How to Find Accommodations Abroad
Practical Tips for a Successful
|One option is a
home rental abroad. Photo ©Transitions Abroad.
Here are some practical tips for a
successful search for a home abroad:
Search the many websites and
newspapers abroad. While still at home, access your destination's
newspaper and any arts, entertainment, or advertising papers
to see what kind of accommodations and prices are available.
Also search for the city council and local tourism office
online. Sometimes they offer accommodations searches and
charge only a small finder's fee once they have set you
up. You may also find websites for rental
agencies or property managers, although their prices
are typically more than I am willing to spend.
Seek out area universities
or language schools. Many schools post notices
of open accommodations in the area. Some of these frequently
up-dated lists are kept online, so you may easily access
them even if you are not a student. And on a casual walk
through the hallway at many schools you will see bulletin
boards covered with notices of available housing. It’s
also a good idea to meet the school's international student
coordinator for information and connections.
Talk to people. Don't
be afraid to make your search for housing obvious. If you're
in a friendly café or neighborhood store, mention
that you're looking for a place to live. Someone may give
you a tip that you'd likely never find searching in a newspaper.
Also, if people notice you wandering around the same area
with a newspaper full of circled ads, you may get a helpful
comment or two.
Don't commit without viewing
the place. You may wish to call, email, or write
to owners to introduce yourself and arrange a time to
view the place. However, don’t commit without seeing
the place first and meeting the people to ensure your
Go with your gut reaction. While
finding housing abroad feels more urgent than it does at
home, the same rules apply. Will you be comfortable in the
space? Does it seem safe? Do you trust the owner or persons
who live there?
Ask questions. At
home you'd never think of signing a lease without understanding
the contract. But in many places abroad, people don't fuss
with leases or formal paperwork. The deal is hammered out
verbally and agreed upon. That means that you must ask questions.
When does the owner expect payment? Is a security deposit
required? Is water and electricity included? Does payment
cover extras, such as laundry and meals?
Once you have your place,
be sure to pay on time and keep records of your payments. While
people in other countries are often more relaxed about
money than Americans, prompt payment is seen as a sign
Living with a Family: Is
Being a Lodger for You?
On two long-term stays in Europe
I lived in someone's home. While I came across
the option quite accidentally on my first stay
abroad, the experience encouraged me to choose
this method of lodging again. Being a lodger puts
you in the middle of someone's home and the complexities
of life there. At the same time, these very things
can be advantageous to the person who is adaptable
and eager to learn about a culture head on.
You have a built-in
family. In many cases, the people who take you in will
treat you as family. In my first experience, I
ate my evening meals with the family. This curbed
my loneliness and gave me ample opportunity to
ask questions, learn about the culture, and enjoy
the laughter and company of others. In my second
experience, the woman I lived with kept her life
separate from that of her lodgers. Nevertheless,
I knew that I could ask her for help, directions,
or advice at any time. Her grown children also
stopped over frequently with their own children,
adding to my circle of acquaintances and friends.
In both cases, I now have life-long friends.
You see a different
side of life. If I had not sought lodging, I probably would
have lived with young people, travelers, and students—the
same group of people I normally meet when traveling.
I lived with a working-class family in England
and a widow of a police superintendent in Ireland.
Their experiences colored their stories and widened
You have the comforts
of home. For much less money than renting a furnished flat
you can be a lodger and still have the comfort
of a well-made bed, plates and silverware, and
a radio or television. In my last lodging, my husband
and I had free rein in the kitchen. To save money,
I baked our own bread and my husband cooked most
of the meals. This also made us feel more at home.
You are part of the
family. As a part of someone's family I witnessed arguments
or heard raised voices in an adjacent room. While
this initially made me feel uncomfortable, I realized
that the family felt such ease around me that they
did not have to hide.
You must be aware
of others. As a new member of someone's household you will
be expected to be observant and keep things clean
and tidy. If everyone takes off their shoes at
the door, then you must do the same.
Your space is not
your own. You are using a room in someone's home. That means
that you, and only you, have permission to be there.
If you wish to bring a friend over or have someone
visit, you must ask the family for their approval.
Again, this is a matter of respect.
People take in
lodgers for all kinds of reasons. Some have extra rooms
and find it a good way to supplement their incomes.
Some are lonely and want company in their homes.
No matter what their reasons, these are usually
open-minded people who enjoy learning about
other people and cultures. Make time in your
day to have a chat and get to know them better.
You may start your relationship as a lodger
but you will probably continue your relationship
as a friend.