To engage with local people and delve into the heart of a country’s culture, staying at a family homestay is the way to go. This gives you things that a night in a hotel can never provide. You get to see the real side of the place, experience local life and connect with like-minded people. Staying in a homestay can also help provide a vital source of revenue in struggling economies. In particular, your hostesses benefit hugely, not only from the additional cash but from enhanced self-esteem and the opportunity to learn new skills. Here are some very good reasons why you should choose to stay in a homestay.
To understand a place better
If you want to better understand what makes a place tick, staying with a family even for just a few days can give you that insight. Staying with a local, you will experience a much more authentic side to the place. They too learn from you. Exchanging ideas is a great way to learn.
Explore somewhere new
Homestays give you the chance to get to know a destination better. The homestays you can find in Nepal are not in the most famous places. Although they are in slightly more off the beaten track, they are all in fascinating places that you might not have thought of going to otherwise. From Ilam in the far east (famous for its tea) to Bardia in the far west (reknowned for its tigers), there are homestays now stretching all the way across Nepal. By visiting these lesser-known places, your money goes further and helps local economies.
Wherever you go, your hosts will prepare traditional meals. Even if dal bhat is the national favourite, it is guaranteed to be different wherever you go. Depending where you are staying there is also a wide range of specialties, local to the different ethnic groups. In particular, look out for the very particular Newar or Tharu dishes. And if you want to put your own culinary skills to the test, offer to help out or ask your hosts to teach you how to cook like a local.
Hotels cannot compete when it comes to that friendly home-away-from-home experience. You might not have so much luxury at a homestay, but they make up for this by their welcome. You are made to feel at home and part of the family. If you’re travelling on your own, you will always find someone to share your experiences with, and who wants to hear about your day.
Support the local economy
Tourism may be one of the biggest industries in the world, but the money frequently doesn’t filter down into the local economy. Staying at a homestay, you know that a significant proportion of the money you spend is going straight into the pocket of an individual or community, rather than middlemen or multinational chains. The beneficial trickle-down effect of your money spent in the local economy has much greater impact and helps poor communities.
Understanding new cultures
How were you expected to know that pointing the soles of your feet towards someone is considered rude, or that you should not say no to having your cup topped up with tea in a Sherpa’s home? Staying with a family can be a way to find out these kinds of things in a fun way. Your hosts will be most than happy to explain the intricacies of their customs and local culture. Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions! And be ready to answer questions from your hosts, too.
Homestays will always give you much better value than hotels, helping to make that once-in-a-lifetime trip all the more affordable. You’ll have your own space, but at affordable prices. At the same time, it is important to understand that you are staying in someone’s home, so not everything will be perfect.
Exchange of ideas
Staying in a very different and poor country can be quite a culture shock. Although by staying in a homestay you can appreciate how your life is very different, you will also see where you have things in common. There’s nothing better than swapping ideas with your hosts.
The nature of homestays means you have already got something in common with your hosts. They also love meeting new people. When you stay with a local you will have the chance to make friends that give you a very good excuse to return.
Learn a bit of the language
Staying with a local means that if you want to learn some of the language you have an excellent opportunity to practice. Your hosts will always be very keen to practice their English with you!