Top 5 Destinations Around the World for Homestays

A homestay can be an incredibly rewarding experience both for the homeowners and visitors. Typically, students use homestays as safe, affordable accommodations when traveling on a tight budget. But it’s also a great way to practice language skills in a comfortable environment and receive insider information on the best areas to explore in their travel destination—homestays are especially suited to solo female travelers

  1. Yuvacali, Turkey

In Turkey’s southeast region, in the village of Yuvacali, visitors receive a raw experience of what daily life is like for local Kurdish families. Traditional life means hard work for families living here, most only survive off a few dollars a day. Though struggling financially, these families offer a culturally rich experience for anyone interested in a unique holiday. A handful of families in the small village offer accommodation under the starry skies of Yuvacali in a nomadic canvas tent adorned with vibrant paintings or in a traditional, mud/brick house. Guests help out on the farm, learn to cook traditional dishes on an open hearth, and enjoy swapping stories with locals. This is no five-star hotel (in fact, it’s far from it) and families here, though extremely friendly, present an opportunity to work together, not offer hotel-like services. If you’re up for the challenge of helping out, Yuvacali has plenty to offer any curious, open-minded traveler.

  1. Tighza Valley, Morocco

Throughout Morocco, there an abundant number of opportunities to experience a homestay with a local family. One particularly magical place is within the breathtaking Tighza Valley where many Berber families open their homes to foreign visitors, offering simple, clean rooms within family owned homes. The arid valley, dusted with cacti and leafy green foliage, is within the high-reaching Atlas Mountains, far from the turbid, bustling cities of Fez, Marrakesh, Casablanca, and Rabat. This is rural Moroccan life at its finest: simple and scenic. Within the valley, most guests take to the alpine trails, hiking throughout the valley and enjoying mountainous routes filled with endless snap-worthy scenes: Berber women cultivating fields, shepherds watching after flocks of goats and sheep, and boisterous children playing imaginative games. Life definitely happens at a slow pace, which is not for everyone, but the Berber people are exceptionally welcoming and on point with keeping guests occupied and well-fed.

  1. Old Havana, Cuba

Becoming familiar with the words “casa particular” or “casa particulares” is a great advantage when traveling to Cuba for an independent holiday. The term means “private house”, and upon booking, will land you either a private home or room. The Cuban government issues special permits for renting out privately owned homes, or rooms in family homes, and they are advertised through bright blue signs out front with the words “Arrendador Divisa”, it’s a rental permit showing which casas are legal. Prices vary and depend on the travel season, area of Cuba, amenities offered, square footage, and so on. One of the best places for casas is in Old Havana, where friendly owners give a healthy measure of gossip and tips on the lay of the land. You’ll get great insider information on Old Havana’s top music clubs, festivals, and bars, and most often the owner will treat you just like family.

  1. Lisbon, Portugal

In Portugal, “Solares de Portugal” is an interesting idea introduced to bolster tourism within houses laden with charm and unique character, called “Turismo de Habitação”. The concept is aimed at preserving rich heirlooms of the country’s cultural and architectural heritage. This type of accommodation is not a guesthouse or hotel, but a genuine homestay. Accommodation comes in various forms such as rustic farmhouses, elegant estates, and grand country homes restored to their original luster for welcoming guests from around the world. Most homestays can be found in Lisbon, but others are in Porto, Faro, the southwest islands, and other small Portuguese cities and towns. The Solares exemplify hundreds of years of Portuguese culture and history (a large part of the magnificent 17th and 18th centuries manors are owned by descendents of the original owners). Taken quite seriously as a representation of their country, the Portuguese are dedicated to providing exceptional experiences to foreign visitors.

  1. Amazon Rainforest, Brazil

If you’ve ever had the desire to explore the deepest reaches of the Amazon Rainforest, a Brazilian homestay could be an idyllic experience. Easily planned in Manaus, you can book a trip and be paired up with an indigenous family. You’ll score a room in an eco-lodge or camp under the forest canopy—it’s entirely up to you. Lodges are simply constructed from locally sourced, natural building materials and designed in traditional style. Think “fancy” thatch hut with some modern conveniences and you’re not far off. Ideal for intrepid spirits, planning a trek through the lush, magical landscape is authentic, eye-opening, and lands you where wildlife is richest. Friendly indigenous guides offer a healthy dose of insight on the rain forest ecosystem and teach guests survival tips in a natural environment. You’ll also be treated to some amazing local eats and be privy to some Amazonian cooking secrets too.

Responsible Tourism: Safaris

Some countries are better than others in providing responsible, sustainable tourism that benefits local communities as well as travellers. Others may promote their holiday packages as eco-friendly and sustainable, but at second glance reveal themselves to be nothing of the sort.

So what should travellers look out for before talking to experts such as Safari-Consultants about arranging a trip of a life-time? And remember, a modern-day safari doesn’t necessarily a trek to see the Big Five in Africa.

1. Costa Rica

One country that seems to have got it (mostly) right is Costa Rica, where nearly all hotels, lodges and resorts are being built with responsibly sourced materials by local craftsmen.

Locals find work in these resorts in many different ways and are paid a decent wage in addition to ongoing training. Resorts and eco-lodges offer safaris into Costa Rica’s stunning national parks, as well as trips to co-operatively run coffee plantations and cheese-dairies. The resorts and eco-lodges also provide agricultural communities with an income by sourcing all their food and some of the drink from locals, including coffee and cheese.

pony-trekkingActivities include such as pony-trekking through jungles, canopy zip lining or nature-walks as far as volcano terrain will allow it and white-water rafting in some regions.

The Borinquen Mountain Resort & Spa for example offers luxury accommodation in the remote mountainous terrain of Guanacaste in the North Pacific region of Costa Rica. The resort, like many others in Costa Rica, makes excellent use of what’s already there as a sustainable tourist attraction, such as providing guests with onsite volcanic mud baths, thermal spring water pools and nature walks, off-road excursions in specially designed vehicles and canopy zip lining in the Rinco de la Vieja Volcano mountain range.

Many small eco-lodges offer educational programs that are open to locals and tourists alike, teaching in a fun and informative way about the flora and fauna, traditions and customs of their region, thus benefiting everyone.
It is easy to check with the country’s tourism board, which accommodation provider offers responsible safaris, because the tourism board rewards certificates.

2. Thailand

Thailand welcomes more than 15 million visitors every year. After decades of destructive mass tourism, Thailand has finally adopted a far more stringent approach to sustainable and responsible tourism to avoid further damage to the environment and local communities.

On the Island of Koh Phra Thong for example, the resorts have adopted a very different approach to that taken by other islands. Here the Golden Buddha Beach Resort is just one of many luxury accommodation providers where the lodges were created using hardwood grown at local plantations. Houses were built by local Thai craftsmen to building height restrictions and strict limits as to the ratio of how much construction covers a plot. This protects not just flora and fauna, but also local drinking water levels.

Some 90% of staff are locals and they get paid a decent wage including holiday pay, still unusual in the country. There is no hot water because it’s not needed and no air-conditioning; the resort has no swimming pool, since there’s a bay with warm water temperatures right on the doorstep. Resort waste is recycled and taken to the mainland to be responsibly dealt with.

ThailandDivers check regularly on the health of coral reefs, such as at the Naucrates Conservation Biology project for instance, one of many projects volunteers can get involved with. From sea turtle protection to mangrove rehabilitation, there’s something for everybody. The volunteers from overseas support the local Baan Lions villagers via home stay arrangements.

At the Blue Guru Conservation and Diving project, visitors can enjoy rainforest trekking trips, mangrove boat trips and village tours that use local guides, all paid to educate eco-tourists about the local cultures and environments. Transport and accommodation is also provided by local people, giving them an income. The dive centre was constructed by locals using natural materials sourced locally. The centre has no electricity and a strict policy of minimizing water consumption through the use of dunk tanks where divers clean their kits.

3. Uganda

After many years of civil war and political unrest the country is trying hard to open up once more to tourism, but doing it in a responsible and sustainable way this time round.

Rwenzori MountainsAs the neighbouring countries try to help by “restocking” Uganda’s depleted national parks with native animals, numerous conservation projects and eco-lodges offer safaris again. Not so long ago, The Independent newspaper listed ten of these projects, which included wildlife trips and gorilla-spotting safaris in the Bwindi Forest of Uganda.
The 9-day trip is run in conjunction with Uganda Wildlife Authority, taking visitors deep into Bwindi National Park. Only four people at a time are permitted to come face-to-face with the 11-member strong gorilla family. Numerous experts from world-renowned organisations like Gorilla Doctors for example offer educational background on the subject of primates along the way.


Image by josh.ev9,Jorn Eriksson,Carine06 Under Creative Common License.