How to Rent an Apartment Abroad

Posted on November 4, 2011

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If you’re going abroad to Europe and plan on being in one spot for an extended period of time — whether it’s for a study abroad program, language course, internship or simply because you’re in love with a specific culture — you may be in the process of deciding your best option for room and board.
Although most study abroad programs provide dormitories, home stays or apartments to their students, some programs don’t. Most students don’t know where to find an apartment in Europe, what exactly to search for, or what to expect in terms of renting policies in a foreign country. Here’s how to know exactly where to look and what to expect when finding and renting an apartment in Europe.

By Andriana Evangelista

Step 1:  Make a plan.

The idea of moving abroad and finding an apartment can be exciting, but it can be intimidating. The best way to begin is to make a plan.

  • Set a budget. Before you begin hunting for an apartment it is best to set a price range. Know what you can afford, and research what an average apartment may cost you per month. Don’t forget to factor in additional expenses, like a deposit, taxes, and utilities.
  • Location, Location, Location. Consider the pros and cons of living directly in the city or 0n the outskirts. Being a student living in the city is appealing because of restaurants, nightlife, and shopping. However, apartments tend to be louder and expensive in urban areas. If you prefer to live in a quiet setting or want to save a few dollars, living in the outskirts of a city is a better choice. You might also get more of an authentic cultural experience if you live where most locals live — which is, in the case of most major European cities, not downtown.
  • Length of Lease. Determine the length you are going to rent for. Some apartments require minimum lengths of stay. By deciding how long you will rent will help focus your search and eliminate those that require longer stays. Visa restrictions may be a part of this decision.
  • Type/size of apartment or building. If you plan on living in the city, be aware that the living spaces might be smaller than in the United States. However, there are different types of apartments, like a studio, two-bedroom, or a flat.
  • Amenities. An apartment abroad is different than one in the states. You might not own a car but will have access to great public transportation. You will not be able to move all your furniture from home to your new place. It’s common that apartments are furnished and equipped with kitchen supplies due to past travelers. Consider the costs of utilities, whether furniture is included, the types of appliances (most apartments in Europe don’t have dryers or dishwashers), pets, smoking rules, close public transportation, and parking.
  • Roommates. By living in an apartment you will most likely have roommates. You can reduce the cost of rent by living with others and/or sharing a room. Don’t be afraid to room with a local. You might benefit by learning the language, expanding your circle of friends, and allowing yourself to see more of the local lifestyle!

Once you finish outlining the ideals of your apartment, you can then rank which aspects are most important to you, and start looking for an apartment that fits.

With the right amount of searching, this could be your view every day.

Step 2: Where to look.

  • Network. The best apartment search is to ask around. Before you depart, be sure to reach out to past backpackers or study abroad students if they have suggestions about where to find apartments, or what part of the city to look for an apartment in.
  • Online Websites. There are dozens of websites that allow you to search for apartments abroad. If you prefer to look before you step off the plane, some great sites are to shop for apartments are:
  • Craigslist (craigslist.org) covers major cities such as Madrid, London, or Paris. Where you select the location you are searching choose Cl Worldwide, then Europe, and last whichever country you desire. Then click under housing apts/housing.
  • Kijiji (kijiji.com) The best way to use this site is by using the URL of the country you would like to live. For example, if you would like to live in Italy go to kijiji.it. Next, click Houses for Rent or Rooms/Beds. On the next page you can do an advanced search on the specific city you’d like to live. It will then list the different apartments, photos, and price.
  • Country-specific websites. It is best if you find a local agency or classified ads section in the newspaper within the city you are looking. There will be more of a selection. Here are some for Italy, the UK and Spain.

If you still haven’t found an apartment by the time your plane lands, here are a few more places to look:

  • Postings. There are often apartment postings on public spaces and bulletin boards-especially near universities where students seek additional roommates.
  • Ask a local. The best way to find a great apartment is to ask locals, or those that have lived there for a while. They might have the phone numbers of good landlords, or insight where to look.

Extra Tips

  • Be aware of local standards. Pack accordingly. Be a good guest and respect the local rules and expectations. If you tend to take long showers and use electricity in abundance, your landlord may increase the cost of your rent.
  • Required documents. Check with the landlord or seller of the apartment for required financial or legal documents.
  • Check security of the site. If paying online, check the security of the site and always pay with a credit card.
  • No photo, don’t rent. Do not rent an apartment without first seeing a photo or webcam view.

Got any advice for finding an apartment in Europe? Any websites we should add to our list? Let us know in the comments section below!

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