How to Write Decent Couchsurfing Requests

How to Write Decent Couchsurfing Requests #couchsurfing #travelmore

Are you looking how to write decent Couchsurfing requests?

Couchsurfing is a great resource for travellers who are exploring on a tight budget. Looking for somewhere to stay, or simply want to meet others when travelling solo? Couchsurfing has got your back.

I joined Couchsurfing at a time in my life when I just wasn’t travelling as much as I could and decided to start hosting ‘to bring the travel to me.’

Since joining the community, I have attended meetings, surfed, and hosted. Not to mention had the chance to meet great people from all around the world.

My first experiences as a Couchsurfing host were while I was renting a beach view apartment in Surfers Paradise. Being based in this popular location on the Gold Coast meant I started receiving a fair amount of requests weekly, and often daily. My record stands at 15 requests received on Christmas day.

With all this competition for a couch, merely spending an extra minute or two reading the hosts profile can do wonders in improving the chances of getting accepted.

Learning how to write decent Couchsurfing requests is crucial if you plan on surfing regularly. However, writing a decent request seems to be something those new to Couchsurfing can struggle with.

Writing a request is not something that needs an enormous amount of work, and a few paragraphs can be more than enough. There’s no obligation to send your life story. If you do, it might come across as overbearing and that of a high maintenance guest.

But at the other end of the scale, requests along the format of ‘Hi I want to stay at your place on the 14th, cheers’ are unlikely to get you any response whatsoever.

Yes, I did receive this request and no she didn’t get to Couchsurf at my place…

How to Write Decent Couchsurfing Requests #couchsurfing #travelmore

Morning sunrise from my old apartment in Surfers Paradise (courtesy of one of my Couchsurfers)

Here’s How to Write Decent Couchsurfing Requests

If you’re new to it all, then I recommend you read my post about getting started on Couchsurfing first.

Before beginning to write, first, consider the timing.

How far in advance

In my experience anywhere between 2-3 weeks in advance is perfect.

Also sending requests one week out has worked well, but consider that hosts may have housemates or family that they need to notify. Couchsurfing isn’t Facebook. Many hosts don’t check their accounts every day.

When I’ve been travelling it’s not been uncommon to receive a response after I’ve moved on to the next city. I once got a return message one year after requesting a place to surf in Auckland.

Then there’s sending the request too far in advance. In this case, the host probably won’t know the details of their schedule four plus weeks ahead of time. While hosting the longest request I received was five months upfront, which by the way I accepted. The shortest request I received was ‘hey I need a place tonight’ sent at 7 pm, and I didn’t read it until two days later.

It’s also worth listing an open couch request to let others in the area know you’re looking for a host. This is where potential hosts can view your mug shot and contact you if they have a free couch.

Although this option is used less now than it once was, I’ve had hosts contact me and offer out their couch before.

The reason is some hosts like to be specific and select their guests and not the other way round.

Number of Couchrequests

The number of Couchrequests you need to write and send will depends on the quality of hosts in the area.

In a city that has a few ‘super hosts’ knocking around (those more than 100 feedback) then you possibly won’t need to send out as many requests. Chances are they take guests on a regular basis, and I find these guys will be more willing to accept offers providing they are not fully booked up.

For areas without ‘super hosts’ send out five requests for each time you wish to Couchsurf. So if your requirement is a place on the 9, 10, 11th and then 12, 13 and 14th, I would suggest sending five requests for the first three days and then a further five requests for the second 3 days.

Why so many?

Well, the reason is some hosts will already be hosting, busy, travelling, or don’t check into Cousurfing.com much. If they have less than ten feedback, it may well be that they only host every now and again, such as when a housemate is away.

How Long to Couchsurf

There’s no official limit to how long you can stay with a host, but my rule best rule of thumb is between two and four nights.

Staying for one night might well save you the cost of a hostel bed, but it isn’t enough time to get to know the host, especially if they are working late evenings during your stay.

Stays of 4 or more nights will be too long for most, and the request could be declined, or worse, ignored for this reason.

The best bet for longer stays is to surf for a few nights then ask if staying longer is an option. Once the host gets to know your honest, they may be more willing to let you stay on.

Some hosts will specify if they prefer to have surfers on certain days.

Because of work commitments, it’s possible they might only want to entertain on weekends or days off.

How to Write Decent Couchsurfing Requests #couchsurfing #travelmore

Having a beer or two with some Couchsurfers in Siem Reap

What You Should Include

Don’t spend all that effort learning to write decent Couchsurfing requests only to send it as a message. Couchsurfing requests should only be sent through the Couchrequest link on the host’s profile.

Again, Couchrequests are not to be sent as a message.

Some hosts get annoyed when they receive a request via the message function, not to mention it just get confusing when hosting.

Best practice is to send a detailed Couchrequest through the actual request link, including anything important that might answer any doubts or questions before you arrive. This will mean letting the host know you’re a party person and want to hit the bars/clubs as soon as you turn up. If the host wishes to hit the sack and sleep at 10 pm, this might not be the place for you.

The Couchrequest is not only just an avenue to find a free bed. In the request, you can communicate what you’re expecting from your stay upfront. It lays the foundation for finding a suitable host and what could be a great Couchsurfing experience.

Consider that a host may receive multiple requests. Especially during busy holidays.

Remember that one time I received fifteen requests on Christmas day, with another seven the previous day, and not to mention another five on the following. I accepted a few, but there’s no way I could have accepted them all.

As the first impression, it’s inevitable the Couchrequest you write is going will be scrutinised.

In the long run, the more popular Couchsurfing becomes, the more people will sign up to abuse the free the accommodation. A free bed for a few of nights is the aim for most of us, but the Couchsurfing spirit and community goes so much more beyond this.

Based on requests I received and those that stood out, try to include some, or all of the following:

Introduce yourself and your background – Some people like to state their profession or what countries they have lived in before. For example: Hi I’m Jim. I’m a Spanish photographer but have lived for five years in Hong Kong and two years in New Zealand.

Included necessary details of your plan – Inform the host on what you expect to see and do while you Couchsurf. For example, I’m visiting London for two weeks and looking for a host in the area. I would love to stay with you for three nights and plan to wander around the city, visit a museum and watch a local football game during my stay.

State what’s expected of the host – Do they need to show you around or will you be occupied with your activities? I always try to do at least one activity with my host, even if it’s just something simple like take them out for coffee & cake.

It’s worth noting that many hosts will be working in the daytime during weekdays, so maybe skip the surprise Monday morning 10-hour hiking trip! Communicating what you’re expecting will allow the host to plan around you.

For example, you could say: I plan to visit the old town on Saturday the 12th, it would be great if you could join me. If you are busy don’t worry, we can make some other plans…

Highlight something you have in common – Most hosts like to see you’ve read their profile and not sent a copy and paste request. They will be more inclined to host if you share some common interests. For example, I notice you like so and so band. I went to see them a few years back, and they were much better singing live.

Don’t lie here, just pick up on some common interests if you have them.

Let them know why you want to stay with them – Put yourself in the host’s shoes. It’s always nice to feel special and know that the person genuinely wants to stay with you for a reason for more than just saving money.

For example, I notice you are interested in web design. I’m practicing at the moment, and although I’m a beginner, it would be great to stay at your place and see if I can learn a thing or two.

Include a tempter – With a temper, you are letting them know it would be cool to have you over.

As a host, I have received plenty of tempters in my past requests. Some of them included ‘I can help you practice Mandarin’ ‘I see you like running, we can run together’ and ‘I know you like ice cream, so I’m going to take you out for ice cream’ and so on.

It’s nice to feel special, and a tempter can go a long way.

A tempter could be as simple as – by the way, I make an excellent chocolate cake that my friends and family love. I can bake one during my stay for you to try.

Finally, mention anything else that might be relevant – If you are travelling in a group, need parking for a vehicle, are travelling with a pet, have allergies, or anything else that might just be important – it’s best to mention it up front.

Sure it might lower your chance of getting a host, but the right thing to do is let the host know. It will help avoid disappointment and frustration further down the line.

How to Write Decent Couchsurfing Requests #couchsurfing #travelmore

It’s not always a couch. My CS digs in Kota Kinabalu, Borneo

Copy & Paste Requests

Some Couchsurfers are searching for a host simply just copy and paste requests. This may be ok for saving some time. However, I don’t recommend it.

I once received a request from a Brazilian girl who said. Hi, Michael, I am looking for a host. You speak Portuguese, and I am Brazilian. I can help you practice….

Nothing wrong with that request except I’m Barry and don’t speak Portuguese.

Dealing with Responses

Hopefully, one or two of the requests should get positive replies. In an ideal world, all would be accepted, but then again people are busy and have their lives.

With a well-written Couchrequest, I do find more hosts tend to respond, even if’s just a simple sentence saying they are unable to host. Any response is better than none because a least now you know to keep on looking.

Sometimes hosts might be able only to have you for part of the trip. Here is an example of a response I received recently:

‘Hi Barry, this has been the nicest request in a while…but unluckily I have already plans Friday…but how about coming on Saturday?’

There’s always the option to tick if your arriving and departing dates are flexible. Make sure you are flexible with dates, even if it’s only a day or two either way. It can do wonders in securing a host!

However, be careful if responses go like anything like this:

  1. Thanks for the request. I’m not sure about my plans; I might be able to host but will contact you again a few days before you arrive to let you know. Typically translates to: I’m going to get your hopes up then decline you a few days before you come. This way you can then stress more about finding a host last minute.
  2. Thanks for the request. I can host but just to let you know I’m very busy and won’t be able to show you around. Translates to: I’m a workaholic. You will have to leave with me at 6.30am every morning and wander the streets until I come home at 10.30pm. Then you have to sleep straight away and repeat the next day.
  3. Thanks for the request. I’ve had lots of problems with Couchsurfers, and you can stay if you give me your Facebook. Frequently translates to my OCD has caused problems between guests and me in the past and now have 101 house rules. These included stalking your Facebook events from 4 years ago and texting me your whereabouts every 30 minutes.
  4. Thanks for the request. Couchsurfing got my location wrong; I’m not in the city and quite far away. Typically translates to you need to walk half way up a mountain and swim a river to get to my house.
  5. Thanks for the request. My place is a fun place, and we like to party. If you stay you have to keep up and no complaining. Frequently translates to either my housemate or I will try our best to get you smashed drunk and sleep with you.
  6. Thanks for the request. Sure, come round. Btw are you gay? Typically translates to: I’m the same sex and either my housemate or I will try our best to sleep with you and possibly get you smashed drunk.

Of course, these responses are poking a little bit of fun at some of the most entertaining experiences that have happened while Couchsurfing. But go by the motto: Hope for the best, plan for the worst.

If the host starts being difficult about details over the internet, more than likely they will be the same, or possibly worse when you arrive. I’ve Couchsurfed with some cracking hosts that I’m still friend with today. I’ve also had to deal with an idiot or two.

Just remember you’re under no obligation to stay with a host even after they accept the Couchsurfing request.

Most hosts, like surfers, are using Couchsurfing for the right reasons, but, of course, there are the odd one or two who are not. If it doesn’t feel right then, it probably isn’t. Don’t waste time fuelling fire for their games. Move on and don’t look back.

Even if you arrive at the host places and they start behaving in a manner you’re not comfortable with, always remember you can walk away.

Sort out a backup place to stay ahead of time such as a local hostel, hotel, or another Couchsurfing host. This way you’re not forced to remain in a dodgy environment if things turn bad. Be sure to read the Couchsurfing Safety Basics.

Most of all enjoy Couchsurfing experience like I do but stay safe.

Did you like reading this post? Be sure to share it with friends…

How to Write Decent Couchsurfing Requests

How To Write Decent Couchsurfing Requests images created by Tools of Travel.

Barry Sproston

Barry is a traveller and expat who spends most of his time between Asia and Australia. He has spent 12 months training at a Gung Fu school learning Wing Chun. Explored the island of Taiwan by scooter more than once. Been tricked into eating raw horse meat sushi in Japan. Even tried to overcome the fear of heights by bungee jumping in Thailand. One day he plans to open a guesthouse.


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17 thoughts on “How to Write Decent Couchsurfing Requests

  1. Adah

    I’ve never used this Couchsurfing before. I’m really interested in trying it out as it looks like a great choice to travel on a budget.

  2. dany

    Thanks for thie detailed article. I was searching for a host in Paris and It took me a lot of effort as the first ten hosts did not reply to my requests. I had to write to more hosts but the thing is that it writing to more hosts take time and effort.
    A friend of mine adviced me to use this tool http://www.couchspider.com and I really find it very helpful. It sends couch requests automatically to all hosts matching my criteria so it is spam.

    Regards

  3. Danny

    Thanks for sharing your experiences of CouchSurfing Barry. I’ve tried it a couple of times but never really done that well on getting responses. Hopefully after reading this I will have some more luck!

    1. Barry SprostonBarry Sproston Post author

      Thanks for stopping by Danny. Writing a decent request can be the difference between getting a host and not. Have a few references under your belt helps too. I’m sure you will have more luck after reading this.

  4. NK77

    Couchsurfing is an amazing concept. But the current for-profit company is highly moderated by admins who unfortunately suffer from biases. The racial biases are subtle, and they exist. Just like gender biases. They go unnoticed. A recent project study on the website Couchsurfing.com found that males from the minority community were 7 times more likely to be deactivated by site admin, compared to white males, all else being the same. The study even found that the same language was interpreted as hostile when it came from a minority male.
    @omidyarNetwork
    @menloVentures @

  5. Doretti de Goede

    hi Barry, thanks for post with so much tips. Iam a nitwit on Couchsurfing, just starting, so your tips are so valuable for me. have travelled a lot , but not the alternative way. loved to be invited by locals in Asia or Africa, just for a cup of tea, always impressed by their hospitality. So i go for my first challenge in South Africa , iam not that young anymore, , just for a week travelling there, after the event I visit for my work. thanks again and enjoy! Doretti

    1. Barry SprostonBarry Sproston Post author

      Hi Doretti, Couchsurfing certainly offers an alternative way of travelling and creates travel experience to remember. Don’t worry about being new as we all have to start somewhere. As long as you’re genuine in your requests then hopefully the potential hosts will see that. Also, I’m not that young anymore either 🙂

  6. Rebecca Hoffmann

    Thank you for this amazing post! You hit just right on the spot! I have been couchsurfing (surfing and hosting) on and off for the last 6 years and recognize many of the issues and challenges you point out. I have desperately tried to encourage people to fullfill just a minimum of requirements (most of them equal to your list) when requesting to surf my place… But without success..

    It is a pitty for the CS community because it just get hosts tried of receiving requests like “Hi, I’m in town. I need couch”. I agree so strongly with you that couchsurfing is not Facebook, and bit of introduction is the least you can give if you ask people to stay at their place.
    Anyway, thank you for a great great post! //Rebecca

    1. Barry SprostonBarry Sproston Post author

      I’m glad you enjoyed reading the post, Rebecca. I bet during the past six years you had some great memories through Couchsurfing. Even though I have been using CS for slightly less (coming up to 4 years now), I wouldn’t change it.

      Admittedly when I was on the Gold Coast, I did get smashed with requests and a fair few of them barely made two lines. I even recall one lovely lady from China telling me she was looking for a husband in Australia, and I could be the one! Still hopefully, those new to CS will find something of value in this post.

    1. BarryBarry Post author

      No problem Lara. Couchsurfing is not only a great alternative to hostels, but with CS meet ups in most cities it’s easy to find other travellers too. I use it quite often when travelling solo (and host when I’m not)

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