Renting an Apartment Abroad



So, you are thinking about living abroad for a few months, eh? Whether you will be studying there for a semester, just need a vacation, or are looking for an overseas paradise to call home for a while, here are a few tips to get you situated abroad.

While you may need to juggle language and cultural differences (and learn how to say key phrases in a new language), renting an apartment in a new country will usually be quite similar to renting in your own country.


The first step will be to investigate what part(s) of the city that will be the best location for you. Do you need to be close to the school, or would you like to be in the heart of a specific area, like the arts district? Read guides, personal travel blogs, and forums online to get a feel for what will be available to you and how the city is laid out. If you are a student, the school should offer you plenty of resources to help in these areas.

Then, decide a temporary living arrangement for the first week or so, until you can find a more permanent arrangement. Will you stay in a hotel or hostel that you find when you arrive, set-up a hotel or hostel before you go (using a site like HostelBookers), find a free place to sleep through hospitality exchange (using sites like CouchSurfing or BeWelcome), or set-up a temporary rental-by-owner online before you arrive? If you choose the latter, it may even work out as your more permanent situation too.

Next, decide what you are looking for in a living arrangement. Roommates or host family? Full-size apartment, efficiency, or just a room? You can look online for available spaces, but do not get too disappointed if everything you find online is extremely expensive or geared for the tourism industry – I currently live abroad about 80% of the year, and have not ever found my housing on online listings like Craigslist or rental company websites. I have, however, had fantastic luck with an array of online sites specifically for rent-by-owner situations (read on for more details on these types of sites).

If you are interested in renting a space from an individual online using a service site, you will most likely have an array of options! In every price range, and anything from just a simple room with a mattress on the floor, to a modest bungalow, an entire mansion, or your own private island – you will be able to set up the arrangement online before arriving and most of the companies hosting these websites back the exchange with a safety guarantee for everyone’s protection. You will also be able to choose your length of stay depending on the availability of the location.

There is a plethora of rental-by-owner sites, each with their own specialties and popularity in areas of the world, so depending on where you will be, do a quick Google search to find out which ones are most popular in your destination country, or search a few of these sites to see what would be available to you. Here are a few:
AirBnB  HomeAway  Roomorama  9flats  VRBO  Evergreen Club  FOFtravel  Onefinestay  Wimdu  Sublet  Travel Mob  FlipKey  BedyCasa  SleepOut  PandaBed  Kozaza, and  SabbaticalHomes

See my other article, Renting From An Individual, for more tips on this style of renting.


Ninty-nine percent of the time, finding a place to live abroad must be done in your destination city and cannot be acquired long distance. You can find a place by visiting apartment complexes, looking in the classifieds of local and local tourist newspapers, looking for “for rent” signs in windows (Seriously! Pull on your walking boots and wander around the streets searching – you will also be getting to know your new city!), and by talking to strangers. One of our favorite methods is when someone comes up to us on the street to sell us something, to: politely decline their offer, but tell them what we ARE looking for is a place to live. Surprisingly, this method often WORKS! They may have a friend that rents spaces, or just know of something from going around town. Sometimes people will help you out of the kindness of their hearts, and sometimes they will be looking for a small tip to compensate for their time.


In preparation for living and renting abroad, ask yourself these questions:

  • How much and what type of space do I need? A room in an apartment or house? An efficiency, full apartment or house?
  • Do I need a furnished place? (This route is usually the most economical choice because buying new furniture each year is very expensive!)
  • Do I need a washer, dryer, oven, microwave? Is there a refrigerator?
  • Do the rooms have natural sunlight? What is the lighting like inside at night?
  • What bills will I be responsible for?
  • What businesses are nearby? Where could I buy groceries?
  • If you do not have a car/bicycle/skateboard, is there public transport nearby?
  • Does the space appear clean and taken care of?
  • Does the landlord seem friendly, honest, respectful, and responsible?
  • Is it a brand-new space or newly renovated? Avoid being the first person (think “guinea pig”) living in a space because many things can go wrong, or may not be set-up properly.
  • Do I have leniency in the lease term if I decide that I do not like the space, people, or location?
  • Does my destination country require paperwork from foreign renters? Many do not, but some do.

…Good luck, try not to let the process overwhelm you (because it can be A LOT easier than you would expect), follow common sense, and, most importantly – have a wonderful adventure! Feel free to comment if you have any travel/renting-related questions.

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Author My First Apartment

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Chloë Elise is a writer and artist living (and renting) around the world. She is usually the roomie to catch bugs and put them outside, or to fill the house with little plants around every window. She spends most of her time writing, painting, tattooing, studying science, learning languages, building websites, making music, and searching for fossils. Find more info at Sima Tattoo, Yakbrother, or her personal portfolio.

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