If you want the chance to really get to know a place from the inside, what could be a better way than staying with a local? A homestay is a unique experience that goes beyond the warm welcome of a bed and breakfast to offer you the chance of staying in a real home, alongside friendly hosts who want to share their knowledge and advice, as well as their house, with interested visitors. What a homestay offers in terms of accommodation can vary from a simple bedroom with bathroom access to almost free run of a house - you can choose whether you want just a base, the chance to self-cater or sometimes even benefit from hosts who will cook for you. What's more, the price is usually low and sharing with hosts offers a lower environmental impact than a traditional hotel set-up.
Homestays are found in a huge range of locations across the world, with (predictably) larger concentrations in urban areas and major cities - including big tourist destinations such as London, Paris, Barcelona and Amsterdam. The concept has been popularised by websites such as couchsurfing (a more basic form, where guests may well find themselves on a couch) and crashpadder. For more information on homestays check out Anouk van den Eijnde's blog on Homestays, the cheap, local way to travel and greentraveller founder Richard Hammond's post on the World's Best Homestays. We've also got a selection of fantastic homestay possibilities in exciting destinations listed below - from the Chianti Hills near Florence, Tuscany, to the beautiful beaches of the Algarve, Portugal.