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Look after your health on a homestay

A homestay with a local family will give you an unforgettable experience and allow you to better understand the community you are visiting. A homestay can also accelerate your progress in learning a language. There are few health considerations to consider, but these hurdles are easy to overcome.

Keep your germs to yourself

If you have a gastro-intestinal illness (GI), consider postponing your stay so that you don’t share it with your host family.

Cover your sneezes and coughs, preferably with your elbow – like Dracula. If you sneeze into your hand you might smear respiratory droplets on to shared surfaces such as door handles and bannisters.

Frequent handwashing will also prevent the spread of germs. See NHS Choices for a handwashing video. Soap and water is perfectly adequate, or you could bring some hand sanitizer. Wipes place a burden on local waste disposal systems, and never flush them down a toilet because they will cause blockages!

And if anyone in the house seems to have an infectious disease, raise it with the organisation coordinating your stay.

Sleeping arrangements

You may not be offered an air-conditioned room, so be prepared for basic accommodation. A silk or cotton sleeping bag liner can be cooling, and can shield you from rough or uncomfortable bedding. A portable mosquito net could be a good investment, but in malarious areas your host family will probably have nets or screens.

Food and water safety

If you are offered a drink, tea is a safe bet because it is made with boiled water. You may prefer to drink it black if you are not sure about the local dairy products.

If you feel uncomfortable about accepting a particular food or a drink, politely decline. It may be easier to say ‘no’ outright than take a token sip or bite, but you will have to be the judge of that. Declining food is difficult to navigate, but you need to take care of your own health. Most hosts will understand your desire to look after yourself.


If you are doing a homestay in a country where rabies is endemic, your travel health adviser may recommend the rabies shot. This is because you are at increased risk from animal bites on a homestay.

In rabies endemic areas, seek prompt medical advice if you are bitten or scratched by an animal.

Ask before interacting with a pet, and always wash your hands afterwards.

What shots do I need for a homestay?

During your appointment with Global Travel Clinics your nurse adviser will check that your shots for diphtheria, polio and tetanus are up to date. You should get vaccinated against measles, mumps and rubella if you have not already been. You may wish to get vaccinated against two GI illnesses, typhoid and hepatitis A as well. In some parts of the world a shot against meningococcal meningitis will be recommended. If you are staying near paddy fields, ask about getting vaccinated against Japanese encephalitis. Global Travel Clinics can offer same-day travel vaccinations: see our booking page to make an appointment.