questions I had about the address, and said that the door buzzer is broken, so I might have to buzz into the building on a neighbours door. Seems straightforward enough. But she wouldnt link me to her other guests profile, or give me his number in case I needed to get in touch. Strange. A little fishy. But this is Poland. I thought nothing of it.
I left my first hosts place (the Mexican-Polish couple) at 10am, and got a couple of buses towards the new host. I thought I’d written it all down pretty well from the Krakow bus company website, but I must have got a stop wrong or something, I ended up in the wrong place. I asked a few people, and corrected myself, then walked 2kms in the sub-zero temperatures to the apartment (with map in hand). When I arrived a lovely old Polish man was going into the building, so I
I found the unit number, and rang the bell. 5 minutes no answer. Ring again. No answer. I figured maybe no one was home, or this was the broken buzzer she was talking about. I waited another 20 minutes ringing and knocking. I tried calling my host on the number she left, no answer. I sat and I waited. I didn’t want to throw away the day though, it was already 11.30am. I sent text messages to my backup hosts letting them know that no one was home, it could be a fake address… they were both in classes, and just gave me the “good luck” brushoff. I am meeting up with both of them (at different times) today, so will let them know how the story turned out.
I was thinking about the backup hostels I had noted down when the door opened. A lovely Polish lady spoke to me in Polish. I asked if she spoke English by chance? She didnt. I asked if this was the house of my couchsurfer (yes, used her name)… the Polish lady seemed confused. Asked if I spoke Polish. No, sorry. I thought I’d been conned, maybe it was someones idea of a joke? Listing the wrong address. Maybe I took the address down wrong? No impossible. When I thought I might have it wrong, I took an extra day to clarify through the site that it was correct, with directions, street corners, google maps, and door numbers. The lady offered for me to come inside and use the telephone (thats what I could figure from the gestures), I told her it was ok, thanked her, and left.
I then walked to 3 different hostels. The first I didnt like, it was too far from the old town. The second didnt exist at the address I had written (oh what luck). The 3rd existed, and was in a good location. But there’s only 18 guests checked in, and its super quiet (maybe because its day time). But for only $7 a night, I cant complain.
I looked up the 2nd hostel, the one that I couldnt find, turns out the address was written wrong on both HostelBookers and HostelWorld. Guess its fate that Im in the quiet one for a couple nights.
Just as I’m starting to calm down from the excitement, and get warmth into my toes again (seriously, its cold in Krakow), I get a couple of missed calls from my would-be host. I didn’t want to answer, since there’s nothing I can do now (already paid for 2 nights in the hostel), and I didn’t want to argue. Just as I was contemplating writing a negative reference (passive aggressive today), I received a text message.
“My mum said you didn’t want to stay. I’m at work. But let me know by 7:30pm if you’re staying”.
Oh my God! A total misunderstanding. The woman that answered the door was her mother. Strange that she didn’t nod or smile when I asked “is this HER house?”… I guess language barriers and all. No wonder she invited me in, I think she knew I was coming. But I thought it was just a stranger offering to help me track down my missing person, I already had her number, so it wasn’t necessary to burden this woman. Now that I know it was the right place, Im a little disappointed that I didnt get to stay.
Here’s where the misunderstanding could have been avoided..
For the host:
- Have a full and clear profile. If you live with other people who may answer the door or phone when a guest arrives, write that in the profile. Especially if there will be language issues.
- Answer your phone or respond to text messages when you are expecting a guest; especially on the day they agree they are arriving (even better, be home, but I’ve hosted, I know that we all have lives and its hard to be home… which brings me to point 3).
- Agree on a time to meet, and a place. Give them 15 minutes to show up, and be available on the phone (often buses/trains/planes run late… things happen).
For the guest:
- Make sure you have the contact details of your host. Plan a time and place to meet. If you can’t make it, get in touch as soon as possible. Remember, they are hosting you out of the kindness of their heart, don’t keep them waiting.
- Have a backup plan. Take down the names, numbers, and addresses of hostels in the area. Or ask other hosts if they can be your safety net (2nd host if the 1st fails).
I’m glad it was just a misunderstanding, and not some clown sending me all over town to the wrong address for a laugh; and it’s ok now that it all worked out and I have a bed.
One positive from it, on my walk around town in the cold I found my 4th love lock bridge.
Now I’m off to meet one of my backup hosts for lunch, to retell the story, and have a few Polish Mulled Wines (
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