When I found a mistake fare to Santiago, Chile a few months ago I arranged for a home swap using points on Guest to Guest, one of my main go-to home exchange networks. Traveling alone, I found a few options for hosted home exchanges and picked the one that seemed like the best fit for my travel desires.
This was my second hosted home exchange. In general I prefer to do house swaps that involve me getting use of a house or apartment all to myself. I’m more comfortable cooking and settling in if I don’t have to think about someone else being around. But there are significant advantages to a host, especially for people traveling alone. And I picked this one based on the host’s profile which suggested we shared some common hobbies. In the end this worked out even better than I expected.
A few days before the trip I reached out to my host to ask about the best way to get to his home from the airport. The metro doesn’t go out to the airport, so it’s a bit of a hassle to use public transit: first you take a bus, then two transfers on the metro, etc. He diligently wrote out directions for me, and then at the end of his email mentioned that he could pick me up if this seemed too complicated. Always up for trying local public transit I told him I’d be fine and then confirmed that my arrival time would be ok. He again reiterated that he could pick me up, and strongly suggested that public transit with luggage during rush hour would be very difficult, and so I took him up on this generous offer.
Traffic is bad in Santiago during rush hour and so the airport pick up was actually no small thing. At least two hours of his time, probably more like three. I arrived early in the morning, and after getting me back to his flat my host offered to meet me for lunch to take me on a brief walking tour of the city. So I took a short nap and then went out for a tour. We got lunch at what is apparently a Chilean favorite: a hot dog shop.
And then I got a great overview of downtown Santiago, along with some suggested places to visit and things to do. We both like hiking so my host encouraged me to hike up the two main hills in the city: Cerro San Cristobal and Cerro Santa Lucia. He even provided details about the drink I should try at the top of San Cristobal: mote con huesillo (patiently waiting as I looked up these unfamiliar food words).
During the walking tour we talked about our shared love of hiking and he proposed a day trip to the mountains. Of course I was super excited about this as I had figured I probably wouldn’t get to the Andes on this brief city trip. That turned out to be a full day excursion, for which my host took a day off work. It took about three hours through traffic and on dirt roads to get to a spot just a few kilometers from the border with Argentina next to a gorgeous lake with a trail running alongside it. We hiked about 9 miles out and back, and then returned for another three hour drive home.
We had a great time hiking together, and more fun and conversation over dinner after we got home (my treat of course, the least I could do after all the amazing hosting).
We had some more good conversation and suggestions for things to do and see over the rest of my days in Santiago. And then, the cherry on top of the amazing hosting job, I was offered a ride back to the airport for my return flight home.
I certainly don’t expect home exchange hosts to be so gracious and accommodating, this was an exceptional experience. But I do think hosted swaps are an option that can offer some unique value for home exchangers.