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Banish all thoughts of what it’s like to stay with your in-laws, homestay families are incredibly hospitable and genuinely happy to be looking after their guests. The hosts are often among the most respected families in the community and many will offer to show you round their town or village, farm or estate sharing their local knowledge and providing a fascinating insight into everyday life that you couldn’t find any other way. Without exception they will be pleased to make recommendations of great things to do and may even use their influence to give you access to special events or places otherwise closed to visitors.
In Kerala your homestay could be a plantation bungalow, backwater hideaway or restored colonial mansion. At some you’ll find just one or two guest rooms in the family house, but we know that not everyone enjoys that level of intimacy, so we can suggest others with detached cottages for a smidgeon more independence. Rooms are homely, with en-suite shower rooms and come decorated in a variety of styles. Usually the candlewick bedspreads have been removed and the nicnacks tidied away, but you might still find a television lurking beneath a lace-trimmed cover in the family sitting room.
Your hosts invariably know when to grab you for a chat or leave you to your own devices, but meal times are usually taken together and are a social occasion to relish. Over pre-dinner drinks you’ll find out more about the family, enjoy the local gossip, or perhaps bandy words about politics before tucking into authentic Indian food at its very best – home cooked. A homestay really is a home away from home.
Andrea Hulme’s travel experiences could fill a small novel; from a bit-part in a Tamil movie, to leading expeditions in Kyrgyzstan and negotiating landslides along the Karakoram highway.