Home Exchange: Has It Ever Crossed Your Mind?

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This article was provided by Home Exchange Czech.

Imagine arriving at your holiday home in Switzerland. You open the door and put your suitcase in the master bedroom. From the terrace of the living room you have a wonderful view on the Alps and Lago Maggiore, plus a glimpse of the famous Madonna del Sasso sanctuary. There's a bottle of wine on the table inviting you to have your first drink in Switzerland overlooking the historical town of Locarno. Alongside you find a list of things to do and see and the best restaurants in town and you think to yourself that the week you're spending here might not be enough.

And that's not all. We've saved the best for last -- you haven't paid a single penny for this (or rather a single franc). For the whole week the house is yours, including the garden and the car in the garage, ready for your trips. And the cat, who should be provided with milk from time to time. And how is this possible?

The name of the game is home exchange. Home exchange is the holiday alternative where two families agree to exchange homes for vacation. While you spend your holiday in this Swiss house, your Swiss hosts are staying in your house. It's so simple! If you're from the USA and are planning to spend a few years in Prague, why not explore Europe in the most economical and exiting way during that time? All you need is an apartment or house in Prague to swap. Or would you prefer to experience the real Czech Republic, away from the tourists? Then leave bustling Prague behind and head for the relaxing Czech countryside. If your idea of a perfect holiday includes sporting activities or you just love hanging out amid unspoiled nature, then one of the many Czech mountain regions would be the ideal choice. And after all the hiking, cycling or skiing, is there anything better than a quiet, cozy evening in front of an open fireplace in one of the many typically picturesque cottages the Czech countryside has to offer? Their owners will certainly be happy to swap it with your apartment abroad.

Since April 2009, a home exchange company has been operating on the Czech market, called Home Exchange Czech. They concentrate on inbound and outbound tourism in the Czech Republic. At the moment there are more than 100 home exchangers registered in the Home Exchange Czech database, from 17 countries around the world, and their number grows every week. The selection of homes for exchange includes attractive apartments in Prague, Luxembourg, Spain, the USA, and Canada; villas in Australia, Turkey, the United Kingdom and Croatia; and country cottages in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and beyond.

The advantages of home exchange are numerous, and aren't just limited to cost savings -- although the 50 percent of your travel costs you'll save on accommodation isn't insignificant. The main advantages are freedom and the authenticity of your experience. You won't be squeezed into a tiny hotel room. Your children will have their own room. There may be bikes or a car available, or a free internet connection. And you won't be a mere tourist. You won't just be scratching the surface of your destination as most tourists do. You are a traveler -- you get to know the place as a local would, in an authentic and enjoyable way.

There is, of course, the question of safety. This is a natural concern for anyone considering a home exchange. People have been traveling like this for more than 50 years, so there is a large community with its own ethics and rules. Home exchange works on reciprocity -- you provide your home to other people while they provide their home to you! You are not exchanging your home in order to destroy someone else's, nor are your exchange partners. Also, before you swap houses, there's plenty of time to get to know your exchange partners. You can write to them, phone them and exchange information and photos of yourself with them, so they won't be strangers anymore. And it's hard to believe that someone would travel across the globe just to steal your TV set! Regarding safety, trust and respect are your safeguards. If you're still hesitating, there are other, more concrete safeguards at your disposal, such as a signed contract with your exchange partner, guaranteed home insurance, and car insurance.

Not sure if home exchange is for you? You're a born home-exchanger if you:

• like traveling and exploring other countries from a perspective other than that of a travel agency

• hate mass tourism and the tourists who attack every hotel buffet drive you mad

• are an individualist and like to travel independently

• wish to visit countries which would be otherwise be too expensive to see

Home exchange is a sort of lifestyle. It changes your view on discovering other countries. It is definitely worth a try.

For contact details, see Home Exchange Czech's Prague Directory listing.

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