The benefits of staying in a furnished apartment when traveling are innumerable – including lots of space, local insider knowledge, and the ability to stay in less touristy, more authentic neighborhoods.
However, finding a good apartment can feel overwhelming.
There are a lot of variables to consider, including price, location, cleanliness, and convenience.
This is where we come in.
We’ve rented apartments in Paris, Berlin, NYC, Tuscany, Venice, Rome, Florence, Split, and throughout Thailand.
So, if you are wondering how we managed to find great apartments and amazing experiences in all of these places, then read on for all of our insider secrets!
Best Sites to Find Furnished Apartments
There are a lot of sites for finding furnished apartments. These days, however, our number one recommendation is Airbnb. The site has a great selection of apartments, an easy-to-use interface, and makes it easy to see reviews from other travelers.
And if you ever run into an issue with your place, Airbnb has a customer support team available to help you 24/7.
While Airbnb is our first choice for furnished apartment rentals, sometimes it won’t be available in your destination or won’t have a property that fits your needs. In that case, here are a few other sites to consider:
HomeAway is a vacation rental site that includes lots of condos and apartments across the world. HomeAway tends to be a bit pricier than Airbnb since it targets people on vacation, but it’s still possible to find some good deals.
Most people know TripAdvisor as a site for finding things to do while traveling, but the site also has an extensive selection of vacation rentals. Many of these are furnished apartments, and there are options to suit a variety of budgets.
While it can require more legwork than a vacation rental site, you can find some great furnished apartment deals on Craigslist. The main advantage is that you can cut out the middleman and rent directly from the owner, potentially saving you a lot of money.
Expat Facebook Groups
If you’re planning to stay in a place for more than a month, it’s worth checking local ex-pat Facebook groups. These are great places for finding apartments for rent from locals.
Just use common sense and never send money without meeting the owner in person and touring the property.
To find these Facebook groups, just Google “ex-pat Facebook group” + the name of the city you’ll be visiting.
How to Find Furnished Apartments While Traveling
Now that you know where to look, the next step is weeding through the listings. Here are some tips to ensure that you find an apartment that meets your needs and avoid getting scammed.
1. Look Early
The best apartments tend to be swept up first. The earlier you look, the more options you have. How early you should look depends on where you’re going and the time of year you’re visiting.
For instance, if you’re looking for a furnished apartment in Europe during the busy summer travel season, you might need to book up to a year in advance to score one of the best places. If you’re traveling during the off-season, you can afford to start your search a little later, but earlier is still better.
2. Check the Pictures Carefully
Make sure you can see good angles on the bedroom, bathroom, and layout in general. A lot of apartments that look beautiful in photos can be deceiving.
For instance, a bed that is actually a pullout couch. One picture shows a bed. The next picture shows a couch. So you think there’s both a bedroom and a living room, but when you show up it turns out they’re one and the same.
More broadly, don’t book a place that only has a couple of photos. If the owner can’t be bothered to take photos of every room in the property, then imagine what other details they’ve probably neglected.
3. Read the Reviews
When booking a property in a city you’ve never been to from a person you’ve never met, reviews are your friend. Be sure to read them carefully to look for any potential issues with the property.
Of course, you should take reviews with a grain of salt — some people just like to complain about minor things. But if you see reviews noting more serious issues such as an inaccurate description or unpleasant host, steer clear.
Finally, never book a property with no reviews. The host could be a perfectly lovely person, but you don’t want to be the guinea pig for their new rental operation. Let someone else take that risk.
4. Read the Description Carefully
Reading the description closely helps you avoid any nasty surprises when you arrive. Pay special attention to the following:
- Does the property include WiFi? Don’t assume it does.
- Is there a bathroom in the unit, or is it shared with other apartments in the building?
- Are there quiet hours?
- How can you contact the owner if you have issues?
- If you’re traveling with your family, are children allowed?
- Does the unit have laundry, or will you need to go to a local laundromat?
And of course, if anything is unclear, don’t hesitate to message the owner and ask for clarification. A good host will be happy to answer your questions.
5. Check the Map
Airbnb and most other apartment rental sites show the apartment location on a map. Be sure to check this against Google Maps and your own research to be sure that you’re staying in a great location.
You don’t want to rent an apartment and arrive only to find that it’s located out in the suburbs far from the things you wanted to see during your visit.
How to Get a Good Deal on Furnished Apartments
Once you’ve found an apartment you like, your next step is to get the best deal possible. These tips will help you find a price that fits your budget.
1. Check the Calendar
If the apartment is available for a long length of time, this can give you some leeway when you negotiate a lower price (see the next tip). Most booking sites make it easy to see how long the place is available with just a few clicks.
Our motto is that it never hurts to ask.
If an apartment is not booked for a while and you’re staying for an extended length of time (1-2 weeks instead of a few days), it’s completely acceptable to ask for some type of discounted rate.
We usually start the negotiation at 50% of the asking price and go from there. There have been plenty of times when they’ve even accepted our first offer, meaning we’ve scored a place for half price with very little hassle.
3. Contact Multiple Owners
The more options, the better.
Airbnb will save your sent messages so you can refer back to the properties you have contacted, which makes it very easy to negotiate with a few places and see which one will give you the best deal.
4. Offer Something
Do you have something to offer? If so, you might be able to get a discount on the property. Here are a few examples:
- A review or social media shout out – Many travelers are still unaware that they can rent furnished apartments. So spreading the word could be a great benefit, especially for an owner who’s getting their rental business off the ground.
- Photography skills – If you know how to take great pictures, you could offer to take beautiful photos of the unit for the owner to use in their listing.
- Native English skills – You could offer to rewrite the owner’s description to be more compelling and readable to a native English speaker. This could be a huge boost to their business.
And this list is by no means exhaustive. Don’t afraid to get creative and offer your skills. At worst, the owner will just say, “No.”
Things to Consider When Renting a Furnished Apartment
In this last section, we have some tips for getting the most out of your stay and avoid any issues with your host. This way, you’ll have a positive apartment rental experience.
1. You Get What You Pay For
Renting a furnished apartment is almost always cheaper than a hotel. However, it’s important to take into account the city you are staying in.
For example, we stayed in an NYC Airbnb with two other friends and rented a really small, really cheap apartment.
It was perfect for what we needed, but we didn’t have any expectations that it would be an amazing place to stay. It served a purpose.
Another time we decided to “splurge” when we were staying in Berlin with another couple. We spent about $100/couple to stay in a large, beautiful apartment in the best neighborhood.
While this is still a fairly reasonable price, it’s more than we usually prefer to pay per night. However, it was well worth it because it made our experience so much more enjoyable.
There’s no “right” type of furnished apartment to stay in, but make sure that the place you pick fits your expectations (and the expectations of anyone traveling with you).
2. Understand the Check-In Process
One downside to renting an apartment can be meeting the host to get into the property.
It’s not as easy as rolling up to a hotel or hostel with a 24-hour reception desk.
To avoid any frustrations, make sure to arrange a time to meet with your host to get the keys and find your unit. And keep your host updated if your plans change and you’ll be arriving earlier or later than you expected.
Finally, look for rentals that have keyless entry via a code or app. This is becoming increasingly common, and it’s a lot more convenient for both you and your host.
3. Be Respectful of the Property
An apartment is not a hotel and there is not an account for incidentals. Make sure you are taking care of the property and respecting the owners’ possessions. They’re placing a lot of trust in you, so make sure you respect that.
4. Know the Rules
If you are sharing a space with other people, make sure you know the requirements of comings and goings.
Also, be aware of other common rules:
- How to dispose of trash, recycling, or compost
- When/how to use the shower/hot water (in many places these are more expensive and restricted than in the U.S.)
- Quiet hours
- Check out procedures. For instance, are you required to clean the unit before you leave?
Most properties will clearly state their rules in the listing, but be sure to ask the owner if you have any additional questions.
5. Ask Your Host for Recommendations
This is one of the best reason’s to rent an apartment – firsthand, local knowledge of an area.
Most hosts want to ensure that you enjoy your time in an area, as this ensures great reviews.
All the hosts we have come in contact with have given us the best recommendations for places to eat and other things to do, including my favorite pizza in the whole world (recommended to us by our lovely hosts in Rome).
Furnished Apartments Enhance Your Travel Experience
We absolutely love renting apartments when we travel, and it’s easily one of our favorite ways to book accommodations.
It provides a more authentic and memorable experience than a regular hotel would, and oftentimes, it’s much cheaper.
So if you’re looking for an interesting alternative to a hotel for your next trip, try renting a furnished apartment.
Looking for a furnished place to stay for free? Check out our guide to housesitting.
It’s true that looking for an apartment in an earlier date is vital. As you’ve said, the earlier the more options to choose from. My boyfriend and I are looking for a short term apartment rental in Pensylvania. We will follow your tips and we will look early this year. Thanks!
@Trav, great blog here and my first time visiting. Subscribing now!
I also wanted to suggest that you might add Tripping.com to your list of rental sites to use. We are the largest aggregator of vacation and short term rentals worldwide. Would be great to have you check us out!
@Colin- Will definitely check out Tripping.com. The more options, the better!
Awesome! Hope it helps you in your travels.
We’ve rented apartments and houses a few times on our travels. The biggest advantages for us have been getting extra bedrooms and space for the kids (we’re a family of four) versus trying to cram people into one or two rooms in a hotel; and the ability to do our own cooking — especially valuable in locations like Barcelona, Tuscany, and Paris where there are fantastic raw materials in beautiful markets while restaurant meals can be quite expensive.
We also rent out an apartment in our house in New York via HomeAway. I would reiterate your comment about looking at pictures and making sure you know what you’re getting. We’re quite clear in our listing (we rent a two-bedroom with an additional fold out sofa in the living room), but recently — despite the clarity of our listing — someone seems to have determined that it’s a three-bedroom apartment.
You certainly don’t need to “sell” yourself to the host (maybe that’s different when you’re renting a shared room in someone’s apartment as opposed to an entire unit) but, honestly, we’re not particularly impressed by people who start off looking for a discount on our (already very reasonable) prices. We’re certainly open to discussing a discount for longer stays in the off-season (for instance, we had one family book for all of January which is very slow in New York, and they paid a little over half the regular weekly rate), but leading with that topic can give the impression of being a difficult guest.
I should also add that HomeAway has always struck me as being a bit tonier than AirBnB. It focuses on whole-unit rentals, not shares, and the people who list there pay a set annual listing fee so the price you see listed is not marked up with additional fees.
@LarryinNYC- Great recommendations and I think you’re right, you don’t want to lead off asking for a discount. However, if you know you’re only going to pay a certain amount, I do think being up front with it in the beginning can save both people time.
I also think Homeaway has a little bit different of a vibe as well. Tonier is good word for it. I like as many options as possible, so I’m always cross-checking a few different websites before booking.
We rented an apartment for the first time in 2014. It was in Florence, Italy and the company run by two brothers was called Florence Holiday Homes. They own several. It was an excellent experience. Very clean and in a real neighborhood. We had such a positive experience we are going to try another apartment rental in Paris in 2015 and we just booked an apartment for Rome through Airbnb for 2016. It does pay to look early if you are very specific about your needs. Hope these work out as well.
Love your website!
@Marianne- Couldn’t agree more. It’s such a fantastic way to travel. And thanks for the compliment, glad you love EPoP.
Correction – the site is halldis.com, not halidis.
We rented a lovely apartment in Florence through Windows on Italy and had a wonderful two week stay. They were very professional and helpful throughout the whole process. A friend went through halidis.com, their parent company, for a Paris apartment and had an excellent experience with them as well.
We used homeaway for a trip to Paris in 2012 with good results, but with them, as well as airbnb, vrbo, and others of that sort, they are really just a clearinghouse to put you in touch with the property owner, and you typically have to wire funds, check feedback, and hope for the best. Windows on Italy and halidis act as rental agents and accept credit cards, which gives you some additional protection. I’m surprised you don’t mention them.
@Ben- I’ve never used Windows on Italy or halldis.com, but seem really neat. Thanks for mentioning them. You are right, there are companies that act as a rental agency (like the ones you mentioned) and ones that act as the clearinghouse. Both have their perks-clearinghouses usually cheaper, but less oversight and vice versa for other kind.
Thanks again for mentioning them though, I’ll check them out. The more options, the better!
In the summer of 2013 five of us had a great stay in a (former gypsy) cave house on a hill overlooking Alhambra in Granada, Spain. After that we had a third floor, two bedroom apartment with two small balconies over looking “eating alley” in Lisbon, Portugal. Our last place was a large two bedroom apartment on the outskirts of old city Santiago de Compostela,Spain. We booked them all on airbnb and all of them had great hosts, locations, more room and were cheaper than hotels.
@Trav’s mom- Whenever I tell people how easy it is to rent apartments, I always reference you. I say “Hey, if my mom, dad, aunt, and uncle can figure it out and have wonderful experiences, so can you!” That’s a compliment, right?
Great post! We have been booking quite a few air bnb spots for our upcoming RTW and found t to (for a couple anyway) a better value than most hostels. Many people include breakfast and many have given us a discount. For our shorter stays we have been just asking for a discount and offering photography of their apartment as a thank you. We have gotten great responses from Ireland and Provence, decent response from Brussels, and so far minimal positive response to discounts in Rome, which makes sense.
The biggest thing we learned so far is to cast a wide net, try to tell a great story about why you are traveling so that they like you and are more inclined to help, and to be patient if you can be. We are staying in Dublin for St Paddys and were nervous about getting a place so we took one of the first offers we sent only to find a bunch of people responded with better deals after.
Hope this helps someone out! Keep up the great work and enjoy Istanbul!
@Jake- Totally agree. Casting a wide net, and doing it as early as possible, are two of the main keys to getting a great deal. And like you, I always tell my story. One, I love hearing other people’s travel stories, so I always tell mine, and two, it helps with setting people at ease and also getting yourself a deal.
Glad to hear you’ve had such great success finding cool apartments all over the world. Dublin for St. Patty’s day…that should be a blast!
Do not forget home swaps like HomeExchange where you can trade your dwelling with someone looking to stay in your hometown.
Also, when renting an apartment or vacation rental, always get it in writing. What I mean by that is good hosts/property owners/managers will have rental agreements which spell out the rules and expectations for staying on the property, along with information about security deposits.
Lastly, always be cautious of fraudsters. Never pay for apartments using untraceable services like Western Union. Usually a good idea to talk to the person you are renting from ahead of time. If it doesn’t feel right,you might want to look elsewhere.
@Marc Mancuso- Great points. Home swaps are fantastic if you have your own place, and can be an awesome experience. Also, I completely agree that you should never send money Western Union or any other type of way. One of the benefits of going through an apartment rental website (AirBnB, GowithOh, etc.) is that you know your payment will be safe.
I have rented through AirBnB for rental apartments in Split, Munich, Rome, Florence, Venice, and Dubrovnik. I have had an awesome experience in every single one of them. Very good prices when staying with others and able to get into great neighborhoods and often with amazing views. My favorite was overlooking the main walking street in historic Dubrovnik on a second floor apartment for less than $40/day per person!
@Dito- Wow, Dubrovnik for $40…that’s a steal. We had a similar place, I think it was about that price too. Can’t beat that!