If you don’t like the common bathrooms of hostels, but don’t want to splurge on hotels, apartment rentals are a great way to have a local experience when you’re traveling. There are dozens of websites that each specialize in different regions and have both full apartments for short term rental and rooms in apartments.
I’ve rented apartments in a couple of different places and like having a space to myself in neighborhoods where the real people live, not just tourists. It can also be nice to cook yourself meals in a kitchen rather than constantly eating out, and to have a space to leave your stuff. And you never know what kind of cool property you’ll find. It could be a beach house, a room on a boat, a treehouse or even an igloo!
Choose the Right Website for You
There are dozens of apartment rental websites out there, each with a different territory that they’re strongest in. AirBnb and Flipkey have the most properties in North America, while sites like Wimdu, Housetrip and Roomorama are big in Europe. VRBO and HomeAway have mostly larger beach and mountain rentals, rather than individual apartments.
Take the Safety Precautions
Each site has its own system for background checks and safety precautions, so read up before booking.
Also, do the following:
- Check your potential host – Choose a host with many references and make sure no one has had bad experiences. You can also do a Google search of your host’s name to see if there are any red flags.
- Check on the privacy level – Find out if it’s just the host living there, or also their significant other or roommates. Also make sure that the room has the privacy you want. I stayed in a shotgun house in New Orleans that didn’t have any doors and shared a bathroom with three other people, but it turned out fine.
- Check on the details – Speak to your host in advance to sort out how you’re going to retrieve the keys, directions to the property and any other pertinent information.
Don’t Be Afraid to Speak Up
If you’re getting an odd vibe from the apartment owner, or they’re making requests that don’t sound right, like chipping in for groceries or having additional people stay there, say something. You shouldn’t be sharing a bedroom with the owners under any circumstances unless it’s been disclosed on the profile.
Have the website’s phone number on-hand and don’t feel obligated to stay just because you’ve paid for it. The customer services of these websites are understanding about unexpected things that come up.
Bring What You Need
The only downside of renting apartments instead of staying in hotels and hostels is that you may want to bring a few items that they won’t have, like locks for your bags. I also recommend bringing a reusable grocery bag, a local SIM card and phone and a small gift for your host. Apartments should come with sheets and towels for you to use during your stay, as well as kitchenware.