The good thing is that all this is changing as a result of the growing popularity of owner managed retreats in India. If you thought they were very modest, then think again! An owner managed retreat or a home-stay is similar in concept to that of a bed and breakfast.
Guests are either accommodated in the family home, or in separate quarters nearby. Nowadays, most home-stays provide their guests with just as much comfort as a reputable hotel and on top of this, you get to feast on delicious home cooked food and receive personalised attention. If you've ever experienced famed Indian hospitality, you'll know what a treat this is.
While India has some magnificent home-stays, there are a few that stand out in terms of facilities, location, and hosts. Villages, royal residences, forts, and the tranquil backwaters of Goa and Kerala are just some of the mesmerising settings where you'll find home-stays in India.
Now there are wonderful retreats ranging from tented camps in rural Rajasthan, too small owner managed lodges where one can view leopard and other wildlife as well as horse ride, too staying at forts which are still owner managed and plantation houses and lodges in Kerala and the Western Ghats. These houses are largely run by active retired professionals.
A stay here combines the comfort and distinction of a small hotel or larger fort with the personal hospitality, informality and local knowledge enjoyed when staying with family friends. One of our favourite owner managed retreats in southern India offers wonderful cuisine and even better still, fantastic cookery classes, from a day to a week. It is always full of guests from France which is a good indication of the food!
There are a number of reasons why staying at an owner managed retreat can be preferable to staying in a hotel.
They offer distinctive and characterful accommodation. Tired of sterile hotels? There's no better way to experience the incredibly diversity and charm of India than at a home-stay. The options are almost endless and include plantation bungalows, historic havelis (mansions), and remote rural cottages.
They offer personalised service. In contrast to a hotel, a home-stay usually only has a few rooms. The family who resides there runs it, and acts as host. This guarantees that guests receive plenty of individual attention. You can spend as little or as much time with the host family as you like.
Some guests choose only to dine with them, while others spend hours chatting to them. Regardless, staying with an Indian family is the easiest way of finding out about Indian culture and way of life. Many guests and hosts find that they bond with each other so much, that they keep in touch long after the vacation is over.
They have incredible local knowledge. The wealth of information that the hosts have about their local area makes deciding what to see and do a breeze. Such local knowledge is extremely helpful in getting the most from your visit. Many hosts are delighted to show their guests around their local area, providing them with invaluable insights that simply aren't available from a guide book.
You can enjoy delicious home cooked food. There's a huge difference between the Indian food served in restaurants and hotels, and the food that's cooked in an Indian home. By staying at a home-stay, you'll be able to taste authentic Indian home cooked food, made to order. It's a lot lighter, and has more variation and flavor than restaurant food. Some home-stays even welcome their guests into their kitchen, and let them watch and participate in the cooking process.
They can arrange unique activities. As a guest at ahome-stay, the focus is on you, and your likes and preferences. The hosts are usually very accommodating and will put a great deal of effort into arranging activities that are of interest to you. These activities will vary depending on location.
Exploring a coffee plantation in Coorg, watching a polo match in Rajasthan, herding animals in remote northern India, village visits, picnics, and temple tours are just some of the options. Guests are often invited to attend weddings, or other festivals that are happening, as well.
Staying at a home-stay in India is all about immersing yourself in India, rather skimming over it on the tourist trail.