Ask Karen: finding an apartment for short-term rental

Ask Karen: finding an apartment for short-term rental

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Dear John:

I
am a great proponent of renting apartments rather than staying in
hotels if your visit is longer than a week. However, with so many
choices, it’s no easy decision about apartment to rent and frequently,
thanks to wide-lens cameras, photos are misleading.

To evaluate potential apartments you should begin with a checklist:
Have you been to Paris
Budget
Location
Number of People
Amenities
Purpose of Trip

If this is your first Paris trip, you’re going to need to do extra homework.

Read
extensively to familiarize yourself with the city. Decide if you’re
comfortable staying in an apartment without a concièrge. It’s no sin if
you’re not.

Budget

How
much do you want to spend? Are you renting an apartment to save money
or because you want to live as a Parisian? How important is décor? Do
you plan on doing any entertaining?

Consider
what you would normally spend for a hotel room and keep that in mind.
If you’re the budget-minded traveler, there are apartments for you. If
you’re used to the Ritz, there are many apartments available that are
equally as elegant and won’t set you back 700 Euros a night – for a
double room! Apartments come in all shapes and sizes and with or
without concièrge and/or maid service. There’s no dearth of choices.
Location:

Location
is one of the main considerations. Left Bank (5th, 6th or 7th
arrondissement) apartments tend to be smaller and more expensive than
apartments located in other parts of the city. Apartment rentals also
fetch high prices on the Ile St. Louis and in the Marais.

If
you’re trying to save money, stay in a less than prime location. Keep
in mind that Paris’ transportation system is excellent. It’s rare that
an apartment is located more than a five-minute walk away from a metro.

Meals:

Most
tourists eat the majority of their meals out. They generally eat
breakfast and keep wine and snacks “at home.” Others want to cook after
trips to the wonderful omni-present Paris markets. Know yourselves and
your habits and needs. If you’re a chef, be sure the kitchen is stocked
with more than a microwave.

When
determining your budget, factor in that you won’t be paying for
breakfasts (unless you choose to eat out). You can negate (or minimize)
your cocktail and/or wine bill by having pre-dinner drinks chez vous.
Buying a small pastry to enjoy in the privacy of your apartment is the
way to end an evening rather than paying six Euros for a restaurant
dessert. Eating lunch in a good restaurant can also save money, since
many offer less expensive prix-fixe menus that leave you wanting only a
light dinner in the evening, which can be whipped up in the apartment’s
kitchen.

How many people are in your group? And what ages?

This
should play heavily in your decision making process. If you’re a couple
that does not need to spread out, a studio is the answer and is the
most economical. If you sleep at different times, having a second room
can be a blessing. As one who tends to be up and down at all hours of
the night (and day – if I am jet-lagged), sharing a room with my
husband can be problematic. He tends to get cranky when I move around
and read (or type) during, what to him, are sacred sleeping hours.
Victor feels that there’s really a time for lights to be out.

If
two couples are traveling together, how much privacy do you want and or
need? Many one-bedroom rental apartments have sleep sofas, but rarely
are they as comfortable as a real bed. In addition, some couples are
not at ease sharing a bathroom – especially when it’s located in a
common space. Remember nighttime forays inevitably awaken your
apartment-mates.

You’ll
probably be happier if you rent a two-bedroom apartment. This is
especially true because French apartments are generally much smaller
than what is the norm in the US. There’s something called too much
intimacy.
Children

If you
are traveling with children, you’ll most likely want to eat many meals
“at home” rather than in restaurants. See if the agency or apartment
owner knows a reputable babysitter if you want to go out for an evening
alone.

If your children are
young, an apartment located near a park will be appreciated more than
you can imagine. While they’re running off energy in the playground,
you can sit and relax with a watchful eye.

Bedrooms

Check
on bed sizes. Large beds in France are usually 140 centimeters wide.
For those who are used to king-sized beds, this can be too cozy. Two
twin beds pushed together are often more comfortable for those
sleepers.

Bathrooms:

French
bathrooms are invariably one room with a toilet (with or without a
sink) and another bathroom without a toilet. Check and see if there is
a tub and/or a shower. Remember, most French use handheld showers in
their bathrooms. It is really more efficient, but some Americans are
uncomfortable not having an over-the-head shower or a shower rather
than a tub.

Elevator versus stairs:

Please
remember that a second floor in France means the third floor in the US.
That’s fine if you’re hale and hearty but not so great for the elderly
or if you have two toddlers in tow.

I
advise people staying in walk-ups to do one major shopping at the
beginning of their apartment stay. Buy all of the wine, UHT milk,
water, sodas and paper products needed for the duration of your stay
and have them delivered by the local super market (Monoprix or a
Franprix). Depending on the market and/or how much you spend, there may
be a delivery charge. Give the deliveryman a tip, as it’s he and not
you who had to do the lugging.

Leave your “fun” shopping for the bakeries, vegetable and fruit stands, etc. And, naturally, flowers.
Washer/Dryer :

Do
you need one? Consider this when it comes to renting. There’s nothing
more boring than spending time in a laundromat. Some people can pack
for the duration of the trip, while others are wash-and-wear
specialists! Sending clothes to a laundry takes time, and dry-cleaning
is expensive in the City of Light.

Cable TV and other Communications:

If you are going to be unhappy not being plugged into CNN or a fast modem line, place that on your priority list.

Check
about the telephone: expect to pay for your calls. However, some rental
apartments have telephones that require phone cards. If you’re
traveling with a laptop, you’ll need to be a rocket scientist to
connect when you want to check your email.

Other
telephones are programmed so that only local calls can be made and
preclude your using your long-distance calling card in order to call
abroad. It’s not very comforting to have to find a cabine in order to
check on your loved ones overseas.

Some
apartments don’t even have phones, since so many people have portables.
If that’s the case, you’ll want to rent a phone if you’re only an
occasional visitor rather than a frequent traveler.

Purpose of the Trip

If
you’re in Paris only solely on vacation, time is not of the essence.
However, if you’re there to work, being on a direct metro line is a
plus.

Maid Service:

Many
apartments only offer “changeover” service. If that doesn’t feel like a
vacation to you, make advance arrangements for more cleaning help.
Washer/Dryer :

Do
you need one? Consider this when it comes to renting. There’s nothing
more boring than spending time in a laundromat. Some people can pack
for the duration of the trip, while others are wash-and-wear
specialists! Sending clothes to a laundry takes time, and dry-cleaning
is expensive in the City of Light.

Cable TV and other Communications:

If you are going to be unhappy not being plugged into CNN or a fast modem line, place that on your priority list.

Check
about the telephone: expect to pay for your calls. However, some rental
apartments have telephones that require phone cards. If you’re
traveling with a laptop, you’ll need to be a rocket scientist to
connect when you want to check your email.

Other
telephones are programmed so that only local calls can be made and
preclude your using your long-distance calling card in order to call
abroad. It’s not very comforting to have to find a cabine in order to
check on your loved ones overseas.

Some
apartments don’t even have phones, since so many people have portables.
If that’s the case, you’ll want to rent a phone if you’re only an
occasional visitor rather than a frequent traveler.

Purpose of the Trip

If
you’re in Paris only solely on vacation, time is not of the essence.
However, if you’re there to work, being on a direct metro line is a
plus.

Maid Service:

Many
apartments only offer “changeover” service. If that doesn’t feel like a
vacation to you, make advance arrangements for more cleaning help.
Questions to ask:

Does an individual or a rental company own the apartment?

Exactly what is included?
(local
calls, sheets and linens [how many and how often], utilities, payment
schedule, arrival day (some companies only permit Saturday arrivals),
security deposit [how long before it is rebated after your stay].
How and by whom will you be met?
Will there be more than one set of keys?
Building security
Is there a local contact should you encounter problems?
Insist on a written contract and read the small print carefully.

Do
take out travel insurance in the event your trip needs to be cancelled
for any valid reason: apartment owners are not like hotels, where they
can rebate you at the last minute. Occasionally the apartment can be
re-rented, but not always.
www.alltripinsurance.com

Cell phone rentals: www.netcapricorn.com

The
above information does not guarantee that you’ll find the perfect
rental apartment any more than you’ll find the perfect hotel room in
the perfect hotel. However, it’s a start.

Please let me know how your hunt goes and if these hints were helpful.

Copyright © Paris New Media, LLC

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