I went to Medellin, Colombia a few times before deciding to make the move abroad. When looking for short-term housing, I asked around to other expats to get their thoughts on the best places to live for an expat in that city. I rented for two weeks in one area, then another, then a week in another then the bulk of my stay in the place that I ultimately decided was the best place for me. By staying for the three months, I was able to hone in on exactly where I was comfortable living long term. I had been told that the hardest thing about living overseas would be finding a job, but in my opinion, that was the easy part. In fact, I had several before I even left home. What no one had told me was how difficult it would be to find a place to live in Medellin as in many cities across the world. I guess I should have assumed because it would be difficult. I mean even in Los Angeles, I found finding my perfect place was quite a chore, but people do it all the time, so there is always hope for the creative and resourceful.
Plan Your Apartment Search Ahead and Be Creative
Months before I left home, I started looking around in the expat groups, apartment rental websites, and asking around to other local expats. I found many places that may be a good fit, but it’s difficult to decide on a place sight unseen. What I ultimately decided was a book a temporary Airbnb for the first few days of my return then I moved into accommodations provided by a program that allows me to work for them in exchange for free housing and meals. (I’ll discuss this in another post) This way, I’ll have at least 3-6 months or more to find a place that I love and not feel pressured to move somewhere simply because I need a place. Also, since this place is free of charge, it will allow me to save money for a new place, and I won’t be spending money on temporary rentals since the prices are usually more expensive than long-term rentals.
Be Willing to Take a Chance
I did find some places that were open, but they were open for a reason. There were no windows. They were in areas of town so run-down that I would have to carry mace with me even during the day. Or they were just too expensive or too far away. I finally found a place I could live in, but it took a while. I found it by exhausting every possible resource. I called listings from places I walked by each day during my commute. I placed ads, followed up on ads I had found and also relied on friends. Their advice was usually nothing specific, but it gave me somewhere to start.
Make Full Use of the Web
The best help I found was through the web. It took some time, but figuring out where to look made all the difference. Twice a day, I checked several expat websites with forums aimed at international travelers. I found new sites each day and followed their links to more links. This was what I needed. The people who advertised on these sites were usually fellow travelers who just wanted someone to share the burden of the rent. They knew what I was likely expecting to pay and were more flexible as to how long I would rent the place. They might even have a luxury villa or beach house. In some areas like Medellin, web resources aren’t as helpful, but I still checked daily just in case something met my standards.
You Will Need Luck
In the end, I lucked out. I had stayed in contact with one of the people who had responded to my first ad—the one whose rental was filled—and I found out that he had an opening. The place was nice and fit my budget.
Overall, the process of finding an apartment to live in can be frustrating and time-consuming. Be prepared to pay for a hostel or guesthouse for up to a few months. In places like Asia, where the cost of living is low for Western travelers, this might be the best option anyway. However, in Europe, where your home currency may be worth less than your new currency, you should make the best use of your time.
For more info on rentals abroad check the below.
- Pet & Housesitting sites
- More to come…