5 places to stay that aren’t your usual hotels

Amantini Island on Lake Titicaca Peru

Ask travellers what we love most about exploring new places and the majority of us will tell you it’s meeting local people.

We are curious to know more about their lives, we want to share a laugh or two and enjoy authentic experiences. This isn’t easy to do when your stuck in touristy hotels, so the best way to make this happen is to spend the night with someone.

No, we’re not suggesting inviting yourself into locals’ lounge rooms or initiating other ‘more intimate’ encounters, but overnighting at a homestay or family guesthouse is the making of great travel memories.

Here are 5 of our top homestays that tick all the boxes for fantastic real life experiences…

1. Puno, Peru

To get a closer look at daily life in the Lake Titicaca region, the locals of Puno make you feel very welcome on an overnight stay. Sitting on the shores of the highest navigable lake in the world, Puno is renowned as being the folklore capital of Peru, so where better to learn the local legends of the area. You can make the most of your visit by helping your host family with their daily activities, challenging the kids to game of football (look out for the home ground advantage at this altitude!) or try chatting in the local language, Quechua.

UNESCO World Heritage-listed homes of Tulou China

UNESCO World Heritage-listed homes of Tulou

2. Tulou village, China

In Southern China’s picturesque Fujian province you’ll find the remarkable homes of the Hakka people. ‘Hakka’ literally means ‘guest families’, since the ethnic group migrated south and brought with them their culture and unique traditions. Hakka people live in round, walled villages or communal homes known as tulou. These earthen fortresses house many families and generations of the one clan. Now that you can reach the region by high-speed rail from Shanghai, more day-trippers are discovering the UNESCO World Heritage-listed site, but few get to spend the night. This is when you gain a true appreciation of the cultural heritage and share a special evening with the friendly Hakka people.

3. Nubian village, Egypt

Sailing off from Aswan in a traditional felucca sets the scene for a wonderful homestay in a Nubian village on the banks of the Nile. As soon as you disembark, kids come rushing to the boat and show off their clever acrobatics in the refreshing river water. Everyone in the village offers welcoming smiles as you walk by their brightly-coloured mud brick houses and on arrival at your home for the night the extended family are all there to greet you. The women show you how they are preparing dinner (which will prove to be one of the most delicious in Egypt!) and the girls in the group are taught how to wrap their head scarfs. It’s a rare opportunity to learn more about Nubian local life and their ancient culture – just imagine that most travellers would simply sail past these beautiful villages.

Home-cooked meal in Morocco

Home-cooked meal in Morocco – photo by Jo Stewart

4. Moulay Idriss, Morocco

What about enjoying a homestay where the focus is on learning how to cook the region’s famous food? That’s exactly the kind of delicious experience you can enjoy in Moulay Idriss, now that non-Muslims are permitted to overnight in this pilgrimage town. On Real Food Adventure Morocco our lovely hosts will demonstrate how to make Moroccan salads as well as a hearty kefta (meatball) tajine and you can enjoy trying the town’s speciality, nougat candy. The small medina of ancient Moulay Idriss is a pleasure to explore, as the faithful gather to pay homage to the founding father of Islam in Morocco at the 8th-century mausoleum, and come sunset you’ll be treated to superb views over the plains of Volubilis below.

5. Chambok, Cambodia

Chambok is a community-based tourism project that Intrepid has been supporting for years. The project was designed to give residents a financial alternative to charcoal production and what began with only 2 homes in the village now has more than 20 families welcome visitors on a rotational basis. Despite the lack of western toilets, no running water and communal sleeping arrangements, so many travellers rate this homestay as a highlight of their Cambodian adventure. Members of the Women’s Community Centre prepare the most delicious local feast for guests and in an area that was once under serious threat of deforestation, you can now enjoy wonderful jungle walks and waterfall swims.

Beautiful waterfalls of Chombok Cambodia

Beautiful waterfalls of Chombok – photo by Kimheng Heang

Are there other memorable homestay experiences that you’ve enjoyed with Intrepid Travel? We’d love to hear you comments…

* Peru photo by Raelene Laver, for the Intrepid Photography Competition.

About the author

Sue Elliot - Like many of us, Sue contracted a serious travel bug at an early age. She's visited over 90 countries in search of a cure, but her wanderlust just seems to get worse. Thankfully at Intrepid Travel she's amongst people who understand the affliction and since 1998 Sue has enjoyed being our blog and newsletter editor. Here you'll find helpful travel advice and inspiring tales from Sue and other Intrepid travellers.

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This is not exactly a homestay but you stay in a guesthouse close to the host’s place and dine in with the host’s family. This is called the Amazing Noovilu Guesthouse in Mahibadhoo, Maldives. My husband and I stayed here for 5 days and had the best time of our lives! The hosts were super friendly and helpful, forever striving to make our trip a memorable one! I’d recommend this place to anyone who’s visiting Maldives. The island Mahibadhoo is a little farther from the airport city (Male) than most other islands, but believe me, its so totally worth it!


I will be taking the Best of Morocco trip Oct 3-17. My flight gives me 4 extra days in Casablanca before start of trip. Are there any home-stays I can enjoy? Should I go somewhere else for that time?


Best homestay was spending a couple of days with the Iban in Sarawak, Borneo. Getting there was a great couple of hours in a longboat. If the water levels are low, be prepared to get out of the boat and help move it! Chilling in a long house, by a river, with the occcasional visit into the forest to see what we could find. Food was some of the best ever: with rice and vegetables placed into bamboo and then left to simmer over an open fire. The barbie was the top of an old fuel drum. Evenings were spent sharing tales and thinking up puzzles and games. We failed to get most of the solutions to our hosts’ puzzles; maybe we can blame the tuak (rice wine)! Not very many home comforts. There was power which was used sparingly, we slept in the communal main room and our hosts had hooked up a shower using river water. And you made sure you went to the loo before bedtime: climbing down the steps to the ground, avoiding the chickens and pigs to get to the bathroom area in the dark was an adventure in itself!
In some places you can visit for a half day whilst staying in a new ‘ longhouse’ lodge which has more modcons but spending a few days with them in their home is definitely a much better idea.


My wife and I have visited over 40 countries… and have hosted many visitors to Oz where we get a real buzz from the experience. We have also stayed with families overseas, usually 2/4 nights to really get to know them and their customs.

In fact you become friends with many, where a couple from Canada are visiting next week for a third visit and we have stayed with them as well.


These all sound so amazing. I am currently also in seach of a cure for my travel bug bite and am headed to peru in July! I would love to experience this homestay travel lifestyle. Being completely inexperienced with it, Im wondering how does one arrange a stay with a family in these homestays? More specifically in Puno Peru, since it wil hopefully be my first experience.

Siegrun Brunt / Reply

Years ago a friend went on a guided walking tour through Turkey, largely staying in homestayes. I would love to go on a similar adventure!!


In 2010 myself and my family went to Egypt with Intrepid. As a part of this trip we stayed at the Nubian Village. To this day watching my younger brother draw pictures to communicate with a young Nubian boy, is one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I have never had such an amazing learning experience and my trip with Intrepid changed me from a frightened, nervous teenager, into the brave adult that I am today. I would suggest a trip that includes a homestay to anyone. It really is the most amazingly beautiful experience you could ever have. I am looking forward to meeting many more culturally diverse people in many different countries in my future Intrepid adventures.

Hi Laura,
Thanks so much for your comment. I think you’ve really tapped in to what travel is all about – enriching experiences that help you understand more about others as you discover worlds beyond your own. We at Intrepid are honoured, proud and excited that you have such precious memories of your Egypt trip and thank you for sharing them with us.
Here’s to more great adventures soon,
Sue, Intrepid Express Editor.

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