About Home Exchange

A country guide to home exchange

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The number of countries with significant numbers of households participating in home exchange is few. Here is an analysis of those countries. Information is provided for each of these countries in the following areas:

  • Participation in the home exchange system, expressed as the number of home exchange listings per million of population and/or the total number of home exchange listings.
  • Recommendation of which home exchange agencies have the most listings and/or a high percentage of listings from this country.
  • Peculiar exchange characteristics of the country
    • Geographical Concentration in a particular state, region, or city
    • Dates for Summer vacation
    • Percentage of second homes on offer if higher than usual
    • Other notable exchange characteristics.
  • Random information and comments about the country that are not specific to home exchange but might be either useful or entertaining. For more information please buy a country specific travel guide or visit the Internet.

There is an organization, Transparency International, whose purpose is to fight corruption around the world. They publish an index with rankings and scores for 163 countries showing the level of corruption. The countries that participate in home exchange tend to have a low level of corruption. Looking at the top twenty-seven countries for lack of corruption, twenty are discussed below as countries participating in home exchange. The only countries with corruption rates that are a problem but that are discussed below are Brazil, Greece, Italy, Mexico, and South Africa.

The data are based on a Fall 2006 analysis of listings from five home exchange agencies with 39,400 listings. Recommendations and comments on which agencies have the most listings in a particular country are subject to change. You can visit the website \url{www.knowyourtrade.com} for information on the number of home exchange listings by agencies in the following countries: Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Oceania (Australia/New Zealand), Spain, United Kingdom, and the USA.

I have visited all of the countries described with the exceptions of Brazil, Iceland, New Zealand and South Africa.

Australia

The Australians are enthusiastic participants in the home exchange world. They make up 9% of the home exchange listings analyzed worldwide. There are 182 home exchange listings per million of population.

Australia is a delightful country to visit. It has a great diversity of flora and fauna, most of which are unique to their continent. It is an enthusiastic wine producing country, though due to heavy taxes beer is expensive. Most of the population lives in the urban agglomerations of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, and Canberra. They have a strong national culture and are friendly, casual, and efficient. You have to love a country whose tourism advertising theme as of the writing of this book was So where the bloody hell are you?

Australia is a huge country; it is possible to get an airline pass for a certain number of in-country flights in conjunction with your international ticket to Australia from airlines such as Qantas.

Homeforexchange.com, Homeexchange.com, and Homelink all have large numbers of listings in Australia.

Most home exchange opportunities in Australia are in the states of Queensland and New South Wales; each account for 1/3 of the listings, with Victoria and Western Australia each having about 10%.

Australia is in the Southern Hemisphere and seasons are the opposite of most of the world. School holidays do not line up well with those in other countries and this makes it difficult for Australian families with school age children to exchange outside their hemisphere. For example, in Queensland there is a two-week winter vacation during the last week of June and first week of July. The summer vacation starts mid-December and runs till the end of January. They break for a week around Easter and for two weeks in their spring. Worldwide, 52% of home exchange listings worldwide are families with children or groups of 3 or more, the equivalent figure for Australia is 36%.

Like the British, the Aussies drive on the left hand side of the road.

Austria

This remnant of the once great Hapsburg Empire has beautiful alpine scenery and the great cities of Vienna, Salzburg, and Graz. Austria accounts for less than 1% of total worldwide home exchange listings and has 38 listings per million. If you want to go to Austria, the best home exchange agencies are Homelink and Intervac. Austrian school holidays vary slightly by region and occur mostly in July and August.

Belgium

In Belgium the national languages are Flemish (a dialect of Dutch) and French. If you want to be sure to communicate in the right language with anyone you meet in the country try speaking English.

My wife and I both lived in Belgium and our romance began there, probably because she was under the influence of Stella Artois, Orval, Duivel, and other excellent local beers. I romantically plied her with chocolates but she got even when we were married eighteen months later.

Belgium accounts for over 1% of the total home exchange listings worldwide with 48 listings per million. Homelink is #1, with Intervac being the second leading agency in the country.

There are three main regions of Belgium. Flanders is flat, Flemish speaking and prosperous. The cities of Antwerp, Ghent, and Bruges merit 3 stars from the Michelin Guide for the quality and quantity of their ancient buildings and canals. You are never far from the Sea. Of Belgian home exchange listings, 67% are in Flanders.

Wallonia is French speaking, particularly hilly in the verdant and beautiful Ardennes, with the largest city being Liege. Economically prosperous 100 years ago it has suffered as old industries have shut down. Only 8% of analyzed home exchange listings are in Wallonia.

The third region, Brussels, is the capital of Europe, is considered French speaking, and is surrounded by Dutch speaking suburbs. English is widely spoken. Brussels is a wonderful city with its incomparable Grand Place and many other attractions. Brussels and the region around it account for 25% of Belgian home exchange listings.

In Belgium, the summer school vacation takes place in July and August.

Belgium is a dangerous place to drive, in part because of unusual rules and uncontrolled intersections giving priority to drivers on the right unless they slow down in which case the driver on the left can challenge them. These rules are in the process of being changed but ask for advice on this issue before getting behind the wheel in Belgium.

Brazil

There are Brazilians that call their country Belindia because in some ways it is like Belgium and in other ways like India. If you are in certain neighborhoods and regions you might feel like you are in a developed country, while the majority of places will remind you that Brazil is still a developing nation. Brazil can be dangerous and a detailed discussion of personal security issues would be appropriate with any exchange partners.

There are over 100 listings for Brazil in our sample, or less than a listing per million. In Brazil, 61% of the listings are for second homes The agencies with the most listings in Brazil are Homeexchange.com and HomeforExchange.com.

Canada

Canada appears to be an enthusiastic home exchange country. There are 3508 listings, 9% of the world total, with a rate of 109 listings per million.

Beautiful British Columbia accounts for 48% of Canadian listings, with the large provinces of Quebec and Ontario each accounting for 21%. Alberta accounts for 6%, everyplace else 4%.

Looking at this another way, British Columbia on its own has over 4% of the world's home exchange listings, with a participation rate of 392 per million. The rest of Canada has slightly fewer than 5% of the world's listings, with a participation rate of 66 per million.

Public Schools in British Columbia break for summer vacation at the end of June and start at the beginning of September.

My British wife and I lived for two years in Montreal, Quebec. From her European point of view, Canada is a gentler and kinder country than the United States. From my point of view, it tends towards socialism in certain ways such as high levels of taxation. If you are a European who wants to visit North America for the first time, and are not sure you can deal with the extremes of the United States, Canada would be a good choice.

Homelink, Homeforexchange.com, and Homeexchange.com all have many listings in Canada.

Most of Quebec and parts of New Brunswick and Ontario are French speaking. If you are interested in going to the French speaking places one of the French/Quebec home exchange services (such as \url{www.1sthomeexchange.com}) might be a good choice.

Most of Canada is extremely cold during the winter, ideal if you enjoy ice fishing, cross country skiing, hockey, skating, and snowmobiling. Coastal British Columbia is temperate; there will be plenty of rain during the winter with great downhill skiing at mountainous places such as Whistler.

Denmark

Another enthusiastic home exchange country with 640 listings, with 118 listings per million. Denmark is prosperous and civilized and you are always close to the sea or a lake. Most of the population lives in or near Copenhagen on the island of Sjaelland or on the peninsula of Jutland. Fyn is another large island and there are many smaller ones.

denmark

Our first ever home exchange was on the Jutland peninsula in Denmark. Danish schools break for the summer towards the end of June and begin again in early August.

Tourist attractions include Copenhagen, a world class metropolis and smaller cities such as Aarhus, Odense, and Aalborg. There are old castles, historic churches and cathedrals, well preserved and/or restored villages and towns, Viking museums, monuments, and reconstructions, and an attractively managed countryside. You will notice many modern wind turbines, in many places in the world they are ugly but for some reason they look better and seem to fit in with the countryside in Denmark.

Denmark is a great country for water sports such as sailing and the quantity and quality of beaches is astonishing, as is the large number of Germans using them. You'll see plenty of Swedes driving large cars that they will fill with alcoholic beverages to take home (Danish alcohol taxes are much lower than in Sweden.) Denmark is world class for cycling. Major city streets and roads often have cycle lanes and there is an extensive national network of routes and trails. Legoland in Billund is an enchanting theme park for younger children.

Denmark is a northerly country and summer days are long. It is a good choice for a winter vacation if you like long periods of darkness briefly interrupted by gray skies.

Homelink and Homeforexchange.com have the most Danish listings, with Homeexchange.com and Intervac close behind.

France

The French love home exchange. They account for 14% of the listings worldwide, 5645 listings in our research sample, with a rate of ninty-three listings per million. There are several home exchange agencies based in France and if these agencies had been incorporated in the research sample the French numbers would have been even larger.

Homelink, Homeexchange.com, Homeforexchange.com, and Intervac all have many French listings. Other agencies strong in France include 1st Home Exchange and Geenee (www.geenee.com).

France has geographical diversity. You can try to find a warm beach on the Mediterranean or a cool beach in Brittany, Normandy, or Picardy. Mountains are on offer in the Alps, Pyrenees, or Massif Centrale. Rolling hills and vineyards are plentiful. If you don't like the countryside you can always have Paris and the surrounding region which has 39% of all French listings.

There is regional diversity. Brittany is different from Alsace and the change in architecture is noticeable when you cross the River Loire heading south. You leave stone and dark slate tile for homes with red tile roofs and light colored stucco exteriors. Provence, Dordogne, Languedoc, Aquitaine, and Normandy all have their unique character. It explains why many French are happy to trade their place for a home in another region of their own country. Intervac's local affiliate offers an agency within an agency for those in France looking to trade in France.

These days all French high school children study English but most adults don't speak much English. If you know some French you will have a better and easier time in the country. If you speak French badly you may be criticized in Paris but in the provinces they will usually appreciate the effort.

france

When driving in France you carry the car's documents with you, you never leave them in the vehicle. Driving is expensive because of the cost of gas and the fact that most of the freeways are toll roads. The general French road network is outstanding. If you are not in a hurry, don't mind getting caught in traffic jams and encountering unexpected detours; there is nothing more interesting and economical than avoiding the toll roads. If you visit \url{www.viamichelin.com}, it will not only tell you how to get from A to B, but will estimate the cost of gas and the amount of tolls you will pay. For example, the eight-hour twenty-five minute drive from Paris to Nice will cost 150.98 Euros each way; 66.90 Euros of this total are tolls or péage.

The French have installed speed cameras to encourage slower driving. Interestingly, they always warn drivers of the presence of these cameras and their locations are indicated on Michelin highway maps. Be sure to slow down for the cameras. You will get a ticket if you are going 1 kilometer per hour more than the limit.

One reason French families love to exchange is a school calendar filled with vacations. There is a two-week vacation at the end of October, Toussaint, then a two-week Christmas Vacation, a two-week winter vacation, and a two-week spring vacation. The dates of the latter two breaks are staggered based on geographical zones. Summer vacation falls in July and August. French businesses are usually organized to close during July or August. Many French families, even those without children at home, will want to take their vacations in July or August, with the latter month being the most popular. If you want the widest variety of destinations and choices for home exchange in France, be prepared to vacation there in August.

We speak French and love the country and its culture so it is hard to be unbiased in our views. We have completed three home exchanges in France, in the Loire Valley, Paris, and Provence. A few years ago a right wing American friend took his family of five to Normandy on a home exchange vacation. They didn't speak the language but had an outstanding experience and returned with admiration and an improved understanding of France.

Finland

The Nordic country of Finland is a land of rolling hills, forests, and lakes. The language is unique and incomprehensible (unless you speak Estonian or Hungarian, in which case it may be easy). Fortunately most folks speak English. Finland has only 1/3 of 1% of global home exchange listings. There are twenty-four listings per million people. The best home exchange agency for Finland is Intervac. The Finns are one of three countries tied for being the least corrupt on the planet.

The Finns have a wonderful sense of design and harmony with nature and the environment. The city of Helsinki is delightful. Once you get outside of greater Helsinki the cities are small or non-existent. A summer exchange means saunas, walks in the woods, swimming or boating in the lakes or the Baltic, and the midnight sun. A winter exchange would be frosty. I remember a hotel room in Helsinki that had a double glazed inner window and a separate outer window.

The Finnish school summer holiday begins in early June and ends in early August.

There is much to admire in the Finnish people, including their ability to maintain their culture and independence with Sweden and Russia as neighbors.

Germany

Germany accounts for 3% of world home exchange listings, but there are only fourteen listings per million population. Homelink is the dominant agency for German listings.

Germany has a diversity of landscapes with Alpine forests in Bavaria, the Riesling covered hills of the Mosel River valley, the castles along the mighty Rhine, and the plains along the Baltic. Equally diverse are its neighbors: Denmark, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium, France, Switzerland, Austria, the Czech Republic, and Poland. An exchange in the Black Forest will give you easy access to Switzerland and France whereas the wine growing regions of the northeast are close to Belgium and the Netherlands.

German School Summer Holidays are staggered according to region but will generally fall sometime between early July and mid September.

Great Britain (England, Scotland, Wales)

The island of Britain is made up of the countries of England, Scotland, and Wales. They belong to the United Kingdom which also includes Northern Ireland. Home exchange agencies sometimes list England, Scotland, and Wales as separate countries and other times simply as Great Britain or the UK. Northern Ireland is usually listed as a separate country or included in listings for Ireland or the UK.

The British are active home exchangers, accounting for 9% of home exchange listings worldwide. The Scots are most enthusiastic with eighty-seven per million, the rate for England is fifty-six per million, with Wales at thirty-five per million. Homelink, Homeforexchange.com, Homeexchange.com, and the First Home Exchange Alliance (\url{www.homebase-hols.com}, \url{www.invented-city.com}, \url{www.gti-home-exchange.com}) are all good choices for the UK.

The British must always buy special automobile insurance for their home exchange guests. You will probably have to send a copy of your license to your British partners and may have to buy an International Driving license and/or send information showing your good driving record or the fact you are insured at home.

great_britain

Driving in Britain is on the left hand side of the road. Cities can be crowded, it can be expensive to park, and in the country there are narrow roads that are picturesque but dangerous if driven too fast. The freeway system is often overwhelmed by excessive traffic. Fortunately British drivers tend to be careful and courteous.

An advantage to considering an exchange in Britain is that you can get excellent online maps from www.streetmap.co.uk. English speakers can easily obtain other relevant information online.

If you are going to spend a lot of time visiting attractions in Britain, it may be financially beneficial to join English or Scottish Heritage, the National Trust, or CADW (Wales).

England and Wales have a fantastic network of public footpaths, bridleways, RUPP's (Roads used as a Public Path), and other Rights of Way. These are shown on detailed Ordnance Survey Maps that are a must if you want to hike or cycle in the country. (You can't cycle on Public Footpaths; generally it is ok on bridleways, RUPP's, and other rights of way.)

Scotland allows reasonable pedestrian and cycling access to all privately held land.

The organization Sustrans, www.sustrans.org.uk has encouraged the creation of a national bicycle trail network and provides information and maps.

The English state run schools offer two-week vacations at Christmas and in the spring. Summer vacation is six weeks from the end of July until early September. In Scotland the summer vacation period varies by region, beginning from the end of June and continuing to the end of August. Private schools, which are called Public Schools in England, will have their own vacation schedules.

Our family has exchanged four times in England and once in Wales and the experiences have been positive. You can read about our home exchange in Wales.

Greece

The cradle of western civilization is a prime tourist destination for its history, culture, and natural beauty. It won't be easy to find a home exchange however, as there are only eighty-nine listings for Greece, with a low participation rate of eight per million. Homeforexchange.com, Intervac, and Homelink are the best choices for Greece.

Iceland

This is the #1 home exchange country in the world with 483 listings per million population or more precisely 145 actual listings for a country with 296,000 people. Almost all of these listings are in and around the capital and only large city, Reykjavik.

Iceland is one of three countries that share the #1 ranking for the least corruption.

The agencies with the most listings in Iceland are Intervac, Homeexchange.com, Homelink, and Homeforexchange.com. The Iceland summer vacation period begins in early June and ends in late August.

Iceland is famous for magnificent scenery, volcanic activity, fish, and a lively night life in the Capital. A four-wheel drive vehicle is advisable if you wish to visit wilder spots in the interior.

Ireland (including Northern Ireland)

When you look at a listing for Ireland, it may turn out to be either in the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland, one of the countries of the United Kingdom. There are over 800 listings for Ireland with a participation rate of 204 per million. The Irish economy has been booming and many new homes are being built (including second homes) and older homes are being refurbished. Many Irish homes available for exchange are architectural masterpieces and/or have stunning locations.

Ireland has much to offer. There are many homes available for exchange near the coast and even the center of the country is only a few hours from the ocean. There are green hills and rugged mountains; most of the country is rural with the vibrant capital Dublin becoming a world class metropolis. My theory is that the Irish have embraced home exchange because it fits their friendly character and they find it easy to attract home swappers to their emerald isle.

Irish school holidays run from the end of June to the end of August.

We haven't yet landed an exchange in Ireland, but have been impressed with the friendly courtesy with which our overtures have been rejected. Homelink, Homeforexchange.com, Homeexchange.com, and Intervac are all good choices for Ireland.

Italy

There are almost 1500 listings for Italy, representing a rate of twenty-five per million. So many English like having second homes in Tuscany that this beautiful region is known in Britain as Chiantishire. It is not surprising that 48% of home exchange listings in Italy are for second homes. Homelink, Homeforexchange.com, Intervac, and Homeexchange.com are all strong in Italy.

Italian school summer vacations begin in early June and continue until early September.

Italy is a diverse country in terms of climate, regional character, and level of economic prosperity. Sicily is substantially different from Lombardy. It would be difficult to find a region in Italy without historical cities, magnificent ancient monuments, and great local cuisine.

Mexico

There are 261 listings for Mexico, given the country's large population only two listings per million. Mexico is a land of unequal income distribution with many poor and an insufficiently large middle class. The wealthy are amongst the richest, best educated, and most cultured of any elite group in the world. Unsurprisingly, 61% of homes offered for exchange are second homes. The best home exchange agency for going to Mexico is Homeexchange.com.

Mexico can be dangerous and a detailed discussion of personal security issues would be appropriate with any exchange partners. Mexican law allows for those involved in automobile accidents to be arrested if they do not have proof of automobile insurance coverage specifically valid for Mexico. If you choose to drive a foreign registered car to Mexico buy Mexican insurance for it before you cross the border.

Netherlands

The Netherlands accounts for 4% of world home exchange listings, with a participation rate of 105 per million. Homelink is #1 for listings in the Netherlands, with Homeforexchange.com, Intervac, and Homeexchange.com having respectable representation.

The Dutch are efficient, honest, and straightforward. Their below-sea-level delta landscape is not as monotonous as you might think as it is punctuated with canals, lakes, rivers, boats, windmills, and towns that can be alternately bleeding-edge modern architecture or charming and picturesque with buildings hundreds of years old. The country has good infrastructure and the ability of most of its citizens to speak and understand English is famous. Amsterdam is world class but the Netherlands would be worth visiting even if it did not have Amsterdam.

netherlands

If you are going to visit many museums in the Netherlands, buy the Museumjaarkaart. For twenty-five Euros and a small administrative fee you get unlimited admittance to over 400 museums in the country for a year. You can easily get your money back by visiting three or four museums in Amsterdam or Utrecht. There is a web site for this card. It is only in Dutch; they don't encourage tourists to purchase it but you can buy it at most larger museums.

The Dutch don't use credit cards in situations where they are used in other countries. Grocery stores and the national railroad don't accept them. Some, but not all debit cards work; verify in advance that the Dutch system will support your card. We could use our ATM card at the bank but not in other places.

The Dutch have a stored-value card called Chipknip. Ask your hosts to buy you one; it will come in handy for parking machines, unmanned railway stations, and other situations. The alternative is a pocketful of coins. There are parking machines that only accept Chipknip.

Schools in the Netherlands have different summer vacation schedules depending upon the region and grade level. The various schedules begin in July and end in early September

The Dutch have fine highways and roads but driving is discouraged in larger cities by difficult circulation and expensive parking. Larger cities will have Park and Ride; cycling is an option as is taking the train. An important rule for drivers to remember is that if they hit a cyclist with their car they are at fault regardless of the situation. Cyclists generally obey traffic laws and benefit from the deepest cycling culture and infrastructure on the planet. When walking in Dutch cities beware of cyclists.

One of our best ever home exchanges was in the Netherlands.

New Zealand

This is another of those blessed countries with everything: beautiful beaches, unspoiled wilderness, majestic fjords, high mountains, great wine, millions of sheep, and efficient and friendly residents. It is also famous as the setting for The Lord of the Rings movies. Folks in New Zealand know they can find home exchanges easily. They have over 800 listings with a participation rate of 200 per million. Homeforexchange.com, Homelink, and Homeexchange.com have many listings in the country. New Zealand is one of three countries that share the #1 spot for having the least corruption.

Families with school age children may find New Zealand difficult because the seasons are the reverse of the Northern Hemisphere. Their summer vacation starts before Christmas and lasts until the first week of February. They get two-week breaks in the Spring, Winter (first two weeks of July), and Fall.

Norway

This is one of the most beautiful places on earth with magnificent coastal scenery, high mountains, and the lovely capital of Oslo. They have almost 400 listings with a participation rate of eighty-six per million. Norway is a large country. Oslo is the only large city; homes for exchange in other regions often benefit from lovely settings but might be rural and remote. Homelink dominates Norway as regards home exchange listings.

School summer breaks begin in Norway in the last week of June and continue till the end of August.

Norway is a rich country, taxes are high to support a comprehensive system of government services, and the Kroner is a strong currency. Expect to be shocked at the price of anything and everything in Norway.

Portugal

Portugal has eighty-two home exchange listings, a modest eight per million. Second homes account for 43% of homes listed in Portugal. The usual suspects, Homeexchange.com, Homeforexchange.com, Homelink, and Intervac have most of the listings.

South Africa

There are over 290 listings, about seven per million. This country has many poor black citizens, a growing black middle class, and a large number of middle class whites. If you are traveling from Europe a real plus is almost no jet lag. The seasons are opposite those of the Northern Hemisphere and there are many second homes along the coast owned by Europeans and other foreigners.

Homeforexchange.com, Homelink, and Homeexchange.com are the leading agencies for listings.

South Africa can be dangerous and a detailed discussion of personal security issues would be appropriate with any exchange partners.

School holidays for the coastal provinces include a six-week break, usually including all of December and extending to mid-January, a week in the spring, and two to two weeks each in the Fall and Summer, the latter vacation including the first two weeks of July.

Of the available places, 31% are second homes. Two-thirds of exchange homes are located in Western Cape Province and Cape Town, with world class wines, a Mediterranean climate, and beautiful coastal scenery.

Spain

There are over 1500 home exchange listings, thirty-nine per million. Of the available listings, 46% are second homes. If you review Spanish listings the great majority of them are along the Mediterranean Coast in places like the Balearic Islands, Catalonia, Valencia, Murcia, and Andalusia. Only 6% are from the capital, Madrid.

Spain has fantastic history and culture and a diversity of regions. It may be difficult to appreciate this heritage when doing a home exchange as most of the places available are second homes and/or in tourist developments along the coast. Spanish coastal developments have many characteristics but rarely can be accused of having great architectural, environmental, or historic value. Spain is a good choice for a beach home exchange vacation. Perhaps the best cultural opportunity would be a trade in Barcelona or the surrounding province of Catalonia, which account for 25% of Spanish home exchange listings.

The summer vacation for schools in Spain is July and August.

Homelink, Homeforexchange.com, Intervac, and Homeexchange.com all have many Spanish listings.

Sweden

Sweden is the largest of the Scandinavian countries. Several hundred years ago it was an imperial power, but for complicated reasons deviated from the path of world domination and embraced neutrality and peace. The country is famous for its high level of social services and the high level of taxes required to fund this humane system. This obscures the fact that the economy is market-based and competitive on an international level.

sweden

Sweden is a large and diverse country with lakes, forests, mountains, islands, and a beautiful, and in some places magnificent coast. The best beach vacation our family ever experienced was in Stockholm, but your summer weather there may vary. The three large urban areas are Stockholm, Goteborg, and Malmo. If you find a home exchange outside these areas you will be near a small city or completely in the boondocks (American expression for a profoundly rural area.)

The Swedish school summer vacation runs from either early June through mid-August or mid-June through late August.

Stockholm is one of the world's great capital cities and its charms are underappreciated. The natural setting is magnificent: forested hills, lakes, the Baltic ocean, and an archipelago of thousands of islands and rocks. It has the history, monuments, and museums expected of a European Capital. It is a vibrant, modern, efficient, and environmentally conscious metropolis.

Greater Stockholm accounts for roughly 20% of Sweden's population but 58% of its home exchange listings. Sweden has approximately 600 home exchange listings, sixty-six per million. The home exchange agency Intervac has its headquarters in Sweden and most of the home exchange listings in the country. You can read about our first home exchange in Stockholm. We enjoyed it so much that we returned there for a second exchange.

Switzerland

This alpine country has the third highest per-capita national income in the world according to the UN Factbook. It is famous for being beautiful, efficient, neutral, clean, well organized, and slightly boring. German is the first language for 64% of the population, with French being the first language for 20% and Italian for 6.5%. From a home exchange point of view, the French Swiss are much more likely to exchange than their German speaking countrymen. Fifty-four percent of the home exchange listings are from the French speaking part of Switzerland. Twenty-nine percent of the listings were for second homes.

Schools in the French-speaking part of Switzerland break for summer vacation in July and resume towards the end of August. Exact calendars vary by canton.

Switzerland has over 500 home exchange listings. Homelink is the leading agency for listings. There are seventy-one listings per million.

If you bring your own car to Switzerland and want to use the freeways you will need to buy a Road Tax Sticker (Vignette) that costs forty Swiss Francs. You can buy it at the border or perhaps at your local automobile club.

Switzerland has an amazing network of trains, boats, buses, and cable cars. Bicycles can be rented at over sixty railway stations. Visit \url{www.swisstravelsystem.ch} for information on passes for visitors good for trains, buses, and museums.

USA

At thirty four per million, 28% of home exchange listings are found in the US. There are significant geographical differences. California has seventy-three listings per million, Florida has fifty-four per million, the rest of the US besides California and Florida twenty-seven per million.

California. If California were its own country, it would be #6 for home exchange in absolute number of participants: more than 3000 listings. The fact that rain is unlikely for six months a year may be part of its appeal. California has three important geographic regions from a home exchange point of view.

california

The San Francisco Bay Area has many attractions and excellent weather, although during the summer it can be cold and foggy near the ocean. The coast is rugged and scenic, though the water is too cold for swimming and tides are often dangerous. The Coast Range mountains are dry for six months a year, but you can always slake your thirst at the hundreds of wineries in Napa, Sonoma, and other counties. There are state and national parks within an hour of San Francisco with redwood forests and beautiful coastal scenery.

Southern California is lovely year round. Desert resorts such as Palm Springs are delightful during the winter and intensely hot during the summer. Los Angeles has many attractions, is like no place on earth, and is entertaining to visit. Coastal spots such as Santa Barbara, Santa Monica, Newport Beach, and San Diego are chic and luxurious with a perfect climate. The ocean water is too cold for swimming with the possible exception of San Diego.

The Central Valley is the Rodney Dangerfield of California: it gets no respect. It is flat, can be foggy during the winter and hot during the summer. It is less sophisticated than San Francisco or Los Angeles but friendlier and slower paced. It is one of the richest agricultural areas on the planet and has many pleasant cities including Chico, Sacramento, Davis, Lodi, Modesto, Turlock, and Merced. An advantage of the valley is its proximity to the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Lake Tahoe, Sequoia, Kings Canyon, and Yosemite National Parks, the historic Gold Rush country, wine growing regions, and the coast. From many places it is less than an hour to the mountains and/or less than two hours to the coast.

It is important to analyze carefully from a weather point of view any California home exchange opportunity because the state has many microclimates. Nineteen percent of California listings are second homes. School districts choose their own vacation schedules; usually it lasts for eleven weeks in June, July, and August. Spring vacations are only one week, with two weeks off around Christmas and New Year.

Florida. Florida is enormously popular as a vacation destination, presumably for its hot and sunny weather, extensive beaches, theme parks, and alligators. Forty-six percent of listings in Florida are second homes. Summer is humid and hot and even late spring and early fall can be sizzling if you are in the wrong location. Many Florida gardens have large mesh enclosures to discourage the man-eating insects. Swimming pools are common and necessary. Friends of ours in Tallahassee run their air conditioner continually for two months during the summer.

The North East Coast of the United States. The North East Coast of the United States is popular for home exchange, particularly Washington DC, New York, and the New England states. Washington DC is fabulous for its museums and monuments. Its backers claim it is the ideal combination of Northern efficiency and Southern hospitality. Nobody disputes that the weather is generally unpleasant. Hot and humid during the summer, surprisingly frosty during the winter, with a brief and delightful transition between the two. October and April might be the two best weather months.

New England. New England is particularly charming because you are never far from the ocean or the beautiful Green or White Mountains. The coast is lovely, Boston is a world class city, and the region has picturesque towns and villages set amongst rolling forested hills. Due to its northern position and maritime influence the weather is generally mild though it gets cold during the winter. The changing of the leaves in the fall is a world class spectacle.

New York City. New York City competes with London to be the world's financial center and is like no other city on the planet. It is one of those places where having a car is a disadvantage. Vast amounts of culture are on offer at its museums and theatres. Home Exchange writer Nicole Feist lives in Manhattan and her blog at \url{www.homeexchanger.blogspot.com} is filled with useful information on New York City. Upstate (the rest of New York State) at its best is a continuation of New England.

All of the western states are popular for home exchange. Hawaii is tropical and the western parts of Oregon and Washington are temperate. Eastern Oregon and Washington and the Rocky Mountain states have many microclimates depending upon your exact location and elevation. Alaska is best visited in the summer.

If you want to go to the United States you should sign up with Homeexchange.com, they have by far the most listings. Most home exchange agencies have significant numbers of US listings.

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