Homestay’s in India are well worth thinking about and we actively encourage it on our itineraries. Hotels in India are a bit of a mixed bag so many tourists play safe by staying in the five stars. Whilst many of these are wonderful and provide a far better level of service and housekeeping that you would find in Europe, after a while, they can feel a bit anonymous.
You might long for something a bit more like the ‘real India’. Homestay in India is exactly what it suggests – you stay in an Indian person’s home.
There are hundreds of these homestays waiting to be discovered. Mahindra Homestays is the most well known of the homestay providers, with others offering them too, for instance Home and Hospitality and Village Ways.
Homestays are private homes where the owner has a spare room or two to offer to guests. These owners – usually middle class and well educated – are carefully vetted and offer their rooms to holidaymakers because they want to interact with overseas visitors.
Homestays are found all over India and each one offers something different.
They nearly always serve home made food, usually have Wi-Fi and will collect you from the airport, train station or hotel, possibly for a modest additional charge.
Many homesteaders will share their interests with you, be it taking you on a private history tour, their love of music or a visit to see local bird life.
They are not hotels and don’t pretend to be. Chances are the advantage of being able to get under the skin of an Indian resident – to see how they really live – and possibly make a new acquaintance or even a friend, is far outweighed by the inconvenience of not having room service or a safe.
For example, Major Singh and his wife Lakshmi run Abode Kolta, a homestay in Gurgaon, just outside Delhi. They have a double room with twin beds and an en-suite bathroom.
They have a terrace for outside relaxing and the bedroom has air-conditioning. It’s a lovely family home and Lakshmi’s cooking is simple but delicious.
The friendly couple will make you very welcome and Major Singh will show you the sights – a local village with ‘corner shop’ selling bottled water, eggs and flour; a temple where he worships and lights a candle for his god; and help you to choose mangoes from a roadside stall for supper.
If only for a few days on your trip to India – do try to make a point of staying in at least one.