The Kindness of Strangers: Why I Stay With Locals (& Why You Should Too!)

“There are no strangers only friends we haven’t met yet”

Ugh! Cringe. If someone approached me and said that my gut instinct would be to punch them square in the face. (I wouldn’t of course, but from that moment on I’d consider you a soppy son of a..)

Stay with locals
With local friends in Naples, Italy

The sentiment however is kind of true when it comes to the travelling analogy.
Generally speaking, the kind of people that travel are those who are open minded and welcoming of new ideas and alternate views and opinions. Those that host are usually like-minded and (in my experience) tend to fall into one of the below categories:

1. They have travelled themselves and have a passion for it. They know what it’s like to be in your shoes and as such they are accommodating to the tune of how they would expect their hosts to treat them.

2. Life hasn’t yet given them the opportunity to travel – perhaps commitments or finances have stopped them, but they love to learn about other countries and cultures and do so by hosting in place of travelling themselves.

Stay with locals
While in Ho Chi Minh City, I did a home stay so that I could stay with locals and learn about their lives in Vietnam.

I can smell your scepticism, I understand it. When I first heard of platforms such as couchsurfing or home-stay, I wondered why on earth a person would be nice for no reason – they must want something? Either they want the V or they are crazy and will skin me in my sleep and wear me like a dressing gown right?
Actually no, there are some genuinely kind people out there and travel really restores your faith in that. Of course you have to exert some level of common sense but I have met some really wonderful people in this manner.

Stay with locals when you travel
I didn’t stay with locals in Korea (I live there!) but I met local friends through platforms such as couchsurfing!

Imagine – you are in a small town in an “off the beaten track” part of the world and you decide to stay in a hostel. The evening outcome could either be:

A. You don’t meet anyone at the hostel – maybe you just missed them when you checked in and they had already headed out for the evening, maybe there aren’t many travellers visiting this city – so you spend the evening exploring the city and eating alone.

B. – You meet some travellers and get on well but none of you are familiar with the city so you amble into the first place you see, or you find a place rated highly on trip advisor or similar and you go there to sit elbow to elbow with all the other backpackers in this city who had the same idea.
However if you stay with a local, they will know the very BEST places in the city to eat and drink – the places that the guidebooks don’t tell you about; they will take you out for the evening with their friends and your experience of that city will be as though this were your native land.
This extends into home life also – through staying with locals I’ve had the amazing experience of joining in with family meal times, learning interesting local recipes and overall just enjoying an intimate cultural exchange with my hosts.
It’s made my trips to certain places that much more special.

How Do You Find a Local To Stay With?

The most popular platforms for staying with locals are of course airbnb and couchsurfing, though you can also find a lot of traditional homestays on websites like (that’s how I found my homestay in Vietnam).

Safety Checklist

To ensure that your host isn’t a secret Norman Bates, after the V, or likely to dress up in all of your clothes while you’re out exploring (sorry, not trying to scare you ;)!), I would propose that you follow the below safety checklist when choosing a place to stay.

1. Always always check past reviews – someone that has no reviews may well be a lovely person just starting out hosting but for me, I’m not willing to take that chance. If the person has a plethora of positive reviews then I feel reassured I’ll be safe and well accommodated… On the other end of the spectrum, if I see something negative, I know to avoid (honestly I have seen some very peculiar negatives!)

2. I’m here to travel not for the D. Think about who your hosts are. This is particularly important as a single woman (or actually any number of women in a female only party for that matter) As a solo female, I would never stay with Males (again, I’m sure there are many who are nice but I’m not taking that risk! In my experience, there can also be a lot of opportunist guys that try and take advantage of travellers trusting nature) My hosts of choice are couples, families or mother types.

3. Be a gracious guest – these are people that are letting you into th
eir homes. No one expects it – but consider taking a thank you gift, help with the dishes, or just be interested in your host – it saddens me when I hear people using platforms like couchsurfing just for a free ride.

4. Leave a review – airbnb, couchsurfing etc have a review facility. Leave one to assist the rest of the travelling community.

For additional security and peace of mind, I prefer the paid hosting sites, but use your own judgement.

Pin it For Later!

Do you like to stay with locals when travelling? Why/why not? Leave your comments below!

  1. I totally agree with this post. I personally have never used a host family, but this can be great for those that want to truly be apart of the culture. There is so much to learn from the daily lives of the people who live there. 🙂

  2. I love staying with locals for all these reasons! And I’ve just gotten used to the fact that the majority of the world is nicer than the media or those who don’t travel paint it to be.

    1. Yeah I think it’s one of my favourite things about travelling, having the opportunity to meet the local people and learn about the culture. Definitely restores your faith in mankind when you see how kind people can be on couchsurfing, etc – a lot of people will go out of their way to help you 🙂

  3. I just LOVE couchsurfing. I had great experiences with people hosting! Actually, most of my hosts were a lot nicer than my guests hehehe. But it is true that there are a lot of predators – I had a really creepy old pervert guy hosting me and it was overall unpleasent! Ugh.

    1. It’s awesome! It makes me feel so much more confident travelling knowing that it’s there and I can meet a bunch of people through it if I don’t bump into other travellers on my way (was so thankful for it in Korea because it seemed there weren’t many other backpackers!) Oh gosh, horrible!! :O Thankfully nothing like that for me but I find it quite funny really if you post a trip schedule on couchsurfing and you get an absolute ton of guys saying they will show you around etc, ha!

Follow the adventure from the comfort of E-mail!

Follow the adventure from the comfort of E-mail!