Ever wonder about the difference between homestay and hotel accommodation, and which one is right for you? They are distinctly different concepts, and are used for different reasons. I’ve stayed multiple times in both. Sometimes I love a hotel, and sometimes I want what a homestay program offers. Here are my pros and cons of homestay vs hotel, plus a few other clarifications. BTW, the photo above is the view from my homestay in Toronto.
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What is a homestay accommodation? Simply put, you are staying in someone’s home or apartment.
In terms of holiday homestay bookings, this may be someone’s personal home, or a second home, that they have added to a homestay website, with the purpose of making money by renting out their extra room, entire apartment, the whole, physical house, or even their beautiful chalet.
People sign their apartments up for homestay renting for a variety of reasons. Mainly, it’s to make supplemental income on an otherwise vacant space. You’ll find singles and elderly people who live in a big house alone wanting to rent out a room to supplement their income or retirement. You find others who don’t like leaving their apartment vacant and prefer to have people in there while they are gone.
Alternative Homestay Definition
Another meaning of homestay pertains to students who are staying with a host family during their studies. We used these a lot when I was in international education. This is usually for students who are studying abroad, and one of the most popular, independent sources for information is HomestayFinder. Otherwise, your university will have contacts for homestay families where you will be studying.
Types of Homestay Experiences
The most popular are:
Airbnb – Book beds, rooms and entire apartments or homes for typically short-term stays
HomeAway – An Airbnb alternative. Book beds, rooms and entire apartments or homes for typically short-term stays
HomeStay – Book beds, rooms and entire apartments or homes for short- and long-term, but also caters to students and workers
HomeStayFinder – Book beds for international students studying abroad and host family assistance
One Fine Stay – Book entire, luxury apartments for typically short-term stays
Couchsurfing – Book a place to sleep on someone’s couch, extra bed or bedroom. You’ll fill out a complete profile so your host knows who you are, and you’ll meet locals and have a unique local experience. Great way to meet other travelers.
Booking – while this started off as a hotel booking site, they now offer homestay accommodation. I’ve found numerous apartments that belong to an apartment complex via booking. You can also book villas and guest houses through Booking.
Booking Homestay Apartment
There are a variety of popular homestay websites, such as the Airbnb homestay program or the HomeAway website. Homestay business is big business now-a-days. Homestay tourism has been growing ever since it’s inception in 2005. And more and more people are finding that the ‘share economy’ of renting out their empty room or apartment is quite lucrative. This is particularly attractive for families, or couples and friends who travel together.
Booking through a homestay app or website is really quite easy. When I use Airbnb, for instance, I select the destination city, then I check the box for whether I’m looking for a bed in a shared room, a bedroom to myself in a shared apartment, or an entire apartment all to myself.
The type of homestay apartment you book depends entirely on your budget and tolerance level.
Personally, I would never share a bedroom with someone I didn’t know, nor am I keen to book a homestay room in someone’s apartment. I couldn’t fathom waking up in the morning sharing breakfast or the bathroom with someone I didn’t know. I only book an entire apartment for myself, which I also do for security reasons. It’s easier to control your environment if you are alone or as a couple. You can find a homestay to rent in almost any city around the world.
Biggest Differences between Homestay and Hotel
The biggest differences between hotel and homestay are that you are catered to in hotels. You have more services. In a hotel, you have housekeeping services, front desk reception, a concierge, security, room service if you want, toiletries and other amenities like perhaps a pool, fitness center and a restaurant. Often, you find 24-hour check in.
In a homestay, you’ll have a clean space/apartment, clean sheets, towels, soap, and usually coffee and tea making facilities. Your host might even be kind enough to leave you a welcome gift of fruit, juice and milk. Coffee and tea are usually there.
In a homestay, you have free reign of the entire apartment, and can rummage through whatever is in the cupboards. If the owner doesn’t want you using tea or coffee, sugar, pots or pans, they won’t provide it. If it is provided, assume you an use it. That goes for the washing machine if you need it. You are living home away from home.
Another difference between hotel and homestay is that you have standard check in and out times in a hotel, and it’s sometimes more convenient to have the front desk for these services.
In homestays, you have to arrange to pick up the keys, or they give you a code to a lock box where you find a key. Then, you have to arrange with the manager a time to meet to return the keys, or sometimes you leave the keys in a mailbox.
Costs of a homestay versus hotel
Other advantages of homestay are that they are typically cheaper than a hotel. I say typically, but that has been changing recently. Sometimes I find homestays as expensive, if not more, than a hotel, but usually that’s not the case. Homestays are a better deal for a family who otherwise would have to book a larger or multiple rooms to accommodate the entire family.
A homestay is also good for couples or friends who travel together since you can split the costs and stay amongst friends. But each person or couple has their own bedroom. As a single traveler, sometimes I find hotels just as economical as a homestay and sometimes I like to be pampered.
You save money by preparing meals at home
Another obvious benefit of a homestay is the ability to cook at home. You can save serious money by having some, if not all, of your meals at home. I’d prefer to spend money on tours and experiences and grab a few meals out. It depends on where I am. Meals in Portugal, Italy and Greece are reasonable. Dining in London and Berlin is not. It’s good to have the flexibility to choose.
When booking a hotel, I always look for breakfast included. If you can at least remove that cost, it’s something.
Homestay offers a local experience
The benefits of homestay are that you have a more authentic living experience. There are real neighbors, in a unique house or apartment block. You see how they live, where they shop, where they go to the park, where the schools are. It’s easy to pretend you live there because you do, but for a short amount of time.
Is Homestay Safe
That’s a frequent question, and generally I would say yes. But you have to be aware of your surroundings.
There may or may not be security depending on the place you book. In London, there was a night security watchman. In Toronto, I had a brand-spanking new apartment on the 20th floor with a secure entrance and CCTV cameras.
Berlin, on the other hand, I was in a somewhat rundown apartment in a slightly dodgy part of town. I booked it because it was near a conference I was attending. Just to be sure, I wedged a chair under the door handle when I settled in for the night.
In Paris, I had the added responsibility of taking care of a fat cat that bit me every chance he got. I wasn’t worried about intruders with that vicious tub of fur.
Turning your home into a Homestay apartment or an Airbnb accommodation
Are you interested in turning your home into a homestay property? Here are some helpful books to get you started. Lots of people do, and they make lots of money doing it. It’s one of the best travel jobs around and people make serious money.
Just remember you have to claim income tax on any property that you rent out. And you can even be a homestay host even if you don’t own a property. Check out the guides below.
You can even give people and Airbnb gift card in amounts of your choosing.
All in all, homestays are a great alternative to hotels when cost and experience is factored in. Have you tried a homestay or an Airbnb? What do you think?