-This post is written by Dawn from 5 Lost Together –
Kerala is a state in southern India and a great choice for first time visitors to India. Unlike the north of India, Kerala offers a more laid back style with the beautiful Malabar coastline, rugged mountains and tea fields inland and sleepy backwater waterways. Not to mention, delicious foods, unique festivals, exotic wildlife and friendly people. Many tourists only spend a few days in the state quickly rushing through the major tourist attractions: Fort Kochi, spending a night on a rice barge on the Backwaters and visiting the tea fields of Munnar. Consider spending a longer time in Kerala to truly acclimatise to this wonderful region. Getting around the state will take much longer than you anticipate but there is a good train and bus network which is part of the experience of traveling in India. You can also choose to hire a driver and vehicle at a very reasonable cost.
Tea fields Munnar
Chinese fishing nets Fort Kochi
Staying in Homestays
What made our month in India so incredibly memorable were the lovely homestays we stayed in. Homestays operate like Bed & Breakfasts and hosts generally have 1-4 rooms in their home that they rent out to visitors. It is an excellent way to ensure that your tourism dollars go directly towards people in the community. Rest assured that you will have your privacy with a locked door, often in a separate building and your own bathroom.
Connect with Local People
One of our favorite homestay hosts with our kids
The biggest advantage of staying in homestays is the ability to connect with local people and learn more about local cultures and ways of life. It allows you to see the country not just as a tourist, but as a visitor. You get great recommendations and local knowledge for sightseeing and transport. Often homestays are set in real neighborhoods, not tourist strips and so you really get to absorb the community you are visiting.
Homestay located on a coffee farm
A typical dinner
Generally when staying in a homestay, some of your meals are included. This ensures you are truly trying the local foods of the area and your hosts will go out of their way to showcase the best foods of the region. It did mean that we ate curry straight the whole time we were in India, but isn’t that the way it should be!?! Meal times can also be a great opportunity to interact with other visitors as often food is served family style at one table. One of the homestays we stayed it, we took a cooking class with the family in their own kitchen, which was the most authentic cooking class I have ever done while traveling.
Chai delivered right to your room
The Bottom Line
Staying in a homestay allowed us to have conversations that we would have never had otherwise. It allowed for cross cultural exchange both ways as often our hosts were just as curious about our lives as we were of theirs. You can stay in a modern, sterile hotel, but we encourage visitors to Kerala to consider staying in homestays. You truly will be making a difference in the lives of families as you contribute to their business. Most of all, your heart will be fuller and your mind richer from this wonderful cultural experience.
Feeling at home at a homestay
Dawn Nicholson loves traveling and blogging about her adventures traveling and living overseas with her three kids at 5 Lost Together. She has visited over 50 countries and believes strongly in traveling now with kids by whatever and any means possible – backpacking, sailing or living as expats overseas. You can follow her adventures and musing at: Facebook and Instagram.
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