staying with locals

8 Unique Opportunities to Stay With Locals

While some people explore the globe to escape reality, more travelers are looking for authentic experiences abroad. Eating traditional dishes, taking public transportation and exploring with native tour guides are all good strategies for going local, though if you really want to go beyond the typical tourist experience it’s recommended to stay with locals, as well.

Book the below homestays around the world for a truly memorable and culturally-immersive trips. You’ll experience how locals live while supporting the community you’re visiting.

Bonus // AirBnB offers the incredible opportunity to stay in local homes around the world. Snag your coupon here:

stay with a local

1) Stay In A Wooden Malay House In Tanjung Datu National Park (Borneo, Malaysia)

Sematan — a historic fishing village overlooking the South China Sea in Malayasian Borneo — is known for its beaches, birding and wildlife. With Audley Travel’s Telok Melano Homestay program, you can immerse yourself in the laidback lifestyle. You’ll stay 45 minutes away from Sematan along, Sarawak’s southernmost coast in a traditional wooden house. Here, dine on home-cooked food with your host family and enjoy pristine views.

Like this one:

Kampong Melano, Malaysian Borneo. Photo courtesy of Audley Travel.
Kampong Melano, Malaysian Borneo. Photo courtesy of Audley Travel.

The Kampong village is home to about 50 families — just over 200 people. During the monsoon season, the town is completely isolated and only accessible by boat. While the accommodation is basic, you’ll enjoy incredible Malaysian hospitality as you stay with locals as part of this new homestay project.

Click here for more information.

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Stay with locals
Yurt village in the highlands of Kyrgyzstan. Photo courtesy of MIR travel.

2) Visit A Yurt Settlement & Meet Kyrgyz Eagle Hunters (Kyrgyzstan)

Join MIR Travel for unique insight into the nomadic traditions and village culture of the Kyrgyz outback. This tour takes you to the remote village of Kochkor where you’ll stay with a family, watch an eagle hunter and learn about the village’s traditional felt craft.

Throughout the trip there are multiple opportunities to meet locals, including eating at an Uyghur family’s home and staying in a guest house in the traditional village of Chon-Kemin.

This 8-day trip starts at $2595.  Click here for more information.

Stay with locals
Maasi Village. Photo courtesy of Travel Therapy tours.

3) Roots & Culture, Yoga & Wildlife Retreat (Kenya)

Travel Therapy Tours designs socially conscious travel experiences that benefit the community, while allowing guests to live with locals, eat local food, shop at local markets and learn the local language.

Their Roots & Culture retreat includes opportunities to learn about Kenyan culture by staying with families in traditional Kenyan-style homes. You’ll watch a cultural dance show, learn how to bead from members of the Maasai tribe, attend a zumba class, eat at local farms and practice yoga daily.  This trip doesn’t shy away from important issues — you’ll visit a shelter for victims of female genital mutilation — and there’s plenty of time for discussion and reflection.

This weeklong retreat starts at $2100. Click here for more information.

Stay with locals
Hike to the village of Mtae, Tanzania. Photo courtesy of Tupande.

4) Stay With Nuns & Hike To A Scenic Village Overlooking Mkonmazi National Park (Lushoto, Tanzania)

If you like hiking through rainforests and want  an immerse experience that includes local buses, staying with nuns and eating with families, consider this trekking tour.

The two-day hike starts in Lushoto, where you’ll take public transport through the Magamba Rainforest into the mountains. After a picnic lunch, you’ll spend your first night at the Sister’s Convent in Rangwi village. The next day, trek through villages and mountain forest, eat with a local family and visit an all-women’s pottery workshop in Mambo village.

When you arrive at your final destination of Mtae, there’s a reward of spectacular Mkomazi National Park views below. Sometimes you can even spot Kilimanjaro in the distance!

Revenue from your hike supports local artists, a tree nursing and planting program, environmental education workshops, and community initiatives in cooperating villages. Rates start at $107.

Click here for more information.

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Stay with locals
Meet the people of Quishuarani. Photo courtesy of CBCtupay.

5) Meet The Indigenous People Of The Rural Andes (Cuzco, Peru)

Machu Picchu isn’t the only gem near Cuzco. The culture of the indigenous Andean people is also special, and your visit helps preserve it. CBCtupay and Centro Bartolomé de Las Casas offer a two-day itinerary allowing you to learn about the rural reality of Quishuarani and be welcomed into their community with a traditional ceremony. You’ll learn about the flora and fauna that play a key role in the medicine and culture of the village, but are sadly nearing extinction. You’ll walk to a local lagoon, potentially passing a herd of llamas and learning how locals process, dye and weave alpaca and llama fiber into colorful handicrafts.

Day 2 involves visiting a local school and enjoying the mineral healing properties of the Thermal-Medicinal Baths of Lares.

The tour starts from Cuzco and costs $152 per person.  Proceeds support community-based tourism efforts.

Click here for more information.

Stay with locals
Ecuador Jungle Homestay with the Pauchi Family, Photo courtesy of G Adventures, Inc.

6) Experience Life In The Jungle With An Amazon Homestay (Ecuador)

If you stay with an indigenous Quichua family in the Amazon, you may leave with a different perspective on life. Spend four nights at Cabañas Pimpilala, which includes opportunities to hike through the rainforest, swim in waterfalls, and understand medicinal uses of tropical plants.

You’ll learn about cacao and — if it’s the right season — help collect cacao pods, roast and de-shell the beans, and re-heat the beans with milk and cinnamon into a chocolate fondue. Savoring your creation fire-side with local fruits is the perfect jungle snack.

Other special experiences: viewing a mock jungle wedding, witnessing a shamanic healing ceremony, getting an adrenaline rush with whitewater rafting, seeing how a blowgun and darts are made and used in the jungle, and even peeking into a community school (which your tourism dollars support).

G Adventure’s 7-day Local Living Ecuador Amazon Jungle tour starts at $674. Click here for more information.

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Guatemala Homestay. Photo courtesy of G Adventures, Inc.

7) Connect With Local Artisans And Relax With A Lakeside Homestay (Lake Atitlan, Guatemala)

In the southern part of Guatemala, 95% of the 4000+ inhabitants of are indigenous Mayans of the Tz’utujil ethnicity who struggle to find work in the rural villages.

G Adventures’ nonprofit foundation, Planeterra, worked with the San Juan La Laguna community in Lake Atitlan to develop a homestay program and visitor center. This project is helping towns preserve their cultural heritage while supporting over 100 people involved in Mayan art, traditional medicine and more.

Arrive by boat to San Juan La Laguna on the lake’s northwest shore and spend the afternoon exploring the town. You’ll meet your host family, peruse the paintings of local artists, watch weavers, or go for a hike and admire the view.

G Adventure’s 11-day Mayan Trail tour — which includes a night at this home stay — starts at $1104. Click here for more information.

Stay with locals
Immerse yourself in farm life of Peru. Photo courtesy of ASETUR.

8) Help Out At A Farm In Arequipa (Arequipa, Peru)

Start your visit by meeting your host family and feasting on a traditional Peruvian lunch prepared by villagers. After the meal, learn about day-to-day farm life and help with field work, wool harvesting, craftwork and gathering supplies.

You’ll also explore Sibayo village, even taking a guided walking tour through the town’s most impressive landmarks, including the church, suspension bridge, and scenic Mirador de Largarta. There you will learn how to weave crafts from alpaca wool.

Finally, relax with a home-cooked dinner prepared by your host family before a night of dancing with the locals. The next morning greets you with a homemade breakfast prepared by your host family.

This tour costs $60. All proceeds from your visit are reinvested into the community for infrastructure such as internet access for the village and touristic development. Click here for more information.

If you want to have a local experience but don’t want to stay with them, consider GuruWalk.  This startup is like an Airbnb of free walking tours, connecting freelance local guides with travelers who pay what they think their guides deserve at the end of the tour. Guides are encouraged to customize their city tour, which can lead to very interesting alternative visits, all based on tips.

What’s your favorite way to stay with locals? Share your top homestays and AirBnBs in the comments below! 

stay with locals

Katie Foote

Katie Foote may be a physicist by trade but she spent several years travelling the world as much as possible. After four years of semi-nomadic life, she spent a couple years in Auckland, New Zealand and recently moved to Vancouver, Canada. Despite living more traditionally, she has insight on how to travel the world on a graduate student budget (cheap!), explore off-the-beaten-path destinations and authentically experiencing new places by connecting to locals. When she's not doing physics or globe-trotting, she likes kickboxing, yoga and exploring her extraordinary new backyard of British Columbia.

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