7 Places to Look for a Place to Live (And 3 Places Not To)

Posted by   Annette on    October 10, 2017


This much is true for location-dependent and digital-nomad types alike: there's an art to finding a place to hang your hat.

Luckily for us, the era of collaborative consumption has arrived -- and finding a full-on, immersive local rental experience has never been so easy.

Important advice: no matter how good the place looks, book your first in-country accommodation only for a week or so, and re-up when you arrive. You'll get your bearings during that trial period, and you'll know the place's perks and drawbacks well enough to make a decision.

1. AirBNB

AirBNB is my go-to--and most of the other LIPs' I know, too. It's the first place I look, and almost always the venue through which I find a truly awesome place to live. If you're savvy, there's a very good chance you've already used AirBNB in your travels. (If you haven't, DO!) It works beyond the "vacation" context, however, and it works exceedingly well. Every host I've met through AirBNB has been terrific, every living environment exactly as-advertised, and I've been using it since its inception.

Pro tip: Because AirBNB plunks you into a local's private home, you can expect to be housemates with the host(s). After the "trial week," if you love it and have clicked with your host, ask if you can rent the space from them on a longer-term, off-list basis so that both of you can skip the nominal service charges the site imposes.

Interestingly and unsurprisingly, AirBNB's spectacular success has led to some renter's-law hitches in plenty of U.S. cities. However, I don't imagine that the service (or others like it) will be losing steam anytime soon.

2. Wimdu

Wimdu's listings often duplicate those on AirBNB, but not always. I found several great places in South Africa that are only listed on Wimdu, not AirBNB. It's certainly worth checking.

3. JustLanded

JustLanded, while more geared to the traditional expat, has some great housing listings. When I lived in Cusco, I found a fantastic little two-level rooftop loft on JustLanded (with a kitchen, office and wifi) for $450USD/mo. The site also includes a pretty good expat classifieds section for each of the many regions it serves.

4. Craigslist and Gumtree

The twin granddaddies of all online classified ad hubs, Craigslist and Gumtree -- lumped together here for their essential similarity -- are the rummage sale of online rental search. There's some great stuff in there, but it's ugly and it'll take time to dig. Don't discount the two, however, as solid options lurk in their clunky depths, and both sites have grown to be diversely international over the passing years.

5. Housesitting

If you're stoked at the idea of taking on substantial responsibility, housesitting may be for you. Try Nomador or MindMyHouse for a first look at what the gig requires--but be aware that these sites charge a registration fee.

6. Tripping.com

Tripping is a multi-platform search tool that culls short-term rentals from across the short-term universe of the web (including Priceline's super-helpful Booking.com and VRBO, a site I personally hate using but will use as a price comparison tool).

7. Local bulletin boards

Don't underestimate the power of the humble corkboard. My favorite plan for a long stay is to book an AirBNB for a week, then check out what's on offer on the community boards around town--or put up my own "flat wanted" card.


...And some places to avoid.

1. Hostels

Hostels are great for meeting travelers, sure--if you want to be essentially shielded from the local population outside and sequestered with a bunch of fresh-off-the-boat new kids talking incessantly about the latest pay-to-play "authentic experience" they just bought. If you’re a remote worker, if you're not in the 24-hour-party-people mood or want any hint of privacy, they're just not a good match.

2. Free crash pads

Let's get something straight: You're going to be paying for accommodation, whether it's with money or with the frustration of never being able to get anything done because you're staying for free and the people you're staying with expect you to hang out. Personally, I prefer money.

3. Any place that doesn't support your goals

Coming back to that very first advice:

AirBNB's interface is the Tinder of the LIP world--showing you the most comely angles of the places that beckon you to spend your time. It's easy, when you're shopping online for a place to spend the term of your tourist visa, to forget that you do have non-negotiable dealbreakers. For this reason, I prefer to book Airbnbs for no longer than a week when I first arrive: because that once-every-half-hour train by the front window or the total-crap WiFi or the smell from the fishmonger next door requires a swift, clean break.