Travelling to another part of the world in undoubtedly and incredible experience however it can also feel quite lonely. You get to see these amazing cultures, foods and people but it can all too often make you feel like an outsider looking in. This is something I personally have felt a lot when doing solo travel trips.
For many people the simple fix to this problem is a hostel and yes, they are amazing. a bustling house filled with people just like you who are experiencing very similar emotions. people who you clearly have a lot in common with because you’ve met in a hostel in a foreign country you both independently chose to visit.
Today I am here to tell you that a hostel is not the only option!
You could instead stay in a regular home filled with genuine local residents from the place you are visiting, people who are keen to share the real culture of the town and also want to learn about you.
The first homestay I ever got to experience was in a small village called Bario in the Kellabit Highlands on the border between Malaysian and Indonesian Borneo. It was in a big farmhouse style building owned by a couple called Nancy and Harris. Each morning my group could have breakfast and coffee on the porch while watching rolling clouds kiss the tops of jungle covered mountains. It was bliss and may well be one of my favourite places in the world. I was introduced to members of the community, went to celebrations with them and felt like I was a part of genuine cultural exchange. If I had of stayed somewhere else, this would not have been the case.
So What is a homestay?
A homestay is pretty self explanatory, unlike a hostel or bed and breakfast that exists mainly for the visitors to live there and then probably has a separate quarters for the staff or owners, a homestay has very few guests staying in a families or individuals own personal house or flat. Generally you can expect to have your own bed but there is also the option of couchsurfing which is a website and community designed to connect you with someone with a free place to sleep.
Where can I find one?
There are homestays everywhere, in any big city in the world there will be someone proud of their culture wanting to share it with you. In order to find these people a simple google search will bring up loads of tripadvisor recommendations. There are also plenty of homestay websites you can browse through. If you haven’t already, you should 100% sign up for couchsurfing and be a part of the travel community in your local area.
Although many people wouldn’t consider it the same as a homestay, there are loads of amazing airbnb hosts that deliver the same experience.
So really its best to just shop around and find a homestay experience that suits you.
Is it safe?
You might feel a bit uncomfortable staying and sleeping in the house of somebody you only know as round photo and bio on the internet and that is perfectly understandable. I have never had issues with homestays as a solo male traveller however people in different positions may feel uneasy.
With services like airbnb it is easy to find a trusted host with high ratings and good reviews. Thanks to the internet you can see how people of a similar social demographic felt at a particular homestay. If you still feel uncomfortable I do know that some homestays cater for women or lgbt+ guests only if that was something you were looking for.
How much will it cost?
This is sort of the same as asking how much a hotel will cost, there are a lot of factors like, where in the world you will be staying, how nice the accommodation is, if meals are included and a whole host of other commonsense elements.
The best part is that homestays can also be free. Sometimes they are a part of a work exchange on a farm for example or you could just be hosted by someone who values the company and wants to meet people from all over the world.
Anything else to keep in mind?
If after reading this blog, you are thinking about a homestay for your next trip abroad, keep in mind to be respectful and giving. your host is not a server or your staff. I always try and give a little something back. Cook a meal, teach them some language. At the very least pick up a tab at a par one night.
If this has inspired you to stay in a homestay let me know in the comments. I would love to hear your homestay stories as well as any more advice or info I may have missed. If you liked this post then I would really appreciate you checking out some more or sharing the blog with friends.