Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Vacation in 2017 - Portugal 3

Three weeks is a long holiday; the expenditure will be enormous. There are expenses for - Stay, Food, Travel inside Portugal, Entrance tickets to museums and castles, Souvenirs, and miscellaneous and unforeseen expenses which may crop up. The plan was to have a good time, have loads of fun, eat good food (translates into tons of ice cream and cheese for Jo, varieties of bread, fruits, and rice for me). We decided to see all the places we wanted to irrespective of the entrance tickets. We had to travel by the available transport. We couldnot economise on transport not could we economise on entrance tickets etc. That left only 'food', where we could economize on. 
It turned out to be a simple decision for us. Jo and I are vegetarian. Though we enjoy eating out now and then, we like home cooked food more; which meant we had to buy buy locally available groceries, vegetables and fruit and prepare our food as much as possible.
I love traveling to see new places, meet new people, and understand their lifestyle / culture of that place. Staying in hotels in tourist places, we cannot see people in their environment. Combining our love of understanding the culture and eating home food, the result was Homestay. We had stayed in a homestay in Paris a few years back, and we enjoyed it thoroughly!!
Once we decided that, we had to find Homestay options who allowed the use of their kitchen. We used mainly airbnb website for most of our stay, Homestay.com for accommodation in Lisbon, and Booking.com for hotel room in Brussels. 
Airbnb website is easy to use, they are quick to respond and clear to understand. For four locations, where tariff was deducted but the booking was not confirmed. We found different homestays for those locations and booked those. Received the amounts for those unconfirmed bookings returned to my bank account in exactly one week's time. There were no hassles of chasing them for the booking amounts.
We had very good experiences in all the places we stayed. The hosts were very friendly and helpful. 
For those who donot know what a homestay is, it is accommodation on rental basis, for a stay as short as one day or as long as several months, as part of someone's home / a complete house for the purpose of homestay. Usually those who have one or several extra rooms in their homes, need extra income, have some extra time to manage the guests arrival and departure, and take care of housekeeping, who love to meet people, opt to open up their homes for guests. The cost of a room per night in a homestay is much cheaper than a hotel room with similar facilities.
it is always better to book your stay well in advance. If it is a tourist season, there will be demand for accommodation, they will be snapped up soon. We left booking a few places till one week before departure, and we had to take whatever was available.
The criteria for selection of a homestay for us was:
The location - Since our schedule was very tight, we wanted to stay as close as possible to the places of tourist importance. That way we could cut down on travel time and spend more time sight seeing.
Connectivity - The homestay has to be close to a public transport, either buses, trains, metro, or tram. We did use the cabs where needed, but mostly preferred public transport. It is cheaper and more fun. I got to see how the card swiping in buses works, the turnstiles in metro stations is a nightmare for me, the announcement of the coming stop / station, observing people ....
Staying at home feeling - As the name implies, since we stay in someone's home, we do feel at home. We will have people to talk to (in most cases). We can cook our food and / or eat at a dining table etc. To unwind and relax at the end of a tiring day of sight seeing...
Tariff - For all those who are traveling on a budget, homestay is the best option. It is way cheaper than staying in a hotel. There were homestay options which were expensive, we chose the ones which suited our needs and pocket.
You should register with airbnb website to use the site for booking.  

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