Flat Hunting, The Urban Adventure

November 9, 2007

Finding a good apartment (or flat, depending on the local lingo) can be one of the more daunting tasks of going abroad for any length of time. If you’re staying in the same place for more than a couple of weeks, then a hostel may cost more than renting a room. But if you’re leaving in a few months, you probably won’t want to sign a long-term lease. Your best bet is to sublet or look for flatmates who only need a roommate for a short time.

Depending where you’re headed, you may be able to use a site like craigslist to scout out locations ahead of time. There are backpacker housing sites as well. In Australia, try flatmates.com.au. In the UK, try a site like FlatmateClick.

If you’d rather wait until you’re there, your best bet might be looking on the street. Get an idea of what part of town you want to call home, and go for a walk, looking for fliers around cafes, hostels, and university campuses – anywhere students or travelers may gather.

Even though you may feel pressure to find a flat quickly when you arrive, don’t jump into a situation until you’ve seen at least three or four different places and have asked all of the right questions. What questions are those you wonder? Why, they’re written right here. Don’t be offended if some of them seem obvious. Sometimes it’s the most obvious questions that are the easiest to forget.

  1. How much is rent?
  2. How often is rent due? Weekly, fortnightly (every two weeks)? What day of the week? (All important information if you have a job that only pays once or twice a month and you need to budget ahead.)
  3. How much is the bond (security deposit), and under what conditions do I get it back? (A bond can be equal to a week’s rent or a month’s, depending on who you rent from.)
  4. Are there other bills that I’ll be responsible for? (Phone, gas, water…)
  5. Is there Internet access, and do I need to chip in for it?
  6. What’s the cockroach/bug situation? (Don’t laugh. It might be an issue. Do you want to find out two days after you move in that all food has to be kept in the fridge because the cabinets are infested?)
  7. Does anyone here smoke? In the house?
  8. Is it alright if I use your kitchen appliances and cookware?
  9. Do you share food? Do you split the cost for items like toilet paper, dish soap, cleaning items?
  10. Is there heat/air conditioning?
  11. What’s the minimum amount of time you’d like a flatmate to stay? Is there a specific date I need to leave by? (In case a missing flatmate is moving back.)

You may also want to ask about proximity to public transportation, noise, where the nearest grocery shopping is, safety issues in the neighborhood, and anything else that’s important to you feeling comfortable.

Most of all, consider whether or not you can see yourself enjoying getting to know these people. The main advantage to getting a room in a flat, instead of a hostel or travelers house, is that you can live with some friendly locals, so make sure you pick locals who you can imagine turning into friends.


  1. I found your site on google and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. Looking forward to reading more from you.

  2. If you are a student and in need of a short term rental for a semester or a year in Montreal (Canada), a good choice could be to rent a furnished apartment with some fellow students to share the rent.

    Take a look at this Website: http://www.ragq.com/furnished_apartments.aspx

    They are recommended if you stay in Montreal for more than a month because they are so much cheaper than student residences if you share the short term rental with friends. You may like this formula particularly where you can cook your own meals, a place like home.

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