An Authentic Travel Experience Through Homestays

By: Tran Thi Minh Hieu

About a decade ago in Vietnam, the word “homestay” only appeared in discussions about Vietnamese students studying overseas. Very few people thought that they could start a business by offering their own house for tourists to stay.

Now, it’s becoming a growing trend in the country’s tourism industry, bringing changes to communities and new experiences for travelers.

Staying at a local house is not only cheaper, it also allows travelers to experience the daily life and culture of the local family. It’s like coming to a friend’s house, and having a friend to show you around their favorite places in town. You might get to try their favorite food, have meaningful conversations and do different things than tourists normally get to do.

homestayImage source: 3.bp.blogspot.com

This is why many travelers, especially young people, are looking for homestay options when they travel around Vietnam. With the rising demand, homestay travel is becoming serious business, with a host of new homestays and new destinations regularly putting their names on the map.

Sapa, A Homestay Heaven

Sapa is one of the first destinations where homestay travel started gaining popularity. The small town lying on the edge of the highest peaks in Vietnam is full of ethnic minority groups, with a diverse and intriguing culture that adds to the amazing scenery. While the town is lined with big and small hotels, homestays are very popular, and even tour operators also include this in the itinerary.

homestayImage source: phuotvui.com

Lu Van Khuyen, Chief of the Department of Culture and Information of Sapa told Nhan Dan newspaper that within 10 kilometres from Sapa township, there are more than 1000 homestays. Some people come and stay for weeks or months.

Que Lan, a recent homestay traveller to Sapa, shared her experience on Instagram.

“Here everyday I can learn new things and meet new people. Everyday there’s a routine — after I’m done with my work, I’ll do the housework, and sometimes Nu takes me for a ride to her store so I can walk around the [Cat Cat] village. My Cat Cat is so beautiful.”

Community Changer

Following the footstep of their most famous cousin, other towns in Vietnam’s Northern mountains are offering homestays to gain more visitors. In the vast terrains where it’s too hard to grow crops, the life of local people is getting easier thanks to homestays.

Video source: City Pass Guide

Ha Giang province is known as the northernmost province of Vietnam, difficult to reach but full of pristine treasures: flower fields and forests, ethnic costumes and festivals, and traditional houses. In Nam Dam village, Quan Ba district, from 2012 to 2015, non-governmental organizations Caritas Switzerland and PanNature worked with local Dao people to build 30 houses and 18 homestays, and develop trekking routes to support tourism in the village.

The most prominent homestay in Nam Dam village is Dao Lodge. It was designed by architect Hoang Thuc Hao and his colleagues from 1+1>2 Architects, using the ancient techniques of the rammed earth house, which involves compressing a damp mixture of earth and clay into a wooden frame and then remove the frame to make a wall.

homestayImage source: vanhoaviet.com

In another remote part of Ha Giang, Hoang Su Phi district, Helvetas Vietnam and the Center for Rural Economy Development (CRED) supported local Dao people to build homestays. It was no easy job, as the Dao people here live in stilt houses, and traditionally raise livestock on the ground under the house.

As Ban Quay Chang, a homestay owner in Hoang Su Phi, told Vietnamnet, “It took us months to decide to move the cattles some hundred metres away from the house. We have been keeping cattles close to our home for generations, so we can’t change that overnight.”

homestayImage source: vanhoaviet.com

Language is also a challenge. Unlike in tourist-friendly towns like Sapa, people in Hoang Su Phi have never been exposed to English in their life, so initially they struggled to communicate with their international guests.

However, when there’s a will there’s a way. They bought smartphones and went to English classes in the district’s center.

A Countrywide Movement

Now with the help of travel booking sites and apps, you can find homestays almost anywhere you want to go in Vietnam, from popular destinations to remote areas. Here’s a list of homestays that will make you want to pack your bag and go there.

- RiceRoad Homestay (Sapa/ Pu Luong)

- Phơri’s House (Sapa/ Hanoi/ Saigon)

- Mr Linh’s Homestay (Bac Kan)

- Le Bleu Homestay (Hanoi/ Tam Dao/ Hoi An/ Da Lat/ Saigon)

- Old Yellow House (Hoi An)

- Countryside Homestay (Phu Yen)

- Mui Ne Connect (Phan Thiet)

- Kokoro Home (Nha Trang)

- The Dalat Old Home (Da Lat)

- Cocohut Homestay (Ben Tre)

Banner Image source: megatrip.vn

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