Effective couch requests are not that difficult to write. But you have to put some effort into them.
Think about it. You just bought that plane ticket to your dream destination. You know exactly what you want to do and see when you get there. Now, where to stay? You put a lot of effort into the rest of the trip.
You need to put effort into this part, too!
Hotels are out of the question – far too pricey. Even AirBnB is a little out of your budget. Hostels are a good idea, but you want more than that. You want to experience the city from a local’s point of view.
You set up a profile, add your pic, and then you do it – you send out a dozen Couchsurfing couch requests.
The wait begins. Suddenly, a response. Then another, and another!
And the subject line for all of them – the ones who bothered to answer you anyway – begin with the word “Declined“
Our Couchsurfing experience
Halef and I have been Couchsurfing since about 2006. Not only do we find places to stay around the world, we host, too.
A lot. To date, over five hundred couchsurfers from all over the world have stayed with us.
Not to brag, but that makes Halef and me two of the most active and well-referenced Couchsurfing hosts in the world.
We are both City Ambassadors here in Atlanta. Needless to say, we know a lot about Couchsurfing. And with that comes a lot of experiences writing requests.
I’ve written dozens of Couchsurfing couch requests.
And the thing is, I rarely get turned down. Why? Because I’ve figured out the [not-so-big] secret to writing effective couch requests so that hosts want to host me.
I‘d like to share it with you.
Before I do though, please understand one thing: whether or not hosts accept your Couchsurfing couch requests starts with you putting in a little work on the back-end.
If you’re not willing to do a few simple things, then maybe the bus station is your best option.
Complete your profile
You must create a great Couchsurfing profile. Writing effective couch requests is meaningless if your profile is awful. I can’t tell you how many requests I’ve rejected because of empty profiles.
Think about it: You receive a Couchsurfing couch request from someone looking for a place to stay for two nights.
And it was such a great email!
You visit the person’s profile and – ugh – practically empty. No pictures or maybe just one of him staring into the camera. Worse yet, no face pic. No references.
Just basic information – probably because it was required. This potential guest put almost zero effort into their profile.
Would you host that person? Probably not. So, if you wouldn’t host them, then why would you expect someone to host you if you haven’t taken the time to introduce yourself on your own profile?
Here’s what you have to do:
Add lots of photos
Not just of you, but of you being social – preferably with other CS members in your community.
Don’t let a host’s first impression of you be a profile full of head shots that kinda look like mugshots.
Complete your entire profile
Be detailed. Potential hosts want to know about you before they host you. If you’re allergic to cats, say so on your profile!
If there’s anything quirky about you, say it (I’m a vegetarian. While that’s not quirky, hosts should know that before I get there so they don’t plan on inviting us to their favorite steakhouse for dinner!)
Attend CS events in your city or in the cities you visit – talk to people and get references from those you’ve met and spent time with!
Add them as your friends on CS.
Host people on Couchsurfing
There are various reasons you might not be able to host others – roommates, parents, apartment rules, etc. But if you never host people, then potential hosts might just think you’re a freeloader and choose not to host you.
That said, don’t give up. Again, lots of people don’t host because they can’t. Don’t worry.
Good hosts recognize people who are involved in CS for the right reasons.
We’ve hosted many people who are unable to host others.
Read the host’s profile
Read it all before you request! This one simple act will improve your chances of getting hosted by a huge margin.
Because you’re learning about your host and it will show when you write a Couchsurfing request. A few years ago, I stayed with an excellent host in Brussels.
So, I read his profile and discovered he worked at a grocery store. He was very active in the CS community, had a great collection of photos on his profile, and was someone I definitely wanted to stay with.
When I wrote my couch request, I did the following:
- Used his name
- Read his entire profile and figured out generally what kind of person he was
- Learned he worked in the grocery business
- Mentioned that it would be really helpful to know someone in the grocery business because I am a human being who sometimes needs to eat.
I wrote that request in 15 minutes. It was personal and addressed directly to him.
The language in my request made it very clear that I read his entire profile.
He knew I chose him and didn’t just pick him randomly.
Turns out, he was already hosting two other people in his small apartment in the middle of the city.
But guess what? He wanted to host me anyway because of the request I wrote.
A couple of years later, he came to Atlanta and stayed with us!
What Couchsurfing hosts expect from you
Good hosts want to know why you want to stay with them, specifically. Effective couch requests are personal couch requests. Most of the best hosts have been doing this for a while and have a lot of experience.
They also tend to get the most requests – especially the ones who live in large, popular cities.
That means they can be choosey.
Whenever I see couch requests that start with the words, “Hey dude!” (or worse still, “Hey Dave!” – when I am obviously not “Dave”), I know I likely won’t be hosting that person.
Basically, if you can’t take 15-20 minutes to figure out why you want to stay with a person and, instead, send the same request to a dozen people, then why would I bother inviting you into my home?
A good host is a bit selfish.
He or she opens up their home to you. So they just don’t want the stay to be for your benefit. There has to be something in it for them.
If you appear to be someone who is just looking for a free place to crash – because free is your most important requirement – then you’re gonna get rejected and it’s gonna happen a lot.
Sharing is a two-sided relationship. Your host wants something valuable from this experience as well.
Should you cut & paste a couch request?
A lot of people will warn against cutting and pasting your requests – sending multiple Couchsurfing requests to several hosts with the same messages.
They have a point.
When I send out requests though, I usually start out with a description of the trip I am taking. I think it’s OK to paste this description into your request.
But the very next section should be a paragraph or two telling your host why you want to stay with him or her.
In fact, go ahead and write it out: “Why I Want To Stay With You.”
Then, give the host an honest reason why you chose them.
Effort pays off
Couchsurfing has gotten quite big over the past few years – that’s undoubtedly true, but don’t let that fool you into believing it’s no longer worth it.
There’s a lot of quality out there.
We’ve found it.
You can find it, too.
And you will find it if you use the site like it was meant to be used. No one owes you a place to stay. When you write a request, it will be evaluated against other requests host are considering.
And if you don’t start it out right, it might not get read at all.
Basically, if you don’t set yourself apart, you may be staying at the train station or airport (again?) tonight.
You need to show that you value a potential host’s time. If they’re going to take the time to read your request and then go look at your profile and put that kind of time in out of what might be an already-busy schedule, then make it worth it.
Advice for finding Couchsurfing hosts
Good luck to you during your search. We really do love Couchsurfing and we hope some of the above helps you write effective couch requests. It certainly works well for us when we travel.
Just a few more things to write effective couch requests and improve your chances of getting a great Couchsurfing host:
- Try searching for newer people instead of the most experienced. Everyone starts out new and newer members are often the most eager to host!
- Don’t always write requests to Ambassadors or the most active people. They’re often the busiest and can often be choosier. We get several requests a week – people in places like New York and Paris get dozens a week (or more). Focus your effort where it will have a better chance of succeeding.
- Leave honest references. Honest references mean honest people. At least that’s how I think!
- Look outside the city! Don’t just look for hosts in Paris. Get a map and find the smaller places on the outskirts and request from hosts there. Trains and Über can be your friends!
A couch request is an application
Writing effective couch requests can seem a bit like putting together a job application. And, to a certain extent, it is.
You’re asking people to let you, a complete stranger, into their homes!
So you gotta put thought into it.
Just as you tailor a résumé/C.V. to a particular company, tailor your request to the host. And just like your past experience is a reflection of you, so are the references you have and leave along with the photos you show on your profile.
If you have none of either, you may be less desirable as a Couchsurfing guest.
Write your request as if the alternative is spending $100 a night on a hotel. Because it is!
Essentials of effective couch requests
- Have a complete profile, including photos and any information the host might need to know about you.
- Be completely honest: There’s nothing worse than getting a package that ain’t what you ordered.
- Say when you’re coming and how you’re getting there.
- Tell the host if you’re bringing other people and make sure they have a CS profile, too.
- Read your host’s profile – completely. Find out what he or she likes, or doesn’t.
- Cut and past your itinerary only.
- Make the rest of your request personal to that host.
- Be a host yourself, if possible
- Get involved with Couchsurfing events. The best hosts usually are too.
- Have a great attitude and be polite.
Do you have more great ideas for sending effective couch requests? Let us know! And happy surfing!
Our Couchsurfing profiles
Michael’s CS Profile
Halef’s CS profile
Post updated – March 29, 2018
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Michael is originally from Canada but now resides in Atlanta, GA with his husband, Halef, who also writes here. He is a Couchsurfing expert. Michael has traveled to over 50 countries learning how to experience more for less as he travels.
I agree with everything you have mentioned above. One other thing I like as a potential CS host is if multiple people are surfing together that they *each* have a separate CS profile. When someone writes that they “and a friend” or “and my partner” would like to stay at my place, I want information about everyone I am opening my home to, not just the author of the request.
We agree. Only in rare circumstances do we host someone without a profile traveling with another CSer. For us, it’s important for Couchsurfing to have a record of everyone who stayed with us. While I’m sure the chance is rare that something will go wrong, this is a safety issue for us.
Such good advice. We used to host in London, before we started travelling ourselves. My husband and I used to get on average 10 requests a day. Although some days it felt like a full time job responding to all of the requests we were in a great position to be picky about who we hosted. Without a doubt it was always the personal, well thoughtout requests we accepted, not the ones who said “Hi Dave”.
As a host I’ve learnt a lot about sending eye catching requests – I know the kind of messages I used to like receiving and reading, I simply try to do the same. As a surfer I also pick a host I have something in common with – makes the request even easier to write.
We live in Atlanta, so we’re not THAT busy with requests, but it IS nice to be able to be picky! 🙂
Thanks for stopping by!
I wish all couchsurfers would read this.
I have two bugbears: making your request months in advance and not knowing how long it takes to travel between centres. South Africa is much bigger than you think and your plans are VERY likely to change along the way.
Also if you make a request for a particular date and you can’t make it then say so. Before you’re due to arrive. Personally I don’t accept anyone who arrives after their confirmed date. Unfortunately this is not indicated as a “bad reference” on their profile when completing the emailed questionnaire afterwards.
Yes. Definitely always let your host know if you cannot make it. For backpackers, plans often change, and CS hosts know this – specially if they travel too. I don’t mind a cancellation. But I do mind if I am not told about it!
And get verified–at LEAST by phone–it’s so easy.
I see a guest looking to stay 28 days. Isn’t that a bit much? I thought it would be just for a day or two Maybe 3 but 28. I think after you let someone stay 30 you have to go to court to get them out.
Personally, I would never let a person stay that long. And yes, there are some laws that require you to go to court to get a person out of your house after a certain amount of time. I’m not sure if that’s the case where you live.
What I would do, if you’re interested in hosting the person, is write back and offer that person the number of days you’re comfortable with. Under a week, for example.
When I host, it’s usually for three or four days maximum. If I really like the person, and if I know they’re staying in the same city, I will offer to host them for a couple days more.
But that’s it.
Being verified on CouchSurfing make individuals more likely to acknowledge your requests. A Complete profile, lots of pictures, friends and references truly helps.
Great advice thanks. We are new to Couch Surfing and have had a fair few declines to start with (we’ve done our best to have a full profile and send personal requests).
However, today we got our first accept!! Woohoo. Do you have any advice on what to do now? I’ve replied to our host with a thanks and looking forward to meeting them but who initiates the details about how we meet etc? Do I do this now, or do I wait until closer to the time? Do I keep in touch with the host until the date we’re supposed to meet? What is the etiquette? Any advice from an experienced host would be appreciated.
Hi Rob! Here’s pretty much how I would respond to a host. I think you should do it now:
“Hi! Thanks again for accepting my request. We’re really looking forward to visiting. We are arriving by (bus/plane) and getting in at (time). Can you let us know how we get to your place and when is a good time to arrive? Or would you prefer to wait until a little closer to the date. Your call. Just let us know what your schedule is on that day and we’ll do our very best to work with that. Really looking forward to meeting you – and thank you again!”
Usually, the guest arrival time at the airport or bus station is what I need to know. And it’s nice to think they care about meeting my schedule. But I don’t think you need to mention more than that.
Your host will appreciate that you gave him or her that information.
That’s great thanks. That’s pretty much what we have said and gives us some idea as to what to build on for next time – much appreciated!
My contribution is to trust your gut as to whether to host, or to stay with someone. The one time I ignored my uneasy feeling was when the guest was demanding, dominating, and left me out of pocket financially. They hadn’t made a formal booking request, so there was no way of giving them a less-than-glowing review. Her reviews were good, so it was a bit of a surprise when she was so difficult. Gut feel, every time!
You should ALWAYS trust your gut. Always. In fact that’s how I generally decide who to host. But another lesson is to never let someone stay with you who didn’t go through the proper CS channels. Your experience, in my opinion, is not really a CS experience in the true sense. The first clue about a guest’s untrustworthiness is that he or she didn’t use the site to stay with you. Perhaps that’s because that person didn’t want you to review the stay because he or she became more difficult as a traveler. Having said that, you can still eave a review for a person.
I am a 65 year-old man and get very few acceptances, despite writing specific requests, working on my profile, host whenever I can and getting references when I do CS. I have been traveling for over 11 years, have extensively visited 89 countries, have a web site that tells absolutely everything about me and believe I am generally an interesting guest. I have made dinner in every place I have stayed.
If I were a young woman, all I would need to do is put a public request in and I would have 20 people wanting me to stay with them.
This is so detailed and helpful. I am planning to couchsurf on my next trip to France. Have been looking up for hosts at different online websites and came across this concept of working for hosts for meals and a place to live on the platform Hippohelp. Do you have any idea about this?
That’s awesome. We’re glad you find it helpful. Unfortunately, I don’t know anything about that other site.