Homestays are a type of accommodation where visitors stay in a local person’s home while traveling. This can vary from a private room in a family home to a separate dwelling on the same property. They’re offered in many parts of the world and are an alternative to traditional accommodations like hotels, hostels, or rental apartments, and are a great way to get a firsthand experience of local culture and lifestyle.
Let’s learn a bit about why you should consider a homestay while traveling, and how to find the right accommodation during your trip!
Benefits of Homestays
There are a lot of fantastic reasons to consider a homestay—from learning about your destination’s culture more intimately, to saving money, to making new friends:
Homestays are particularly beneficial because they provide an authentic experience that can be difficult to replicate with other types of accommodations. Your host family lives the culture daily, and through them, you gain a unique insight into the local customs, traditions, food, and lifestyle. This could mean observing or participating in everyday practices like preparing a traditional meal, celebrating local festivals, or even engaging in family routines. It’s essentially a live-in cultural exchange program, and the cultural insights you gain from this immersion are invaluable.
If you’re in a country where a different language is spoken, staying in a homestay can provide a practical, everyday environment to practice and improve your language skills. This kind of immersion learning is often far more effective than studying in a classroom because you’re applying the language in real time to communicate and engage with your hosts. This not only improves your proficiency but also your confidence in speaking a new language.
Homestays often cost less than hotels or rental apartments. This is especially beneficial for long-term travel or for budget-conscious travelers. The cost of a homestay usually includes not just the room but also utilities, and sometimes meals and laundry services. Plus, hosts can often advise where to find inexpensive local meals or attractions, further helping you manage your budget.
One of the most unique aspects of homestays is the chance to build meaningful personal connections with your hosts. You’re not just a customer at a hotel; you’re a guest in someone’s home. This setting often encourages more interaction and the formation of a bond that can last even after your travels are over. Hosts can give you insider tips on what to see and do in the area, provide assistance in case of emergencies, and make your stay more comfortable and memorable. These relationships can add a whole new dimension to your travel experience, making it not just about the places you see, but also about the people you meet.
Platforms for Finding and Booking Homestays
Several online platforms facilitate finding and booking homestays, with a few including:
- Airbnb: One of the most popular platforms, Airbnb lists homestays along with other types of accommodations worldwide. It provides pictures, descriptions, user reviews, and the opportunity to communicate directly with the host before booking.
- Homestay.com: This platform is specifically focused on homestays, connecting guests with local hosts in over 160 countries. It also offers comprehensive information about each stay, host profiles, and guest reviews.
- Local Homestay Associations: Depending on your destination, there may be local homestay associations or regional websites that list homestays. These can provide more localized options and are especially useful in areas where larger international platforms may have fewer listings.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Homestay
While researching different homestay options, you’ll want to make sure that you get the most from your experience—here are a few ways to get started with narrowing down your choices:
- Location: Consider the location of the homestay in relation to the places you want to visit. Is it convenient for sightseeing? Is it close to public transportation? Is the neighborhood safe, especially if you plan to return late at night?
- Reviews: Reviews from previous guests are a valuable source of information. They can provide insight into what it’s like to stay with the host, the accommodation’s cleanliness and comfort, the host’s friendliness, and more. Look for homestays with many positive reviews.
- Facilities: Different homestays offer different facilities. Some might provide a private bathroom, access to a kitchen, free wifi, or laundry services. Consider what amenities are important to you and choose a homestay that meets those needs. Remember to also check if there are any extra charges for these facilities.
- Host Interaction: The level of interaction with the host can vary significantly between homestays. Some hosts are very involved, providing meals, guiding tours, or chatting with guests. Others may simply provide a key and leave you to your own devices. Consider your preferences for social interaction when choosing a homestay.
And remember that communication is key. Don’t hesitate to ask your prospective hosts any questions that come up while you’re considering their homestay. This will not only help clarify your expectations, but also give you a chance to get a sense of the host’s responsiveness and willingness to assist, which can be very telling for how your stay might go.
Managing Expectations Between Your Hosts and Yourself
Managing expectations in a homestay is essential to ensure a positive and mutually respectful relationship between you and your host. Here’s a deeper look into some of the areas you should consider:
Before you book a homestay, initiate a conversation with your prospective host. Ask questions about anything that needs to be clarified in the listing. You could inquire about things like internet reliability if you’ll be working remotely, ask whether you’ll have your own set of keys for independent access, or clarify whether breakfast is included and what it typically consists of. If you have dietary restrictions or allergies, it’s important to communicate these as well. This discussion can help you gauge whether the homestay will meet your needs and whether the host seems responsive and accommodating.
Privacy levels can vary significantly in homestays. Some hosts may offer a private room with a private bathroom, while others might offer a room in a shared home with shared living spaces. Make sure you understand the setup before you book, and that it aligns with your comfort level.
Meal and Amenities
If meals are part of the homestay package, discuss what they will consist of and at what times they’ll be served. If you’re expected to prepare your own meals, inquire about the kitchen facilities and any rules around their use. Also, clarify what other amenities are included, such as laundry, wifi, and access to shared spaces.
Understanding and respecting the house rules is crucial. These can include rules about guests, quiet hours, cleanliness, and use of shared spaces. Make sure you’re comfortable with these rules before you book, as breaking them can cause discomfort and conflict.
Some hosts might enjoy socializing with their guests, while others might prefer more distance. Be clear about your preferences and try to gauge the level of interaction the host expects. Open communication can help find a middle ground that works for both parties.
Don’t assume flexibility in check-in and check-out times. Make sure to discuss this ahead of time, especially if you have early or late flights.
Understand what to do in case of an emergency. Ask the host about the location of fire extinguishers and first aid kits, and what to do in case of a health emergency or natural disaster.
The best homestay experiences are built on mutual respect and open communication. As a guest, you’re part of a shared living space, so being considerate of your host’s time, privacy, and property is essential. And on the flip side, hosts should also respect your needs and ensure they’re providing a safe, comfortable environment for you to stay in.
Have you had the chance to do a homestay while traveling? Share your experience and advice with the Frayed Passport community!
Featured image by Tierra Mallorca on Unsplash