Long-term Travel and Housing: Finding Rentals Internationally

One of my goals in leaving life in the states was to live a more mindful life. I set an intention to move to Mexico City without much of a plan. I wanted life experiences to happen more organically.  At the same time, there were two major pieces of travel planning that I wanted to accomplish ahead of time.  First, I focused on securing a way to make money while living abroad.  Second, I arranged safe, convenient, and affordable housing.

For some travelers, securing housing may not be a priority. Particularly, in Latin America and many European countries, budget or even free lodging is readily available through hostels, AirBNB rooms, or CouchSurfing. I enjoy the freedom and adventure of exploring lodging options when traveling. However, on this trip, it was important for me to arrange lodging ahead of time for a couple of reasons. Primarily, we were traveling with our dog. Our options would be narrowed and we would have to negotiate pet agreements. I also considered my plan teach remotely from our home in order to maintain financial stability. Confirming reliable internet service and a stable, comfortable work-space was critical.

For countless hours, days, and weeks I scoured the internet for housing. The internet is amazing in the way it connects people looking for information and resources. Still, I found navigating the big move to be very overwhelming. In reflecting on this experience, here are some things to know and tips to consider when seeking international housing for long-term travel.

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Some major sites that are helpful for exploring housing options internationally include AirBNB, VRBO, and Craigslist. These are the sites I started my search with to explore housing types, amenities, neighborhoods, and price range. Overall owners usually inflate the prices for tourists, so searching local sites or network may be better for the budget-minded traveler.

NOTE: Choosing to rent locally can be difficult.  It often requires proof of residence, or a local co-signer to vouch for you.  It is very possible to secure a rental otherwise, but may require you to pay several months to a year rent in advance.

AirBNB is a great source for long-term rentals. The rentals include utilities and come fully furnished. You choose the space and amenities you need, from a shared or private room to a private apartment or house. Many owners offer a substantial discount for weekly and monthly rates. Typically, the renter pays the initial month upfront and then subsequent months separately. Some agreements also come with a long-term cancellation agreement that minimizes the risk if your travel plans are interrupted. I enjoy reading previous guests’ reviews to learn more about potential pros and cons of staying in each rental. By far, I recommend AirBNB as it offers great protection to both the renter and owner.  www.airbnb.com

TIP: Message the AirBNB owner privately before booking the rental to ask about a long-term rate. While some owners maintain their listed monthly prices, I have saved hundreds of dollars on monthly rentals by negotiating first. Travelers with pets should private message owners as well. Rental descriptions include a description of pet rules. I have messaged many owners with properties listed as “Not suitable for Pets” and some will consider pets staying for long-term rentals. In fact, we negotiated our first apartment stay in Mexico City this way.  Plan far ahead if possible, as rentals book quickly.

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CRAIGSLIST is a potentially good resource when used carefully. I actually found our second Mexico City apartment using this site. The apartment was listed on AirBNB at a rate well outside of our budget. Later, in one of my binge searching episodes, I saw the same apartment listed on Craigslist for several hundred dollars cheaper per month. Craigslist has many cheaper rentals, but it can be tricky business due to scamming. If you do choose Craigslist, do you research! It is possible for scammers to post stolen pictures and descriptions from other sites.

NEVER pay money to an individual online if using Craigslist. ALWAYS view the apartment first, put down a minimal deposit, and ideally obtain the keys when paying. Consider that Craigslist offers no protection if you do pay for an apartment and later learn the apartment was not in fact owned by the individual you paid. In my case, I linked my owner’s rental and business information together to ensure I had proper information about the owner, paid only the first month’s deposit in person at his place of business, and agreed to pay another month when we moved in.  Choose your location and search “Housing” at  www.craigslist.org

LOCAL SITES AND NETWORKS provide the lowest cost rentals. In order to find local listings, consider the local language. I found several sites in Mexico City by translating words such as “apartment” “rental,” and “furnished rental” into Spanish first and then competing web searches. In Mexico City, some popular sites are www.dadaroom.com and www.vivanuncios.com. Again, these sites don’t offer any real protection and scams are possible. Even better, I recommend searching social media for local expat groups. In Mexico City, the Facebook group “Foreigners in Mexico City (DF)” offers great connections. I often see posts for furnished and unfurnished rooms and apartments available at reasonable rates. These types of groups can also be a great place to write a “Housing Wanted” post.

So, how did we fare?

Before arriving to Mexico City, we booked an AirBNB rental in the popular, trendy neighborhood of Colonia Condesa.  It was a very simple studio with one decent size bedroom, a small kitchen, and bathroom.  We scored big with access to a shared washer/dryer and rooftop terrace.  It wasn’t bigger than many hotel rooms, but the location was great as we were only a block from beautiful Parque España and many great restaurants and bars.  The all inclusive rent came in at $585 a month.

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We soon came to realize we really wanted a bit more space and preferably more amenities.  In particular, we looked for an apartment with a sitting area, more kitchen space, and private outdoor space.  Eventually, I found the apartment previously discussed via Craigslist.  At $780 per month, the extra cost was worth having a bit more space, privacy, and newer design and furnishings.  The building is still older, but the apartment has been renovated.  The location is excellent in Roma Norte, across the way from Condesa, and offering amazing eats, drinks, and entertainment.  Plus, I love having a private terrace to work, relax, and people watch from.  We signed on for a few months initially, but decided we liked the place so much that we wanted to extend the agreement.  So, we’re here for a while.

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In the spring, we plan to take an extended trip to Merida, a colonial city in the Yucatan.  We’re sure abut this trip, so I have already planned housing there too.  We found a quaint colonial house in the city on AirBNB for $575 a month all inclusive.  it has a full bedroom, living room, spacious kitchen, and private courtyard with a dipping pool.   It is so cute, it has even been featured on www.apartmenttherapy.com.  To check out this awesome rental for your next trip, visit https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/1252917.

What are you waiting for?  The lifestyle you have dreamed is out there.  Start researching and make moves…pun intended!