Traveling through the Caribbean is not cheap, especially if you’re looking for accommodation. It might be cheap by some standards, but by backpacker standards everything can be a bit pricey. There’s no $2 rooms like in Southeast Asia and virtually no hostels to be seen. We found our best bet was to look on websites like Couchsurfing.com, which we didn’t get a chance to use, and Air BnB, which we used in Tobago and St. Lucia.
Lucky for us we found an amazing host in St. Lucia, who welcomed us into her home like we were family. I had never before stayed with a local host family and wasn’t sure what to expect. My biggest fear was that it would be extremely awkward and intrusive, that we wouldn’t get along with our host, and that we would be out on the street with no place to stay. All those fears were shot down as soon as we walked through the front door to our host, Noa, in the kitchen. We were welcomed with hugs and huge smiles and we talked through the evening.
Staying with a local host was amazing and is something that I would recommend to anyone who is interested in seeing how locals live in your chosen destination. One of the main reasons we chose our host was for the great reviews left by those who had stayed with her before. Everyone had only nice words to say and her place was located in the area we were hoping for.
The house was a basic local home with all the good and bad that comes with that. In this case, it was the resident mouse and the cockroaches that thankfully kept hidden in the crack in the bathroom wall. Just extra roommates right? Noa’s home was filled with so much love and laughter that it was infectious, you could feel it in the air. There was never a dull moment with her daughter running around and their puppy to play with. We shared meals together, watched movies and sat on the porch late into the night. Noa drove us to visit the volcano and waterfall in Soufriere, stopping at every point where we felt the need to snap a photo. She brewed us fresh herbal teas, taught us how to make cocoa tea and we kicked off one of our final nights dancing in the streets of St. Lucia’s famous Jump-Up in Gros Islet.
As with anything, there are a few things you can do to make your stay with a local host more enjoyable. For me, the top two things you should be doing as a host are:
1. Keep the space clean and tidy. You are a guest in their home, no matter if you become friends or not. Keeping the place as clean as you left it (or cleaner!) is the nice thing to do.
2. Show your appreciation. This can be anything from cooking your host a meal, walking their dog, or even leaving them a small gift. Flowers? Maybe something from your home country?
As for everything else, follow your hosts lead. Every host will have a different personality and a different way of running their home. Some hosts may be young and loud into the night. Others may have small children that need to sleep at an early hour. Music playing in the home might be great, other might not appreciate it as much. So play it by ear and meet your host on common ground that works for you both.
Have you ever stayed with a host family? Were you the host? Share your experience in the comments below!