Baby Boomer’s Guide to Renting Abroad

rent abroad

By Chloë Elise Mydlowski Eaton

Do you dream of globe-trotting and finding the perfect secluded spot to spend couple of weeks or months? Now that you have more flexibility with your time, longer trips and more exotic locations may beckon you, but you may lack the confidence,  or feel it is just too hard to keep momentum on a longer trip. If you are constantly moving as you travel and never get into a daily routine, it is hard to really experience daily life in a new country. The answer is… renting abroad! I’m here to assure you that the entire process can be much easier than you ever realized.

Renting an ideal living space for a longer period in a new country is all about finding it. They are waiting, and can even be the least expensive way to travel (if you want them to be). Whether you just need a vacation, will be visiting friends, want to escape the city for longer-term trip, or are scouting for an overseas paradise to call your new home – these tips will help you get situated abroad for any length of time.

Renting a home, apartment, or room in a new country will usually be quite similar to renting in your own country. Of course, you may need to juggle language and cultural differences – a good minimum for preparation would include a few sessions Googling and reading about your destination. Find out how to say a few key phrases, and maybe download free language learning and dictionary apps.


The first step will be to investigate what part(s) of the location you want to settle in will be the best for you. Do you want to be close to someone, or would you like to be in the heart of a specific area like the arts district? Read guides, personal travel blogs, and forums online to get a feel for what will be available to you, where people gather, and how the place is laid out.

rent-room-logosThen, decide on a temporary living arrangement for the first week or so, until you can find a more permanent space. Will you stay in a hotel or hostel that you find when you arrive, set-up a hotel or hostel before you go (using a site like HostelBookers), find a place to sleep through free hospitality and culture exchange (using sites like CouchSurfing or BeWelcome), or set-up a temporary rental-by-owner online before you arrive? If you choose the latter, it may even turn into a more permanent situation.

Next, decide what you are looking for in a living arrangement: full-size home, apartment, efficiency, or just a room? (See more specific criteria below.)

You can look online for available spaces, but do not get too disappointed if everything you find online is extremely expensive, only for sale, or overly geared toward the tourism industry – these options may work for you, but I currently live abroad about 80% of the year, and have never found my housing on online listings like Craigslist or rental company websites. I have, however, had fantastic luck with an array of online sites specifically for rent-by-owner situations, like the ones listed below.

If you are interested in renting from an individual online using a rental-by-owner service site, you will have an array of options almost anywhere in the world! Anything from just a simple room with a bed, a modest bungalow, an entire mansion, to your own private island – you will be able to set up the entire arrangement online before arriving. And, most of the companies hosting these websites back the exchange with a safety guarantee for everyone’s protection. You will be able to choose your length of stay depending on the availability in the location.

There is a plethora of rental-by-owner sites, each with their own specialties and popularity in areas of the world, so depending on where you will be, do a quick Google search to find out which ones are most popular in your destination country, or search a few of these sites to see what might be available to you:
AirBnB HomeAway Roomorama 9flats VRBO Evergreen Club FOFtravel Onefinestay Wimdu Sublet Travel Mob FlipKey BedyCasa SleepOut PandaBed Kozaza, and SabbaticalHomes

Also check out an article I did for another site about renting from an individual, for more tips on this style of renting.


In preparation for living and renting abroad, ask yourself these questions:

  • How much and what type of space do I need? A room in an apartment or home? An efficiency, full apartment, or house?
  • Do I need any specifics like: a garage, floor-level or stair-less space, a bathtub, a full kitchen?
  • Do I need a furnished place? (This route is usually the most economical choice because buying new furniture for a short term rental is very expensive!)
  • Do I need a washer, dryer, oven, microwave? Is there a refrigerator?
  • Do the rooms have natural sunlight? What is the lighting like inside at night?
  • What bills will I be responsible for?
  • What businesses are nearby? Where could I buy groceries?
  • Where are the nearest healthcare facilities?
  • If you do not have a car/bicycle/roller-skates, is there public transport nearby?
  • Does the space appear clean and taken care of?
  • Does the landlord seem friendly, honest, respectful, and responsible?
  • Is it a brand-new space or newly renovated? Avoid being the first person (think “guinea pig”) living in a space because many things can go wrong, or may not be set-up properly.
  • Do I have leniency in the lease term if I decide that I do not like the space, people, or location?
  • Does my destination country require paperwork from foreign renters? Many do not, but some do.


Ninety nine percent of the time, finding a longer term place to live abroad must be done in your destination and cannot be acquired long distance. But it is not difficult – you can find a place by visiting apartment complexes, looking in the classifieds of local and local tourist newspapers, looking for “for rent” signs in windows (Seriously! Pull on your walking boots and wander around the streets searching – you will also be getting to know your new city!), and by talking to strangers.

One of our favorite methods is when someone comes up to us on the street to sell us something, to politely decline their offer, but tell them that we ARE looking for a place to live. Surprisingly, this method often WORKS! They may have a friend that rents spaces, or just know of something from going around town. Sometimes people will help you out of the kindness of their hearts, and sometimes they will be looking for a small tip to compensate for their time.

Once you are situated abroad, it should be very easy to find neighbors and local people to hire, should you need a cleaner, gardener, etc.

…Good luck. Do not let the process overwhelm you, follow common sense, and, most importantly – have a wonderful adventure! Feel free to comment if you have any travel/renting-related questions.

Chloë Elise Mydlowski Eaton is a writer and artist living around the world. She has rented in the U.S., México, Taipei, and Medellín.  Find more info at Yakbrother, or her personal portfolio.  



Author My First Apartment

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