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Protect your health on a homestay

Staying in the home of a local family will give you an unforgettable experience and a deeper understanding of the community you are visiting. A homestay can also greatly help your progress in learning a language. There are a few health considerations to take into account, however, but these hurdles are easy to overcome.

Keep your germs to yourself

Some gastro-intestinal (GI) illnesses are incredibly infectious so if you are suffering from vomiting or diarrhea, postpone your stay so you do not pass the illness on to your host family.

Learn to do the Dracula sneeze, covering your mouth and nose with your elbow. Sneezing or coughing into your hand means you are more likely to smear infected respiratory droplets on to shared surfaces.

Handwashing, particularly before touching food and after using the toilet, prevents the spread of germs. Soap and water is a good choice, or you could bring some alcohol gel. Wipes place a burden on local waste disposal systems, and never, ever flush them down a toilet because they will cause blockages! Read more about handwashing with the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health.

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

Where will you sleep?

Be prepared for basic but, we hope, clean accommodation. Air con may not be an option. A silk or cotton sleeping bag liner can improve your comfort if the bedding is not what you are used to. You may want to invest in a lightweight mosquito net – though people who live in malarious areas will often have screens and nets in place for their own protection.

Food and drink

Black tea is a safe bet if you are offered a drink. It is made with boiled water. Dairy can be unpasteurized, particularly in rural areas and may carry disease-causing micro-organisms.

It is okay to politely decline a particular food or drink. Your hosts will understand your desire to protect your health. You may find it easier to say ‘no’ outright than to take a token sip or bite, but you will have to be the judge of that.


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 Canadian Travel Clinics your nurse adviser will check that your shots for diphtheria, polio and tetanus are up to date. Have you been vaccinated against measles, mumps and rubella? These immunizations are strongly recommended for a homestay. 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. Canadian Travel Clinics can help you with travel jabs in Calgary, Edmonton, Fort McMurray, Medicine Hat, Okotoks and Red Deer. Visit our booking page to find your nearest clinic.