Staying in hotels is the most popular way to sleep at night while you travel. But if you want to make it more interesting, not just to spend the night “somehow”, you can turn your place to sleep into a kind of travel destination. For example, you can use the opportunity to get close to the local people and their daily life. And you can do it by staying in a home accommodation, in local people’s home.
To sleep in someone’s home during a trip
Yes, usually, most of the tourists don’t have this idea. How could we visit a city or a village and sleep in someone’s home? The first thing that comes to mind is finding a hotel. Of course, I don’t exclude hotels when I plan my itineraries, but I found that if I am open to more options, it can bring more exciting colors to my trip.
Again, sleeping in a local people’s home can contribute to your journey, especially if the host is there. Yes, it takes a bit from your privacy, although you normally would still sleep in your own room that the host gives you for the night. But the fact that you enter the “host’s world” makes this place not just a place to spend the night, but a kind of another travel destination.
If the host is also there, you can have dinner with him and his family, he can share a lot about his daily life, habits, probably some local politics, some local traditions and way of thinking, and more. You can share the same from your country and hometown. But even if he is not there, you still can see his property, his furniture, interior style, and many other details that can “talk” a lot.
Types of home accommodation
So, let’s define “home accommodation”. This is when you sleep in someone’s own, private home. The host can be or can be not there, but he (she) gives you a private room with a shared (or sometimes even private) toilet and bathroom. If the host is not there, you normally can stay in his (her) whole apartment.
Pay for stay
This is the most common type of home accommodation- you sleep in someone’s home and pay him for that. Let’s get into detail.
Guesthouse vs home accommodation
Home accommodation is different than a guesthouse. The guesthouse is a private “mini-hotel”, owned by a host, but it is exclusively made for tourists. Usually, the guesthouses have their own restaurant or canteen, or other facilities. All the furniture, everything inside is like in a hotel.
But if you are in a private apartment, even if the host is not there it is still a home accommodation, not a guesthouse. You can see the host’s own furniture, books that he (she) likes to read, photos of their family on the wall- you are just in a normal home.
This is the most popular way of home accommodation. In short, this is when a host of a home (apartment) offers it to tourists and they pay in exchange- per room or per person per night. And it can be for short-term (a day, two or more, but not too long), or for long-term (at least a month, several months, a year, even several years).
And of course, the host has to offer his property for staying at night, and travelers have to find him. There are various ways to do it, but most commonly, it is from a website (homestays search platform) or just by real, material ads on the street. Sometimes hosts even personally stay on the street, at bus terminals or railway stations, waiting for the coming tourists. And sometimes, this is the only way for you to find them and they find you.
This is when the hosts offer their private rooms for tourists but only during the high season. It often happens at the sea coasts in countries with moderate climates. These sea coasts are full of visitors in summer, but during the other seasons, they are empty. So, there is nobody to offer accommodation.
Let’s take a look at some websites (platforms) for finding homestays because usually, this is the only way to reserve a home accommodation in advance.
This is the most popular platform for finding homestays in the world. Many owners register in the Airbnb system as hosts and offer a room or a whole apartment for travelers. In their registration, they describe the conditions of their property- location, facilities, car parking availability, host’s rules, and more.
You search across Airbnb, find a proper place to sleep and the system requires you to contact the owner in advance- this is safer for you and for the host. Then, you pay for your accommodation in advance too, and just wait for the day you go there.
However, Airbnb is not only for normal homestays, but you still can find more properties like guesthouses and even small hotels.
Airbnb doesn’t lead you to all homestays in a city. Many hosts don’t register in Airbnb, but only on local websites. This is especially true for seasonal homestays. Their hosts don’t want to register in Airbnb just for summer, then cancel their offers when the season is over. Instead, it would be much more convenient just to register on local seasonal websites.
The local websites can provide seasonal or permanent homestays. To find them, you just have to search in Google, writing the country and the city you want to stay. However, it can be more difficult if they just register on local websites with local language. Also, the non-Airbnb home accommodations are usually a bit cheaper than Airbnb’s.
Find a home accommodation only when you arrive
This can’t be reserved in advance, unless you have already been there, have gotten the host’s phone number, and have called him (her). But usually, you arrive in a city (village)’s bus or railway station, and several hosts “attack” you offering a room.
Some of them probably would also register their property on a local website, while others would not. Normally, you would accept their offer only if you can’t find anything else, or if you just haven’t searched anything but just go there with the hope of good luck.
Other types of home accommodation- exchange
In these types of accommodation, you exchange something different than money for your stay in an owner’s home: work, your own home, or just a company. But for this, you have to become a member of society. This is because such an exchange requires more trust between the hosts and the guests.
House and Pet Sitting
This is accommodation for work. You go to a host’s home and in exchange, you work some work. The work is just to manage his (her) apartment while he (she) is not there or to care for the host’s pets. And since in this case, you would not live together with your host, you can just experience his (her) home life.
However, this usually works for long-term stays, unless the host is absent just for a day or two. But in such cases, normally, he (she) would not need your service.
To use this way of accommodation, you have to register on Trust Home Sitters and find the best home there.
In this type of accommodation, you exchange your home for someone else’s home. So, again, you have to join a platform where you have to register your home. Then, you can go to another country, sleep in an apartment that you would find, and your host has the full right to sleep in your home if he (she) visits your country and city.
In this case, you would more likely to spend an evening with your host, and next time your host with you in return. And the stay can be short or long term. To use this service, you have to become a member of the societies in one of these two sites: Home Exchange and Home For Exchange.
This is very popular recently. People who own a home in the Couch Surfing society offer their properties to travelers for free. And in exchange, they don’t demand your money, your home, or your work. They would like just your company and to share each other’s experience.
It is almost like you are just a natural guest of the owner, and you can arrange it in advance. Both you and the host are members of the Couch Surfing society, and its system guarantees enough trust and reliability. There are also two other similar societies you can join and try- Hospitality Club and Warm Showers.
Being a natural guest
This is exactly what it sounds like and what used to be the normal practice in ancient times, before the existence of hotels and other accommodations. In fact, there was no tourism centuries ago. People used to travel for trade, for work, for war, or for a mission. Even the travelers were sent on expeditions by kings, not by a travel company or independent.
And the independent travelers- traders or missionaries had to find a place to stay at night by themselves, without reservations, unless by letters or messengers in advance. The first types of accommodation were inns and caravanserais, built along the roads, providing shelter and food for travelers and their horses, probably first invented by the Romans.
But apart from this, travelers (or strangers) had to spend the night in a tent, on the naked ground, or in someone’s home if they are in a city or a village. This “someone” should be just a local who has enough mercy to open his house. That’s why many cultures have developed this virtue of hospitality for strangers.
The virtue of hospitality
Fortunately, this virtue is still alive in many parts of the world, especially in more remote and off-the-beaten-path places. Yes, it is less likely for a backpacker to be invited to an apartment in New York or London. But if he or she goes to a mountain village in Chad, Myanmar, or Bolivia, it is quite possible.
Of course, you can’t “reserve” a local’s home in advance. The only way is to go to the local’s settlement, talk with the locals, make friends, and eventually someone invites you. In most cultures, they would not require anything in return, however, a gift, a little money, or at least a little help would be greatly appreciated.
An apartment in a city
This is rare, but still possible in some countries. Unfortunately, in our modern world trust between humans is low, and it is very difficult to find someone who would open his apartment for a completely unknown stranger.
But it is still possible if you meet your hypothetical host in a restaurant, a bar, or another “social” place, or if you help him (her) with something. In such situations, you can become friends, and eventually, he (she) would invite you to sleep in his (her) home.
Of course, everything is based on mutual trust- you don’t know your host, and your host doesn’t know you, so, there might be some risk (especially for solo female travelers who find a male host), and it is a matter of risk estimation.
A house in a village
Usually, people in villages are more open to strangers, especially in villages without any hotel, guesthouse, or other “official” accommodation. If there is, most probably they would redirect you to such a place, but if there isn’t, they would be more ready to invite you in their house.
I am sorry to say it, but in my experience, villagers from poorer countries or just more offbeat and remote places are more open for travelers.
An exotic home
It can be a nomad’s yurt in the grasslands of Mongolia or Tibet, or in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Or, it can be a wooden or straw-made hut in the jungles of Congo, Papua, or Amazonia. If you are in the Arctic, it could be an igloo in the Inuit’s lands- Canada or Greenland.
Needless to say, it is highly unlikely for “normal” tourists to spend the night in such places (unless they are specially designed for tourists, like “glamping”), but more adventurous travelers who dare to penetrate deeper into the jungle, in the mountain or in another wild place could find a shelter like this.
Of course, this also deals with human relationships. These remote people- nomads, tribes are usually quite hospitable and in most cases, they would accept strangers. They know that the environment they live in is harsh. Also, they can usually provide only basic shelter. You should respect them as they respect you. And this could be an unforgettable experience that leaves positive impressions of a lifetime.
Again- sleeping in someone’s home is not just to spend the night, but a cultural destination, a cultural experience. It requires responsibility and the most important human virtues. And in return, you get not only a unique kind of comfort for the night, but you can build a unique friendship.
Check some travel books about planning a trip!
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Hi, we are Krasen and Ying Ying. Krasen is from Bulgaria, and Ying Ying is from China. We are passionate about geography and history, and we believe that the best way to experience it is by exploring the Earth in reality, not in a school, and not virtually.
So, we created this blog Journey Beyond the Horizon, where we share geographical knowledge, travel guides and tips how to experience it when you explore our planet, and a lot of inspiration.
And we wish you a happy journey, not just virtually, but most of all- in reality.