Camping in Norway

Finding a Couchsurfing host can take a lot of time and sometimes seems impossible. After all you ask a stranger to let you sleep at their home for free. In addition, active hosts get more requests than they could possibly accept. In busy places it can be up to 10 requests a day.

I have noticed, however, that there are surfers who never seem to have a problem finding hosts even if they travel for month. What do these surfers do, that others don’t? It is a matter of positive attitude and good will. I believe that this attitude can be learnt and that it shines through in every detail of a request and a surfer’s profile.

If you are new to Couchsurfing you might want to get a basic understanding first. A basic understanding of Couchsurfing is essential to find a Couch, end up with the right people and enjoy your stay. Whether you are a beginner or an advanced Couchsurfer I hope you can benefit from the inspiration I got from other surfers and follow these steps to find more hosts.

1. Be a Couchsurfing host first

You can host people at your place, if you are not traveling yet. Having references from surfers will make it easier to find hosts.

Check the public trips on Couchsurfing, if you know your next destination. Maybe someone from your country of choice is traveling to your city. Invite them and you will already have a friend there, can ask for information and maybe you will even have a place to stay.

Furthermore the new verification system in 2017 only allows to send 10 requests a week for non-verified member and unlimited requests for verified members. And you either get three month of verification for each surfer you hosted or you have to pay the yearly verification fee.

But if you are already on the way or you are not able to host, don’t worry. You will still find a host if you follow this guide and if you are on Couchsurfing for the right reasons.

2. Complete your Couchsurfing Profile

While requests have to be written every time, you only have to work on your profile once. The more information you provide, the more common interests your host can find and the more likely you will be accepted.

Complete your profile information. Go through every section and fill it in. Take your time to come up with as many meaningful facts as possible, while staying genuine and honest.

Avoid listing interests like traveling or socializing. We all have those in common. Just like in every piece of writing, keep it relevant and simple to grab your readers attention.

Focus on the sections “Teach, Learn, Share” and “What I can Share with Hosts”. It is all about sharing and you want to contribute. Offer to cook a meal or even teach cooking if you are a good at it. Offer to teach your language or any of your skills. Anything works. But only mention things that you are willing to do, timewise, depending on your schedule. Here you find more ideas on what you could share.

Upload a recent profile picture and a bunch of other photos. They should be of good quality and from all walks of life and travel. It will leave your hosts curious and it raises trust. Show yourself how you see yourself and not how you want to be seen. You will become less of a stranger to your host.

If you don’t mind posting it in a publicly, you can include your Instagram and your Facebook. That immediately gives you credibility, lets your host know you better and is not an effort.

3. Should you get verified?

Verification is not a must, but can be the final touch for your profile. Since 2017 you can verify your government ID which makes sense. You take a picture of yourself and your ID to verify your identity to Couchsurfing. Before there was only payment verification, address verification and phone verification. All of them would be easy to fake, but the government ID is not as easy.

The price of Couchsurfing verification has also increased in 2017 from €20,- to €50,- a year, but there is a hint that many people have not noticed yet. As I mentioned before, if you host you get three month of verification for free. This can add up to one year meaning you would be verified for free for one year after hosting four people. So hosting for four people before you go traveling will not only give you references and inspire you for the upcoming journey, but also save you €50,-.

4. How to find the right Couchsurfing host?

Finding the right person is the most crucial part of finding a host in my opinion. We agree that Couchsurfing is not about saving money, right? So what is it about? It is about connecting to each other and sharing an instant of our life with strangers. It is about the ease of these strangers becoming friends when they encounter each other with open hearts.

So it makes sense that finding the best possible person is essential to finding a host, right? Saving money is a benefit of course, but one that doesn’t apply for your host. Find a host that will benefit from you, because of how well you match. Your interests, the way of life, the personality, the vibes. Every one of which can be a reason to host you.

Search for these matches. Read their profiles. Not only the about section, but also the home section. Is there anything that will not suit you or anything about you that will not suit your host?

Filter for negative references. They are often given due to misunderstandings, sheer ignorance or ungratefulness, but often they are given for good reasons and you want to evaluate that. You will have to read between the lines. If you want to know more about safe Couchsurfing, check out this article.

If the host has references, but has not received new ones in a while, chances are high they are on “accepting guests”, but actually don’t accept anyone at the moment. If you feel like you have to meet that person you can write a request and point that out. Otherwise you will be better off finding a more active host and investing time to contact them.

Take into consideration that a less busy host, one with less references could mean a more personal experience. It depends on the kind of experience you are looking for and exceptions prove the rule of course.
I hosted everyday for more than a year and while I enjoy the company of each and everyone of my guests, it is not possible to spend time with everyone. I share my space and all of my guests are treated equal, but depending on my schedule I might be unavailable.

With all these considerations in mind you want to find the three to five people you would really like to meet. From there on you are ready to take action.

5. How about posting a public trip?

Public trips are a way to find a host without the effort of writing a request. You want to talk about your trip, but also about the things you have to offer and the reasons you want to meet people on Couchsurfing. Talk about your travel buddies and link to their profile. Write the public trip equally well as the actual request and the right host can find you instead of the other way round.

My first Couchsurfer, Yu from Taiwan, found a host every day during his six week journey in summer in Europe. He is a professional photographer and in his public trips he offered to be his host’s personal photographer during his stay. What do you have to offer? I am sure there is something. Let yourself inspire by this article if you still lack ideas at this point.

But be cautious with the offers you receive. Sadly, women have to be especially cautious, because there are guys inviting girls for the wrong reasons. I have had female guests who canceled their stay with me, because their experiences on the way were too bad to go on Couchsurfing. If a host who offers a Couch has no references or the references are solely from girls, you probably don’t want to stay there. Here is some more information about safe Couchsurfing.

6. How to write a Couchsurfing request?

The term copy-paste request refers to an impersonal message that is copied and pasted to several hosts. Many hosts consider them as inappropriate. In my opinion copy-paste messages are fine. Part of the message, the part that is talking about you, your trip, your travel buddies and other information have to be copy-paste. And the rest, the personal part that only applies to a certain host, can’t be copied anyway.

I even believe there is nothing wrong about sending complete copy-paste requests. It is a personal choice, depends on the situation and a well written copy-paste message can be enough. After all it only takes the click of a button to decline a request. Most of the time, however, it is not enough to only send copy-paste text and if you want to increase your chances you will have to include a personal message.

Step by Step Guide – with examples from real requests

  • write a personal greeting and address your host by his/her name. Don’t forget to change the names on the requests, if the first part of your request is copy-paste. It happens more often than you might think.

  • introduce yourself by telling the host your name and the country of your origin. Introduce your travel buddies as well. Link to their Couchsurfing profile and if they don’t have a Couchsurfing profile, link to their facebook.

  • show as much consideration as possible. Tell them why you are on Couchsurfing and if you are new, tell them that you are new. Don’t take anything for granted and your host will be more willing to help you out.

    Hi, I’m new in couchsurfing and haven’t verified my profile, however I really hope you’ll read my letter and maybe I’ll become your guest for one day:)
    I’m traveling to Salzburg to European Psychology Learning and Teaching conference (from 09-18 to 09-20) and looking for a place to stay from 09-20 to 09-21. I know it’s probably not that easy to trust a new and not verified member, however you can find me on facebook by the same name. You can also find me in the conference program 🙂

  • Indicate your plans, including arrival and departure times and your activities during the stay. If you will be gone for a day trip, mention it. If you want you can invite your host to come along. In case you don’t have plans, tell them that you would like to hang out.
    If your purpose of staying is anything other than traveling, mention it. If you don’t have time your host needs to know. Even if it could lower your chances it will ensure them that you will be a considerate guest.

    Reading your profile I got an impression it would be really interesting to have an opportunity to stay at your place since you seem such an interesting person. I also read your home rules and the only thing could be a problem is that I will probably get up earlier than you since my flight back to Lithuania is at 8 am the next morning.

  • Give them a brief idea about your trip, but don’t be too self centered. What seems amazingly adventures to oneself, can seem boring to someone who heard the same stories already many times. Preferably talk about your purpose in traveling and why you want to meet people from Couchsurfing.
    Like a lot of surfers, I’ve been couchsurfing frequently during this trip as a means of “traveling” instead of “tourism,” and I really enjoyed all the conversations, culture-exchanging, cooking, and etc.

  • Talk about your hosts profile and why you want to meet them. Think from their perspective. What kind of a person would you like to host? Take all the common interests you found on the profile and point out the similarities. That’s also the proof that you read the profile and you care about the experience both of you are gonna have. My favourite request would still be this one.

    You will not know how surpised I am that you are trying to learn Korean!!!!!! If you want to learn korean, I can help you as much as you want 🙂
    Because I was korean smile representatives who welcome foreigners who is visiting korea!
    I can help you 🙂
    Also, I want to work in tourism part in Korea. So I am so glad that you work in tourism in Austria! I can hear your experience and your working days! That must be interesting to me
    You know what? I also love sports! Even though I can’t swim because of my ear infection naturally(But if I have a tube, I can swim! )
    In addition, I have lived for 4months in spain like you! I lived in malaga. How about you? So I can speak in spanish as well! (My spanish speaking ability is like 1 year spanish girl)
    The word “Explore” is the word I like the most! so I want to explore salzburg with you like adventurer.

  • Tell them what you have got to offer. Any skills, interests or talents that match with your host and enable you to help out? Are you going to cook for them or willing to teach your language? Are you willing to invite them for dinner or a coffee? Do you bring a small gift from your country? Even things like good conversations and spending time can be mentioned. A part of Yu’s request was the following.

    Hi Mr. Reus! I am photographer Yu from Taiwan, I would like to ask you if you are free to share several days with me (it would be better if your friends join us).
    I have no any plan, I just want to know this place via you. I can be your personal photographer if you enjoy be photographed ( but it is not necessarily)

  • If you do expect anything from your host, to guide you around or spend time with you, you have to let them know. In my opinion, however, nothing can be expected from both sides. Busy hosts most often don’t have the time to guide people around. They might decline your request simply because they could not meet your expectations. I believe it is best to express your hopes, but don’t expect your host to fulfill them.
    A phrase like the following always works like reverse psychology on me. It makes me want to guide that person through my city, just because I feel free to do it or not and there is no pressure in case I am busy at that moment.

    I’m looking for a host for my last day in Austria since I know I’ll have more free time to see Salzburg and, if I’m lucky, to meet interesting local people. I’m not expecting a tour, I’ll be happy just to have a nice chat over the cup of tea or coffee.

  • Finish your request with a “thank you for your time” and express the anticipation to hear from them and hopefully meet them soon.

    So I would love to stay at your home, meet you and maybe go out or just enjoy some nice moments together! I believe we can be a good friend. I feel how wonderful host you are.
    It would be definitely awesome if you could host me.
    I hope hearing from you soon.
    Hope you have a wonderful day!
    Excited greetings,
    Pearl

These are some thoughts that came up from hundreds of requests and the recent observations on what separates the good requests from the great ones. The credits for this go to all of my surfers, because I actually never wrote a request myself at the time of writing this article.

If you have any further ideas to inspire your fellow travelers please post them in the comments below!