Spending a few nights in a homestay is a great opportunity to leave the beaten track in Vietnam. Many travelers tell me that their experience of living in a homestay in Vietnam was the highlight of their trips to Southeast Asia.
WHAT EXACTLY IS A HOMESTAY?
By definition, Homestay is a private residence that offers accommodation to paying guests.
In Vietnam, I met two main types of homestays. Homestays are usually located in rural areas. Since there is nothing more to do but enjoy the scenery, homestay itself is an experience. The second type of homestay, which I will call convenient homestay, is simple: a convenient option for living in an area with many different accommodation options, for example in the city.
WHAT THE BEST THINGS WITH A HOMESTAY IN VIETNAM?
- You’ll get off the beaten track
You can find homestays in many cities in Vietnam, but many homestays are in remote areas that tourists would not otherwise be able to visit. Less tourist traffic means a relaxed atmosphere and more chances to see a piece of life.
In busy areas like Sapa, the homestay is a great way to escape the hustle and bustle of small villages.
- You’ll get unprecedented access to some of Vietnam’s most beautiful landscapes
Many homestays are on the verge of some of Vietnam’s most beautiful landscapes. Trekking, waterfalls, caving and other outdoor activities are usually part of a family vacation. Most homestays can arrange a local guide or at least give you tips on where to go.
- You’ll meet a Vietnamese family
If you live in a genuine homestay, you can meet and chat with them. Vietnamese culture dictates intergenerational living conditions. Thus, you can meet the grandparents, parents and grandchildren. Homestay owners often lived in the area for several generations (some never left) and had in-depth knowledge of their country and culture.
- You’ll get insight local culture
Each of the ethnic groups in Vietnam is unique and often very different from most Vietnamese. Staying in a family of any ethnicity gives you an idea of their daily lives. Ethnic minorities also have their own languages and traditions.
Many homestays offer cultural events for guests, from dance and music performances to medicinal herbal baths. Even more useful is an understanding of the local culture that you get through unstructured interactions, such as shopping in the local market or watching a family album. You will often find that homestays are decorated with beautiful, traditional textiles and costumes.
- You’ll taste the best home cooking in Vietnam
Cooked in tiny kitchens with one or two burners, you will be surprised at how your hosts did it. The food in the family is simple, but full of flavor and probably made from local and organic ingredients.
The hosts offer guests a wide selection. At lunchtime and in the evening, there is usually a large selection of different plates, which are served in a shared manner. Depending on the arrangement, you are likely to eat with other guests and, possibly, with the host family.
- You’ll sleep in beautiful houses
Many families in Vietnam are beautifully decorated. Ethnic minority families are in traditional houses such as Muong stilt houses or Hmong earthen houses. These structures are a work of art – the ability to spend the night in one is an absolute privilege.
- You’ll be supporting responsible tourism
When you live in a homestay, you invest directly in the hands of a local family, rather than fund a hotel chain. And this is not only the family in which you sleep. Behind the curtains are many other people who ensure the smooth operation of the homestay, including cooks, farmers, fishermen, guides and transport companies.
- You’ll pushed beyond your comfort zone
However, homestay is still far from the hotel. Staying with someone at home – with someone you might not be able to chat with at first – can be a little intimidating at first, especially if you are new or introvert. But my advice is to dive. If you are a lone traveler, then homestay is a great place to meet people.
HOW TO BOOK A HOMESTAY IN VIETNAM?
Many owners host their homestay on big booking sites, including Agoda and Booking.com. Airbnb also has many homestay deals throughout Vietnam.
For more distant and specialized homestays, you may need to go directly to the source. For example, many families in Ha Giang have their own sites. In other cases, you can book your homestay through Indo-Pacific Travel, including excursions and meals.
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