Getting an amazing Couchsurfing host is sometimes easy and other times challenging, since luck plays a large part. Having a great profile gives you an excellent start.
Get An Amazing Couchsurfing Host
#1 Couchsurfing Tip: Location Flexibility
Stay as flexible as possible, don’t limit yourself to too few potential hosts, and you may meet your newest lifelong friend! What is most important to you in terms of location? Prioritize your needs and wants, since it is rare to find lodging and a host who meets 100% of your requirements.
Personally, my requirements are safety and kindness. You can see more of my priorities when choosing a hotel in a developing country, here. It might give you more ideas for setting your priorities.
Higher host availability outside major tourist cities
For example, if you’re visiting San Francisco, California, you will learn that the BART subway system quickly transports people between towns and cities. Many are within 30 minutes and a $4 ticket from San Francisco, so look for hosts in those places also.
Hosts outside of San Francisco and other major tourist destinations receive fewer requests (less than 10 per month), and because homes are less expensive you’re more likely to have your own room. Meanwhile, many hosts in San Francisco receive so many requests that they cannot respond to all of them, or simply stop accepting guests in the summertime when they might receive 40 requests in a day.
Complete location change
Is your itinerary set in stone? If not, consider a complete change when necessary. I wanted to visit a castle in eastern Slovenia based on a friend’s recommendation. I reached out to all 4 hosts in the area, but only 2 responded and let me know that they were also traveling. However, a host living completely on the other side of this small country viewed my ‘Public Trip’ (more on this below) and invited me to his tiny 1-room home. For 10 days we visited his friends in the region, and it was one of my best travel experiences ever!
I never made it to any Slovenian castles, but we had so much hunting for chanterelles in the forest in central Slovenia, a night of feasting and dancing at a prosciutto ham festival in Croatia, and wandering around Roman ruins in the warm Italian sunshine.
#2 Couchsurfing Tip: Host Flexibility
Personally, I love walking into someone’s home and within minutes being asked if I need anything, whether it’s more blankets on the bed, a meal, or if I’d like to attend a party. What makes a great host for you personally? Does it include a host who shares your interests and will spend time with you? Don’t eliminate potentially amazing hosts based on factors that ultimately are not important.
Is there a valid reason that you don’t want to stay with a man, if you’re a woman?
Ask in advance if your bedroom door has a lock and bring your own alarm doorstopper. Be honest when asking and kindly explain this would be more comfortable for you. You should set your own limitations, but mine is that a single male host or guest must have at least 2 positive references from women traveling solo.
For either gender, read all references carefully, since they may indicate that something was a little odd, like “he sat very close to me”. It is rare that a reference will be completely negative. Most men are safe hosts, but always use your judgement.
Don’t be Ageist
Maybe you’re young and don’t want to stay with an older host, or you’re older and don’t want to stay with a young host. I’ve stayed with hosts ranging in age from 18-60. I’ve found that older hosts (aged 30-60) are more likely to have pets, so if I’m missing my dog from home, I can hang out with theirs. And, they tend to have larger homes, so I’m more likely to have a private bedroom and bathroom.
Once my older host loaned me their car for a day. Meanwhile, hosts who are students often have more free time on weekdays to show me around town or accompany me to a beach or castle I’m itching to see. This is especially true during vacation periods for students. Hosts of all ages are awesome!
Number of Persons in the Home
Couples and people with roommates are great hosts, since then there are 2+ people to interact with. It can also be nice to have more than 1 person, because sometimes the primary host is busy.
#3 Couchsurfing Tip: Home Flexibility
What are your expectations of your hosts home? Whatever absolute necessities you require should be confirmed once a host offers you space in their home. Double-check with the host that important items are current in their profile, since it may not be 100% current or not mentioned at all. However, the more flexibility you allow, the more likely it is that you will get a host.
- House Key – I find that most hosts provide a house key, but I mention this since once I had a host who did not provide a key, and it was a burden for me to shower and leave the apartment by 8am, considering I had long travel days and the host chatted late into the night, limiting my resting hours.
- Kitchen – do you plan on cooking? If yes, read the profile, or ask about kitchen access. Almost always kitchen access is available, but I’ve heard of one host who did not allow access.
- Privacy – the ‘My Home’ description describes the sleeping space, but ask if you’re not sure. Often, if the room described is not available because a host has more than one couchsurfer staying at the same time, they will let you know in advance. Most hosts do their best to make their guests happy and meet all expectations.
- Public Transportation & Parking – If not described in the hosts profile, ask how far their home is located from the nearest bus or subway stop. This is the distance you may need to carry your luggage. If you have heavy luggage a host can suggest a way to reach their home with less walking.
#4 Couchsurfing Tip: Writing Host Requests
There are 2 methods to submit requests for a host. For the widest reach use both methods. Post a ‘Public Trip’, about 2 weeks before your arrival. At the same time, write requests to specific hosts whose profiles look great and you would prefer to stay with. You never know who will be available!
Creating a Public Trip.
From the ‘Dashboard’ scroll down (on the website) to the ‘My Travel Plans’ section. Click on the button ‘Create a Public Trip’.
- This is your opportunity to convince a potential host to click on your great profile. Anyone searching for travelers in their area can see this Public Trip and send you an invitation. Use the tips in the section below “Writing Requests to Specific Hosts”.
- Whenever possible, write a request in both your native language (for expatriates from your country) and the language of the country in which you’re traveling (for local hosts). Also, English is a very international language, so it’s a good language to include. Many expatriates are on Couchsurfing, and they often read English better than or equal to the local language.
Writing Requests to Specific Hosts
As the guest, it’s your responsibility to convince a host that you will be a likeable and easy guest. I’ve never heard of a host who appreciates a guest who is rude or who they have to clean up after. Some hosts are happy only providing a bed for a few nights, but many enjoy an exchange, whether it’s sharing a conversation, meal, or experience.
Finding a great host requires both work and luck, especially if you don’t have many references. You’re saving on money by getting free lodging, but must still expend effort. Conducting a good search and writing good requests takes thought and time. Don’t worry, though. Your host will be doing work, too, whether you realize it or not.
Ensure that your request includes:
- A friendly introduction. Use the hosts name, so the host knows that the request is specific to them.
- 1 or 2 things you have in common with the host. This makes the request personal and shows that you read the hosts profile. This can range from hobbies to favorite foods or anything else that allows an easy connection.
- What makes you an easy and nice guest to host? This includes good behavior such as politeness, friendliness, and neatness, or maybe you will make your host some food from your home country, share your music, or use your profession or hobby. For example, a photographer could take portraits of their host.
- Are you traveling with your own sleeping bag and towel? Not every host has a lot of bedding available. For example, they may have to wash the bedding between guests and if another couchsurfer is staying with them the day before, then there isn’t much time for washing.
- How are you arriving? If you’re arriving by public transportation, your host will let you know the closest bus or subway stop. Or, if you’re driving, they will advise you on where to park near their home and any parking rules.
Below is an example of a well-written request I received from a traveler. The writer includes most of the items listed above and it is completely understandable even if not using perfect English (don’t be shy about using your foreign language skills!). The request can be used for many potential hosts, since you only need to adjust the host name and the last paragraph for each host.
Hello, [host name]!
I am [guest name] from [country/city].
I am looking for a CS host who can share not only a place to stay but also cultural experiences during my trip in [country/state/city] in 20xx.
To introduce myself, I am a [job or study] in [home country]. I am a [social, active, adventurous], and courteous person. I love travelling, [doing outdoor activities and talking with diverse people from all over the world].
Although I have [#] references and not a verified user “yet”, a point that hosts consider when accepting a guest in general, I’d appreciate if you read my sincere message and profile that proves me a SAFE person (YES, I am advertising myself to you, haha).
I will visit [location] from [date] to [date]. The reason why I go there is [work/vacation.] Though the [conference] will give me invaluable experiences, I do not want to just stay with my lab fellows and professor during whole my vacation (still I love them very much). I do really want to meet different people and do diverse things :D. Thus, before going to [location], I decide to travel other cities in [location], be adjusted to a new atmosphere and visit several touristic places :)
While I was looking for a proper CS host, I found that you seems to be a really great person from many positive references :) In addition, when I was looking through your profile, I found we have a quite lots of common hobbies to share. Among things that you mentioned on your profile, I like [X], [X], and [X], I like going [X]. I’d love to spend great time with you.
Please feel free to reply for my request! I am looking forward to hear from you.
#5 Couchsurfing Tip: Read Couchsurfing References
Understand your hosts profile carefully before accepting an invitation, and always read their references.
Especially read the neutral and negative references, but also read some of the positive references. Use your judgment. Part of getting a great host is avoiding the hosts that appear to be not so great.
#6 Couchsurfing Tip: Accepting an Invitation
Accept or decline an invitation as soon as possible. It’s the polite thing to do. Some hosts extend invitations to various people for the same dates (similar to an airline double-booking seats), since they know that some people will decline, and you don’t want to miss out on a great host!
If another traveler accepts the invitation before you do, then the host may respond that they no longer have space in their home, because you took too long. Also, other hosts wait for your response before making other social plans, so it’s polite respond promptly.
#7 Couchsurfing Tip: Back-Up Plan
Alright, this won’t help you get a great host, but it will help if your host turns out to be imperfect. Always have enough money to pay for lodging if needed. Here are a few examples of why you might suddenly require other accommodation:
- Comfort Level: You meet your host and decide you’re uncomfortable with them.
- Last Moment Cancellation. Once, on the day of my arrival my host texted me that she and her son were sick with the flu. I decided not to stay with her (I didn’t want to inconvenience a sick person, or catch the flu myself), and suddenly had to find a new host.
- Flake Host: One time in Germany, my host stopped messaging me before providing her address, so I had to find other accommodation. Luckily my daytime hosts kindly hosted me overnight.
- Hosts Plans. Your host’s plans may suddenly change, so you still have lodging, but the social situation changes. Often these changes are great! For example, in Poland I attended a birthday party within a few hours of my arrival and we had so much fun.
All Travel Tips posts – a listing with links. Tips from the best phone apps to street food eating, to getting off the beaten track. Plus, all the Couchsurfing Tips!