As slow-traveling digital nomads, we often get asked, “How do you find housing in the countries you travel to?” After exchanging glances with Paul, I start, “Well…” And in short, I explain that renting an apartment overseas involves a whole bunch of keyboard strokes.
The main difference? Housing abroad is often much cheaper (depending on where you live, obviously). It’s also much easier to rent for extended periods.
Ultimately, our journey as digital nomads over the last 6–7 years has taught us that finding the “golden nuggets” of accommodation options abroad takes patience and practice!
But practically speaking, how does one rent an apartment abroad even if you’re not in the country yet? How do you send money across currencies without incurring huge bank fees, and what should you be wary of?
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I will be answering all the FAQs about renting accommodation in another country. This is how Paul and I have been able to find incredible places to live around the world; from a tiny home on an ancient volcano slope in Guatemala to a beachside boho studio in Mexico and beyond.
Note: This guide does not talk about renting an apartment overseas as a new or temporary resident in that country. Instead, I share my tips as to how to find and rent accommodation in other countries, majorly via the internet, as a nomadic remote worker.
Guide: Renting an Apartment Abroad for Digital Nomads
Finding housing abroad as a digital nomad can be overwhelming. Like, where do you even start to look?
Over the years, we have relied on the trusty internet to do (most) of the hard work for us. Thanks to local Facebook groups, rental websites, and Airbnb, we’ve managed to find apartments and local accommodation we’d otherwise never find just by walking around the streets and searching in person.
That’s why, even if we do happen to be in the same country when searching for housing, we always start looking online first. When we do, our primary goal is to find local housing versus commercially-owned or expat-owned housing.
Finding Apartments Abroad via Local Facebook Groups
Local Facebook groups are jam-packed with accommodation options! But not any Facebook group, of course. To find housing in your desired destination (such as a top digital nomad city around the world or a digital nomad hub in Mexico), join the best local Facebook group.
What that means is you need to find the sub-groups of the destination that are targeted specifically for finding or renting housing. Not only will you find active listings posted nearly every day, but you are free to post (and introduce) yourself in these types of groups as well.
If you post in a huge destination Facebook group, you’re going to get ignored or get shat on by haters.
Tips for finding good deals:
- When posting your request, write in BOTH languages if you can (use Deepl for better translations).
- Don’t state your maximum budget.
- Keep posts short & pithy; no one needs to read about your spiritual journey in order to learn that you’re in need of a place to live (lol).
- Check at least 1–2 months out, if possible, but if not, search actively every day!
- Don’t hesitate to DM, comment, and get in touch with listings right away. I will reach out by WhatsApp to negotiate and present myself more if needed.
- Ask whoever’s renting their place out to send you a video walk-through, and make sure to ask them about the wifi speed!
Facebook groups are the best way, in my opinion, to find housing in another country. You will get the most affordable rates in comparison to renting on Airbnb.
Renting an Extended Stay on Airbnb
Airbnb is not the obvious choice when it comes to long-term rentals of 1–3 to 3–6 months. However, it has worked for us many a time, and we continue to use Airbnb to search for amazing deals whenever we move countries.
The downside with Airbnb is that you don’t have that much leeway in terms of negotiation. It’s clear that Airbnb hosts earn more money with short-term deals than they do long-term, except…
…when you travel in the off-season, during a global pandemic, or somehow find the type of host that prefers long-term guests so they can kick their feet up and earn passively without having to change out the sheets every 1–2 days. (Know what I mean?)
Nonetheless, many digital nomads don’t even tempt to reach out on Airbnb once they see the “estimated cost” for a 30-day stay. The prices shown are insane, I know, so here’s what to do when you find a place on Airbnb you’d like to rent out for more than a month or two:
Contacting Hosts on Airbnb for Extended (Reduced) Stays
1. Select the dates for your desired stay — they don’t need to be exact!
2. Instead of reserving (obviously don’t), scroll down the page, click “Contact Host” and send them a sweet and personalized message. Use their names, get a little detailed about yourself, and reveal your cards quite clearly. No one on Airbnb likes to feel like they’re getting scammed, so you got to get really honest and non-spammy in your messaging.
3. Since Airbnb’s policies actually go against “exchanging off the platform” you won’t be able to leave your number to take the conversation further. BUT, you can encrypt it! So instead of using numbers, mix it up and use numbered words, or even numbers in a different language that can be understood easily. Example: “six, 1, dos, and 33, and then two, finally XYZ.” Silly? Maybe. But it works!
4. Once you exchange numbers, you can negotiate further. Tell them how an extended stay is beneficial for them as well as you.
This tactic doesn’t work every time, but you’d be surprised at how often people are interested, and how many nomads simply don’t ask or even dare to try!
Flatio.com & Other Rental Websites
Though this has yet to happen to us because the first two methods are so effective (to date), there is the option to use other rental website services such as Flatio.
I only just discovered Flatio recently, but basically, it’s like the extended stay version of Airbnb, except with better rental prices and guaranteed support. You don’t need to sneakily reach out to hosts to snag a great deal. Everything is upfront.
While I haven’t used this service yet, it looks like it could be a great way to find accommodation if you are wanting to base yourself somewhere in Europe.
But interestingly enough, you’ll also find apartments abroad for rent in unexpected places such as Sydney, Australia, or Buenos Aires, Argentina. I even saw a place listed in Zimbabwe!
Finding Accommodation Overseas via Coliving & Coworking Spaces
Since Paul and I travel full-time with our cat, Yoda, we never had the chance to live in a coliving or coworking space. Even if we were free to do so, it’s always double the price compared to the local gems we tend to find.
Nevertheless, if you are a solo female traveler or a flexible digital nomad couple with a higher monthly budget, sometimes you can land awesome deals in coliving and coworking spaces around the world.
The Selina franchise is a great example of this. They have locations in hundreds of top digital nomad destinations.
Selina usually pops up in places that attract freedom-seeking souls, backpackers, and digital nomads.
So if you’re heading somewhere cute with a decent amount of coffee shops, nightlife, or Instagram photo spots, you can bet Selina will be lurking around a street corner. 👀
Local Housing vs Expat Options — Which Is Best?
I try to practice responsible tourism wherever I go, and this typically means I don’t support big companies who are moochin’ off and exploiting local communities.
That doesn’t mean I’m comparing expat housing to corruption, or pitting local accommodation against expat accommodation, mkay?
However, if we aren’t careful, we can unknowingly support huge real estate corps because they make housing for wealthier expats and remote workers who are happy to overpay because, to them, $2500 for a 2-bedroom with a pool and on-site gym is a great deal compared to rental prices back home. But if the local housing is $500-800/month then the choice to overpay 4-5x will hurt the community.
This is the case for places like Tulum Mexico, for example. Real estate there is booming, but in such a way that’s pushing the locals out of their homes while destroying the surrounding natural environment.
So, the question remains: should you stay in more local housing or accommodation for expats with all the shiny nuts and bolts?
I can’t answer this question for you, but I will say that local housing often provides more than enough creature comforts to live well, without having to contribute to irresponsible tourism.
Not to mention, locally-owned housing (by locals or long-time expats residing there) is more affordable, too! ✨
Sending Money Overseas — How to Pay Your Rent
Long gone are the days where you have to wait for 7–10 business days to execute an international bank transfer (or, is that just the millennial in me speaking?).
No matter where we are, or what currency we need to pay our rent in, Paul and I have always used Wise (formerly TransferWise). And only once have we used Xoom, a service by PayPal.
Wise is simply the best for sending and receiving funds in multiple currencies. It’s so easy and the fees are minimal. If I remember correctly, to send roughly $650 USD in Mexican pesos (to a Mexican account), I only incurred a $7 or $10 fee.
The best part?
The money typically arrives instantly, or within a few hours!
Final Thoughts on Renting an Apartment Abroad
Were you expecting me to reveal a big secret about how to find accommodation overseas as a nomad??
I receive so many DMs about our past Airbnbs, housing, etc, (y’all remember the cute tiny house we rented in Guatemala or the boho-chic studio with a huge jungle garden in Tulum?), so I hope this post helps answer any questions you have about “our process.”
If you have any tips or suggestions, feel free to comment down below. Happy apartment hunting!
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