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Homestays and Farmstays

Homestay and Farmstay Tips
woman reading letter
  • Before you arrive for your stay, send a letter or e-mail to your hosts and introduce yourself. Tell them a bit about who you are and where you're from. If you have any food allergies or other special needs, make sure to mention those as well. Establishing a relationship with your hosts before your stay will help ease the transition once you arrive.

  • If you don't speak the language of the country you're visiting, try to learn a few key phrases before you arrive -- it will help you communicate better with your hosts, and they'll appreciate your effort to reach out to them.

  • Bring a thank-you gift for your hosts. Ideas to consider include food items, postcards or souvenirs from your home town. Keep in mind that wine and other alcoholic beverages may not be appropriate gifts in certain cultures.

  • As soon as you arrive (or better yet, beforehand), discuss any ground rules for television or radio use, curfews, meals and other aspects of your stay. Do quiet hours apply at a certain time of night once family members have gone to bed? Will you be responsible for cooking your own meals or will you be eating some meals with your hosts? What chores, if any, will you be expected to help with?

  • Don't make calls from the house phone without permission -- especially international calls. Instead, get an international cell phone or bring a calling card.

  • Use your hosts' resources sparingly. Water and electricity are in short supply in many parts of the world.

  • Attune yourself to the local customs and try to fit in as best you can. Some adjustments may be simple, like remembering to take off your shoes as soon as you enter the house. But other cultural differences may be more difficult to adapt to, such as gender roles that are less egalitarian than you're used to at home. Use your homestay as an opportunity to learn more about local practices and perhaps discuss them (in a respectful way) with your hosts. For more help, see our tips for dealing with culture shock.

  • Communicate, communicate, communicate. Going out for the day? Tell your hosts about your plans so they know whether to save a place for you at dinner. Confused about one of the house rules? Ask for clarification. Keeping the lines of communication open will make for a smoother, happier stay.

  • Take advantage of your host family's local knowledge. Go beyond your guidebook and ask them for recommendations about what to see in the area. If you're lucky, they may even give you a personal tour.

  • At the end of your stay, consider leaving your host family a memento -- perhaps a photo of yourself with them. And be sure to write a thank-you letter or e-mail after you return home.

    Arranging a Homestay or Farmstay: Resources and Links
    While there are a few worldwide databases of homestays and farmstays (see below), often your best bet is to do an Internet search for stays in your destination; many homestay and farmstay resources are specific to a particular country or region.

    Another good bet is to visit the Web site of the local tourist board. Typically these sites have a database of accommodations that include homestays and farmstays. If you don't see the type of listings you're looking for, give the tourist board a call and ask if they're familiar with any homestay or farmstay resources in the area.

    family kitchen home togetherBefore booking any homestay or farmstay, ask for references from travelers who have stayed there before. Be sure you understand exactly what type of stay you're signing up for -- if things like hot showers or Internet access are important to you, ask whether they'll be available. Read any contracts carefully before signing and check to see what recourse you have if you need to find a new host due to personality conflicts or other issues.

    Homestay Resources:
  • CCI Greenheart: Center for Cultural Interchange: Independent short-term homestays
  • CouchSurfing.com: Worldwide network of hosts offering their couches for visiting travelers
  • GlobalFreeloaders.com: Free homestay accommodations around the world
  • GoHomestay.com: Homestay listings around the world
  • Homestay.com: Homestay listings around the world
  • Hospitality Club: Free membership club with members around the world
  • Hospex.net: Hospitality Exchange: Members offer homestays around the world (paid membership)
  • International Homestay Agency: Homestay listings around the world
  • Lesbian and Gay Hospitality Exchange International (LGHEI): Homestays for gay and lesbian travelers (paid membership)
  • Servas International: The oldest homestay organization with members around the world (paid membership)
  • Transitions Abroad: Links, articles and other homestay resources
  • Women Welcome Women: Homestays for women (paid membership)
  • World Homestay: Homestays around the world (paid membership)

    Farmstay Resources:
  • Agrisport Agriturismo: Farmhouse holidays around the world
  • Agritourism World: Farmstays around the world
  • Farm Stay U.S.: Farmstays around the U.S.
  • World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF): Staying and working on organic farms around the world
  • Yahoo! Directory: Farmstays: Links to farmstay sites for various destinations

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    --written by Sarah Schlichter

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