I’ve been using CouchSurfing for a long time now. Initially to host people as they came in to Mumbai and now that I’m on my own travel adventure, I’m using it to meet and stay with people in the towns and cities I pass through, so that I have a more wholesome experience at each destination, rather than a sterile hotel-and-tour encounter. This vast experience with CS has given me a lot of insights into writing couch requests and what the perfect request might look like. I hope that by sharing these with you, I will help you write better requests and get hosted wherever you may be traveling to!
The first thing I would suggest is actually to ensure you have enough time to send requests – if you think this is something you can do quickly in the 15 minutes that the cybercafe has before it shuts for siesta in Goa, you have another think coming. For those sort of situations I would actually use the emergency couch request groups that most cities have. For proper couch requests, you need to have the time to read profiles, think about what you want to say and compose something unique for each person you email.
The second thing you should do after ensuring you have enough time, is to actually read the CS tips on sending a couch request – despite all the cliched jokes, RTFM is a valuable piece of advice (google “RTFM” if you don’t know what it means!)
And now that we’ve eliminated the preparation to write requests, here are the actual things you can do while writing them:
- Keep your requests short(ish) – try and make them about three paragraphs on average – the first one is an introduction and , the second is something specific about your trip and where the host comes in and the third is reserved for anything the host might need to know, or if you’re volunteering to do something for them – cook a meal, bring a gift, whatever. I’ve found that anything longer leads to a drop-off in attention unless you’re a great writer and can keep your audience engrossed for longer. Don’t make them so brief that you lose all detail, though!
- Make sure you specify your dates up front, and clearly – this is worth repeating even though it’s in the list of tips from CouchSurfing. Burying the dates or not mentioning them at all is very confusing for a host and most hosts will not check the dates even though Couchsurfing mentions them on the dashboard.
- The best time to send a couch request is anywhere between 2 weeks to 4 days before you need to be hosted. Anything more than that will mean your host won’t be able to confirm because really – when was the last time you knew what you were doing 2 weeks in advance?
- While a lot of people will try and send out mass emails to many people (even if they take the time to personalize each request) I find that success usually lies in reading the prospective host’s profile and trying to find someone who more closely matches your interests, rather than just emailing everyone who has a bunch of references.
If you have any other specific request tips as well, please do share them in the comments section!