Student FAQs for homestay bookings

To ensure that students have a clear understanding of the homestay arrangement, and to ensure the expectations are set correctly, we have compiled a useful list of frequently asked questions. These are to complement the overall student guidelines, which can be found here: Student Guidelines page. Please ensure you have read and understood both of these pages before proceeding with your homestay reservation.

What is a homestay?

A homestay is a cultural exchange between a local individual or family (called a host) and a visiting international student or intern. The student/intern lives as a guest in the home similar to a member of the family or a visiting friend. The host family will make you feel welcome and treat you as a member of the family but is not there to serve you.

What should I bring?

Rooms at our host families are furnished and fully equipped. Towels and sheets are provided by the host family and replaced regularly. Your host will provide toilet paper, but you should purchase your own “toiletries” such as toothpaste, body soap/shower gel, shampoo etc. Please do not help yourself to other peoples’ toiletries. Toilet paper should not be removed from the bathroom for cosmetic use. Chemist shops such as Boots offer a wide choice of good, inexpensive bath products and cosmetics. Used toilet paper should be disposed of in the toilet (not in the rubbish bin) while feminine sanitary/hygienic products and cotton wool should be disposed of in the bathroom rubbish bin (not in the toilet).

Do I need to bring something for my host family?

A small gift from your country may help to ‘break the ice’ upon your arrival and would be very much appreciated by the host family. However it is not a necessity or something that you feel obliged to do.

Can I use the bathroom anytime I want?

If you are sharing a bathroom with other members of the family, please find out when is the best time to have a shower and for how long. Do not take long showers or baths at it uses a lot of hot water and monopolizes the washroom. It is your responsibility to provide your own personal hygiene items such as shampoo, soap, body wash, toothpaste, mouthwash etc.

Can I do my laundry in the homestay, and when?

Yes. In most cases laundry facilities are included in the home. Students may have reasonable access to laundry facilities or the family may do your laundry for you. In most cases laundry is done once per week (usually 2 washes, one for dark clothes another for light) and host families advise their students for suitable days within the week to wash laundry. Please do not leave your laundry outside of your room for the host family to pick up. Please ask your host about the laundry arrangements.

Does my host family provide a maid service?

No. Your host family is not a maid service. It is your responsibility to keep your room tidy. You should also clean up after yourself, especially if you have been using the kitchen. However, you are not expected to do ‘housework’. It is polite and is often appreciated if offer to help a little with small chores i.e. offer to help clear the table after dinner. However, you are not required to do home chores such as baby-sitting, gardening, house cleaning etc.

How can I iron my clothes?

Ask your host to show you where the iron is kept and how to use it. Please note that your host will not do your ironing for you.

What are the various meal plans you offer?

For individual students, we offer three meal plans: Self Catering, Bed & Breakfast and Half Board (Breakfast & Evening meal). More details can be found here: Homestay meal plans explained. Please note that not all host families offer all of these meal plans.

What does ‘meal time’ mean?

Meal time refers to the time meals will be served or are ready for you to eat.

If I am staying on a Half Board basis, do I have to have dinner with the host every night?

No, if you would like to eat out that is fine. However, please ensure you inform your host as early as possible and give them plenty of notice. It can cause the host inconvenience if they have cooked a meal for you but you do not arrive to eat the meal and have not informed them.

If I am staying on a Self Catering basis, when can I use the kitchen?

Each host family will use the kitchen at different times, so please discuss this with your host upon arrival. They will also show you where you can store your food.

If I am staying on a Bed and Breakfast basis, am I able to use the kitchen?

We do not guarantee you will have access to the kitchen on a Bed and Breakfast basis. You are not generally permitted to use the kitchen to cook or store your own food. However, some hosts permit light cooking if specifically arranged when booking. If you require guaranteed use of the kitchen, we would recommend you select a Self Catering meal plan with a host family which offers this.

I have specific dietary requirements. Can you still help?

Of course we will try our best to find a suitable host family, but it is imperative that you inform us of the full details prior to booking so we can make the appropriate arrangements. For example, if you are a vegetarian and wish to book on a Half Board basis, we will try to place you with a host family who is either vegetarian themselves, or happy to provide vegetarian meals. Alternatively, you could book Self Catering accommodation so you could cater for your own dietary requirements.

I have allergies that may affect me during my stay, what do I need to do?

Be sure to let us know when booking, so we can notify the host family. However, please be aware that it is your responsibility to ensure that you are not affected by the food and environment in the homestay. Neither our agency or the host family can accept any responsibility for any harm or injury caused by allergic reactions.

If I choose the meal option initially, can I switch to the no-meal option at some point?

It is occasionally possible to change your meal plan mid-stay, however the meal plan you change to depends on the meal plans offered by your host and is subject to them agreeing to the switch.

My host said I should ‘help myself’. What does it mean?

It means that you may take a biscuit or an apple from the fruit bowl without asking. However, please be careful not to take treats or special food without asking or take more than a reasonable amount of what is being offered. Please do not take food from the house for your personal use without permission i.e. for lunch.

Am I allowed to use the internet?

If you do not have your own laptop the host may let you use their computer. If so, please respect their private documents and files and do not spend too long using their computer as others in the house may also need to use it. While we will endeavour to resolve the situation as best we can, we are not liable for any lack of internet connectivity at the host’s home. If it is crucial you have internet access at all time, we recommend you purchase a USB dongle, available from most mobile phone shops.

How long can I stay on the internet?

Talk with your host about internet usage. Usually hosts will have an unlimited internet plan but it is polite to ask to avoid any bandwidth charges.

Will I share my room with other people?

Only if you specifically book a twin or double room, which can only be shared by two people travelling together. For safety reasons, we do not allow students to share a bedroom with a stranger.

Can I keep the lights or TV when I am outside of the room?

Electricity is expensive is the UK and you should respect the usual house rules on energy conservation. Please don’t forget to turn off the lights when you leave a room. Turn off the TV or radio when you are not using them.

Can I play music or watch TV in my room?

Yes, although if you wish to play music, or if your room has a TV, please keep the volume low and respect your hosts’ need for quiet, both at bed-time and possibly at other times during the day.

What can I do if I am too hot or cold in my room?

In winter, homes in the UK are centrally heated. Heating is normally regulated by a timer and set to go off at certain times of the day when the family is not at home. If you are not warm enough, please discuss this with your host. It is advisable to keep an extra layer of clothing for extra warmth in or out of the home. English homes are not usually air-conditioned in summer but the climate is rarely unbearably hot and rooms can be cooled by opening a window.

What access do I have to the rest of the house?

Some hosts may have a private study room, which is not for the use of other family members and guests. Bedrooms are always private. Students/guests must never enter the bedrooms of their host family. Please note you cannot use any other room in the house to store your belongings, unless in special circumstances where the host family has granted permission.

Can I bring alcohol to my homestay home?

It is best to ask permission first. Please not that it is illegal to drink alcohol in the UK if you are under 18 years old.

Can I invite my friends to my homestay?

Generally this is not permitted. Some hosts may permit you to have a guest visit, however, you must have approval from your host before you invite friends into your host’s home. Overnight stays are strictly prohibited.

What if I want to stay out late?

If you are over 18 and planning to return home late, please advise your host in advance so that they do not worry.

Am I allowed to bring my own pets?

No, your pets are not allowed in the homestay.

Can I smoke in the accommodation?

Homestays are usually non-smoking accommodation. Individually this can be discussed with the respective families. Smoking outside on the street should not be a problem, but please be respectful with where you leave the cigarette ends.

If I lose my key what should I do?

Tell your host immediately. If the key cannot be found, it would be polite to offer to pay for a replacement.

What happens if I lose any of my possessions?

You are advised to take out a student insurance policy to cover you in case your belongings are lost or stolen in or out of the home. Neither our agency, or your host family, are responsible for your personal possessions. If you have brought valuable items, such as jewellery, computers, cameras or cash with you, you are advised to ask your host where they can be stored for safekeeping. You are not advised to keep large amounts of cash in your room or on your person.

Am I allowed to use the telephone?

Your host’s telephone is for you to receive calls from family and close friends only. To preserve your host’s privacy, please do not give your host’s telephone number to casual acquaintances made in London. If you need to make and receive a large number of social calls, you are advised to consider purchasing a “pay-as-you-go” mobile (cell) phone once you have arrived.

It is advisable to check with your host on the earliest and latest times each day, which are convenient for you to receive calls and then advise your family and friends accordingly. In order not to inconvenience your host, you are advised to limit the number of calls you receive and restrict them to a reasonable length, so as not to tie up the telephone lines for long periods.

You are not entitled to use your host’s telephone to make outgoing calls or to connect to the Internet without permission. There are many public telephones and inexpensive Internet cafés all over London.

Some hosts will permit you to make outgoing calls using a phone card to call out (which can be purchased easily at many outlets in London). Please ask permission to do this. It is, however, advisable to make your calls from public telephones outside the home. Unlike in some countries, local calls are not free in the U.K.

Is there a curfew while staying in a homestay?

If you are under 18 then there may be a curfew set by your host family, based on the guidelines we offer to the hosts. Students aged 16 – 18 will usually be asked to be home before 10pm. Students under 16 years old may not be permitted out in the evenings other than on school organised activities with a responsible adult present. If you are over 18, you are considered an adult and there will not be a curfew. If you are returning to the host family late at night, you should be considerate of other people in the house and enter quietly. You should try to avoid activities that may wake other members of the family i.e. cooking, playing music etc.

Is there a minimum length of stay?

We generally do not accept bookings of less than 1 week. Further more, any bookings of under 4 weeks are subject to a £50 short stay supplement.

What is the minimum/maximum age?

If you are booking as an individual, the minimum age to stay with a host family is 16 years old, however, all bookings for individuals under the age of 18 will be subject to a £15 per week juniors supplement. There is no maximum age.

Do I have to be a student to book a homestay?

We can only book homestays for guests who are coming to London for study, internship or in some cases, full-time employment. We cannot book homestays for those who are coming to London for tourism or a holiday.

I have specific requirements when booking a homestay. Is this ok?

We will try and match your request the best we can. However, please note that if you are very specific, this will restrict the number of options (if any) that we will be able to offer. If this is the case, we will ask if you are able to compromise on any of your requests in order to open up more available host family options. For example, in some cases, simply changing the requested meal plan will significantly change the options we can offer. The more flexibility you have in your request, the more likely we will be able to find you a suitable homestay in your preferred location.

Can I book a homestay with a private bathroom?

Private bathrooms are very rare in London, particularly close to the centre of London as the houses tend to be smaller. If a private bathroom is specifically requested, it may be possible but a supplement will need to be charged. If you are sharing a bathroom with other members of the family, please find out when is the best time to have a shower and for how long. Do not take long showers or baths at it uses a lot of hot water and monopolizes the bathroom.

Can I book a homestay in Zone 1?

Zone 1 in London is made up mostly of offices and retail outlets, therefore there are proportionately much fewer homestays in Zone 1. While there are residential areas in Zone 1, they tend to be smaller “inner-city style” accommodation, such as flats. Therefore, many students prefer to book a homestay in Zones 2 or 3 with good transport links to their place of study/internship.

Am I able to visit the host family before the booking is confirmed?

Unfortunately not. Neither we nor our competitors offer a viewing service prior to making reservation. This is to protect the students, the host families and our agency. We have a team of trained accommodation assessors visit our host families to ensure they are suitable hosts and their accommodation is of a high enough standard.

What fees do I need to pay and when do I need to pay?

We are only able to confirm period of your stay that have been paid for. Payment will need to be made with 3 days of issuing the invoice, otherwise you risk the host family becoming unavailable. If you are paying from overseas, please emails us a scanned confirmation of the payment transaction. As soon as we receive the full payment, we will send you a booking confirmation letter, which will include the host family contact and address details. Full information on rates can be found here.

If I am staying long-term, do I need to pay in advance or can I pay in instalments?

We do understand it is not easy for students to pay for the entire period in advance, so we try to help us much as possible. Therefore if you are staying 12 weeks or longer, we are able to exclusively offer an instalment plan so you would pay for the first 8 weeks in advance, then in 4 week blocks on the dates specified. This is the only way we can ensure the host is reserved for the dates you require. If any of the instalments are late, this will cause problems as we would not be able to confirm the following period of stay with the host and they could potentially accept another booking for your room. Please note that there will be a 5% admin fee for each instalment.

When will I know my host family information?

You will receive a ‘host profile’ prior to payment. This will give you an overview of the host family and include such information as the host’s name, who else lives in the house (usually the host’s family), if there are any pets, rules on smoking in the homestay etc as well as a basic overview on the facilities the host offers i.e. internet. Please note that this is only meant as an overview and as with every family, there are often small changes. You will receive the full information on the host (full address, contact information) when your booking is confirmed. This is usually after payment has been received. Full information on the booking process can be found here.

Should I arrive at the weekend or during the week?

Wherever possible, we would strongly request that you arrange to arrive at the weekend, otherwise it can be more difficult to arrange, particularly with host families who work during the day. Also if your travel plans are delayed, it is much easier to account for this at the weekend.

What if I want to extend past the initial period I booked?

All extensions must go through London Homestays. Please contact us as soon as possible on +44 208 395 0333 or via email, should you wish to extend your booking. We will then email you an invoice for the extended period. Demand for our host families is high so please let us know as early as possible so we can make arrangements to ensure your host family is available for the period you wish to extend. Under no circumstances should you try to finalise the arrangements directly with your host family.

How do I get from the airport to my host family?

It is your responsibility to get from the airport to your host’s house. Please ensure you have a map and directions before arriving in London. London Homestays supply an airport pick-up service should you require it, which carries a fee. More information on the airport transfer service, including prices, can be found here. If you opt for this service, please note that we cannot be held responsible if you do not provide us with the flight details.

Alternatively, taxis are available at the airport. It is important that we and/or your host family know your arrival time, so that we can let your family know when to expect you. If you have not arranged an arrival time with your family, we cannot guarantee they will be home when you arrive.

What are the check-in and check-out times?

Please be aware that you are staying with a host family and therefore arrival and departure times need to be arranged prior to arrival. Please ensure you give as much notice as possible to your host, to enable them to arrange to be at home to greet you upon arrival. If you do not inform us, or your host family of your arrival time, we cannot guarantee the host family will be at the house to greet you.

Unless special arrangement has been made and agreed with your host prior to arrival, the following check in and out times apply:

Weekend: Check in is always after 14:00 and before 20:30. Check out is before 10:00 am
Weekday: Please note that most hosts will be at work during the daytime so unless prior arrangement has been agreed all weekday arrivals must be after 18:00 and before 20:30.

Are utilities included in the weekly rate?

Yes, costs for electricity, gas and water are already included in the rent.

Can I open a bank account or apply for a credit card using the host family address?

No. It is very important that you do not open any type of account using the host family address, as you are only staying in your host family on a temporary basis. HSBC offer what is called a ‘Passport Account’ meaning that students can open an account in the UK, registered to their home address but are still able to use UK cash machines, show proof of funds to UKBA have a visa debit card and pretty much anything else you would expect from a regular current account. You will need to show a copy of your passport as well as either some ID from your home country (such as a driving licence) or a letter of enrolment from your school. You can even apply in their own language online if you do not wish to go into the branch.

Please follow these links for further information:
http://www.hsbc.co.uk/1/2/personal/current-accounts/passport
http://www.hsbc.co.uk/1/2/personal/current-accounts/passport/get-started

What happens if I get sick while staying in a homestay?

Homestay hosts are not usually medically trained and are not able to assist or advise you on your health. However, they should have a good knowledge of the local area and can assist you in finding a local doctor or hospital.

Do I need travel insurance?

London Homestays strongly recommends that you take out personal insurance to cover all aspects of your stay, and that you obtain a European Health Insurance Card. Students 18 years and under are strongly advised to also bring an authorisation for hospital surgery in case of emergency signed by their parents. London Homestays cannot be made liable for any costs incurred due to cancellation, illness, injury or loss/damage of possessions.

What if I do not like living in the home I am placed?

London Homestays will make every effort to place you with a host family where you will be comfortable and where you will be compatible with your host family. However, guests and host families must realise that they are meeting each other for the first time and there is a normal transition period during the first couple of weeks. You are dealing with a new culture and customs, new city and surroundings, new diet and perhaps a little stress. Even if you are matched with a family that is different from what you expected, this is not uncommon and your homestay experience can be rewarding if you choose to adapt and integrate with the family. Should any problems arise, you are encouraged to discuss your issues in a respectful manner with your host family or London Homestays.

If you continue to have a valid complaint, London Homestays will search for a new host family that matches your original request as closely as possible. This is done on a case by case basis and is at the management’s discretion. We must always ensure we are fair to both students/guests and host families and will always try and resolve any smaller issues first.

Where can I find the full terms and conditions for booking?

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