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Travel & Holiday

Home away from home

You don’t have to go for deluxe digs all the time
CATS Recruit in The Straits Times - April 6, 2011
By: Sheila Lim
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Home away from home

During my travels, I’ve stayed at interesting places such as a houseboat (complete with a personal butler!) in Kashmir, a damp and musty yurt in Xinjiang, a delightfully pretty cottage in Tasmania, a primitive thatched-roof hut on stilts in Hanoi, and an eerie heritage palace hotel in Rajasthan. All of these digs were pre-booked by my travel agents.

My first homestay experience, however, came about quite by accident. During a trip to Prague some years ago, my travelling companion and I were approached by the owner/agent of a homestay facility upon our arrival at the train station. She showed us photographs of the apartment and even took us there.

Though it lacked the comforts of a nice hotel, the place was very affordable, reasonably comfortable and best of all (for us), came with a kitchenette. It was also located near a bus-stop and just a short distance from town. As we liked our homestay experience, we sought the help of staff at the tourist office to book a homestay when we arrived at our next destination, Budapest. The place he found for us was located in a quiet residential estate. Though the bus-stop was about 15 minutes away, staying there allowed us to discover several charming local eateries in the neighbourhood.     

Like I was before, many travellers aren’t very keen on homestays because they don’t know what to expect and fear the worst. My accidental discovery, however, made me realise that veering off well-trodden paths not only helps shave a significant chunk off our travel expenses, but may yield surprises (both pleasant and unpleasant) and more interesting insights into a place, which will suit those with the spirit of adventure well.

So when it comes to accommodation options, travellers who dare should try to venture beyond hotels, motels and hostels. There are other decent options worth considering; and cosy, convenient lodging at budget prices can be found in virtually every destination — as long as you know where to look.


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