Looking for a more immersive cultural experience on your trip around Vietnam?
Giving you a deeper and more meaningful travel experience than a hotel, a homestay allows you to sleep overnight with a local family and see what life is like in their world.
Your hosts will feed you their traditional cuisine and show you the customs of their village. You might get to watch a traditional dance performance, help with preparing a meal or drink some locally brewed rice wine.You will be treated like family – a totally different experience than being a guest at a hotel.
1. Homestay in Sapa With Pham in Ta Phin Village
When Lynn and Andy from MoneyLeftforTravel.com went to Vietnam on their honeymoon, they met a woman called Pham – a member of the Red Dao tribe – who offers homestay tours of the small Ta Phin village in lush and green Sapa. From her website you can see that Pham is passionate about sharing her culture with visitors from all over the world.
From Lynn and Andy’s account, Pham is a welcoming guide who will make you feel right at home in her village. “She is a strong woman,” writes Lynn, “who speaks good English and will welcome you into her home with open arms.” A little taken aback by the butchering of a live chicken for dinner, the couple soon relaxed into the culture and kicked back with shots of rice wine.
“I hope that at some point we return to Sapa to see her,” says Lynn. “The next time we will go when the hillside is lush and green. I would love to see what is new with Pham years after we first met her as newlyweds.”
2. Hanoi Family Homestay
Not every homestay is in a village in the middle of nowhere. This local family home is located in Hanoi, the capital and Vietnam’s second largest city. A large pink sign on the wall when you enter states “You are a Family Friend, Not Just a Tourist.”
Hanoi Family Homestay is run by a lady named Perfume, and this friendly home offers an alternative to a staying in a generic hotel. The rooms are simple but clean and welcoming and it’s in a great location close to many things to see and do in the Old Town.
Perfume will do her best to help you get the most out of your time in beautiful Hanoi, offering you insider advice on where to go. Guests gather together every evening in the family dining room to chat, eat and drink together, drawn by the taste of Perfume’s home-cooked meals.
3. Ms. May’s Homestay
Ms. May is a friendly mother of two with a welcoming smile and excellent English skills. She lives in a beautifully simple home just off the main road near Lao Chai village.
Ms. May also works as a tour guide, so she can show you around some of the attractions of the village – including hiking trails, shops, restaurants and batiking craft workshops. Ms. May’s homestay is an excellent opportunity to stay overnight in this pristine and beautiful area and learn more about the Hmong culture.
4. Yen Duc Village Homestay
When Barry and Laura of WorldlyNomads.com stayed at the homestay in the Yen Duc Village in Northeast Vietnam between Hanoi and Halong Bay, they ended up not wanting to leave.
“Yen Duc Village filled our souls with a mixture of joy, sadness and empathy that we’ll never forget. In just 48 hours, we met some of the most wonderfully hospitable and warm people,” Laura writes in her blog about the experience, “They welcomed us with open arms and treated us like extended family in their small close-knit community.”
Laura and Barry got involved in some of the village activities, such as the rice harvest, fishing and even attending a local wedding. “Our homestay experience in Vietnam was incredible, and an absolute must on a journey through Vietnam!” said Barry in an email to me.
5. Pù Luông Nature Reserve Homestay
“Jagged limestone mountains enclose a fertile river valley, dotted with small settlements of wooden houses on stilts. Luminous-green rice fields extend from the water’s’ edge to the thickly-forested slopes, which are streaked with waterfalls. Women in conical hats tend the fields, men herd buffalo and goats from one pasture to another, and children play with domestic animals in earthy courtyards, or take turns jumping from bamboo bridges into rivers.”
Sounds amazing, doesn’t it? There are two homestays to choose from within this rural Vietnamese paradise, Mr. Ba’s and Mr. Si’s. The homestay of Mr. Si is a wooden stilt house with a thatched palm leaf roof perched on the mountainside, offering stunning views down into the valley. Mr. Si and his family are polite and gracious hosts and visitors can bathe in the clear cool water of the rock pools of the nearby mountain stream.
Mr. Ba’s home is even further up the mountain and off the beaten track. It’s a working farm, so you’ll hear the crowing of roosters, the clucking of chickens and the gentle mooing of the cattle. The food is incredibly fresh – sourced right from the farm and prepared over the wood-powered hearth. Listening to the sounds of the countryside and breathing the fresh misty mountain air – you’ll completely relax into the quiet atmosphere here.
6. Ms. May Kieu’s Homestay
This lovely little homestay is a great place to experience the real Sapa. Mrs. May Kieu’s home is located on a farm about 14k out of Sapa in a small village. Her English is good, so she will be able to tell you many stories about the culture.
The homestay also features a large bath house with a traditional wooden herbal bath tub. These baths are a specialty of the Red Dao people and they feature dried medicinal plants and bark in a water filled wok – a wonderfully therapeutic way to relax after a long day of trekking in the forest or helping the family with their daily chores.
7. Sapa Homestay With Hong
“In my case, Hong’s tour and homestay was very influential to me because I was on my first big solo trip, and my first trip through Southeast Asia. I had such a great experience exploring rural towns of Vietnam that I wouldn’t have otherwise,” says Kiersten in an email interview.
She stayed with a family in a beautiful old wooden home surrounded by rice fields and got to see how the local women made their intricately embroidered crafts and clothing, visit a crystal clear waterfall in the mountains and cook dinner with her hosts.
“I would highly recommend a homestay in any destination really, as you are able to experience what local life is in different parts of the world, and bond with locals.”
Have you been to a homestay in Vietnam? Tell us about it in the comments below.
Kelly Dunning is a Canadian freelance travel writer. She lives a nomadic lifestyle with no fixed address – working from the road for the last 5 years with her partner Lee, a web-designer from England. They have traveled to over 40 countries and they offer travel tips, stories and inspiration on Global-Goose.com.