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Read on to know about different Europe homestay options and the things to keep in mind while booking one through Airbnb.
Though travelling in Europe sounds very charming, finding the right place to stay can be little tricky.
I am just back from a month long holiday in a few European countries. If there is one thing that I do not want to change about the trip, it would be the kind of accommodation we chose to stay in. Europe homestay options rock!
If you would like to meet new people, exchange cultural ideas and perspectives, share your travel stories, cook together and share meals, etc., then nothing is more satisfying than staying with a local establishment.
Many are stuck with where to start and how to do a booking to stay with a host in a different country. There are third party services that make it easier for you.
Here are a few popular ways in which you can find and book Europe homestay options – Couch Surfing, Work Exchange Programmes, and Airbnb.
The idea behind Couchsurfing is to share the hosts’ home for free, making this the cheapest option for a traveller. There are couch surfers all around the globe, and you can sign up at their site.
Let me tell you, though, that ‘Couchsurfing’ is not for everyone. The main idea is to share interests and spend some time in understanding local flavours, culture, travel, rather than expecting a pre-defined set of amenities. There will be places where the house can just be few square feet and all they offer is a couch in the corner. On the other hand you might just land up in a designer house.
So if you don’t mind sleeping on a couch in a shared living room or in a private bedroom with amenities (you never know what you might get!), then you can go for it.
Work exchange programs come with a minimal sign up fee, and work out well if you want to stay in one place for at least a few weeks to a few months. You need to work for few hours a day and in exchange the hosts provide you with free meals and accommodation.
The kind of work may vary from cooking, farming, cleaning to baby sitting, arranging the house, feeding farm animals, etc. There are websites like workaway and HelpX with host profiles listing their specific needs. There is also WWOOF, where you get to work on organic farms and understand the organic lifestyle from the hosts.
These options let you explore the nearby places during off work hours and on weekends.
Airbnb is similar to Couchsurfing to some extent. Here too, you have the opportunity to stay and connect with a local host.
Booking Europe homestay options through Airbnb has the advantage of is being able to search for listings with filters like shared/private room or entire place, availability of wifi, use of kitchen, get essentials like toiletries, etc. So you can expect these pre-defined set of amenities to be present during your stay.
Of course, this is not free like the other two options, and you need to pay for your stay. Booking Europe homestay options through Airbnb also includes the charges to be paid to Airbnb. And yet the average rent is usually much lower than what you would pay at hotels, and is almost similar to hostel rents, but with the benefit of staying at a local’s home.
There are many websites on the internet which talk about Europe homestay options, but how to choose one entirely depends on your criteria and budget.
For our travel in Europe, we had loads of luggage and wanted to be sure that we got enough space and basic amenities to ourselves. And with a kid in tow we did not want any big surprises, so Airbnb was an excellent option for us.
Here are some tips to choose the right Europe homestay options through Airbnb –
Though I am usually against installing every other app on my mobile, this will actually make it easy for you if the trip is long with different bookings. Obviously the best places get booked faster, especially during summer in Europe.
If you want to stay closer to a train station, metro, city centre, beach, etc. or would like to save the amount you spend on your stay then plan as early as you can. As we booked just in the nick of time for Venice, we could only get a place on the mainland and not on the island of Venezia. Because of this, we had no other option but to travel an extra hour each day, to and from Venice.
Most of the amenities that hosts provide would be listed in the filters.
Be sure to check all that you need here – whether it is breakfast included, kitchen, washer, family friendly, elevator in the building (extremely important with heavy baggage), etc. Now try to choose 3 to 4 places listed, based on these criteria and send messages to those hosts. In your message, please give some details about yourself, your requirements, and include how many people are travelling (with ages if kids are present), and ask all your doubts.
For instance, if it is a private room check if the bathroom is a common sharing space in the house or you have one in your room, if it bothers you. Also if you have a lot of luggage, you can ask if you can avail of a pick up/drop, share food preferences (if breakfast is included), etc.
Hot tip: If you have some time on hand, and need clarity on certain things then I would suggest that you avoid the ‘Instant Booking‘ option, and wait for a reply from the host before booking the same.
In the longer description & rules, the host would have mentioned additional terms to be agreed upon during your stay.
These could, for example, include things like –
Be sure to read them thoroughly to know if that place suits you. I had almost booked a particular Europe homestay option in Venice, but when I read the house rules, it was mentioned that a huge caution deposit would be collected on arrival. I was not very comfortable with that large an amount, as it was not the case with the other options, and finally decided to go with another host.
More than the charming images of the house, the way a host makes you feel at home is more important. So read most of the reviews and especially the longer ones.
This would give you an insight into the kind of experience you are about to get. Possibly you may find some new information that is otherwise missing in the host’s description of the place.
During our stay in Switzerland, fellow travellers told us that they were not at all aware of an uphill hike to reach the place, and that they could stay only for two nights at this place. That information was actually all over the reviews and we were ok with it – after all, who gets a chance to stay in a 200 year old mountain chalet every day?
Superhosts are supposedly better hosts who meet certain criteria and received good rating over a period. You can find superhosts as one of the search criteria when browsing for places.
We got a chance to stay with a superhost in the Tuscan country side and it didn’t take long to understand why she is called as one. We asked her if it is ok to check-in in the evening and all she said was ‘It’s perfect for me!’ She even texted us multiple times about car rentals and directions to help us reach the place easily. Finally when we managed to arrive in the dead of night, she welcomed us with a smile! Then she helped us with the luggage and left us with homemade bread and pastries for breakfast. Obviously, the sweetest host of the trip!
So, how do you make your stay at Europe homestay options memorable? Once you are all set to travel, these few tips will make your stay pleasant.
Your mobile data might just decide not to work when it is needed. Do not forget to download and save the contact numbers and addresses of your host once you make the booking. You might just be stuck somewhere for directions or forget to get the access codes of the building, or maybe just lose the way and would like to know how to get back.
Also, once your booking is done, share your number with your host if you happen to take a new sim card. If there is any issue during your stay, the hosts expect you to share this with them right away, rather than not talking about it and later cribbing about it in your review!
Most hosts would like to spend time with you and know how things are done back in India, etc. If the breakfast is included, then this is usually the best time to catch up with the host. Of course, the time you spend with your host can be considerably less when you opt for an ‘entire place’ rather than a ‘private room’.
Other things like checking if the kitchen tap water is drinkable, where to leave your shoes, washing and drying the dishes and keeping them back in cupboards, following the way they segregate garbage and if you need to leave it somewhere while checking out, etc – following all these simple, yet very important things will definitely make the host happy!
Apart from your local sightseeing or exploring, try to spend time with your host, as it would be the most memorable part of the trip. It is also helpful as they would be able to guide you with local travel connections, suggest to you good hiking paths, travel passes, restaurants, shopping options, etc.
In Paris, I had the pleasure to go to their local Sunday market along with our host, and to be honest, I remember this more than the trip to top floor of Eiffel tower! Also most of them love Indian food and if sharing meals is possible, they would be very happy to taste some Indian dal or anything you would make!
Last but not the least, trust forms the basis to share one’s home with strangers. The hosts usually share their house keys with you right after you check-in and don’t worry about leaving the house with you when they need to step out.
Remember, whether you pay for your accommodation or not, it is a home and not a hotel, so treat it as yours and try to leave it the way it is. Maintain that trust to pass on the positive vibes about travel to all those around you.
This is where the entire story began before you started booking a place. You would not book a place unless you read the reviews, isn’t it? Now do your bit by giving an honest review about the place, the host and your experience. This is the best and satisfying way of saying thank you, by highlighting all that you loved. If there was anything negative or something that people should be aware of, then please do mention it, as it will help future travellers in making a right decision in choosing that place.
Feeling at home is the best feeling when you are on a long travel, and I really don’t remember if I missed home on this holiday!
Images credit: Sowmya Baruvuri