|Photo of a homestay outside of Jodhupur by travelwayoflife via Flickr|
Visiting another country doesn't always mean you have to feel like a visitor. Thanks to sites like Airbnb and CouchSurfing, international homestays are helping travelers connect with the culture by blending in and living like a local.
The Pluses of Homestays
Traveling in a foreign country can take anyone outside of their comfort zone. However, choosing the homestay option has many perks to be considered.
- Experience day-to-day family life - If you stay in a hotel, you could be anywhere. With a homestay, you receive a glimpse into your host family's everyday life. Your host family is your expert source and may share tips on local places that you might not have heard of if you stayed in a hotel.
- Eat home-cooked meals - Many homestays come with meals included. Enjoying authentic home cooking can save you money for other activities.
- Practice language skills - Whether you're nearly fluent in the local language or you only know three words, a homestay lets you practice speaking in the local tongue.
- Save money - When amenities such as laundry service and meals are factored in, homestays are generally cheaper than hotels. For the budget conscious, homestays can help save on your next vacation.
The Minuses of Homestays
Homestays are not for everyone, and some of the downsides may relate to your travel style.
|Photo of a homestay in Tbilisi, Georgia by Nicolai Bangsgaard via Flickr|
- Living by the rules - You may be subject to your host's house rules. Even if they don't officially enforce a curfew, you might have second thoughts about returning late and making noise. You won't have the same personal space as you would in a hotel. You may also feel dependent on your hosts for food, directions and cultural education.
- Less than desirable location - While hotels may be in the city center, a homestay is more likely to be on the outskirts of town. You might need to take a train or bus to the city center, and your out-of-the-way location might make it harder to connect with other travelers. As a foreigner in a remote location, you might be a target for thieves and pickpockets. An identity protection service such as Lifelock.com can offer 24/7 security – no matter what country you're in. Scores of jobs at Lifelock will be responsible for monitoring your identity and alerting you of any suspicious activity.
- Picking up after yourself - If you're the type to explore all day, come home to sleep and then hit the town again, a homestay may not be for you. It's generally appreciated if you clean up after yourself, make the bed and spend time with your hosts.
- Interacting with hosts - Depending on how you connect with your hosts this can be a pro or con. Some travelers enjoy getting to know other people, while some may find it an inconvenience to their vacation. If you suspect you'll be worn out from the forced interaction, stay in a hotel room. Getting to know strangers is hard enough. With a homestay, throw in the language barrier and lack of commonality and it can turn any vacation into hard work.