Packing your life into two suitcases can be a daunting task and it can be equally as stressful finding a place to unpack your things. Finding accommodation can be one of the biggest headaches of organizing your stay abroad. How do you find something affordable - and liveable - in an unfamiliair location?
Finding a decent place to live abroad isn't easy, that I've experienced myself. While I was studying abroad, I lived in a too expensive - not worth the money - apartment. At the beginning of my search to rent a room in Barcelona I was very positive and excited to find something decent. After spending a lot of time surfing on the internet I became a bit desperate. I didn't know where to look. Time was ticking and I still didn't manage it to find a decent place to live. In a rush I had booked an too expensive apartment - which still hurts me every time I think about it.
One lesson that I've learned is that you have to take the time to orientate yourself well, before you rent a room in an unfamiliar city. Here are some tips to find an affordable and liveable place to stay during your time abroad.
It's hard to know whether you're getting a good or a bad deal, unless you know what locals and expats pay for apartments or rooms in your area. Doing research means you won't waste time looking for something that doesn't exist. Once you are aware of the prices you should set a budget for yourself, so you know at the beginning of your search what you are going to get for that amount of money.
Start looking for somewhere to live as soon as you have conformation of where you'll be working or studying and don't be scared to ask your employer or host university for suggestions. They might have partnerships with reliable property managers, who have rooms for rent. By doing this you will save yourself a lot of time and effort and of course you will save yourself from a huge headache.
Don't go surfing on the web if you have no idea where to look or what to look for. At the end it will make you crazy. Knowing where is the right place to look for a room may take some time, but eventually it will be worth it. Join different groups on Facebook, where people offer their rooms for rent and place advertisements in those kinds of groups. Also keep an ear on the ground. You may have a friend who has a friend who can help you with finding the perfect place to stay.
Often, I like surprises. What I don't like is the unexpected surprise of paying more money then I had calculated at the beginning. So when you have found a place to rent, make sure you know what's included in the price and what's not. Often the listed price is exclusive utilities (water, electricity, wifi etc). Make sure you are aware of that before renting the room, because once you have rented the room these cost will be non-negotiable. Also, it's a good idea to find out in advance what the procedure is for payment. Do you have to pay cash, or should you transfer the money?
Before you rent a room, you have to check everything what's in the apartment and what's not. By knowing this you wont have this huge surprise of spending extra money on equipment you need for living. Check if the towels / blankets are included and if the kitchen equipment is all complete. It's important to check this, because buying all this stuff probably wont fit in your budget and you can get really stressed out about it.
What to do when you've found your perfect room online and the landlord wants to receive a deposit first? Try to visit the room first, before handing over any money. Keep in mind that online photos can be very misleading. Don't ever transfer any money to someone when you don't feel secure about it. Even when you run out of time, keep calm. There's nothing wrong with staying in a hostel for a few days to go over all your options and to visit different rooms. If you're staying somewhere for more than a month, make sure there is a proper contract involved and read all the small prints.