How to Get a Couchsurfing Host (and What Not To Do)

Couchsurfing is a super way for budget travellers to find a free place to stay – but, the first thing to bear in mind before your starting signing up and smashing out requests is that you will be a more successful Couchsurfer if you are an awesome guest.

How can I be an awesome couchsurfer?

If you can answer that, then you’ve cracked the secret of how to get a Couchsurfing host.

Couchsurfing is about meeting new people whilst travelling the world, or meeting people from around the world without travelling at all if you are a host. Getting in touch with locals doesn’t only mean a free bed for the night, but also an insider’s perspective on a new place and some company on the road.

Day trip with our Couchsurfing host family in Poland
A day out with our Couchsurfing host family in Poland. Thank you, Malgorzata and family :)

Most hosts are extremely generous people and a lot of them host because they want to help out fellow travellers, have some company on the weekend, and are passionate about their home town. It’s also common to host as a way of ‘returning the favour’ to the community if they are also a regular surfer when they’re on the road.

That said, not just anyone will agree to host you. You’re still a stranger, so firstly you need to introduce yourself well…

How to Get a Couchsurfing Host

These are the first three basic steps to even be in with a chance of finding a host:

Complete Your Profile

Not filling in the profile page properly is a common mistake. If you have a blank profile, no one will be able to read about who you are. When you apply for a job, you don’t send out a CV with a bunch of blank sections – it’s the same with Couchsurfing.

People will want to know who you are and what you’re interested in. They are looking for reasons to host you, so make sure you’ve written them down on your profile! Make sure you also upload at least 3 photos. People are very visual, so try to use photos of yourself where you’re enjoying yourself and pursuing your interests.

Our Couchsurfing Profile
Here’s our current Couchsurfing Profile.

Choose People Who You Want To Stay With

So you input the name of the city you’re going to and wow! there’s 380 results, so you send out a bunch of messages to the first 10 or so people and hope for the best. Nope, this is not what you do.

Think about who you would like to stay with most and you’ll probably find that you are also the kind of person they like to host. If you’re big into clubbing and late nights, don’t send requests to families. If you love doing yoga first thing in the morning, why not look for someone else who also loves doing that?

We usually search “vegetarian” because staying with other veggies makes life a lot simpler and means we can offer to cook for them too. Not always, but often we also find that people who are vegetarian usually have more in common with us than just not eating meat. The same goes for sports fans, pet-owners, gardeners and any other interest you might have!

vegetarian pierogi
Delicious homemade vegetarian pierogi thanks to Martin and Goska, our hosts in Poland.

Personalise Your Requests

Am travelling in [place], looking for a place to stay on [this day], you look really cool, hope we can meet each other. Thanks!

Plenty of people send out requests like this, even we did for the first few when we weren’t really sure what to say. Sometimes it works, but most of the time, it doesn’t. Generic requests aren’t really impressive; not only does a host have no idea what you want to do or see in their home town, they also have no idea who you are, or why it is you think they’re cool.

Be personal. Read their profile and pick out common interests. If they like spending time in cafes, say that you’d love to go for coffee together. If they love surfing, say you’re also fond of hitting the beach. The other day, I read a profile where the guy said he swears he saw a UFO. At first I thought, nope, staying with this guy is not for me, but after reading the rest of his profile we had too much else in common for me not to send him a message. What did I say? I said “You saw a UFO!? This is a story I have to hear!”

Out for coffee in Liverpool
We love going for coffee with our Couchsurfing hosts and guests.

 Think: What Do You Have to Offer?

When you’re personalising your CS requests, you need to think about what you have to offer. Sure, you’re never offering money, but there are plenty of free things you can offer. Whether it’s just awesome travel stories or helping your host practise English, there’s always something.

We’ve been hosted by a Polish family who were keen for their kids to practice their English with native speakers and that’s awesome. We even went to their school for an hour and spoke to their English class about our travels and had them ask us some questions. We often offer to cook a meal for our host, or exchange vegetarian recipes; sometimes we have a bottle of wine to share in our rucksack; and sometimes we just share our travel adventures.

Speaking English in exchange for a couchsurf
Who wouldn’t be happy speaking English to this little cutie?

How to NOT Get a Couchsurfing Host

There are few massive social faux-pas that will immediately put people off of hosting you; think carefully before you even consider writing any of the following in a request.

Say You Don’t Have Any Money

Yeah, me neither, so the last thing I want is a sponger staying in my apartment… When we were in Taiwan, we received a request from a guy who said he was down on his luck, he was unemployed, had no money, and needed a place to stay for as long as possible.

Is an unemployed room-mate with no money really what any host is looking for in a surfer? I highly doubt it, although I’m sure there are some people who are happy to have long-term guests.

Couchsurfing in Poland - Charlie on Travel
Thanks for all the delicious vegetarian food, Martin & Goska, our hosts in Poland.

Ask for an Open-Ended Stay

Oh my, you want to stay with me indefinitely? We haven’t even met yet… When you ask to stay somewhere, make sure you have a leaving date. I actually met a guy who Couchsurfed without setting a leaving date; the host was so polite that it took them three months to turf him out!

Couchsurfing may be a way to find accommodation for free but it’s not a way to house the homeless. The site is about creating a community, meeting local people, and doing so on a budget. Don’t make someone uncomfortable in their own home by trying to stay indefinitely.

View from hosts house in Zakopane yay
Sometimes you never want to leave… This is the view from our Couchsurfing hosts’ window in Zakopane. Thank you, Dorota and Przemek!

Imply You’re Looking to Sexsurf

I’ve heard there’s a sleazy underside to Couchsurfing, more commonly known as sexsurfing. Sexsurfing, as you can probably guess, is the term used for people who use Couchsurfing for the sole purpose of trying to find a hook-up. I recently read a statistic that Couchsurfing currently has a creep-to-female ratio of around 9:1 (how they worked that out, I don’t know).

Travelling and Couchsurfing as a couple has meant that we don’t really get requests from anyone looking for more than a couch. Though, we have been told by some of our female hosts that they much prefer hosting only women or couples to avoid any awkward situations. Needless to say, don’t have any unrealistic expectations of your host or surfer.

Red Plant in the Garden
Some unrelated, random red plants in Costa Rica…

Be Dishonest

Being dishonest is never a good way to go. Not only are you deceiving someone who offered their trust you as a host, you also aren’t doing yourself any favours. If you fudge some important details on your profile, then you’ll soon get caught and the handy review section on your profile means that everyone else will know about it too. If you are penniless, looking for a long-term stay, or wanting a shared bed, be honest when you contact hosts – and be wise about who you choose to send such requests to.

Remember, if you’re a good guest, a host will say so in their review of you. If you ate all of their food and left the bed sheets in a heap on the floor, they either won’t leave you a review or they might say you weren’t the greatest guest. The more good reviews you have, the more likely you are to get another host in the future.

Do you have any other tips for getting a Couchsurfing host? Have you had any requests with these social faux pas?

Charlie Marchant

Charlie is a long-term traveller from the UK who writes about simple ways to travel sustainably, including how to become a house sitter and slow traveller, eating local and vegetarian, and making responsible travel choices.

52 thoughts on “How to Get a Couchsurfing Host (and What Not To Do)

      1. I’m not sure if we can generalize when it comes to timing. Some people prefers to receive requests from surfers not too long in advance and some others require to be told way in advance. I personally message people not too early, like a week or two max in advance because I think it’s enough notice. I definitely don’t like to send last minute requests, because CS isn’t a free bed service for me, so I don’t think it’s fare to ask someone just for a bed for a night.

        1. We also try to do the same and I think you’re mostly right.

          That said, there are definitely a few hosts who are happy to help out other travellers who are in a jam at the last minute. We’ve only done it once and were amazed that someone was happy to help us out on the day! We’d been travelling in Vietnam for a month and had a 2-day stop over in Hong Kong on our way back to the UK. Of course we were having such a great time in Vietnam that we didn’t plan HK at all. We had no idea how expensive it was!!!! The cheapest hostel cost the same as what we would spend on accommodation for a whole week! We met this wonderfully generous student who put us up and had a super evening with her, and helped her run some errands the next morning (as she was catching a flight to China that day). We were so lucky.

          But certainly, we don’t see CS as a free bed service either. We love hanging out with the people we meet through it, though have also found some people are working and prefer you to do your own thing and just catch up in the evening. Everyone’s different!

          1. I couldn’t agree more, everyone is different. One day when and if we’ll be able to host too, I’d love to be that kind of host that leaves enough space to the guests to do what they want but I’d love to still find the time to spend with my guests without being too invasive. I’d probably be the kind of person that helps out travellers at the last minute too, because after having been on the road myself for so long I understand perfectly that sometimes people can be in difficult situation like you in HK.

            I love CS!

          2. I hope you guys can host sometime, it’s a wonderful experience. Our first hosting didn’t go so well – it was before I started properly blogging and we hosted a travel blogger. I was hoping he would share some tips with me but he was very secretive and didn’t want to speak to me about his blogging success at all :(

            All the other times we’ve hosted we’ve had a great time. We went hitch-hiking on our day off work with two students in Taiwan and did a gorgeous mountain hike. We also helped out a Taiwanese guy who was in a pickle at the last minute – he was scootering around the whole island and his other host had fallen through. We only had time to have dinner with him and it was super torrential rain – he was just so pleased to be dry haha!

            I love hosting and surfing equally, I think :)

  1. Based on my couchsurfing experience, I can say that if you want to find an awesome host, make sure you have something in common, for example you share a passion to travel or cooking. It is crucial when it comes to first interactions. Besides, in my opinion, girls should pick up female hosts as it’s much safer, more comfortable and more fun!

    1. I think that’s very good advice! I’ve never Couchsurfed on my own but I think that I would definitely choose to stay with females or families if I did. Certainly everyone should still be wary about who they stay with, but not let it stop them from joining a great community.

  2. Good tips, indeed !
    As already noticed SEXsurfing is quite famous (unfortunately) nowadays. Once I noticed that on host list girls requests were full of inbox (with +3, in red, aside), while couples, or male ones always abandoned. Plus I also read some bad experiences posted by some girls and checked that a lot of males ONLY host girls. For this reason I’d suggest as well girls should 1st contact females.

    About me: my 1st experience as couchsurfer was really unexpected and I enjoyed every minute of it. This happened when I lost my travel-pass while backpacking. That time I was in an unknown city and decided to post a request on its last-minute group mainpage, describing my situation.
    However after 2-3 strange answers I got a reply from another Italian guy living there who offered to host me for one night at his place with other flatmates.
    In the end I stayed 1 day more, because he was so happy to host me that he proposed to further stay in order to enjoy the city and meet his friends (all of other countries).
    I was a newbie and my request was written in a rush, but then I kept in my mind that going there I’d not have been only a host, but more than that. In fact I proposed to buy food (he refused that !), I helped him with houseworks while he offered me to wash my clothes, I pay a round of drinks for him and his friends and he did the same, we talked and laughed a lot, sharing experiences and plus he was kind of surprised because I was the only one able to make one his quiet flatmates talking more than usual =)

    On the other I’ve not hosted yet through CS, but I received some requests during last months that I refused for a specific reason: I’m NOT a hostel. Why am I saying that ?
    Ok here’s an example:
    “We’re a couple/I’m a guy/I’m a girl and we/I will arrive in your city on XXX, at xxx and we/I will leave on xxx, at xxx. We/I need of place to stay and a shower”. No info about them, not completed profiles, nothing of personal, like they were writing to a hostel, only to avoid to spend money, not taking care of sharing cultures, experiences, or whatelse.
    Plus answering some of them replied to me that for them CS represented an opportunity to find a cheaper place to stay, nothing less, nothing more. Furthermore even the new site is giving the wrong definition of this project, because last time I read on the mainpage–> “CS: travel for free” and I’m quite sure it wasn’t for that they created it.
    For this reason I read some old CS, ambassadors, pioneers left it to move to other sites like Bewelcome or other ones.

    I think that CS usage should be defined better, especially by who is managing the site and then to block ppl from posting requests whitout having completed their own profiles.
    Nonetheless CS should be kept alive for who really enjoy travelling and to know different cultures, and perhaps starting new friendships.

    1. Hi Dayman, thanks for your reply! I really enjoyed reading about your personal experiences.

      It’s great to hear that you got on so well with the Italian guy and enjoyed each other’s company. How lovely that you even stayed an extra day! :)

      We too have had some very generic requests from people who wanted to arrive really late and then had a totally full schedule the next day with no time to hang out – just wanting a free bed. Though I’m all for helping out other travellers who are in a jam, there’s certainly a line.

      I think the CS website probably are having a hard time marketing their site when there is growing competition. I hope that people will still choose to use it as community for meeting up, making new friends and getting an insight into local life. I think that those hosting will probably ensure it stays that way!

      Thanks so much for your comment =)

      1. Hi Charlie,
        thanks to you for this interesting post !

        Yep it was really nice to stay there one day more and I also had the possibility to see a fox while hanging around !

        I don’t think the problem is the competition, but how this new CS (if I’m not wrong bought by an Indian company in 2011) has used its old background in order to turn this from a no-profit site, which was really good, into something that doesn’t really represented travelers.
        I say: do you want only a free bed ? Then go to check Booking, or other similar sites. This is what I mean. You cannot pretend to be hosted, or to host in order to flirt, or to have a free bed, even if flirting could happen later.
        I had my bad moments too, but never sent requests only because of that.
        If a person was in trouble, for many reasons, I’d be the 1st to help him/her, but I couldn’t stand those who contacted me writing that they were coming with her/his bf/gf, saying that hostels were too expensive (really hostels ?), or because they didn’t want to stay with other persons in the same room.
        Unfortunately, as already written, a lot of people nowadays want to host girls, as well boys, for that reason. I don’t know if you remember but back in 2009 a man raped a girl while she was hosted at his place. Same was almost happening to a girl friend of mine, who left the place where she was hosted in the middle of the night (3 AM !), because this 50-55 yo man (a Math Professor..) attempted to have sex with her, several times. And she’s lesbian and wrote this to him before to accept to be hosted.
        Furthermore I’ve noticed that new cs is way too private now. There’re a lot of uncompleted profiles, people with multiple reviews that looks kind of fake to me. Moreover some old bad reviews have been removed, especially those where were described events like the previous one. It looks like they want to sell a fresh, clean product, because ofc they spent money for it, while I think should be important to share every positive/negative point in order to increase the safety of users.

        However this site should be kept alive to help those people that are still inside and believe in the project, even if a lot has changed during last years.

        1. You raise a lot of important points, and it’s a shame if the direction of the website doesn’t represent travellers, like you say, although I still have personally not had any negative experiences. That said, we are very careful who we stay with and are very fortunate to have the safety of travelling together as a couple.

          I never heard about the 2009 case, that’s a really terrible story. It’s so bad that there is always someone who wants to take advantage of a good thing (CS) and use it for bad means. It’s also horrible to hear the story about your friend. At least she stood up for herself and left, very brave. Did it completely put her off CSing?

          I agree, the review system is essential to keeping an honest site running, and bad reviews definitely shouldn’t have been removed.

          1. This has been noticed even by other members, but it seems that they don’t care very much to follow ideas of old CSers.
            As written by Nicholas:

            “As for the testimonials, they’re not as effective as we imagine. In reality positive reviews beget positive ones, and the same goes for negative reviews, thus CSers rarely post the latter, even if they’re warranted, to avoid tarnishing their own record.”
            Totally true. Even my friend was worried about that, mostly because this man (later banned, luckily) warned her to avoid to leave negative reviews.
            In fact during next days he sent her several inbox, or tried to call her, like a stalker, saying she was a b****, that he didn’t try anything (false), that he had multiple positive reviews (and reminds my point about false/fake reviews).

            Me too before what was almost happened to my friend.
            No, at all. Of course she waited to use CS another time. but then she started to use it again, as she really believes in the project and that these facts are related to single and rare episodes, even if sex-surfing is sadly increasing.

            By the way being honest and cautious is the key.

          2. Yes, it’s not cool about ‘fake’ reviews, and being dishonest will eventually (I hope) get those people nowhere once someone does notice and call them out.

            Glad to hear that guy was banned and that CS at least have something in place to sort out people who are out of hand.

            Also pleased to hear that your friend wasn’t put off by her horrible experience! I agree, honesty and caution is definitely essential.

  3. Hi Charlie, I liked your post!
    I’ve been hosting people (and been hosted too) for a while and I just love it.

    I just will add… food is not included when your are hosted :S
    I always have had good experiences, but as a hosted I haven’t feel uncomfortable when people open your fridge and just take what they want as if that is part of the invitation… that is not nice at all!!

    … just an opinion :)

    Good blog!, enjoy your trips!!
    Belu :)

    1. Thank you, Belu! It’s very nice to hear from you =)

      So glad to hear you love CS. Yes, we never expect food to be included and we nearly always offer to cook a meal for our host. We actually love cooking with hosts :)

      Unfortunately, you’re right, some people probably are a bit cheeky and take advantage of hosts. I think it would be hard to be a host in that situation. We’ve only had lovely guests, fortunately…!

      Thanks!! :)

  4. “Personalise Your Requests” is probably the most important part, from our experience. Even if you don’t have a filled CS profile / many reviews / etc, by just writing a great request to a person that is really really interesting to you and you think you could even become friends – that can help. Also, sometimes we go on by contacting via Viber or Skype to better know the person, talk to them, and just because we can’t wait to meet them. CS is not a free hotel, it’s one of the most amazing and fun ways to meet people anywhere in the world. Where else could you find 659 awesome people who are waiting to meet you in French Polynesia??? https://www.couchsurfing.org/search/in/country/82/mode/H :) :)
    Illia and Nastia recently posted…How to live a life of travel and not kill your partnerMy Profile

    1. Yes, definitely. I didn’t think about contacting someone via skype, but that’s an excellent idea and offering to do that might make someone who was unsure certain (or not) about whether they would like to host you – great tip!

      Yes, so true and very important that people recognise it’s not just a free bed. Oh, wow to French Polynesia!

  5. While couchsurfing is not that popular in India , this sure is sucha an awesome concept in itself! For young travellers it can sure help in saving a lota money and making another trip.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Rashmi. Yes, it’s really great for young travellers, though I have also met a lot of older travellers who use it too. I heard there’s even a retired woman in Taipei who loves to host!

  6. I can’t agree more with what you’ve written, Charlie, and I’d add that getting familiar with other CSers back home gets one foot past the door. I wrote about that in a similar blog post.

    As for the testimonials, they’re not as effective as we imagine. In reality positive reviews beget positive ones, and the same goes for negative reviews, thus CSers rarely post the latter, even if they’re warranted, to avoid tarnishing their own record.

    Still, my CS experiences at home and abroad have almost always been brilliant, and I see myself engaging the community for a long time.
    Nicholas recently posted…Koutu & Moeraki BouldersMy Profile

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Nicholas. That’s also a good tip! Though we CSed for the first time when we were in Taiwan, so I guess you can still get going elsewhere. I’d love to read the post, what’s the link?

      It’s a real shame that many CSers don’t post negative reviews. I’ve met a few people who told me they didn’t leave negative reviews and I said they really should – of course, they didn’t want to receive a bad review back despite not being the offensive one.

      Glad to hear your experiences have been excellent! =)

      1. Here you go: http://wp.me/p3eDwQ-dt The said tips made it relatively easy for me to get accepted, even invited, by different hosts, when other members lament that men travelling solo often have their requests overlooked.

        A friend/fellow CSer Abhi also mentions using the filters in this post: http://wp.me/p1pjfa-ce Classic dashboard no longer exists but you can still sort hosts according to experience and last log-in, or search only in a particular area of the map.
        Nicholas recently posted…Rally Finland: Proof that cars can flyMy Profile

        1. Thanks for the link, I’ve left a comment over there :) Good to hear that your requests didn’t get overlooked! We’ve actually hosted quite a few male solo travellers, and I think some of them have had a harder time and some haven’t.

    1. Hi Yara – it’s nice to hear from you :) That sounds super awesome!

      I won’t be publishing until next week, I’m just sorting through the collaborative submissions this week, so please email me your story anyway! I would love to hear it :)

  7. Hi Charlie,
    You’ve hit lots of nails on heads in this piece. I’ve been hosting for quite a while – surfing occasionally too. With a lot of good references, over the last summer I was getting so many requests that a secretary would have been really useful.

    I’ve still to get the ‘axe murderer’ that many of my friends warn me about and most of my experiences have been really positive. I did have a couple of ‘why am I hosting these people’ moments too – a couple of Greek girls – best friends from school – who were meeting up after about 12 months apart. They were so in their own bubble, conversation had to be dragged out of them and, in spite of my profile stating that as I work from home and the couch is in my ‘office’, guests shouldn’t be around after 10:30 on weekdays, they seemed to think that staying in bed till one or two was what I meant. I endured with them till their departure and promptly put some filters into my profile sorting out the great requests from the cut and paste.

    I did have a guest who came for 2 days and stayed for 2 weeks too – I hope to marry her next year.

    Sean

  8. Hi,
    I was wondering if there seemed to be an average of how many requests were sent out before you were able to find a host. I was also wondering if there was a right length for messages. I’ve surfed twice and met very nice people, but over the last two years I’ve sent out dozens of messages and rarely get back a response. I think I’ve been following all of the tips you’ve listed and I really am interested in meeting my hosts/exploring their cities but it doesn’t seem to work out very often. I am currently getting ready for a 3 week bus trip and I am really hopeful I can become more involved with the community so it would be really helpful for some additional advice on top of this great article and the other comments.
    -Neal

    1. I usually send out about 10 to specific people that I would really like to stay with and in general usually get one or two replies. I also keeps things fairly sweet. I don’t like to over do it as I’m sure people have other things to do than read an essay from me haha! Usually a couple of sentences introducing ourselves, including why we particularly would like to stay with them. And then another line about dates.

      In what areas are you sending out requests? To places in Europe? I also find that responses vary country to country. We had a lot of success in Europe and in Taiwan, but very little in Central America – it’s just not a popular thing here (not yet, anyway). Where will your 3 week trip be to? Enjoy! And good luck with finding hosts! :)

      1. Hey Charlie,
        I took your advice and ended up getting a few hosts in a couple days. I spent less time writing and more time looking for people that really struck me. My trip is down the east coast and then around the midwest. Not too far away, but any type of travel seems to bring you together with some incredible people. The only spot I am still hammering down is D.C.

        Thanks for the advice.
        Neal

  9. Hey there

    I was wondering what people think about sending out several requests at once?
    Tonight I sent a couple of requests. And if I get more than one positive feedback, I’d feel embarrassed having to say: “never mind, I found something else”. Or is it acceptable to try more hosts to make sure you find something on short notice? Above you write hostS and so does CS.
    Any thoughts on this?

    Regards

    Niels

    1. Hi Niels,

      I usually only send out a couple of requests at a time and generally try not to leave it to right at the last minute so there’s time to chat with people by message an email beforehand. I’ve not had this situation happen before but if it did I would just politely say that someone else had gotten back to me but that I’d love to meet them for a drink one evening, or something along those lines :)

      Hope that helps!

  10. What a great article ! Thanks for your time and your energy, thanks for being one of those who are keeping the community up and alive ! It’s a pity that CS changed but I also do think that if good people, nice fellows and interesting and generous travelers are still in even if they are less than freeloaders … CS will survive !

    CS is one of the bets thing I’ve found in my life :)

    I had 5 or 6 incredible experiences in Italy with guys who introduced me to their friends, family and shown me private areas and good places to eat real local food ! I have so many good memories thanks to CS !
    Once I had a very negative experience with a crazy girl who lied about herself, her expectation, yelled at me, drunk and threw up, did not thanks me at all for what I did (tried to drive her around and so on) but … I left a neg one even if she gave me one (it hurts and is really negative on my profile unfortunately :( ) but at least I am honest toward the community, I warned everybody (although she has created a new profile :( ) …

    CS is great, it’s amazing, it’s one of those things that allow you to answer to sentences like : “nowadays people are not generous/nice/open-minded”

    By the way I also enjoyed reading all those comments wrote by nice travelers :)

    Thanks to you Charlie and thanks to everybody !

    LONGUE VIE A CS ;D

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