Renting an apartment in Europe

I saw the news item on TravelGumbo yesterday that Expedia is going to rent apartments on its site with some other company. I kind of like the idea, because cheap hotel rooms only seem to have enough room for me, my GF and suitcases...but I don't know much about it. Can someone help me with questions?

 

1. How long do you have to rent for...can it be a few days?

2. How do you know what kind of neighborhood an apartment is in?

3. How do you check in or out?

4. Do people have problems with neighbors?

Is there anyplace besides Expedia it's safe to rent?

Original Post

Hi Dreamer

 

I can only tell you about my experiences...

 

1) How long? It depends. Apartment rental have been around in Europe for a long time. It used to be mostly for a week from Saturday to Saturday, but mostly anything goes now.

 

2) Buyer beware - It will be up to you to research the neighbourhood. You can do that many ways. Perhaps the easiest is using google streetmaps

 

3) There is no one way to check in. Sometimes you meet the owner or manager and they will give you the key. Sometimes there is a combination lock on the door that houses a box where your keys are, and the owner just gives you the combination.

 

4) There are too many good sites to mention. Airbnb, VRBO, homelidays, etc etc. One good way to feel good about the place your staying in is to cross reference it with another site. My experience is that most rental properties appear on more than one site. Cross reference and read the reviews.

 

I've rented many apartments over the years, and only once was I really disappointed...but there is much more due diligence for you to do than if you get a hotel. 

John mentioned the Google street maps...really a very good way to check out a neighborhood, since it has more than just the maps! On top of the zoom scale on the map, you'll see a little orange man. Drag him onto a street on the map, and you'll see photos of the street.

 

It takes a couple of moments to get used to maneuvering, but you can go up and down the streeet, turn and face the opposite direction, "walk" around corners, and zoom in and out. You can use the Windows snipping tool or other to even clip pictures--I use it to give my wife a neighborhood preview before we arrive, with notes on where I've found the market, the grocery, the bus stop, etc.!

CICAK, may I suggest you encourage your wife to see the big picture.  When you're in a hotel room you are not required to savage the minibar.  When you're in an apartment you aren't required to cook.  The kitchen just exists quietly should you desire it.  What you're there for is to spread out, have privacy with all the comforts of home, possibly be in a more interesting neighborhood & surrounded by people who interest you and who may even be interested in you and any number of other real-life aspects of being in a foreign country.   Which can include not being surrounded, as in a hotel, by the very people you've spent a lot of money to leave behind.  AND, you can have a meal on occasion, take-out stored in your fridge for instance, without getting dressed.

Good tips about Google Maps street view.  I guess I should have thought of it, like as a good way to scout out an area.  But I guess I still don't know if that is a safe area.  How can you see of a place is safe.

 

PortMoresby has a good point.  I like having space in a room and being able to spread out.  That doesn't mean you have to cook.

Of course, you don't have to cook.  But it is nice to make a pot of coffee in the morning and eat nice warm croissants fetched from the bakery down the street, before you venture out into the city.  It's also pleasant once in a while when you are tired at day's end to pick up something to heat in the microwave and maybe a bottle of decent wine for only a few euro, and sit with feet up and watch TV.  Ahhh....

Originally Posted by Theodore Behr:

Those are good tips, JohnT.  Need to look into an apartment next time I'm in Paris.

 

 Not exactly sure how you check out a neighborhood?  Where do you go for that?

Well, the maps and pictures really won't tell you about safety, no, aside from seeing if it looks like a busy residential or commercial area with people on the street, and so forth. It helps you avoid areas that have boarded-up buildings and the like. But mostly you have ask people here or somewhere else once you have some choices.

Armed with the street address, online maps and Streeview you can certainly see all you need to know about a neighborhood.  If it looks spiffy and interesting it's a safe neighborhood.  If, on the map it's in close proximity to something you'd rather not be near then look on.  See well dressed residents on the sidewalk and inviting bistros?  Good neighborhood.  Auto repair shops and shady-looking characters?  Maybe not.  It's not difficult.

AirBnb, and the other major rental agencies, have cancellation policies upfront that give you some choice. AirBnb has several levels...one allows you to cancel almost up to the last minute, others have shorter deadlines. An advantage of using an agency that works this way...pretty much like a hotel booking site...is that the intermediary is holding your deposit and that can save hassles.

 

Obviously, rules about dissatisfaction vary also, but usually if it can't be ironed out, you'll get at least a partial refund, or all if the agency recognizes that what you got was not what was described.

 

As with most travel arrangement...there are some risks on both sides. The host is counting on income from those days and may not have a customer waiting if it's too close; on your end, the plane, etc. 

Originally Posted by Bling:

We have considered renting an apartment.  We are never quite sure how to handle the deposit.  Some owners seem very firm about having a non-refundable deposit upfront.  We can understand their need to guarantee bookings but we also know that plans change, flights get cancelled, and, perhaps the place will not be to our liking.   Should we only book with owners and agencies that allow the deposit to be paid on arrival ?  What is the standard procedure for this ?  What is the simplest way to give the owners the security that they want without scarifying our ability to change plans, if necessary ?

 

Hi, I've been renting apartments in Europe, mainly Germany, for years, and the only problem I've had was a complete rip-off booked through Ah-Paris. I've rented from probably 3 different people in Berlin and have paid the deposit up front and cash on arrival. Made me nervous at first, but I was never disappointed. 

 

Renting apartments is the way to go. Not only do you get much more space, but you can have your coffee in your jammies, the way I like to start my day.

 

Happy travels!

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