In recent years social travel networks have become increasingly popular, largely thanks to a rising interest in experiential and responsible tourism. Travellers are looking for new ways to engage with local communities and delve into the heart of a country’s culture.
One of the best ways to gain a genuine insight into your destination is to opt for a homestay. Offering something a night in a hotel can never provide, they give you a real experience of local life, connect you with like-minded people and can provide a vital source of revenue in struggling economies.
Here are just a few reasons to consider a homestay next time you travel:
Homestays provide the chance to get to know a destination you probably wouldn't have explored otherwise. Not only could you find a neighbourhood, town, or village yet to feature on the tourist map, but you'll learn about local customs and traditions, from eating habits to family routines.
Sprawling metropolises such as Paris, New York, Rome and London might count among the world's greatest cities – but they're hard to get to grips with in a weekend. Stay with a resident, and you'll have the ultimate insider to guide you.
Hosts will give you the scoop on the hidden highlights and unusual attractions. They might tip you off on the best place to watch the sunrise, share their favourite cosy café, or help you find the city's coolest bar scene.
Many hosts will rustle up a traditional meal, or include breakfast in the price of the room. Take this opportunity to sample authentic dishes – a homemade miso soup in Japan or fresh arancini in Italy could give any restaurant a run for its money.
If you want to put your own culinary skills to the test, offer to help out and you'll likely head home with a new recipe or two up your sleeve. You could even cook a traditional dish from your own country to share with your host, making the experience one of genuine cultural exchange.
Hanging out with a resident means ample chance to practise your language skills. Many hosts inevitably speak English, but will happily support you as you learn. This is a great chance for you to gain a better understanding of the local language, and pick up some new phrases.
Homestays will give you better value for money than most hotels, making that once-in-a-lifetime trip all the more affordable.
This feature was sponsored by Homestay.com; all content is editorially independent.
Top image © July Prokopiv/Shutterstock
Raised bilingually in London and Turin,