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What is a homestay in Guatemala really like?

Responsible Tourism


In recent years the popularity and visibility of homestay lodging experiences has grown and attracted many tourists. Homestays offer a wide range of experiences, from staying in a beautiful cottage on a farm to sleeping in a hammock! Depending on the level of adventurousness or comfort you prefer, you can choose from an abundance of hosts and locations. Sofia and Pablo run a successful homestay project in Lake Atitlan (Guatemala), and shared their tips and insights with us:

You might have heard stories about homestays gone wrong… But positive homestay encounters far outweigh any negative ones. In order to have a favorable homestay experience, there are a few considerations to take into account. First, it is important to choose a trusted local tour operator to connect you to your host. Second, keep an open mind: you’ll encounter language, beliefs, religion, and foods that may be unlike what you are used to. Third, be prepared to leave your comfort zone and take part in a true local experience wholeheartedly. Finally, keep in mind that a homestay is an entirely bilateral experience. While doing a homestay both you and the host engage in a give and take and share your lives with each other.

There are many reasons to consider a homestay while travelling abroad:

Enriching cultural exchange

While travelling on your own and staying at hostels you will tend to meet mostly other foreigners doing what you are doing. While staying with a local, you will make connections with the community and have a richer cultural experience. You will learn how to get around like a local, experience activities that the locals enjoy, and visit places known only to locals. Your host family will function as your “tour guide”, while providing you with an authentic understanding of everyday local life. You will also be able to share your own culture with your host family.

Improve communication and language skills

If you’d like to improve your foreign language skills, sharing and communicating with your homestay family is so beneficial. The best possible way to become fluent in a foreign language is to practice it constantly with native speakers. While doing a homestay, you will be constantly listening to the local language. This makes it easier to pick up pronunciation and become familiar with the local slang.

A chance to learn something new

Try out a lifestyle different from your own, and take part in activities that are unique to the area. You can learn a new art, hobby, craft or some particular line of work that can only be done there. In Argentina, take tango lessons with locals. While traveling in Costa Rica, visit the coffee plantations with the farmers. When visiting Guatemala, there is a wide selection of local and cultural experiences to try!

Try delicious local food

While staying with locals, you will also be deeply immersed in the local cuisine, and unique ingredients. Be ready to experience new flavors and unfamiliar preparations. Some travelers become so attached to local dishes that learning to prepare them is a MUST!  Your host family can not only teach you how to prepare your favorite food, but also recommend nearby venues to try the most delicious dishes in the area.

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Cost and positive impact

The thrifty traveller will be happy to learn that a homestay experience can also save money! You will find that the price of a homestay is generally not as high as staying at a hotel or hostel. The lower price tag does not mean you will have to compromise on comfort or value, though! Most homestays usually give you your own private room, laundry, and simple cleaning services. Many include at least some meals (which will save you money for excursions and other activities). With a homestay, you will also have the satisfaction of knowing that your money is being used as an extra income for a local family while improving the local economy.

No homesickness

Staying with a host family can help you avoid feelings of homesickness. Your homestay experience will give you support and guidance while you are getting adjusted to a new place! Through sharing a space and interacting with your host family, you are invited to become a part of their home and they will make you feel safe.

In the end, participating in a homestay will allow you to return home to your normal surroundings as someone enlightened, passionate about another culture, and perhaps fluent in a new language! You will have gained new abilities, skills and broader perspectives of yourself and others. Plus, you will have practiced a slower, more responsible and sustainable way of travelling.

Homestays in Lake Atitlan

Since we started working in San Juan la Laguna we have had the opportunity to share with local families our goals and dreams, working together with a common benefit. Today our homestay programs include different actives such as local cuisine, trekking, primitive naif art lessons, weaving lessons, medicinal orchards and natural dyes. Always keeping in mind that San Juan la Laguna is a town where culture, traditions, art and history mix and come alive. Most of the host families come from an artistic background, and they open the doors of their homes looking for a true cultural exchange where they can share with travellers all their knowledge and Maya heritage and cosmovision. Providing an opportunity to truly feel and understand the essence of Guatemala, while giving back to the community and contributing to sustainable development.

True wanderlust means knowing when to leave your comfort zone. If you’re ready for an authentic homestay experience, we recommend trying our homestay programmes in Lake Atitlan or El Paredón beach. You can visit the Guatemala Holidays page to enquire and find out more.

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