In my last blog post (Read: 11 Reasons I choose a Homestay over a Hotel, everytime! ), I shared my insight about homestays and gave you reasons to choose one for your next vacation. Now, hoping I have tempted you enough, I arm you with 10 essentials for choosing the right homestay through our website.
Read on, get booking and keep your travel gears ready.
Tip # 1. Ask yourself what you want from your vacation
The first and foremost step is to decide the kind of experience you are seeking from your vacation. You could be looking for a quick weekend getaway to one of Coastal Maharashtra‘s unexplored beaches from Mumbai or to a hill station in Uttarakhand from Delhi. Some of you might want to experience what staying in a Haveli in Rajasthan or a Colonial Bungalow in the coffee plantation feels like, while others might prefer to stay with the Bhutia community in Sikkim or a weavers’ village in Meghalaya. Options are plenty and you can choose your stay in heritage homes, colonial Bungalows, tree houses, boat houses and tents.
Tip # 2. Look for hosts who match your interests
Most hosts add great value to your vacation by going that extra mile. Some of our hosts are professionals in the fields of bird-watching, wildlife and trekking, and can conduct some great trips for you. There are others who are great cooks and conduct live cooking sessions for guests on request. Some hosts would be happy to include you in their daily activities like a puja in the family temple or Diwali and Onam celebrations. At the very least, hosts are a treasure trove of the history and culture of the location and take immense pride in sharing stories of their home state and culture. So make the most of this.
Tip # 3. Who are you travelling with?
The people that you are travelling with largely determine where you should stay and what facilities you should look for. If you’re travelling with your family and have kids or elders along with you, you might want to look at the finer details. Not all homestays have lifts, air conditioners or western-style bathrooms. A few homestays, especially in remote regions, require a small trek that elders may find difficult to undertake. Many homestays allow you access to kitchen, so you can cook special meals for your parents and a simple suji kheer for your child. Do you have a pet and it breaks your heart to leave him/her in a kennel when you travel? Most hotels don’t allow dogs, but a lot of homestays do, so it’s advisable to check in advance. And if you’re travelling as an unmarried couple, check with the homestay if it’s okay with it.
Tip # 4. Make note of the amenities that your preferred homestay provides
Depending on who you’re travelling with and when you’re travelling, check the amenities provided by the homestay. You might want to check for provision of air conditioners in a homestay in Rajasthan and for heaters in Srinagar. If you’re looking for city comforts, check the availability of laundry facilities, Cable TV, Wi-Fi and power backup.
Tip # 5. Check whether meals are available
Like we always say, the best part about staying in a homestay is undoubtedly the delicious home-cooked food. Most homestays have breakfast included in their tariff while others, especially the ones located in remote locations, with fewer eateries around, include all meals in their tariff. You might also want to check for the cuisines provided by the homestay and see if they’ll be happy to serve you local food. If you’re a strict vegetarian, you could specifically look for the many homestays that serve only veg food.
Tip # 6. Look for places of interest, landmark and transport facilities around the homestay
We’ve curated few select places with top things to do. All you have to do is click on the “Map View” tab to enable the feature and watch the screen light up like a Christmas tree. It gives you a good idea of the distance from the nearest airport or train station and a perspective of whether you are in a shopping district or a party hub or some far flung suburb of Mumbai. If you know precisely what you want to do during your vacation, you might want to specifically search for homestays around the area. For example, Goa Sunburn is held in Vagator beach and if you want to stay close by, all you have to do is zoom into the beach on the map and you can view homestays in that particular area. It makes your search simpler, faster and easier!
Tip # 7. Have a look at reviews and ratings
“Reputation is the currency of the online world“. We realize that you’re looking for reviews and ratings that you expect the homestays to have painstakingly acquired over the years. Given that we have recently come to the party, we decided to personally verify every homestay and even gather the homestay experience ourselves. How did we do that? We selected some top photographers and travel writers and offered them a once-in-a-lifetime sabbatical opportunity, our TravelNinja program. We gave them a circuit to follow, they researched for homestays and spoke to a hundred odd hosts there. In most cases, the homestay owners were warm enough to extend their hospitality to us and referred us to other hosts. A bit of luck and serendipity did the rest. We have taken the effort of curating content for the homestays and marked out a few as ‘Featured’ – these are homestays we believe are special, either in terms of the location, the host or the hospitality and facilities provided. We’d recommend you to rely on us, search within the featured homestays and enjoy your stay! Do not forget to come back and give us a review on our site. It will help the next traveller to make an informed decision.
Tip # 8. Talk to the host
“I like your homestay and want to spend a weekend there with my partner. Could you arrange a special dinner for us?” “Do you have a caretaker who can cook special meals for my parents? Does my 6 year old kid need an extra bedding?” Have a number of such questions while booking and find yourself going in circles?
Through our new chat feature “Talk to Host” we now allow our guests to communicate with our hosts directly to have their queries answered. Likewise, the Host may ask you a few questions too. After all, you are going to be sharing the space in his/her personal home. It is important to be comfortable, accept each other and then make the booking.
Tip # 9. Use the Dreamstays feature to save and share your preferred homestays
If you still aren’t sure about your choice and want a second opinion of your family (always helps to get the wife’s nod, right?), add your selections to the DreamStays tab and inbox them to your spouse/travel partner. It’s far easier than directing them with names, rows and columns on the site.
Tip # 10. Make easy payment and enjoy your stay.
Once you’ve made your decision, all you have to do is send a booking request and wait for the host to accept it. That done, you can easily make payment using your credit card, debit card, internet banking or Paypal.
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.