There's a saying in India, "Athithi Devo Bhava", which means "The Guest is God". Indians consider it a huge honor to have guests in their home, and go out of their way to please them. There's nothing like Indian hospitality. Sadly, most visitors who come to India and stay in hotels never get to experience true Indian hospitality. The good thing is that all this is changing as a result of the growing popularity of homestays in India.
A homestay is similar in concept to that of a bed and breakfast. Guests are either accommodated in the family home, or in separate quarters nearby. Nowadays, most homestays provide their guests with just as much comfort as a reputable hotel.
Benefits of Homestays in India
There are a number of reasons why staying at a homestay can be preferable to staying in a hotel. The benefits include:
- Distinctive and Characterful Accommodations -- Tired of sterile hotels? Homestays offer an unparalleled opportunity to experience the incredibly diversity and delights of India. The options are almost endless and include plantation bungalows, historic havelis (mansions), forts, and remote rural cottages. One on hand, it's possible to stay with a royal family. On the other, a tribal family. There's no better way to interact with Indians from all walks of life!
- Personalized Service -- In contrast to a hotel, a homestay usually only has a few rooms. The family who resides there runs it, and acts as host. This guarantees that guests receive plenty of individual attention. You can spend as little or as much time with the host family as you like. Some guests choose only to dine with them, while others spend hours chatting to them. Regardless, staying with an Indian family is the easiest way of finding out about Indian culture. Many guests and hosts find that they bond with each other so much, they keep in touch long after the vacation is over.
- Safety -- If you're a solo female traveler who is visiting India for the first time or are simply concerned about staying safe, you'll have a family who looks after you at a homestay. They'll provide you with advice, and may even pick you up from the airport or provide a car and driver.
- Local Knowledge -- The wealth of information that the hosts have about their local area makes deciding what to see and do a breeze. Such local knowledge is extremely helpful in getting the most from your visit. Many hosts are delighted to show their guests around their local area, providing them with invaluable insights that simply aren't available from a guide book. Hosts usually have reputable contacts and can assist in making travel bookings too.
- Home Cooked Food -- There's a huge difference between the Indian food served in restaurants and hotels, and the food that's cooked in an Indian home. By staying at a homestay, you'll be able to taste authentic Indian home cooked food, made to order. It's a lot lighter, and has more variation and flavor than restaurant food. Some homestays even welcome their guests into their kitchen, and let them watch and participate in the cooking process.
- Unique Activities -- As a guest at a homestay, the focus is on you, and your likes and preferences. The hosts are typically very accommodating and will put a great deal of effort into arranging activities that are of interest to you. These activities will vary depending on location. Exploring a coffee plantation in Coorg, watching a polo match in Rajasthan, herding animals in remote northern India, village visits, picnics, and temple tours are just some of the options. Guests are often invited to attend weddings as well.
- Celebrating Festivals -- The ideal way to celebrate India's many festivals is with an Indian family. You'll gain a deep appreciation and understanding of what the festival is about, as well as get to participate in the rituals associated with it. This is particularly the case during Diwali, which is a special family festival.
- Getting Off the Tourist Trail -- Homestays are commonly located in residential neighborhoods, rather than tourist areas. This means you'll be away from all the tourist traps, touts, scams and other hassles.
Staying at a homestay in India is all about immersing yourself in India, rather skimming over it.
Choosing Your Homestay in India
While the idea of a homestay might sound quaint and alluring, it's important to choose your homestay wisely. As with most accommodations in India, the quality is very variable. Those who prefer their privacy may feel more relaxed at a homestay that has separate accommodations for guests, rather than rooms in the family home. Also be aware of the type of food that's served. Some homestays only prepare vegetarian cuisine, which may be an issue for hardcore meat eaters!
Here are some suggestions:
You can also take a look at these Indian homestay feature articles: