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Couchsurfing Tip Longer Stays are Better

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador- I was recently informed that my Couchsurfing strategy was all wrong. My friend Pablo from Pablo is Here told me of a conversation that he had with a Mexican Couchsurfering host who said that he would not accept any surfers who did not intend to stay for at least a week.

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador- I was recently informed that my Couchsurfing strategy was all wrong. My friend Pablo from Pablo is Here told me of a conversation that he had with a Mexican Couchsurfering host who said that he would not accept any surfers who did not intend to stay for at least a week.

You can’t get to know anyone in two days was his logic.

Pablo then told me that up until that point he was requesting to stay in people’s homes when traveling in Mexico for only a day or two, and most of his requests just met an endless stream of rejection emails.  After having the conversation with the host who said that he does not accept short term Couchsurfers, Pablo began requesting longer stays.

“I now tell hosts that I am a slow traveler and that I want to stay for two weeks minimum and a month maximum.”

It worked. By saying that he wanted to stay for longer durations of time, he found that his acceptance rate soared. He now had no difficulties finding places to Couchsurf, and traveled in this way across Mexico and Guatemala, staying with people for up to a month at a time.

Couchsurfing tip -- request longer stays

This story made me realize that my CS strategy was also flawed, that I, too, have been requesting too short of stays. It makes sense: not only is it difficult to get to know someone in a day or two, but it is work for a host to pick you up, show you around, get you comfortable in their home, get comfortable around you — it takes time for a stranger to become a friend.

Couchsurf stays of a couple of days means that a stranger enters a place and a stranger leaves — and the couch you surf becomes more like a cold hostel bunk than a place where you exchange a part of yourself for a piece of another person.

Who wants a stranger creeping around their home? How can you trust someone who wants to use the place that you live as a hotel? Why would you want to invest time into a person who only wants to be around you for a day or two?

Why would I want a stranger sleeping in my home? I had to ask myself after having this conversation with Pablo. If I had a home, would I rather have a plethora of people accessing it through a revolving door, or would I prefer to have one or two people stay for a length of time that I could actually become friends with them, who I could feel comfortable around, who I could be more sure that I could trust, people who could teach me a few things, show me a real part of themselves, guests who I could have conversations with beyond the surface basics?

I had to admit that I would prefer the later.

The Couchsurfing road has been a little labor intensive for me:  finding hosts, getting to their homes, and getting settled just to leave in a day or two was a little too much work to make it really worthwhile. The top heaviness of my previous Couchsurfing strategy was just a little too much, I became aware that I would rather just pay for accommodation than put an hour or two every day into finding a successive string of CS hosts. But if I could stay for a place for a month, that would mean that I would not need to send out another CS request for a couple of weeks, and the labor intensiveness of the strategy would diminish greatly: the labor time/ money saved ratio would tip in favor of Couchsurfing.

I previously thought that requesting stays of only a couple of nights would be preferable to my hosts — I did not want to impose. But now my opinion is different, it now seems as if it may be a better Couchsurfing strategy to request longer stays, to have a real look around the places where my hosts live, and to make some real friends.

I will take Pablo’s tip: the next time I look for a Couchsurfing host my request letter will be more like:

I travel slow, can I stay for a month?

Travel Tips

Filed under: Accommodation, Travel Tips

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 88 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3411 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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15 comments… add one

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  • The Longest Way Home April 11, 2010, 12:25 am

    Hi Wade,

    This is a very good point. I tried couch surfing and failed miserably. It ended up with me paying out more than a hostel, due to thank you meals to the host. And, if not in the city transport.

    Longer stay’s might be better.

    BTW, sorry for the delay in your story. Power outages in The Philippines set me back a few weeks. Interview series on inspirational travel only started last week.

    Sorry for the rush here, fighting to get all done before a brown out.

    Hope you 3 are well,

    Dave

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com April 11, 2010, 11:13 am

      Dave,

      This is a very good point about Couchsurfing: do the residual costs for transportation (often hosts only give “taxi” directions, thank you meals, and friendly beers add up to more than a hostel bed?

      How much money to I really save if my host likes to take me out to fancy bars or if we “throw in” for food that is far beyond my budget?

      I suppose it depends on the country, and circumstance.

      There have been times where I did the math and realized that staying with a CS host was just as expensive as staying in a hostel, then there has been times where I was able to save a lot of money.

      Though it is always guaranteed that I am going to meet people when Couchsurfing, and often times you will make friends and come away with stories that I would not have under other circumstances — which is something that a price cannot really be placed on.

      Thanks,

      Wade

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  • craig | travelvice.com April 11, 2010, 11:29 am

    Speaking from experience, it’s going to be a bit different for Pablo as a single male and you two + baby. It takes so much effort to relocate and setup with a child in tow that I generally didn’t accept hosts that had a 1 or 2 night max limit. After 9 non-stop months of host-to-host surfing, I’d say that we most often felt like it was our time to be moving along just before the two-week mark (when things were at their best). We probably had an average surfing session of around 5-7 days.

    Thing is, when you’re there with a baby and two adults you make a very large impact on the household — positive or negative, your presence is undeniable. At some point you basically just want to give your hosts their home/lifestyle back.

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com April 11, 2010, 4:17 pm

      Good points, Craig,

      Imagine that it would be incredibly different Couchsurfing with an entire family as far as impacting hosts.

      I often don’t use CS very much for more personal reasons — I like to have my own space, privacy, and don’t really like living on other people’s schedules — this entry was more about Couchsurfing in a more theoretical sense.

      For a single traveler, do you think that this tip stands? What is your opinion, do you think that it would be better to request longer rather than shorter stays?

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      • craig | travelvice.com April 11, 2010, 10:57 pm

        I read the profiles pretty hard and look at the surfing history of the people who’ve left feedback. The system is setup so that you can see how long most people stay, and from that assess about how long the normal duration is a visitor sticks around.

        Of course, this is all before you ever make contact. I’d say if you find profiles with lots of guests that’ve stayed beyond 10 days, you too are in luck. However, most CSers aren’t like this, and tend to surf-and-dump hosts pretty fast — so you can’t always judge on their previous hosting experiences.

        I think it’s very much appropriate to state that you’re moving slowly, but hosts often times will also look at your history to see just how long you’re staying, too. I’ve had hosts that have said “I see you’ve been staying with folks for a week or two — just know that I can only host for 2 or 3 nights.”

        Lesson is: Make a habit of staying with the hosts you’d like to attract yourself.

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        • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com April 13, 2010, 10:53 pm

          Good points, Craig. You truly are the master as far as Couchsurfing is concerned.

          Thanks,

          Wade

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  • Jason April 15, 2010, 6:46 pm

    Hey, Wade, thanks for a great post. I’ve surfed only domestically and have never done more than 3 nights and never hosted more than 2 nights. I do a thank you meal for longer stays and a small gift for shorter ones depending on the person.

    I am going to start considering longer stays both in my own future (and domestic) travels and hosting.

    Jason/HappyJ

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com April 15, 2010, 8:59 pm

      Hello Jason,

      This seems like a good strategy, but, as Craig says, it is good to look at hosts previous history and maybe try to match it.

      Have fun, man, if you are surfing anywhere near us send a note and we will meet up.

      Thanks,

      Wade

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  • Pam October 27, 2011, 4:16 pm

    I think I have the opposite problem. Every time I’ve made a request to stay more than a week I’ve gotten ignored or outright denied. I have yet to have a successful stay through couchsurfing. The closest I’ve ever gotten were three “almosts,” in places I later decided against going to. My experience is that no host wants to be bothered with anyone for more than three days, as was pointedly told to me by New York hosts. The length of time varies, in the Midwest and in other out-of-the-way places where most tourists don’t go, people are more hospitable. But then they wonder why you want to stay so long (two or three weeks?) in their little “nothing” town. It’s a no-win situation. It’s frustrating.

    It’s a catch-22 situation. I’ve tried asking for a week and gotten replies that implied I’d asked for ONE DAY; as if they hadn’t been able to read with any comprehension. Mostly I’ve found people to be more hospitable to weeks-long stays out in boondock areas where there’s nothing to spend a whole week seeing, like California’s “gold country.” I’ve been told that the reason for this is that in popular areas, and the times being what they are, hosts are afraid of people staying long-term because they may never leave. That two weeks might turn into two years or something along those lines.

    There’s also the catch-22 of having no verified references on my couchsurfing profile because I’ve never been able to successfully couchsurf through that website. That’s like every other catch-22 in life. No way out of it.

    I’m a single female, so I don’t see how anyone could be afraid of me, except for my race. I’m Native American so I get a lot of doors slammed in my face even though I bend over backwards trying to convince people that I don’t do any of the things people don’t want done in their homes, i.e. smoke/drink/do drugs/have overnight guests/stay out late and party/etc.

    My experiences of trying to couch surf are: damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

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    • Wade Shepard October 29, 2011, 3:32 pm

      Hello,

      I highly doubt your problems with CS is because you are Native American, but more than likely because you are from the USA and are looking for host in this country. From my experience, CS hosts are far more interested in hosting foreigners rather than their own country people — and this goes the same for everywhere. I highly doubt my hosts in many countries would of had any interest in hosting me if I was from their country.

      All I can say is keep at it, get involved on the message boards, and try to use CS more when traveling abroad.

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  • Rob October 31, 2011, 6:13 am

    Whilst living in Australia (Perth) myself and some aussie friends flew to sydney to travel around the east coast. A handful of times owner wouldn’t let my friends stay in hostels as they were australian. I can perhaps understand hostels in perth not letting perthites stay there but not when they are in sydney, 4 hours flight away from home.

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    • Wade Shepard October 31, 2011, 11:45 am

      This is true all over. Many hostels don’t allow people from their country stay — even in the USA many hostels require Americans to show a passport before checking in. Funny stuff. I suppose it is a measure to deter theft or something. But I guess hotels and hostels need to choose their clientele, whether they are shooting for foreigners or locals, but that is crazy about Australia as Perth is an entire continent away from the east coast.

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      • Rob November 2, 2011, 12:08 am

        exactly – it just sucks that it can be made more difficult for people to explore their own countries. my friends all had passports but were told that it was irrelevant as was the fact they come from a city 4 hours flight away from Sydney!

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        • Wade Shepard November 2, 2011, 1:17 am

          That is nuts, man. I guess city parks can prove more accommodating.

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