Sure we all love the impeccable service, amenities, facilities and other conveniences offered by hotels but what of the homogeneity that tags along with such experiences? Though you have come to rely on the precision with which your service is offered in a hotel, often such stays do not certainly translate into travel experiences (except, of course, if it is only the stay you are considering but isn’t travel much more than just that). What if, along with your stay, you could get to know a family / a person, forge friendships, swap recipes, get an insider’s view of the city/village you are visiting? You could, you could.
Here are 5 alternatives to hotel stay to enhance your travel experiences.
That is pretty much a no brainer, right? Homestays are increasingly becoming a mainstream alternative to hotels. Ranging from self-catering houses with minimum supplies in the kitchen to sharing a (guest) bed with a family, Homestays are evolving constantly. If you do not know where to start about homestays in India (mostly offbeat), check sources like India Untravelled, Travel Another India and The Blue Matsya. While the first two are excellent sources on homestays in remote locations, The Blue Matsya is a charming guest house just a few kilometers short of Mangalore.
2) Room Rentals
Though I can’t justify how room rentals are different from Homestays, perhaps the greatest difference is the availability of such rentals in major cities across the world. Check out sites like Airbnb and Roomorama if you haven’t already and read this excellent post about Airbnb and how it is cost-effective. If you are on a slightly higher budget, check out vacation rentals on websites like Welcome Beyond.
For years now, my partner and I are couchsurfing hosts. Though it’s been a while since we hosted anyone, our previous experiences have always been memorable. And the couches we have surfed have resulted in good friendships. Create a couchsurfing profile if you haven’t. It works especially well if you are on a budget.
The internet is replete with resources offering volunteer travel. The organization WWOOF though is slightly different from the rest. It connects volunteers with organic farmers. For a small yearly fee, you could become a member and surf for hosts in the country you wish to visit. It provides you with opportunities to stay in an organic farm for a short or slightly longer duration in exchange of labor (apple picking, olive harvest etc).
5) Farmstays (often free)
You will be surprised to note the number of small organizations (farms, mainly) that offer free, brief stays in their farms and so on. I recently went to Kalap in Garhwal Himalayas for a month after stumbling upon a friend Anand Sankar’s responsible tourism initiative on Facebook. Check pages like No Man’s Land, Navadarshanam and Timbaktu Collective.
PS: I avoided mention of hostels since I am personally not a fan of hostels. I like my solitude when I travel. Sleeping in a bunker bed also doesn’t rank highly on my wish list.
Have you veered off the beaten track during your travels? Leave a comment.