- What are my hosting responsibilities?
- Provide a safe, clean household and comfortable guest accommodations;
- Include guest as part of the family, including activities and meals;
- Participate in all/most planned official functions and activities in your town; and
- If unable to attend any planned activity with guest, inform coordinator ASAP and help to arrange for a ‘day host’ and transportation, to assure your guest participates.
2. Would I host a guest of the same gender and similar age?
A. Yes, that is typical, while couples normally host another couple. Frequently, the number of bedrooms and type of bed(s) available play a part in matching hosts and guests, as do interests, occupations, language abilities, allergies of any kind, etc. The exchange coordinator will visit you in your home to figure out the best match for your situation.
3. Can I contact my Tico guest before they arrive at my home?
A. Yes; as soon as possible, you will receive your guest’s information, including name, age, interests, photo and contact information. Remember that they are as anxious to meet you, as you are to meet them. For many, friendships, communications, and private visits continue for years afterward.
4. Am I expected to provide food for my Tico guest(s)?
A. Yes. Unless Ticos have pre-paid for a special meal as part of an activity, you provide all meals and snacks for your guest; they reciprocate when you travel to Costa Rica. Since food is a major part of any culture, prepare meals as you would on ordinary days. Sometimes guests have special dietary needs to which you will be alerted before they arrive. Some guests often like to participate in meal preparation, which you can permit to your comfort level. If you eat out, they may want to host you or they may expect that you are inviting them and assume that you are paying; you should explain your intent before you get to the restaurant. It’s often more fun to have mini-potlucks with other hosts in your neighborhood. In Costa Rica, they usually do not expect Oregonians to pay for restaurant meals and also do not usually allow us to help in the kitchen, though every homestay can be different.
5. Am I expected to transport my guest to/from planned activities, without charge?
A. Yes. This is a true ‘ambassador’ program, so you are expected to accompany your guest on all activities. If you cannot transport your guests to/from daily activities, figure out a ‘plan B’: carpool with another host, use mass transit, let the activity coordinator know and help arrange for a substitute (day host) to accompany and/or transport your guest. It’s a bit different when in Costa Rica, in that many activities there often require special bus transport which everyone pays for, since most Ticos don’t drive personal vehicles as we do here.
6. What if my guest gets sick or injured?
A. Each Tico carries traveler insurance to defray extraordinary medical expenses. If needed, take your guest to the nearest medical or emergency facility, and stay to help with forms, obtain translation if needed, etc. Notify the area coordinator and explain the situation. The Tico group guide will help to ensure all paperwork is completed and will make contact with the guest’s family, as necessary.
7. Should I let my guest make long distance calls using my telephone or computer?
A. The Ticos should purchase a telephone card to use on your telephone. Calls to Costa Rica are expensive and since they like to stay in touch with their families, they may want to call often. If they don’t carry their own phones/computers, you might also allow them to use your home computer, or set them up with a SKYPE call, etc. Often, they are reticent to ask, so it’s a nice gesture to offer your computer at least once each day or so.
8. What about their clothes, and laundry? Is this my responsibility as a host?
A. No. Ticos should be asked if they need to do their laundry, but generally each town host offers this opportunity before moving to the next town. Show them how to operate your washer/dryer; it’s one of those simple things that can make a trip memorable, since they’ll truly feel as a part of your family.
Though they pre-pay for an Oregon fleece jacket, which should be adequate for most activities and travel between towns, they may be cold here – even though YOU are wearing shorts and a t-shirt! Ticos often dress much more stylishly than Oregonians; if the daily activity is a walking tour of downtown, you might want to make it clear to your guest that high-heeled shoes and a sparkly dress are probably not the best choices. And if you loan something to your guest for use in your area, be sure to get it back before they leave your town.
9. In my house, I have three dogs and cats, a caged bird and a house rabbit, and there are two horses in the barn; must I find temporary homes elsewhere for my pets while my guest is here?
A. It depends. If your guest has identified allergies to animals, he/she would automatically be placed in another host home. If he/she develops allergies while in your house due to the animals, and you can move your animals outside and clean up the allergens inside, great. Otherwise, every effort will be made to move your guest to another home. In Costa Rica, while some homes may have a small pet, animals generally stay outside and roam freely. Your guests may be afraid, particularly of larger dogs, and not appreciate living in close proximity to your pets. Do as much as possible to slowly introduce your pets, so as to enhance the comfort level of your guest(s).
10. Do I need to explain anything about my house?
A. Yes. Your guests may not be familiar with our faucet systems, so take extra care to explain your system. The letters on faucets are reversed for meaning, so be sure to explain that “H” means hot (calor) and “C” means cold (frio). Our water systems tend to be hotter than theirs, so encourage them to be extra careful. Also, many Costa Rican sewage systems require toilet paper to be placed in a basket, which is emptied daily; so, explain that toilet paper can be placed in the toilet. You might also offer them direct access to your refrigerator/kitchen cabinets for snacks or beverages, show them where to find plates and silverware, where to put soiled dishes, etc.
Need more information about hosting? Contact your area coordinator or see if addressed here …..