Renting an apartment is becoming a popular lodging choice for those traveling overseas. Not only can it save you money, but it can also provide a unique perspective and allow you to “live like a local” in a foreign place.
Is an Apartment the Right Choice?
Apartments are the best option for those who plan on staying in one place for an extended period of time. Some apartment rentals require a minimum stay of one week and many require a deposit or cleaning fee as well. These extra fees may not be worth it if you are only planning to stay a few days. For those staying a few weeks, these extra fees will be offset by the savings, and further discounts may even be offered on long-term rentals.
Renting an apartment is often a great solution for groups traveling together. While couples or singles will still see savings, often times groups of 3 or more save bigger by sharing an apartment as opposed to booking multiple hotel rooms. An apartment is also a great choice for those who want to be able to cook many meals themselves rather than always going out to eat. Even if the apartment were to cost the same as a hotel, the savings you’d get from cooking in multiple times would quickly add up.
Apartment Rental Outlets
Once you’ve decided that you want to rent an apartment for your travels, how do you go about finding one? There are many online services, such as Homeaway VRBO, or Vacation Rentals that list apartments for rent. There are also lots of location-specific sites like Barcelona30 in Barcelona, which offer apartments starting at 30 Euros per person. Going through a reputable site or broker is the safest way to book your apartment. The owners have all been verified and all transactions will be recorded online so you are more protected should something go wrong or the apartment not be as promised. Apartment rentals are also sometimes listed directly by owner on craigslist, but while going this route might save you money, it also offers less protection should you be scammed.
Finding the Right Apartment
Wading through the many apartment listings can be daunting. This is where an agent can come in handy. You just need to tell them what you are looking for and they’ll come up with a narrowed-down list of options. If you are searching on a website, plug in your requirements and then come up with a short list of available options.
Now it’s time to really scrutinize each listing. The ideal ad will show pictures of both the inside and out. Be wary of any ad that doesn’t, or request extra photos from the owner. If a full kitchen is very important to you, be sure to ask for photos to verify the apartment has what you need. Watch out for double language and get clarification on anything that you don’t understand. For instance, if an ad says the apartment is in a quiet part of town and you notice that it is directly next to the highway, you may need to get more information.
Verify the Details
Find out exactly what is included in the apartment rental and inquire about any extras. A fully-equipped kitchen is great, but if pots and pans aren’t provided, you won’t be able to cook a thing. Most apartments do provide dishes, sheets, pillows, towels and the like, but it’s always a good idea to verify this before you book. If you plan on driving, be sure there is parking available nearby and find out if it is secure and free. If you plan on bringing your pet and the apartment is listed as pet-friendly, check on any breed restrictions and extra fees. If there is a gym on site, will you be able to use it as a guest and is there a fee? If there is laundry on site, is it coin operated?
Other questions to ask include: What floor is the apartment located, and is there an elevator? How far away is the nearest convenience store, grocery store, and public transportation? What should happen if we are locked out and who do we call in case of emergency (and are they nearby)? Are we charged for utilities like electricity and gas; and is there internet at the apartment or nearby wi-fi?
Once you’ve selected an apartment, it’s time to make the booking. Most apartments require a deposit, which can often be paid online through the booking site. It’s best to use a credit card so that you are protected in case of fraud. Once your travel plans are finalized, you’ll need to make arrangements with the owner or rental agent to get the keys. Most often, the agent or owner will meet you at the apartment at a pre-determined arrival time to let you in, accept final payment, and show you around. These meetings generally must take place during normal business hours; some companies charge extra for after-hours arrivals and departures. Should something go wrong in your travel plans (missed flight or late train), you’ll need to contact the host and update them on your arrival time.
When Things Go Wrong
Always make sure you have a contact number for the landlord or agent in case of an emergency – like a broken pipe or lost keys. Be sure the rental agreement specifies what you may or many not be responsible for (i.e damage charges, cost for replacing the keys). Sites like Vacation Rentals and VRBO that are run by the Home Away company offer a guarantee that will reimburse you up to $5000 if the apartment you rent turns out not to be as it was promised. If you are renting with a different site or agent, be sure to inquire about what protections they offer if the apartment falls short. Paying with a credit card can offer you additional protections.
When you do your research and book with a reputable company, renting an apartment for your travels can be a rewarding experience. Not only can you save money, but you’ll also have the chance to experience life in a city as though you lived there, in the comfort of your own temporary home.
Written by Katie Hammel for EuropeUpClose.com