By: Ana Mañas
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It is said that finding Couchsurfing hosts in big cities could be hard, but there are some tricks to make this adventure a lot easier.
Couchsurfers who travel to cities are commonly disappointed when they explain how they wasted their time and energy sending dozens of requests which were declined without explanation, or simply ignored without an answer. Instead, they had to book a room in a hostel, which made their experience less interesting and local-based.
Now, you have the opportunity to have a different experience and to succeed at finding a host in a big city if you follow these pieces of advice:
1. Put yourself in the shoes of a host living in a big city
Imagine how you’d feel if you received an average of 20-30 requests per day, especially in the high season. That’s a reality for Couchsurfing hosts living in popular places when their profile status is set as “accepting guests”. You can see that might be overwhelming? Same as anyone, they have lives and need to work and rest. They often don’t have the time to give an answer to every single person. So they just skim in about two or three requests that really caught their eye and only respond to those.
This is exactly where your work starts: try to stand out from the other requests and be the writer of the request that the host is going to pay attention to! More on this later…
2. Build your profile
Did you know that busy hosts trust their instincts more than anything else? That means that before reading your request, your profile picture is what will make a bigger impact on them.
Some kinds of profile photos make potential good hosts immediately ignore your profile, so you should be aware of that. The best photos are the ones where you are alone in the picture, smiling and with a nice or light background. Avoid dark pictures, or the ones in which you appear posing too far from the camera. Also, avoid wearing sunglasses, looking too serious or looking like your photo should belong to your Tinder account. Remember that Couchsurfing is to make friends, so ask yourself how you’d pose if your photo was meant to be sent to a good friend of yours.
It is also important that you fill all sections in your profile. Once hosts decide that you could be their next Couchsurfer, it’s highly likely they will go and check your profile. They certainly won’t be impressed if they see it’s empty. Many hosts look for travelers with whom they might enjoy time together, so they will check if you share any hobbies. Some other hosts would only let you do your own thing, but even if that is the case, they are not going to open their home to someone who seems suspicious. Don’t be shy to talk about you in your profile. Think about things you’d like to share with your host or something you are good at. In other words, show hosts you are worth meeting. Have a great profile!
3. Search for hosts that have been active recently
Some couchsurfers get disappointed because they send a lot of requests and they never get any answers, but are they sending their requests to active hosts?
All of us on Couchsurfing are travelers, so that means we are not always at home, we are relocating somewhere else, or maybe busy with new jobs. Some share apartments with flatmates and need to ask if it’s OK to host a Couchsurfer. Priorities in life could change too, some people have newborn kids, or new responsibilities that might make them not available to host for a period of time.
Always check on profiles if the host you want to write to is active. Choose hosts who have been active at least in the last two weeks. That information is always shown on top of profiles, under the main photo.
4. Make sure you will feel comfortable at their place
Comfortable in this case has nothing to do with having great apartments, luxuries or private rooms. This means that you must read references just to make sure you feel like staying with them. Not every home suits all travelers, for example if they have cats and you are allergic, that would not work well.
Also, check what people say about those hosts, what things they did together with their guests, and their overall experience. Some hosts require that you share a specific amount of time with them, that you arrive at a certain time in the evening or that you share a meal together. See whether you will have the time to stick to their expectations. Especially if you are not a very experienced member, read at least the last 10 references left to your potential host. If you click on references, you can also select “would not stay again”. Some couchsurfers leave a “would not stay again” reference because for a variety of reasons, which can go from hosts not respecting their boundaries to hosts who had house rules that guests didn’t manage to follow properly.
Do not forget to read the “my home” section; this is where hosts explain how the sleeping arrangement is or if they have house rules.
5. Send a personalized couch request. Read their profiles
This is the last step: when you send your couch request!
To make an impression on your host, read their profiles until the end, looking for things you might have in common, for example, is your host a foody? You can offer to cook for them! Does your host have a hobby? You might offer to accompany them doing what they like. Show that you are interested in meeting them and not only looking for a place to crash.
Some hosts may prefer that you come and go as you wish during your stay because they’d be busy, but even in that case, be cool and offer to have conversations in the evening or whenever they have time. Remember that there is no money exchange on Couchsurfing, but hosts expect at least to feel your appreciation and gratitude.