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Couchsurfing is a great way to make great connections around the world. The first step to having a good Couchsurfing experience is writing a good Couchsurfing request that gets accepted. The truth is — most Couchsurfing requests get declined because it’s very easy to get your host off side. To help you find the best host, and get accepted right away, let’s look at what NOT to do, as well as some good and bad Couchsurfing request examples.
When I signed up for Couchsurfing back in 2010, it was quite a different beast than it is today. Firstly, my dad absolutely thought I was going to get murdered – but today him and my mum are hosts themselves!
Secondly, it was a small community where getting a host was pretty easy. Today, there’s hundreds of thousands of members and it’s hard for surfers out there!
I’ve been hosting on Couchsurfing for almost ten years. In this time, I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to Couchsurfing requests. Some of the worst Couchsurfing request examples I’ve had include:
- The guy who asked if he could stay in my house for six months (yeah, nah.)
- The many people who have told me they would be staying on X day (nope.)
- The multiple (!) people who have told me they are nudists (uhhhhh…)
On the other hand, I’ve had amazing experiences on Couchsurfing and met great people. Nearly all of these began with a great Couchsurfing request.
To help you get hosted, let’s talk about how to write the perfect Couchsurfing request, and share some examples.
Remember: numbers aren’t on your side
Some harsh truths about finding a host on Couchsurfing.
Even in Adelaide, I would often get 5 or 6 Couchsurfing requests every day. I only hosted about once or twice a month. This means I was knocking back up to 98% of requests, and I lived in a small city.
I’ve heard hosts in places like Amsterdam, Paris and Barcelona can get 50+ requests every single day.
This means that in order for a host to take a chance on hosting you then they can be really picky. I’m sorry, I know it doesn’t sound nice. But it’s the truth.
Hosting someone on Couchsurfing is usually a bit of an imposition. It means giving up your space, your privacy, and often your money (and wine). If you’re going to go to all the effort, you want to be pretty sure you’re doing it for someone who will appreciate it, and that you’ll get along with.
If this makes you feel like giving up on Couchsurfing – don’t! The good news is that the vast majority of those requests suck. Trust me. Here is what a typical Couchsurfing request example looks like:
A BAD Couchsurfing Request ExampleA
My boyfriend and I are coming to Adelaide tomorrow for five nights. We’re sick of staying in hostels and would love to meet some locals!
Your place looks really nice. Would you be able to host us, and our van? We are very friendly and tidy!
What NOT to do in Couchsurfing requests
Okay, class — what’s wrong with the above request? At first, it looks pretty okay, right? No nudists, entitlement, or requests to move in on a permanent basis, so what’s the big deal? Well, let’s take a closer look.
1. Get the host’s name wrong
The mention of “Stella” up there was not a proofreading error ‘cos I’ve been up too late with too much caffeine (although that might be true). I cannot tell you how many Couchsurfing requests I have received addressed to the wrong name.
Look, I get it. I know you need to write multiple requests and I don’t hold it against you. But it doesn’t really look like you’re making the effort when there’s such a basic error.
So, what do you do if you hit the send button and smack yourself in the face realising the name is wrong? Simple. Send an apology. I have forgiven 100% of the (five) people who have done this for me. The other dozens who never did anything just got their request declined.
2. Not naming other guests2
Again, I don’t think people do this on purpose. However, it’s always a bit awkward when they mention another guest but don’t include any details such as their name.
Just a friendly introduction of “my boyfriend, John, who’s also 28” is helpful and a good introduction.
3. Giving too little, or too much, notice
This one is a bit more difficult but as a rule, “tomorrow” or “day of” requests are not ideal. The chances of you actually finding a host are pretty low. If you do need to do them for a valid reason (like a last minute change of plans), that’s fine, just explain it in the message.
Otherwise it sounds like you just couldn’t be bothered sending it through earlier.
On the other hand, I also don’t like requests more than a month in advance. It’s hard to know what my plans are and I hate letting down travellers. That said, some hosts do like to get requests way in advance.
My advice – have a read of their profile and see what they say. You can also message potential hosts and introduce yourself, and let them know you’ll be looking for a host later on.
4. Focussing on selfish/superficial reasons for wanting to stay
“We’re sick of hostels”, “we want to save money”, “the location of your flat looks so much better than where we are right now”.
These are common explanations I get for why people want to stay with me. On one hand, I appreciate the honesty. But they still get declined.
Why? Because no-one likes to feel like they’re getting taken advantage of or used by travellers. None of these reasons say anything about why you chose me over other hosts, they just focus on what you want.
Much better ideas are things like: “We’re really interested to learn about life in Australia and also share our culture”, “We read that you like reading, and so do we! Maybe we can swap books.” All of these things add a personal touch and make it feel like it’s a genuine exchange rather than me providing a service.
5. Asking to stay for too long
I know, I know. You are lovely. You are a beam of sunshine that is a joy to be around. I will be begging you to stay when it’s time for you to leave.
Unfortunately, not everyone is like this. You’ve probably read the Couchsurfing horror stories. The last thing I want to do is have someone I really don’t like living in my house for free, for days and days.
That’s why 2 – 3 days is a good amount of time to request. You could mention a possibility of staying on if you’re flexible, but more than 3 days is starting to push it.
6. Not reading the advert properly and requesting things the host doesn’t have
Nothing makes me sadder than when I read a great request that finishes with “so I’d love if you could host us and our van!”
I have no parking. It says so on my profile, in bold. This gives away that you didn’t read my profile, which again makes me feel like you haven’t put in that much effort.
7. Talking about the host’s house, not them
As much as it warms the cockles of my heart to know that you also love the location of my place (I did choose it myself!), again, it makes it feel like you’re treating my home like a hotel.
For me, Couchsurfing is about personal connections. If I just wanted to rent my house out to strangers who would appreciate the view and location, I’d be on AirBnB (actually I wouldn’t, because I hate it, but you get the gist).
Therefore, focus on things you have in common with the host and what makes you interested in them in particular. Let’s be honest, everyone loves a bit of ego inflation. Plus, it makes me think that we’ll have good conversation starters rather than falling flat after “I love the view…”
Carefully read the profile and look for things you have in common. Easy things include books, movies, music and places you’ve visited. The more offbeat the better… if you tell me (honestly) that you’re a history-loving computer programmer that also drinks copious amounts of wine, there’s a pretty good chance you’re getting accepted.
8. No personal information
It seems pretty much everyone on Couchsurfing is “tidy”, “clean”, “friendly”, “quiet”. Again, I get that people are trying to show that they will respect your home, which is important. But it doesn’t make me feel very drawn to your request!
Think about being at a party. Who do you want to talk to? The person who describes themselves as ‘clean and quiet’, or the person who tells you they’ve just been bungee jumping in Queensland and learnt to program computers at 10? (Okay that last one might be very specific to my interests…)
Anyway, the point is that you want to stand out in a sea of tidy, friendly, quiet people. Add some pizazz! Why are you travelling? What have you been doing?
Remember, one thing you immediately have in common on Couchsurfing is a love of travel. If nothing else, capitalise on that.
9. BONUS: Not mentioning that you’re just in it for the hookups
Nothing is a faster route (no pun intended) to a Couchsurfing horror story than Tyler the DTF (do people still say that? I don’t know. I’m old. Help me.) Californian turning up at the home of Georgie the married Couchsurfing host.
Boy is it awkward or all of us when we realise we weren’t thinking of the same kind of “cultural exchange”.
Read the profile. Make your intentions clear. Seriously, at least the nudist was upfront and honest!
A Summary of How to Write a Good Couchsurfing Request
Phew, that was quite the diatribe disguised as information. I genuinely do hope it’s helpful, though.
Now. To complete our lesson on to get free accommodation AND ingraciate yourself with your host, let’s summarise:
- Read the host’s profile carefully
- Send requests a week or two in advance, unless instructed otherwise
- Include interesting information about you and all guests travelling with you
- Explain what you have in common/what you liked about the host
- Don’t be secretive about your questionable intentions
Above all else, remember you’re trying to be memorable and, above all, nice, and show that you’ve put the effort in. You want the host to want to host you and get to know you, rather than think you’re just another stingy traveller who wants to drink their wine and admire the view.
A GOOD Couchsurfing request exampleA
So, since the key takeaways here are “effort” and “personality”, I will feel like I have failed horribly if you copy and past this Couchsurfing request example.
Nonetheless, I know it can be helpful. So let’s take a look at a great Couchsurfing request that would definitely get my attention!
My name is Jane and I’m currently travelling with my boyfriend John. We’re both 28 and we’ve been travelling around Australia for six months.
We’re planning to arrive in Adelaide in two weeks on Monday, but we’re a bit flexible. We’re excited to visit Adelaide as we hear there’s great wine (NB: if I read this I would accept immediately. No further detail needed. Welcome to my home)
We’re having a great time and we’d love to try Couchsurfing as a way to meet some locals. I was reading your profile and I thought we’d really get along! I also love Black Sabbath, computer programming and have never set food inside a gym.
I’m also a keen tango dancer and could teach you a few steps if you’re interested!
I’d love to hear from you!
Jane (and John)