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How To Be A Good Guest

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WS Member WS Member's picture
Someone who didn’t clean up

Someone who didn’t clean up after himself was definitely out of order, but as for going to bed and spending an hour on his computer, look, this is the world we live in now. The vast majority of my guests -- including people who are widely regarded as fine members of the community and who have contributed more to hospex than you or me ever will -- need an hour or so of connectivity every night of their tour. People may be expected to keep in regular touch with family. They may blog their tour (or edit OpenStreetMap or Wikivoyage), which helps all travelers in planning their route. Needing to use wifi is no longer rude, it is the default state of travelers.

If he had dinner with you, then he must have talked with you and your family for a while and didn’t completely ignore you. And it shouldn't be a matter of choosing between WS and AirBnB. This is a network that is meant specifically to serve cycle tourists, and it is supposed to be a place where tourers can stay for free with a host who specifically understands their needs as tourers, unlike other, more general hospex communities. Still, at least you have filled in a detailed profile where potential guests can see that they may be required to interact with you nonstop regardless of their own personal needs, so travelers can make an informed choice.

WS Member WS Member's picture

It seems you have made some unfair assumptions- or are not aware of the priorities of a mother with 3 kids and a husband who chooses to host cyclists- Its our decision to host guests and we do not plague them with our presence or demand constant communication- After having hosted 2 lots of cycle tourists who I conversed with briefly during dinner (I have other house members to talk to as well...) Having to stand alone doing dishes on my own, at 9pm after getting my own kids to bed and having worked as well that day, I don't think its too much to ask for someone to help me out- A country is its people too, and I found that my enjoyment of Nepal increased when I took the time to arrive earlier at the guesthouses and communicate with the hosts- At least the guests who are moody and/or spend the majority of time blogging/ contacting friends/family at home ( you might be 29 years old, not 9, do you really have to contact your nearest and dearest every day!?) its an example to our kids of how NOT to behave as a guest. This is why I say go and stay with Airbnb if you are expecting that you do not need to engage with your hosts. If you see the people that have time to feedback (which to me is a sign of appreciation for the time I took to make our place available, clean and comfortable)

WS Member WS Member's picture
"you might be 29 years old,

"you might be 29 years old, not 9, do you really have to contact your nearest and dearest every day!?"

Sometimes. My wife’s mother is an elderly widow, and she quite reasonably expects her daughter to Skype with her well-nigh every evening. Because this is an old person we’re talking about, the conversations can run on forever. My wife will naturally spend at least a little time socializing with any host, but sometimes she has to retire for the rest of the evening to do her internet thing. Is she to never use WarmShowers, then?

Hers might be an extreme example – most people are just sending out “Having a great time!" messages or uploading photos to FB – but in general, expectations of connectivity have changed in this modern age. Instead of mocking people who are quite representative of their era, better to just get used to it. A host is free to adopt an “O tempora, o mores!” attitude, but that sounds like an exercise in frustration, and when that gets vented on the forums, it can discourage others from sticking around on a network where they might have contributed nicely as hosts.

"feedback (which to me is a sign of appreciation"

As repeatedly underscored here on the forums (including by Ken), feedback is meant to tell the community if a member is safe to interact with. It is not meant to be a thank-you note to the host. I’d always encourage any traveler to send a follow-up e-mail to say thank you, that’s a lot easier than writing feedback and more personal.

WS Member WS Member's picture
Hosting/guest expectations

All good suggestions regarding hosting and guest guidelines. I don't know if this is a problem only we have encountered, but twice this summer (2014), we have learned of two groups who have requested housing and at the last minute, the hosts have canceled. If we request 2 or 3 days notice to host, it should also be a courtesy to give 2 or 3 days notice if a host finds it unable to accommodate guests. This would simplify last minute panic to make other arrangements.

WS Member WS Member's picture
You are being unrealistic. If

You are being unrealistic. If a host cancels at the last minute, its because they have to or because they are not in a fit state to welcome guests. As you were going to get something for nothing, then you should just be prepared to deal with it. Its like going to the shop to buy milk and finding there's none left on the shelf. Its just life. You have to deal with it and as a touring cyclist, you need to prepared for such eventualities. In your case, either you fork out for a paid accomodation, or you find a camping spot or a host who doesn't mind haveing no notice. But if a host says they want notice, don't ignore it and send your request anyway because you will just annoy them.

The host doesn't owe you anything. That said, i am pretty sure that most hosts do whatever they can to help cyclists otherwise they wouldn't be offering to host in the first place. Hosts have a right to set terms. If you are not happy with it, you can find another type of accommodation.

As i said, you just need to be realistic.

WS Member WS Member's picture
Never been a guest, but had

Never been a guest, but had some, but I try to host as I would like to be treated.

You who come are my guests, and all my guests are welcomed with open arms to be part of our family for the days you stay, and several of our guests end up staying a day extra!

As a host, what I first look at is your profile, if it looks good, with a picture, I'll be much more inclined to accept a request from you.
I expect you to ask about anything you are unsure about, sine my profile might not give you all answers, better to ask up front then be unsure later.

I don't expect people to be the same, so I generally don't expect anything, except company and good behavior, I'm usually pretty good with a simple don't be a A-hole and we'll get along fine :)
Actually the only thing I expect from guests is a honest feedback, since all I ask for offering you to be part of my family is that I one day can use my built up karma if I/we ever decide to go on my own adventure ;-)

WS Member WS Member's picture
Never been a guest, but had

As a host that has many guests, when somebody requests they want to stay we always send a reply and ask if they have any food preferences, (nice way to find out if they are vegetarians/vegans) because I know they are going to be hungry, tired, and would like a "home-cooked" meal.

We have a good talk, give them a tour and offer them the run of the house. If they want to spend time by themselves more power to them.

What upsets me is when we get a request and then if something comes up they don't bother to contact us. I truly understand that sometimes things change, but with free WiFi available almost everywhere how hard would it be to just send an email?

As most hosts know we sometimes change our plans and purchase extra food for our quests.

We have met some great people throughout the time we have hosted people, so a few bad people wont ruin it for us.

WS Member WS Member's picture
How to Be a Good Guest

Thanks for the note.
I've never encountered a bad host or a bad guest. Hopefully that'll continue until I'm done with all this. At 74, I've only a few years of touring left.

WS Member WS Member's picture
Excellent article! I never

Excellent article! I never thought about sending thank you post cards. This is BRILLIANT! Thank you for such a great idea.

WS Member WS Member's picture
New members seeking to learn from your experiences

I bought tickets. Going to Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Paris April 20 - May 4. I like clarifying my host preferences and respecting them. I am kind, courteous and respectful generous with my time, interested in knowing and doing mutually interesting things with others. I am flexible, curious and interested in active listening to people about their lives, community, experiences etc. and sharing mine. I feel happy when I can share the cost, help cook meals and do chores around the house i.e washing dishes and pots, cleaning and home repairs.

Ideally I like to get on the road by 8am and start getting ready for bed by 10pm. I like to get to know other people by biking together, sharing meals, sightseeing, sharing stories about our lives and expressing my gratitude with words and deeds.

For 10+ years I have been a biking activist in Boston as a teacher in the Boston Public Schools educating children to build a bike, bicycle safety, the environmental impact and taking local bike rides in their city. I am an advocate, actively involved in non-profit organizations and the City of Boston staff who's work to transform Boston a safer and welcoming community for cyclist.

I hope I can stay with host one night or two max.


Unregistered anon_user's picture
"Your hosts preferences are your rules"

This subtitle of Jennifer H. Milyko's contribution here above sounds good.

Although I can appreciate if hosts want to fullfill all possible and impossible wishes of a guest, I finally was fed up with all the varied desires and demands of guests.
Therefore I decided to mention my expectations and limitations in my account.
Since that time I only get requests of cyclists that fit in. Everybody now knows what I like and don't like. They know what to expect. No disappointments anymore at both sides.
Maybe less inviting to stay over and eat for free, but very clear.

Here they are:
--request at least 2 days before arrival.
--if I accept your request, send a confirmation within 12 hours. (My planning is tight.)
--if you don't, your request is cancelled. No exceptions.
--you are welcome between 5.00 - 6.00 P.M.
--have a shower, than "happy-hour" with Dutch Jenever and/or Dutch beer and weird local snacks while you tell your great cycle adventures.
--my dinner: meat or fish, combined with vegetables of the season, prepared in style of our ancestors according local Dutch food/drinking traditions
--That means: vegetarians will starve and picky eaters too! Our ancestors were poor, ate ANYTHING that was available.
--if you arrive later,CALL ME!
--Smoking is ok, outside.
--No drugs.
--You will sleep in a bedroom at a mattress with your sleeping bag.
--next morning, we leave after the typical Dutch breakfast between 8.00 and 9.00. I have my daily work.
The price of your visit: telling your adventures and enjoy our get together.

WS Member WS Member's picture
Good Post Peter...

I liked Peter's Post, as above, I notice he is a long term member, as we are here. It;s interesting he chooses a " dot point" Profile ( as I do ), which is so much easier to comprehend than the usual " Lonely Hearts" style Profiles so many Members provide.

(They may NOT be truly "Lonely Hearts" but they use the same style as a dating forum, rambling on about themselves.... )

I have to say, not all long term members are so thoughtful in their presentations, but it's always good to see Common Sense as opposed to " walk all over me" Sentimentality.

WS Member WS Member's picture
If a visitor misbehaves to the point of calling the police....

Make a formal statement and be sure to ask how to obtain a copy of the police report.
I have been unable to post negative feedback about a guest on this site until I go through a convoluted process of obtaining
A report from the freedom of information office. Meanwhile a person who behaved in an appalling manner is being hosted nearby by
An unsuspecting host.

Fully agree with all comments made in the article. You would think it is all common sense but after my experience the past few days, it clearly isn't. It would be helpful if more people were able and willing to leave feedback when the experience is not positive.

WS Member WS Member's picture

There seems to be a wee bit of curmudgeonliness sneaking in to some of these posts. I, for one, don't expect, or even particularly want, a gift from my guests. I never sensed this expectation from my hosts either. We give freely and are given to freely (hopefully).

I don't expect them to entertain me either. The reason I host is because I've been in the situation of the guest, and I know how much I enjoyed getting free accomodation at the end of a hard day.

I see some suggestions of an etiquette protocol. Given the infinitesimal proportion of "problem guests" this seems to be a solution without a problem. The suggestion featured a "no discussion of religion or politics". I'm fairly sure that adults can talk about these topics without being insensitive. The intrusion of "rules" into human interaction is infantilising and risks formalising a relationship which should be informal and relaxed.

WS Member WS Member's picture
Thaank you Jennifer

Thank you Jennifer for this post. Reminders of the simple things goes a long, LONG way!

WS Member WS Member's picture

I have had good experiences with guests - apart from the fact that they all seem to arrive in August for some reason! The only bad experience was guests who told me they would arrive at 7 pm which is fine, except that they were over-ambitious in planning their journey and actually arrived after 10 pm. Not only that, but having told me they were happy to camp on my lawn they said on arrival that as it was dark, could I make up a bed for them in the house, which I did. However the experience left a bad taste in the mouth. If they had told me what their plans had been for that day, I would have told them they were being over-ambitious.

So I have now changed my profile to ask guests for a realistic assessment of their arrival time, and to tell me where they will be arriving from. ec

WS Member WS Member's picture

I would also like to comment on the suggestion that guests should not talk about politics. I think this is nonsense. Here in Scotland we find that visitors always want to ask us about the Independence Referendum in 2014 - and we are more than happy to talk about this. The same applies to Brexit. I am very happy to tell people how I voted, and share my views on the crazy adventure the UK is now embarking upon. Guests expect this level of discussion.

WS Member WS Member's picture
Communicate with host!

If you are within two to three weeks of your intended arrival date, communicate often with your potential host. Do not leave them hanging. If they have indicated they will be cooking, definitely remember they are spending money and time out of their pocket and life to host you. Do not disrespect them by opting out one or two days before your date of arrival. If I cancelled on you the day before, you would be angry.
Treat your host better than you would like to be treated.

WS Member Koga's picture
My way of travel by bike

My way of travel by bike means freedom to choose. I would rather be cooking myself than having to think about a host cooking or whatever..
Changing weather, lacking power or simply interesting people or landscape would be more important than meeting a hosts expectations. Afterall I'm only travelling this route once and would rather sleep in my tent somewhere than feeling obliged to pass on..
Each to their own..

WS Member WS Member's picture
as a host my response to Lars

Yes you are free to choose to travel, and yes, weather, unforeseen things come up. But to blow off a host who has accepted your request and not inform them in a timely manner is rude and selfish. As others pointed out hosts often buy food, spend time preparing and most importantly might have turned down other things they could have done to host you. You might be going on the route once, but leaving a string of hosts disappointed host in your wake could haunt your WS profile for years. And when you do want to put your head down at a welcoming home you may find the door does not open for you. Please keep any host you have contacted informed of your status of arrival in a timely manner. It is the decent thing to do.

WS Member WS Member's picture

Thank you Kevin.

WS Member WS Member's picture
"As others pointed out hosts

"As others pointed out hosts often buy food, spend time preparing and most importantly might have turned down other things they could have done to host you."

And they are making a mistake. I have been active in internet-based hospitality exchange since the early millennium. Time and time again, I have seen it given as standard advice that, if you want to stay motivated about hosting and not burn out due to disappointment, you should never make any special preparations for your guest until he/she is actually at your home. Plus, if there are possibly other events you want to go to, then go to them and tell the guest that he/she has to work around your schedule.

Guests who fail to contact their host and alert them to a cancellation are certainly out of order, but these particular hosts should primarily be blaming themselves for setting themselves up for disappointment.

WS Member Koga's picture
No big deal. If you have

No big deal. If you have these needs to your guest please explain it in your profile. I would simply travel on my own.. To your Information I have no negative feelings about this travelstyle.
Maybe different cultures..
Why do you insist cooking and preparing the entire household for a traveller not ready for this sort of engagement?
My visitors are free to arrive or stay away depending on their needs and situation.
Not everyone travels with a mobile phone able to reach the host..
Please spare your demands on others free choices including assuming I'm an annoying traveller.
Actually I'm not alone with this relaxed attitude ;-)
As mentioned I wouldn't ask for hosting by people demanding this tight schedule

WS Member WS Member's picture
your right

Hello Lars,
It is fully within your rights to never ask me to host you, just as it is in others rights to do the same.
I'm a host only, l'm also mobility disabled and my time is precious to me. It takes me and others who are in wheelchairs more time and energy to host riders.
I have been hosting for a number of years. My profile is full of information of what I ask of my guests, I have had more (95%) good guests than I have bad ones. The bad ones have all been in the last two years.
No one has to stay in/at my home. Everyone has their own free will and preferences.
I wish you the best with your cycling.

WS Member Koga's picture
Thank you Judith Schwalb..

Thank you Judith Schwalb..
Hope you & Kevin will be ongoing satisfied part of the Warmshower community

WS Member WS Member's picture
Change of plans

Failure to notify a host when guests change plans inconveniences the host. Guests should make every effort to notify the host if they accept another host, or if their arrival date or time changes. I have had guests who selected another lodging but failed to let me know. Guests need to understand that our homes are not hotels; we need to arrange our lives to accommodate your stay. We may have declined our own activities during your planned stay.

WS Member WS Member's picture
Well said

Thank you

WS Member WS Member's picture
Couple of suggestions for WS hosts

This year we've hosted a lot more guests than usual and I have come up with a couple of things to make my life easier.

1. I always check the guest's profile before accepting. I don't accept guests if not convenient or I don't like their feedback.
2. I include anything important to me (which may vary) in the email which I return with my acceptance (i.e. please let me know your approximate ETA on the day of arrival).
3. I do not offer dinner - usually I do serve it, but not always. We have a small map for guests showing nearby stores & cafes.
4. I give my guests a clean set of sheets to make the bed after they get up the next morning so I won't have to do it.

Most of our guests have been very considerate and thankful and have also shared interesting stories. That is why we host.

WS Member WS Member's picture
Something for my hosts

I wanted something small that I could bring with me for my hosts. I bring postcards from my home town and write my contact info and a personal thank you before I leave. I also made a bunch of 'penny medallions' ( the kind you can make for 50 cents US in machines at museums and tourist places). I punched a hole in them and got some links to make them into key chains. They take almost no space in your pannier, and hosts seem to enjoy them, especially their kids.

WS Member WS Member's picture
I think the subtitle "Don't

I think the subtitle "Don't assume anything" should maybe be "Don't EXPECT anything (apart from a shower and a place for the tent)".  As a I guest, I don't expect the host to change their plans or daily routine in any way to accommodate me.   I don't expect them to spend any time with me, to provide any food or electricity or laundry facilities, or even invite me inside apart from to use the shower.  Of course I'm happy when they do and I'll make sure I have at least some bread or cheese to contribute to a meal if invited, but the whole point is:  The site is called Warmshowers and that is absolutely all a guest should be prepared to get.    AND it is not an accommodation booking service.  I do not expect a host to commit to hosting me until pretty much the last minute - they have their own life that might cause sudden changes.  Warmshowering is a "bonus" at the end of your day, not a basis for planning your trip.  If you are anyway "expecting" hosts to host you, you are expecting too much.

In short, a good guest would be one that the host, unless they specifically want otherwise, hardly even notices that they have.

WS Member WS Member's picture
Thanks for sharing good information.

Hi. Thanks for sharing good info cuz i am planning to do bicycle travel and use warm shower. I am glad to see this topic. 

WS Member WS Member's picture
Thank you

If you plan on biking in the most Southern part of the U.S.A. please say hello or stop for the night.