Homestays are a wonderful way to experience a new culture and even become part of a community while you are travelling. Most countries around the world offer homestay experiences either through websites, local language schools, or cultural exchange programs. Or even informal homestays through friends of friends!
My experience: Homestay in Guatemala
When I first moved to Guatemala, I headed to Xela to learn some Spanish before I started volunteer work. I had found a Spanish school online before I arrived, Kamalbe, which is a non-profit school dedicated to education and social justice. Through this school, I was matched up with a local family for a homestay while I was doing my intensive Spanish program, and I could not have been happier with my new Guatemalan family. Despite not knowing a word of Spanish when I arrived, I was welcomed into the family with open arms. By the time I left six weeks later, I was part of the family. My Guatemalan parents called me ‘Laurita’ and I was introduced to people as their daughter. I went back to visit for Semana Santa about a month after I left and I felt so happy to be back with my family. I am so grateful to them for my unforgettable experience in Guatemala and they will always be my Guatemalan family.
Couchsurfing in South Africa – Jo from Wander With Jo
One of my favourite things to do while travelling is spending quality time with locals to understand their culture and lifestyle. This can be achieved perfectly with Couchsurfing. I have met amazing people and made friends for life by living with locals and attending Couchsurfing events. However, during my recent trip to South Africa, I tried surfing with my parents for the first time. I was sceptical and had already shortlisted other accommodation options just in case things went south. It turned out to be one of the best experiences ever. We were surfing in Johannesburg and Cape Town and both of our hosts were amazing. We used to cook together, go out for dinners, and spend long hours together sipping wine and chatting. We were all touched by their hospitality and we felt so welcomed and loved. My parents loved their first homestay experience so much that they want to go back!
Homestay in Peru – Simone and Dan from The Aussie Flashpacker
A cultural highlight of my travels through Peru was our homestay experience in a small village called Raqchi, located in the Peruvian Highlands and only a few hours from Cuzco. Our homestay experience was a fantastic opportunity to immerse ourselves in and gain a deeper insight into the customs, everyday lives and traditions of Peruvian culture. We stayed in a traditional family home that was basic but very clean and decorated with beautiful pottery and lovely bright coloured embroidered linens and curtains. Each meal throughout our stay was fantastic and after dinner our families even dressed us up in traditional clothing for a local festival which included lots of dancing which was really fun! When it came time to pack our bags we sadly said our goodbyes to our lovely Peruvian mama and the friendly, generous villagers who had welcomed us into their homes and community. It was an amazing experience to be a part of the community of Raqchi and to learn about their day to day lives and to participate in their customs and traditions.
Homestay in the Philippines – Bianca from The Altruistic Traveller
I always try to stay in a homestay in every country I visit, especially through Southeast Asia because I know the kind of positive impact it can have on small local communities in that region. While I was recently in the Philippines I found a site called Philippines Homestay, which has a list of homestays available throughout the country. I chose Balicasag Island because of its remote location and was rewarded with such an unforgettable experience. Rita invited us into her traditional home on the island, cooked us amazing Filipino food and shared with us what life is like for the small community on the island. They make most of their money from fishing but the homestay program has provided them with an alternative form of income that goes a long way to providing for Rita and her family.
Homestay in Australia – Rebecca from Where To This Time
When my friend and I traveled to Australia, one of the highlights was a stop in Canberra, the capital of Australia, and the nearby Avalanche Homestead. Avalanche Homestead is in the Tinderry Mountains about 45 minutes from Canberra. There we saw, and tried, sheep-shearing, looked for wombats and kangaroos, rode horses, and went out into the bush for some billy tea and damper bread. If you want to experience Australia up close and personal and learn about life there, I highly recommend a homestay. The hosts are always gracious and can tell you things about Australia in depth that you wouldn’t ordinarily hear on a tour.
Homestay in Cuba – Joanna from The World in My Pocket
I believe that you can only experience a place if you get to know its people. This is why, when I chose to travel to Cuba, I felt very happy that I will get a chance to stay with a local family in Varadero. As soon as I arrived they welcomed me like a member of their family. It was their son’s birthday so immediately they offered me their most comfortable chair and served me with cake and juice. Every morning, they would make me a breakfast that kept me full until dinner. When a bee stung me in their garden and I started to have allergic reactions they took me to the hospital and made sure I receive the best care. When I left, they took me to the bus station and made me tea for the road, to clean my wound. I could never thank them enough for their hospitality.
Have you tried a homestay? What was your experience like?