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Travel Etiquette 101 for Guest Houses and Homestays

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If you’re looking for an affordable place to stay during your travels, two great options you have are guest houses and homestays. Both types of lodging are typically cheaper than regular hotels, and both can offer a more intimate and localized experience that will definitely make your trip more exciting and memorable. 

A guest house, for instance, is a type of accommodation in which guests are typically given a private bedroom, but the bathroom and common areas—like the kitchen and entertainment room—are shared. This type of accommodation proffers a social atmosphere where you can relax and meet like-minded travelers. 

Homestays, on the other hand, entail that guests stay in a private home, which is typically owned by their host family. Staying at a homestay is a great way to experience the local culture and lifestyle of the destination you’re visiting, especially because you get to interact with your host family face-to-face. In a homestay, you’re typically given a private bedroom (and sometimes a private bathroom), but areas like the living room, kitchen, laundry room, and outdoor spaces are all shared. 

Due to the unique arrangements of these types of accommodations, there are some rules of etiquette you’ll need to follow if you choose to stay in them, given that you’re sharing the space with other travelers or your host family. Here are some tips for staying careful and considerate of your actions and keeping the harmony within the space, all while continuing to enjoy your vacation:

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1) Be Clear About Your Schedule with Your Host 

Guest house and homestay hosts often go out of their way to make guests feel welcome and comfortable in their lodgings, and having a clear schedule allows them to make necessary preparations. Keeping your host up-to-date on your own schedule and whereabouts will therefore contribute to a smoother experience and a more enjoyable stay. 

Be transparent about your check-in and check-out times, as well as your itinerary, so that your host can plan their day and attend to other responsibilities without any added inconvenience. Doing so will also demonstrate respect for your hosts’ time and effort, which will reflect well on you at the end of your travels.

2) Respect Local Customs and Cultural Norms

Knowing and respecting the local customs and cultural norms of the area you’re visiting is a fundamental rule when staying at a guest house or homestay. Different cultures may have specific traditions or practices that guests should be aware of, and the onus is on you to do your research and play the role of the responsible traveler.  

If you’re visiting a country that requires travelers to dress modestly for religious or cultural reasons, it’s a good idea to pack tops with sleeves and some long bottoms (e.g., leggings, pants, and maxi skirts) so that you can properly cover up during your trip. 

Avoiding the use of one’s left hand is another cultural norm that’s observed in many parts of the world. This is because the left hand is considered to be “unclean” and shouldn’t be used when giving a handshake, pointing at an object, or handing over money. Being respectful of local customs is not just a matter of consideration for the cultural heritage of the region, but also a matter of enhancing your overall travel experience.

3) Respect the House Rules

Every type of travel accommodation has its own set of guidelines and expectations, and you’ll want to adhere to these rules to maintain a pleasant living environment for yourself, your other travel companions if any, and your hosts and fellow guests. 

House rules can vary widely and may cover areas such as noise levels, smoking policies, and the use of common spaces. It’s essential for you to familiarize yourself with these rules upon your arrival and make a conscious effort to follow them throughout your stay. If you’re traveling with anyone else, like your partner or kids, make sure they take the same initiative.  

4) Bring Your Own Toiletries

A simple, yet considerate practice for when you’re staying at a guest house or homestay is to bring your own toiletries. While some accommodations may provide basic amenities, having your preferred toiletries on hand guarantees that you have everything you need for your own personal comfort. Moreover, it will ease the burden on the host to buy another set of toiletries for future guests and help you maintain a positive environmental impact on the place you’re visiting.

5) Label Your Items and Store Them Responsibly

Order is essential for the shared spaces in a homestay or guest house, and one way you can contribute to the peacefulness and harmoniousness of the environment is to keep this order by way of your personal items. 

While it may seem like a small thing to do, labeling your items can do a lot to prevent confusion among other guests, keep order in the space, and ensure that no one’s personal belongings get lost or accidentally thrown out. In shared living spaces, especially those with communal kitchens or refrigerators, it’s common for guests to store their food or personal items together. Labeling your items with your name or room number helps avoid mix-ups and ensures that everyone has access to their own belongings without any inconvenience.

Also remember to throw your waste in the right receptacles and to leave refrigerators, closets, and bathrooms as clean as they were when you checked in. Again, this is the considerate thing to do and a responsible habit you’ll want to keep up every time you stay in a similar type of accommodation. 

6) Give Your Host a Gift

It’s not obligatory for you to do so, but consider giving your host a thoughtful gift to graciously express your appreciation for the hospitality you’ve received. Even a small token of gratitude can transcend cultural boundaries and leave a positive and lasting impression on your host. 

You can give them local or culturally significant gifts that reflect your appreciation for their efforts, like a handmade craft, a specialty item from your hometown, or even a local delicacy from your country.

As seen from the insights above, guest houses and homestays are excellent travel accommodation options thanks to their good balance of security, comfort, and local hospitality. You’ll have the best travel experiences in homestays and guest houses if you follow the etiquette and afford utmost consideration to your hosts and your fellow guests. 

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