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Finding Medium-Term Accommodation

by Globetrooper Todd | 6 Responses
Medium-Term Accommodation

By far, the most difficult thing about long-term travel is finding medium-term accommodation. Sure, just affording to travel is tough enough, but for us, finding cheap apartments is miles tougher. In fact, we’ve never contemplated returning home due to financial troubles, but we have absolutely considered a one-way ticket home as a result of house-hunting madness.

So after staying (usualy 3+ months) in seven different cities, we have finally come up with a strategy.

1. Find the Websites Used By Locals

You typically want to visit one website, send a few requests, see a couple of apartments, and be done with it ASAP. The sooner you settle in, the sooner you can be productive, and the more days you can put aside for adventure.

The trick is to not be swindled by people looking to overcharge tourists.

Start by asking a few locals what websites they use for accommodation. In the case of countries mostly offline, ask about popular house-hunting newspapers. And in the case of newspapers in difficult foreign languages (e.g. Arabic, Thai, etc), offer to buy your new friend dinner in exchange for some help.

Often, it makes a world of difference to hop out of your comfort zone and enlist the services of a local.

2. Have the Money Ready

When you find your dream apartment in an idyllic location, it’s important to have the cash ready so you can just drop your bags and alleviate the pain of house-hunting (usually with beer or wine).

If you don’t have the money already, daily withdrawal limits could mean it’s days until you can move in.

Also, landlords often want a month of rent in advance, plus another month of rent as a deposit. They may also want the entire period pre-paid to mitigate the risk of renting to someone who’s a flight risk. Having all of this money ready can save both time and more money, especially if you’re staying in hotels while you search.

3. Consider Guesthouses

Some cities have a thriving medium-term accommodation market  (e.g. check out Vienna Apartments). But some just aren’t geared for it (e.g. India). So don’t just consider apartments, also consider guesthouses designed for short-term stays. In developing countries, this is often a cheaper alternative too.

In somewhere like Thailand, you can stay in a guesthouse with full facilities, weekly cleaning and regular linen changes for the price of doing it all yourself in the West. The same goes for South America. We once stayed on the top floor of a guest house in Peru for only $7/night. We had a quaint balcony, a kitchen area, plus they cleaned daily for what amounted to the price of fish & chips in most other places.

4. Search Short-Stay Websites Too

A new trend in accommodation is self-rented rooms and apartments. So rather than offering a couch for free (e.g. through couchsurfing.org), people are now renting out their rooms to subsidise rent. They may also offer their entire apartment while they’re away on holidays or for schooling.

Although self-rented apartments may be advertised with daily rates, you’ll be surprised how many are willing to rent for longer if you make an offer. These places are usually fully furnished too, whereas long-term stays are often unfurnished.

What I also like about this option is that you can book a place online without even seeing it. This isn’t necessarily good practice, but when it comes down to the wire and you’re ready to return home, it can literally save your trip.

Check out websites like Wimdu.com, where people list apartments all over the world for short-term stays.

5. Beware of Craigslist

Some people use Craigslist for medium-term house hunting, but I’ve found the following problems with Craigslist:

  • Listings are often for a few weeks in the future (but we need a place now)
  • Most people never reply to your emails, so you sit waiting in limbo
  • There are lots of scams, which end up driving you nuts
If you’re in dire straights with nowhere to sleep, it may be worth checking Craigslist. But to find a place with efficiency, it helps to use websites where it takes lots of effort to list a place, which invariably deters the scammers.
Posted in Featured, Travel Hacking | September 30th, 2011

6 Responses to Finding Medium-Term Accommodation

  1. Medium stay accommodation is the bane of my life so these are top tips. We are looking to settle in Penang, Malaysia for a couple of months very soon and in my costings staying in a private room in a hostel worked out cheaper than renting an apartment. Add that to the fact that eating out is so cheap in Malaysia and I think that’s what we may end up doing. Time will tell.

  2. Guest houses are usually a good call to make when travelling and deciding where to stay, especially those that are smaller, family owned guest houses. They tend to offer a very personal service with great attention to detail and comfort, in fact it can often be compared to staying over in a persons actual home for the night and it often is.

    Finding reliable accommodation in a guest house while travelling would be at the top of my accommodation list, prices are often low and current vacancies are frequently listed in the window or in local papers.

  3. One of the best things you can do to mitigate the stress of looking for accommodations is to think short term first.

    Book one night at a reputable place in advance, so that you have somewhere to go right after you get off the plane (or boat or bus) and unload your stuff. It may cost a little more, but it’s priceless for a late night arrival after a long unplanned bus ride.

    Next, find a short term, clean & cheap place you can stay for a week or two (ask for discounts.) Now that you have a place to sleep every night you can spend your time scouting the local market.

    Read the newspapers, pound the pavement, and ask around. Try asking the waiter at that little restaurant you discovered, or that reliable taxi driver you found whose number you thought to get after a surprisingly fair fare. Tap into the local expat community — a web search for (yourcity + “blog” or “real estate” or “artist”) But bear in mind that expat tour guides or real estate agents might look askance at your requests –they’re used to getting their commissions and don’t want to work for free– but a friendly lunch might not hurt.

  4. Defiantly a disaster. We almost wanted to quit our new lifestyle.

    But at last we found something awesome at exactly the same way you mention. We are now in Barcelona for a few months, in a great Apartment for €750,- 2 pers, wifi, central.

    We found it on fotocase.es the website is 100% in Spanish.

    Could you give me the adress for you apartment in Berlin? Want to stay there for a month in September for the Marathon.. :-)

    Best, Rogier

    • Hi Rogier,

      Glas to hear we’re not the only ones in this predicament.

      The place we’re staying in now is owned by people who plan to live here again after we leave. So it won’t be available. But there are hundreds of places available around Berlin in airbnb.com and some of the local websites like http://www.immowelt.de and http://www.immobilienscout24.de.

      Good luck with the marathon. Seems like a nice flat track and the weather is good for running too. You probably heard that a Kenyan broke the world marathon record at the last meet a month ago.

      Todd

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