¨Perhaps home is not a place, but simply an irrevocable condition.¨
Homestays: What Exactly Are They?
Note: the term homestay in Asia does not have the same meaning as used in this post. Instead, most are small inns and bed-and-breakfast establishments where there are several guest rooms available. In many other parts of the world, these types of small inns are called guesthouses.
Homestays are similar to hospitality exchanges, except that travelers pay families to put them up in a room in the host’s home.
In Latin America and often in Europe, almost all learning and volunteer vacations offer students or volunteers the chance to stay with local families as part of their programs. Most of the time in Latin America, the families also provide two to three meals a day.
Language schools usually encourage students to stay with a local family to practice the language in a real-life setting. Sometimes, students wait for several months while they are volunteering or studying in another country.
My Experience with Homestays
I love staying in local people’s homes, and it is, by far, my favorite accommodation option.
Homestays are the only accommodation that has played a substantial role in my life. Through homestays, I have met a girlfriend and forged other close friendships worldwide, and have gotten a chance to see daily life for people in other countries. Homestays also helped me learn Spanish, French, Italian, and Russian.
I have stayed in 25 different homestays in Latin America, Europe, and Canada. In total, I have spent almost a year in local people’s homes. The rooms are usually comfortable (though mainly in Latin America, sometimes the furniture and beds are not very fancy or comfortable) and, especially in Latin America, the food is ample.
However, sometimes the homestays are luxurious. For example, I had a lovely room and private bathroom in a spacious and elegant 15th-century apartment in Venice, Italy. In Siena, Italy, I stayed in a fourth-floor gigantic apartment (with ample space to myself) with a balcony overlooking an olive orchard and the old town.
While I love homestays, they are not always the most fun or comfortable experiences. I have had the following ¨bad¨ experiences:
- Stayed in some pretty small and not very comfortable homes. I have never been so cold as I was during a three-week homestay in May, winter in the Southern Hemisphere, in Cuzco, Peru. (Yet, the host family was kind and hospitable).
- Spent five weeks in Milan, Italy, with a woman who I never really learned to like very much. She would go on hour-long diatribes about fake news stories in rapid speed Italian without ever hearing a word of my conversations.
For the most part, I stayed in homestays with local families as a part of a language or volunteer program. The language and volunteer programs are arranged with local families to provide students or volunteers with meals and a room. Most importantly, a chance to get to know locals while learning their language. Usually, I paid half for the homestay with meals than I would have paid for a small hotel room.
Since most homestays are for students or volunteers, it is rare to see Fifty-Plus Nomads in these accommodations. I have stayed with several families who had over a hundred guests over many years, and most told me that I was one of only a couple of guests over the age of 25.
Homestays Around the World
In Asia, homestays, like the ones described in this section, are difficult to arrange. Occasionally, in Asia, tourists can stay with tribal groups for a couple of days. In some countries, like Japan, you may also stay with a local family as a part of a language program. However, when I studied Thai, I could not find any accommodations with local families.
In the US and Western Europe, many people offer an opportunity for a guest to stay in a “home-like” environment; however, most of these situations have several rooms for rent available, and the owners may or may not live on the premises. Sometimes, there are so many rooms for rent in these facilities that they seem like hotels. (There are many different names for these types of situations in the US and Western Europe. The most common is a bed-and-breakfast (definition). In Italy, there are also agriturismos (farm vacations); France has gîtes (like bed and breakfasts).
Want to Know More About Homestays?
I love homestays; however, I am one of the few adults who regularly participate in homestays. Therefore, most of the websites with valuable tips are for college and high school kids. However, tips like these from GoOverseas are helpful for adults, too.
More Accomodation-Related Posts
- A 2004 Profile of Couchsurfing Founder Casey Felton from Fifty-Plus Nomad’s Hidden ArchivesThis blog contains an interview from October 2004 with Casey Felton, the founder of Couchsurfing. Couchsurfing is much bigger today, and Casey Felton is not associated with the organization.
- Discover 16 Top Hospitality Exchange TipsHospitality Exchanges are a great way to meet people and travel the world on a budget. I once even met a woman who spent a year traveling around Europe staying with hospitality exchange hosts and only spent $7000 on the whole trip!
- Home Swap Tips: How to Arrange Your Perfect Home ExchangeHome exchanges (also known as home swaps) seem like the perfect fit for many long-term travelers and expats. This post features tips to help you arrange the ideal home swap for you.
- Homestays (Staying with Local Families While Traveling): My Favorite Insider Accommodations For Long-Term TravelersLong-Term travelers should stay with local families in homestays, usually as part of language schools or volunteer travel programs. Homestays have made a significant impact on my life and are also highly economical.
- Tips for Expat Retirees Buying a House Abroad (Under Construction)Under construction
- Pros and Cons of Moving Your Belongings Abroad for Expat Retirees (Under Construction)Under construction
- Maggie and the Mexican Hot Sheets MotelRoberta Rich wrote this article about staying in love motels in Mexico during her annual drive from Vancouver to Colima, Mexico. She stayed in these motels because they were the only places she could find that allowed dogs.
- Travel Alliances are Essential: But Are They Worthwhile for Consumers?Travel industry alliances are essential to the business´s survival. However, alliances have both good and bad implications for consumers
- Ancillary Travel Fees: Why Are They Increasingly Becoming An Industry Lifeline?More and more the travel industry depends on the sale of other products to expand and maintain its profitability. Expect to be bombarded with hints to buy other things (ancillaries) on your next cruise, flight, etc.
- 3 Travel Industry Cost Savings Techniques: The Good, the Bad, and the UglyThe travel industry has made several changes to save costs in recent times. Some like using more fuel-efficient planes do not affect consumers that much. Others like reducing staff have made the experience worse for consumers.
- Business Travelers Versus Leisure Travelers: The Ultimate Airline ShowdownThe travel industry gets most of its clients from leisure travelers. However, it makes more money from business than leisure passengers. The airlines put up with us leisure travelers because they couldn’t survive without us. However, they don’t hide their preference for business travelers.
- 4 Travel Industry Consolidations (Non-Airlines): Consumer’s Nightmare or Benefactor?Probably the most significant change in the travel industry in the past couple of decades has been the industry’s rapid consolidation. Read this post to discover how few travel players really exist in the market today. and how this rapid consolidation has affected consumers.
- Why the Sharing Economy Has Become So Popular in the Travel Industry?The sharing economy like Uber and Airbnb has made a major influence on the travel industry and will continue to affect the industry far into the future.
- The 3 Reasons Travel Prices Are So Radically Different than Other Products: Perishability, Capital Costs, and Yield ManagementHave you ever wondered why travel products seem to be priced so crazily? Learn the three economic factors that contribute to the pricing of travel products: perishability, high capital costs, and yield management.