Renting a house or apartment for travels overseas can be surprisingly affordable, even for relatively short stays.
Navigating the dizzying array of options can make this possibility seem overwhelming. Faced with cultural differences, language barriers, and the choice between private rentals or agencies, it’s hard to know how to proceed. Limited to a relatively fixed budget, I’ve still found affordable rental options even when travelling to stunning Mediterranean locations in Spain and Italy.
In Spain, first in the off-the-beaten-path city of Cadiz in the southern region of Andalusia and then in Nerja on the Costa del Sol just north of Malaga, I rented two-bedroom properties with a friend for 1000 Euros per month. Divided by two, and balanced over 30 days, this was less than we would have paid for many hostels! In Cadiz we stayed in a roomy apartment in the historic old town moments from the sea. In Nerja we had a small house with a two terraces and 180 degree views across the Mediterranean to greet us in the morning.
More recently, we’ve found fantastic and affordable homes to rent in Italy. We stayed a week in a studio apartment in historic Trapani, Sicily for about 250 Euros. Another summer we rented a two-bedroom apartment in less-travelled Soverato, Italy, whose garden gate opened onto the sandy beaches and crystal-clear water of the Ionian Sea. We ate outside every single day on a terrace overlooking the water and mountains in the distance. And for 6 weeks, rent was only about 1500 Euros.
The greatest advantage of renting on your holiday is immediate immersion into a community. Within days of arriving in Cadiz, Spain, we were greeted with smiles and waves from neighbours and local merchants who recognized us as recurrent faces. By the end of our stay, our greengrocer would tell us which days to avoid tomatoes that had been out too long. We also saved money by cooking for ourselves with fresh, local ingredients. Soon owners at a local café would offer us our regular café con leche before we could even order it ourselves. All of these friendly interactions and local warmth would have been impossible had we been jumping from town to town, day by day.
When planning to rent a vacation property abroad, be prepared and plan ahead. Here’s our tips for finding an amazing and affordable vacation rental:
Avoid the High Season
The off-season is always going to be cheaper (but beware of price peaks around holidays like Christmas). Careful planning, however, allows you to enjoy the warmth and sun of the high-season without paying the inflated prices. In Soverato, for example, we stayed from late May until early July. And since the most expensive period wasn’t until August, we were able to afford a longer visit. The same was true in Cadiz. By spending January to March in southern Spain, we avoided the rainy cold of England and the higher prices of summer rentals. But, we also got to enjoy the region’s traditional Easter celebrations, Semana Santa, and Cadiz’s famous Carnival.
Have a local Contact
Many vacation rentals are owned by foreigners who use the property for only part of the year and rent it out for the remainder. Things can go wrong: you might lose your keys, an appliance might stop working, or you might need to deal with neighbours who speak another language. Our hot water heater died in our rental house in Nerja, but with a local contact, it was fixed right away. The owner even dropped 50 Euros off our rent for the inconvenience.
Do Your Research
Numerous internet sites advertise vacation rentals, but use caution and common sense because while most ads are legit there are also some scams. We’ve used HomeAway for European rentals, as well as TripAdvisor’s vacation rental listings. AirBnB is one of the biggest now, and especially great for cities. Vacation Rentals By Owner (VRBO) has lots of listings, but we’ve found it a bit pricey. Use several sites to expand your search. Simple internet searches for rentals in the city you want to visit can also yield private renters with their own websites, like our accommodation in Cadiz. Another option is to contact local real estate agents as we did in Nerja. Many now help find furnished holiday rentals geared toward travelers, particularly in more desirable locations.
Be sure to ask the full cost of accommodation and what utilities are included. Our rent in Cadiz included water and electricity but not replacement gas canisters for heating. Even things as basic as water pressure, cleaning arrangements, and transport links need to be addressed. Few owners will be outright dishonest, but as we discovered, some will avoid volunteering information, particularly if it casts their property in a less appealing light. In Cadiz, for example, we only learned after putting down a cash deposit that paper could not be flushed down the toilet.
Bargain! Bargain! Bargain!
The final price is never the final price. Owners have to cobble together rentals with random timelines and potentially overlapping schedules. If you can rent when the property is free, they want you. And if you plan to stay more than a week, owners want that guaranteed income. You can often negotiate so don’t be afraid to ask for a lower rate. In both Cadiz and Soverato, we saved hundreds of euros by negotiating down the price of accommodation based on renting for more than a month.
The next time you travel abroad, consider taking a risk and being more than a tourist. Move in, even if only for a week or two, and see how soon your local community will welcome you as a new neighbor.