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.
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.
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!
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!”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?