One of the tricks of long-term travel is to monitor your living costs. Depending on your income and your monthly requirements, making sure that you don’t overspend each month, means that you’re able to stay out on the road for longer. In our book, “The Longterm Traveller’s Playbook” myself and business partner Alex talk about some of the ways to make sure that you get accommodation at the best possible prices. I didn’t have any accommodation organised when I arrived in Georgia a few days ago. I initially booked a hostel for the first three nights and then spent the time orientating myself in the city and looking for accommodation. In our Long-term Traveller’s Playbook, we also talk about the speed fo travel and how travelling slower is often much cheaper than moving quickly.
So below I thought I’d outline the steps that I follow when I arrive in a new city to find accommodation that’s perfect for what I need.
Book a hostel (or hotel) for a few nights before arriving in a city.
While I am all about not having a plan and seeing where I end up, I feel that having your first night booked when you arrive in a new city or country is important. Here’s why:
- You have an address to fill out on a landing card and to tell an immigration official in the arrivals hall. “I don’t know where I’m going to sleep tonight” is not a great impression to make when a uniformed human with a dull job and personal insecurities asks you where you’re planning to stay when you arrive in their country.
- I always contact the place that I’m going to be staying and find out the best way to get to them is from the airport or point of arrival. I also ask them how much it should cost. I am yet to walk out of an airport, looking like a tourist and ask a taxi driver for a price to my destination and get anything close to the price that the hotel or hostel has told me that it should cost. They’re in the “rip off tourists business”, so unless you know what you should be paying for a taxi, in a country where you can seldom speak the language, have no idea of the name of the currency, and how much it’s worth, you’re probably going to overpay.
- (Personal Preference) – I like to get into my own accommodation as soon as possible so that I have my own space, I can unpack and settle in. However, for the first few nights in a new city, I like to stay in a hostel or accommodation with other like-minded travellers as it allows me the chance to meet new people. I’ve often made friends or contacts staying in hostels that I’ve ended up travelling with for extended periods and some of these people have remained friends for life.
Once I’ve spent the first few days looking around the city and getting an idea of the area that I’d like to stay in I start the hunt for suitable accommodation. Here are the steps that I follow:
Write a brief of exactly what you’re looking for.
Mine goes something like this. “Hi, I’m Gareth. I’m a long-term traveller. I’m new in Tbilisi and planning to stay in your beautiful city for a month (maybe more). I am looking for some accommodation for myself near the old town. It needs to be clean, have natural light and good wifi. My total monthly budget is $300 per month all included. If you know of anything that might be suitable please contact me directly. Thanks, Gareth.”
Post your request into Facebook groups.
The best way to do this is to search for the name of the city that you’re in and then limit your search in Facebook to only show ‘groups’. Scan through the names of the groups and find anything that looks relevant and then choose the groups with the largest number of members. Group names that include things like “buy and sell”, “classified”, “property”, “rental”, “house share” etc are all good options. Join a few relevant groups, and once accepted post your message into the group.
Find suitable hosts through AirBnb.
This service, that initially started as a way to rent out your spare room, has grown into a huge business with everything from spare rooms in a shared house to entire homes and even houseboats are available to rent through the app. You can find accommodation through Airbnb in almost every city in the world. Here are some of the problems with the platform. Renters book and pay through the app and the landlord gets paid the rental less the Airbnb fee, which is around 10%. The app is not really geared to long-term rental, meaning that often the price for a month is simply the price per night times 30 nights, often pushing the price way above what you might pay when renting for a month directly from the landlord.Using the Airbnb search tools, find accommodation that you feel might be suitable, in the areas that you’re looking to stay in. Then contact the hosts directly sending them the brief that you wrote above, explaining what you’re looking for through the messaging portal of the app. (I often customise each message to make it more personal, saying something like “I love the view from the balcony” to better connect with the host). Don’t worry if the price per night seems above your budget when multiplying it by thirty nights. Simply contact the hosts through the app and let them know that you’re looking for a longer term rental and what you can afford. (Another tip here, is the longer you’re looking to rent for, the lower your price per month or per night can be as hosts prefer to know that their place will be occupied for a longer period rather than potentially stand empty).Often hosts will respond letting you know that they cannot accommodate your budget, if you’re flexible ask them what their best price is for your rental term, and decide. Sometimes (as happened with me in Tbilisi, the host had another property that she offered me that was within my budget). I met her at the place and it was perfect (see the video below) and in fact, as my travel plans weren’t fixed she ended up giving me the place for 6 weeks for the price of 4! (I am paying $300 for 6 weeks, everything included, bills cleaning service once a week and fast fibre internet.
Speak to locals.
The final way to find suitable accommodation when you arrive in a new city is to speak to the people that live in the city. You can connect with people in a number of ways using apps like Meetup, Tinder and CouchSurfing or by starting a conversation with the person that makes your coffee and telling them what you’re looking for!
While the task of finding accommodation can seem overwhelming, connecting with people and the hustle of finding and viewing places to stay is part of the experience of long-term travel. Embrace it, enjoy meeting local people and seeing different places and how people live. A life on the road is not supposed to be the same as the life you have back home, so appreciate and enjoy the entire experience.
Click below to watch the video of the accommodation that I found in Tbilisi using the steps above.