Boots on the Ground
AKA: How to find apartments outside of Airbnb...
One of the most common DMs I get goes something like:
“Good ser Jake Nomada ser, Airbnb is raping me raw no lube with these prices, fees, and taxes. I’m sore. Do you know anyway to book apartments in Latin America without using Airbnb?”
The reality of the situation is this:
If you’re planning to spend less than a month in a city and want to stay in an apartment with a kitchen, then online booking options are your ONLY choice the vast majority of the time.
There is no such thing as finding an apartment off-line when you’re only in the city for a week or a month — unless you have a previous connection.
Don’t waste time or mental energy on it.
However, there’s a bit more to it than that…
Booking Based on Length of Trip…
Before we dig deep into finding apartments once you land in a city…
Let’s take a look at optimal booking practices based on how long you’re staying in a city.
This is going to be personal, as I have friends who have lived in the same hotel for years on end. I also have friends who won’t stay anywhere without a full kitchen — so they rent Airbnbs even on weekend trips.
But I’ve found this to be optimal:
1-15 day stay = Hotel
If you’re quickly checking out a city or beach town, Airbnbs are overrated.
Outside of having a kitchen, almost everything else about hotels is better on shorter stays:
Daily maid? Check.
Breakfast included? Check.
Gym on-site? Often.
Security on-site? Often.
The list could go on and one, but the reality is…
On short stays, hotels eliminate vast majority os minor Airbnb issues that can derail a short trip.
Hotels are just more convenient and often have more amenities. Plus, they offer a streamlined experience.
Hotels are best for anything under 15 days.
3 weeks to 3 months = Airbnb
If you’re planning to stay somewhere from 3 weeks up to 3 months, you’re generally better off staying in an Airbnb.
On monthly stays, most of us want…
Larger living spaces
Washer and dryer
Again, the list could go on and on. On monthly stays, we want to have a “home” away from home — which Airbnb can provide, if done properly.
Hotels can be fine for a month or two, but the lack of kitchen space, washing machine, and more becomes tedious after awhile.
However, this still isn’t considered a long stay. Errrrr, well let me rephrase that:
Local apartment owners in LatAm won’t be interested in renting to you on a 3 month lease — usually.
6+ Months = Local Rental
If you plan on staying somewhere for over 6 months, then it is well worth the effort to find an apartment “offline” so to speak.
Most apartment owners in LatAm will have no issue signing a 6 month lease to a foreigner.
You might pay slightly over the local advertised price, but it will still be FARRRR cheaper than booking on Airbnb — especially if you pay each month in cash.
Latinos love cashhhhhh.
The only benefit here is cost savings…
You can save up to 70% off what you would pay for a similar spot on Airbnb.
The “Dead Zone”
You may have noticed I have no recommendations for 4-5 month stays.
Many Latino landlords won’t sign a lease less than 6 months.
Paying massive Airbnb taxes and fees over the course of 4-5 months can be insanely expensive too.
Stay 3 months or less — and use Airbnb.
Stay 6+ months and get a local lease.
Yeah, that’s the best I got here.
You might stumble upon a month-to-month spot with some searching in LatAm. One that’s not on Airbnb. But it’s pretty damn rare and you will spend time walking around a city looking for these.
It will be tedious.
You’re far better off following the guidelines above.
The only other option?
If you like an Airbnb and have stayed a few months with a host and had no issues…
See if you can get a better rate by paying the host in cash off Airbnb on a month-to-month deal.
Sometimes this works. Other times, not so much.
Either way, you’ll get a better price by following the method discussed below…