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FAQs Host family London

What is a homestay?
A Homestay is a cultural exchange between a local individual or family (the host) and a visiting international student or intern. The student/intern lives as a guest in the host’s home similar to a member of the family or a visiting friend. The host family will do their best to make you feel welcome, but keep in mind that they are not your employees or servants.

What should I bring with me?
Rooms at our host families are furnished and fully equipped. Towels and bed sheets are provided by the host family and will be replaced regularly. Your host will provide toilet paper, but you should purchase your own sanitary products such as toothpaste, body soap/shower gel, shampoo etc. Please do not help yourself to other peoples’ items. Toilet paper should not be removed from the bathroom for cosmetic use. Chemist shops such as Boots offer a wide variety of good, inexpensive sanitary 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. 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 need to feel obliged to do.

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.

Are pets allowed?
No, pets are not allowed in the homestay. Individually this can be discussed with the local families.

Can I smoke in the accommodation?
Families are usually non-smoking accommodation. Individually this can be discussed with the local families. Smoking outside on the street should not be a problem.

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's address, as you are only staying with 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 own home address while still able to use UK cash machines, show proof of funds to UKBA, have a visa debit card and be able to do pretty much anything else you would expect from a regular current account.

You will need to provide 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 your own language online if you do not wish to visit one of the branches personally.

Can I book a homestay with a private bathroom?
Private bathrooms are very rare in London, particularly close to the centre of London as 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 what the best time is to take a shower and for how long you can use it. Do not take unnecessarily long showers or baths as it uses a lot of hot water and blocks the bathroom to other household member who might need it more urgently than you.

Can I book a homestay in Zone 1?
Zone 1 in London is made up mostly of offices and retail outlets, therefore there are significantly fewer homestays in Zone 1. While there are residential areas in Zone 1, they tend to be smaller “inner-city style” accommodations, 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.

When will I know my host family's information?You will receive a ‘host profile’ prior to payment. This will give you an overview of the host family and include information such as the host’s name, who else lives in the house (usually the host’s family), whether there are any pets, the 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 a first impression and, as with every family, there may often be small changes. You will receive full information on the host (full address, contact information) when your booking has been confirmed. This usually happens after payment has been received.

What fees do I need to pay and when do I need to pay them?
Normally your stay should be paid in full. In specific cases we arrange for payment in multiple instalments. However, we are only able to confirm the period of your stay that has been paid for. Payment will need to be made within 3 days of issuing the invoice; otherwise you risk the host family becoming unavailable. If you are paying from overseas, please email 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.

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. Students aged 16 -18 will usually be asked to be home before 10 pm. Students under the age of 16 may not be permitted out in the evenings other than on activities organised by the school and involving a responsible adult person. 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 up other members of the family, e.g. cooking, playing loud music etc.

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 you. If this is the case, we might ask if you are able to compromise on some of your requests in order to open up a larger number of viable host family options for you. For example, in some cases, simply changing the requested meal plan can significantly change the options we can offer. The more flexible you are in your request, the more likely we will be able to find you a suitable homestay in your preferred location.

What if I want to extend my stay past the initial period I booked?
All extensions must go through Student Housesharing Ltd. Please contact us as soon as possible. We will then email you an invoice for the extended period. The 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 to you for the amount of time you want to add to your stay. Please do not try to finalise any arrangements directly with your host family.

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

Student Housesharing Ltd. 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 should realise that they are meeting each other for the first time and there will be a quite normal transition period during the first couple of weeks. After all, you are dealing with a new culture and customs, new city and surroundings, new diet and perhaps a little initial 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 quite rewarding if you choose to adapt and integrate into the family. Should any problems arise, you are encouraged to discuss your issues in a respectful manner with your host family or Student Housesharing Ltd. If you continue to have a valid complaint, we 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 at the management’s discretion. We always ensure that we treat both students/guests and host families fairly and will always try and resolve any smaller issues first.    

Should I arrive at the weekend or during the week?
Wherever possible, we would strongly recommend that you arrange to arrive at the weekend, otherwise it may be rather difficult to manage, particularly with many host families at work during the day. Also, if your travel plans are delayed, it is much easier to account for this at the weekend.

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 ready before arriving in London.

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 will inform their students about suitable days during the week to wash their clothes. Please do not leave your clothes outside of your room for the host family to pick up. Please ask your host about any existing laundry arrangements. 

Does my host family provide a maid service?
Usually not. Remember: your host family is not a cleaning service. It is your responsibility to keep your room tidy and clean. 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 you offer to help a little with small chores, e.g. offer to help clear the table after meals. However, you are not required to do home chores such as babysitting, gardening, house cleaning etc.

 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 than the one specifically designated to you to store your belongings, unless in special circumstances where the host family has granted permission.

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).

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 agreed upon when booking. If you require guaranteed use of the kitchen, we would recommend you select a self-catering meal plan with a host family offering this.

Am I allowed to use the internet?

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 exceedingly important that you have Internet access at all time, we recommend you purchase a USB dongle, available from most mobile phone shops to use for a modest monthly fee.

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 usually not air-conditioned in summer but unbearably hot temperatures are extremely rare and rooms can normally be cooled by simply opening a window.