A common question we’re asked about our location independent lifestyle is “But where do you stay?”.
Most people assume we either stay in hostels (been there, done that and now we’re getting older we like a few more creature comforts!) or hotels (now if we could afford to live in a hotel for a month or two at a time…).
But we stay in neither.
We typically rent fully furnished, fully equipped apartments with everything (including high speed internet) already set up and ready to go. We made a conscious decision that as this nomadic way of life is our permanent lifestyle and not just a holiday or break from ‘normal’ life, we’d rather pay a little more to live in a more home-y environment and have our own space as we travel and work around the world.
The challenge, as some of you have found, is how and where to find this type of accommodation, particularly if you’re on a budget (our target is based upon spending less than we’d otherwise be paying for rent/mortgage in the UK).
I think I’ve mentioned before that I can spend hours and hours searching the web for a suitable place to stay – it’s one of the unexpected hassles of this lifestyle.
But there are some shortcuts and tips you can use to cut down the hours you need to spend trawling the ‘net for that perfect, well equipped apartment:
Start with a quick search on google using search terms like…
- furnished apartment with internet + [your destination]
- short term rental apartment + [your destination]
- short term rentals + [your destination]
- vacation rental with internet + [your destination]
Note: if internet access is important, then make sure you include the term “with internet” in your search strings.
Doing this basic search will instantly tell you a few important things:
- Whether there’s an abundance or lack of this type of accommodation at your destination (and therefore how much more work you’re going to have to do).
- Whether internet access is a common feature in this type of accommodation (e.g. it is very common and easy to find rental accommodation with high speed internet in Buenos Aires).
- Whether there are any main rental agencies or directory-type websites which will give you all you need to know and save you a ton of time.
If your initial search indicates that there are one or two main websites (usually locally run) which seem to include a good range of this type of accommodation, start there. A couple of examples of the best ones we’ve found for various locations include:
If this isn’t the case, then you’re going to have to manually keep searching on google for either individually listed properties or for an agent who can help you shortcut this process.
When you find individually listed properties, take note of any agent associated with the property – you’ll often find that one agent manages a number of the properties you’ve found and may be able to help you more quickly than searching yourself.
If money is not a huge concern for you, then by all means try sites like VRBO.com (Vacation Rentals by Owner) which tend to have more expensive options or you can try craigslist which sometimes has some good options.
Narrow down a shortlist of apartments in specific areas…
The next thing you’ll want to find out, unless you’re already familiar with the area, are the best suburbs/areas to stay in. Personally, I find this bit the hardest thing of all to work out. I never really know whether I’ll like an area until we’ve arrived in a place and checked out all areas for comparison.
In the absence of any existing knowledge, here’s how we decide on a shortlist of apartments in specifically chosen areas:
- Use online and offline networks to find someone who lives in, has been to or knows the place relatively well so you can get their recommendations
- Search for blogs and blog posts on the areas you’re interested in to glean as much information as possible – and/or identify a local contact
- If you’re dealing with an agent, ask for their recommendations based upon your preferences
Contact the properties on your shortlist…
One of the most frustrating things we’ve found is a lack of decent photos and detailed information about properties on the internet (either that or the photos are so well staged they’re not representative of what you find when you’re actually there!).
There are a few things you can do to minimise the risk of choosing somewhere that leaves you wanting to forfeit the upfront rent you’ve paid and leave a week after you’ve arrived. These include:
- Use Tripadvisor for visitor reviews (whilst rental apartment reviews are not that common here yet, if you look under “Speciality lodging” there are some rental reviews on the site)
- Ask the owner/agent for more photos of all the areas/parts of the apartment you want to see – definitely ask to see recent photos of the bathroom, kitchen (plus cooking equipment/area) and entrance to the apartment. Nice-to-see’s also include the street/area immediately outside the apartment plus views from the main rooms.
- Only ever pay a month’s rent in advance (less if you can negotiate it)
When you contact the apartment owners, here’s what you also want to ask them:
- Do you offer a preferable off-peak rate for mid/longer term rentals of over a month? (most short term rental owners should do, especially out of peak season)
- What sort of internet access is there in the apartment? (the speed, type and any download limits are all worth confirming at this stage)
- How far away is the nearest supermarket/internet cafe/public transport? (this is important if you don’t plan to hire a car)
And once you’ve got a favourite, is now the time to go ahead and book?
Perhaps the biggest lesson we’ve learned about organising this type of accommodation for our nomadic lifestyle is this:
Rather than having everything booked up in advance, we now book a hotel or centrally-located aparthotel for the first couple of days and make appointments to see the shortlist of properties, only confirming and paying the deposit/rent once we’ve actually seen the property and area.
Be aware however, that this may not work if you’re arriving in peak season and accommodation is getting booked up quickly.
My advice? Unless you want to pay top dollar for accommodation, attractions and everything else, it’s often better to try and visit places during shoulder or off-peak seasons – this way, you’ll usually have plenty of choice and be in a far better position to negotiate.