Over the last few months, we’ve travelled to different parts of India, from its remotest corners to its most touristy belts. Our team of photographers and travel writers visited more than 700 homestays and personally interacted with as many hosts and locals. We also discussed the concept with a lot of friends, colleagues and like-minded travellers to understand why they indeed travel, and what has prompted them to move from hotels to homestays. All this has led us to believe that we are truly onto something magical.
So, while we at SaffronStays are busy curating our website with beautiful properties and travel experiences, I leave you with these reasons to choose a Homestay for your next holiday.
Reason #1 : “I travel to experience a place.”
We believe that the concept of travel has tremendously evolved in India over the years. While you’d like to visit the Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur, you’d perhaps also like to dine at a historic restaurant that doesn’t feature in tourist guides. With the little time that we all squeeze into our lives for travel, it is only important that we make the most of it. A Homestay lets you do just that. When you live with a local, you are exposed to local sights, sounds and flavours. A brochure in a hotel’s reception will never match up to that.
Reason #2: “I feel safe”
Homestays are largely run by families or a small staff personally appointed by them. Whether it be a sprawling Farm House in Meghalaya or a simple two bedroom home in the mountains of Sikkim, the hosts themselves take care of everything. It is in their own interest to ensure that theirs is a safe place for travellers to have a pleasant stay in. While living with a family gives you company and makes you feel safe, hosts also ensure that you have enough privacy by letting out rooms in a separate floor or an adjoining building some times. Both safety and privacy are ensured here.
Reason #3: “We can savour home-cooked local delicacies”
The best part about staying in a homestay is undoubtedly the delicious home-cooked food. It allows you to understand local cuisine and even learn what goes into the preparation as most hosts willing share secret recipes with you. A lot of homestays in Rajasthan, for example, hold active cooking classes during meal hours. Without the effort of hunting for local restaurants, you can indulge in Pandhi (pork) Curry in Coorg, Gatte ki Sabzi in Jaipur and Malvani Fish Curry with Solkadhi in a quaint village called Parule near Tarkarli.
Reason #4 : “Sometimes, I need my own local Sherpa”
Nobody knows a place better than someone who was born and raised there. Online research is great but usually, all you have to do is ask and your homestay host will share his local insight and vast network with you in minutes. Whether it be the contact number of a reliable auto driver, closing time of a local museum in Shillong, the timing of a special event in a Fort in Jaipur, the best eateries in Mysore and the dishes you should order or the direction to a virgin beach in Kerala – you’ll get this information from no one but a local and your homestay host is the best person to rely on.
Reason #5 : “I need warm glass of turmeric milk at 10 pm for my 5 year old daughter who has a sore throat”
By staying in a homestay with another family (host) around, you can be assured that you’re not alone in case of a medical emergency. As a mother, I sometimes need access to the kitchen to be able to cook khichdi (simple rice and lentil dish) for my parents-in-law or prepare a glass of warm turmeric milk for my kids. A lot of homestays will allow you to use the kitchen or willingly help you deal with different situations.
Reason #6 : “Home stays are comparatively affordable”
Hotels have become prohibitively expensive. Especially during peak season, hotels could charge you an arm and a leg. Homestays, however, offer a clean and affordable alternative and come with better experiences. While you might pay the same price in some places, you do so for the personal care and service that you receive in return.
Reason #7: “I am a curious cat”
Travellers are extremely curious and want to soak up as many stories as they can. Staying with a family gives you access to a lot of such stories during your many conversations with them. Most hosts have interesting background – some have ancestors who were the rulers or royal Diwans of the local state or Governor General of India or are simple families with deep cultural roots in the place that has been inherited over centuries. In Sikkim, we heard a host play a traditional Bhutia instrument called Damney while in Jodhpur, we heard stories about the Maharaja of Jodhpur – each a lasting experience.
Reason #8 : “Home stays generates income for locals”
Homestays are simple establishments run by local families to augment their family income. These families tend to open their homes to locals for want of company or for the sheer passion for hospitality. We’ve visited a number of community run homestays during our travels and have realised that the income that is generated from their operations is usually with the aim of making the women in the families more independent. By staying in these homestays, you contribute to their income.
Reason #9 : “I am a strict Vegan”
If you’re someone who adheres to strict rules when it comes to food, home stays give that option to you. The temple town of Pushkar, for example, is perfect for vegetarians as you can be assured that the hosts cook and serve just that in their homes. Homestays will also prepare and set up your meals in a specific way and with special care for your needs.
Reason #10 : “We travel as a large Indian joint family”
As Indians, we like to travel as one large joint family. Most often, you’re not looking for luxury but a caretaker or a host who takes care of all your simple needs. You could simply be looking for a place where mattresses are laid out on the floor and you are allowed the space and privacy to have a good time with your family. While you could be restricted to do so in a hotel, a large number of homestays are all about joint families and accommodate these simple requests.
Reason #1 1: “Because, there is no better place than a home”
While we travel to get away, how amazing would it be to find second homes and make new connections with people that become like family by the end of your trip! We believe that in this busy, chaotic world, travel should leave you with an experience like that. By staying in a homestay, rest assured you’ll never be away from home.
About the author: Tejas Parulekar is a first generation entrepreneur who has (ad)ventured into a domain that is traditionally dominated by large hospitality chains and other travel portals. A Banker by experience and Chartered Accountant by training, she is aspiring to leave an imprint in the hospitality sector by bringing together the little fish (Homestays) to take on the mighty shark. Encourage her and her homestay hosts by booking your next stay on www.saffronstays.com.