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Paris hotels are great for short visits and reserving a room through the BonjourParis hotel booking site makes sense for short stays. But if you’re staying for a week or more, an apartment in Paris is wonderful for so many reasons. You can make the city your own, explore the neighborhood, feel a wee bit like a native and hey, what’s wrong with saving some money by not having to eat every meal out?
When you rent an apartment, you’re signing up and on to undertake some work, which is fine if you’re prepared. Depending on whether or not you’re renting from an agency or from an individual may alter what you’ll be confronted with when you arrive at your temporary home. Make certain you know what to expect before leaving home. Even then, there may be surprises.
Choosing which apartment to rent
Some agencies (not all) are wonderful and you have a pretty good idea about what you’ll find when you open the door. They want you to tell your friends and be a repeat visitor.
If you’re renting from an individual (often through HomeAway.com or VRBO), how your request is processed will give you an indication as to whether or not the landlord (or his representative) is responsive and responsible. If the site shows comments from past guests, read them carefully with the understanding some may have been planted by friends or even by the owner.
Photos: Three rental apartments that advertise their “Eiffel Tower views”
Check the location and the advertised view
Ask for the precise address before signing on the dotted line. Use Google Earth to see precisely where the building is located and what’s located near it. If someone says the apartment is located in the St. Germain-des-Prés area, well, it’s amazing how many people stretch boundaries.
Ask to see photographs of any advertised prime views that raise the real estate value.
Ask as many questions as you want (which doesn’t mean non-stop emails). Compile a list of regarding what’s included and what’s not. People who rent their apartments seriously have a manual that anticipates the majority of your questions.
Ask them to email a copy before your arrival date so you aren’t thumbing through it in a jet-lagged state upon arrival.
Some apartments are rented from Saturday to Saturday. That makes it easier for agencies and some individuals to do “changeovers.” Tenants are generally required to vacate the premises by 10 a.m. and (hopefully) the maid comes in to clean, change the sheets and put everything in comme il faut condition. The new tenants (you) generally can take occupancy around 3 p.m.
If that’s the case and you’re arriving early that morning, how are you going to pass the time? You may be the type who gets off an overnight flight and are ready to go. Then it’s simply a question of arranging in advance with your landlord where you may leave the luggage while your apartment is being cleaned. Let’s hope there’s space; if not, you’ll need to be creative.
If you’re traveling with children or people who don’t easily travel, or if you want to rest before starting out at full gallop, you can wait out the day with a short stay at any of the many airport hotels available in every price range. You wouldn’t want to spend your entire vacation there, but they’re more than fine for a few hours. Nap for a few hours and have something to eat before you head into Paris.
Some opt to spend the morning luxuriating in a spa. If you’re a first-time visitor to Paris, consider a city tour for an overview and it isn’t the end of the world if you take a tiny snooze.
If you’re traveling with children or need to hit the sack (or get unpacked upon your arrival), it can make sense to rent the apartment starting the day before you arrive but be clear in arranging that the landlord’s rep meet and greet you on your actual day of arrival.
The apartment is yours
Know what’s included and what’s not. Many agencies (and individuals) leave only a few bare necessities, like a few rolls of toilet paper, soap, water, juice and perhaps a bottle of wine to say welcome.
If it’s an inexpensive apartment rented by an individual to generate a little income, you may find next to nothing and will have to hit the grocery store sooner rather than later. Make sure you’ve scoped out where the nearest one is located. Seriously, I once rented a house in Provence and its owners only left salt and pepper and some toilet paper. They locked everything up as if I might not replace the olive oil.
Friends of mine who frequently rent apartments have their own system. They order groceries online and have them arrive as they’re getting settled in. Yes, Paris is a city where you want to shop and choose the produce. But if you’re coming for a couple of weeks with a family, you don’t need to inspect such things as laundry detergent, bottled water, paper goods, canned goods and such staples.
If your apartment has no elevator, and many wonderful buildings don’t, you’ll be delighted to welcome the deliveryman and please tip him a couple of euros. Make sure you have the building code and precise instructions, including the telephone number in the apartment, so the groceries can be delivered.
Oh, no: The apartment isn’t what I expected!
Yes, this happens. Unfortunately, you’re probably going to have to grin and bear it or move into a hotel. Often you have very little recourse.
When selecting an apartment, be sure you take into account the square meters. Some 30 square-meter rental ads say the unit accommodates four people. Yes, it may if you’re looking for a place to simply plunk your heads or are crashing with young children or close friends. Thirty meters translates into 330 square feet and it’s not a lot of space if you’re big on privacy. The second bed is probably a futon and don’t be surprised if the kitchen and shower room are tiny: they will be.
Wait, there are no sheets
Be sure to immediately document problems with photographs of things like beds without sheets or damaged furniture. If you have email access, send an email to the landlord or call and keep a copy of the photo on your camera. There are occasions when the housekeeper hasn’t done a complete inspection. You don’t want to be blamed or charged for something that’s not your fault.
I am painting a worst-case scenario, but this is both a buyer (and seller) beware situation. You’re going to need sheets, so if your landlord doesn’t respond within a couple of hours, go to the nearest grocery or department store and buy the least expensive ones you can find unless you love them so much that you want to take them home.
Does it sound as if I’m opposed to renting apartments?
If it does, I’m sorry. Apartment rentals are the way to go if you’re someone who’s so inclined. There are people who should never stay in anything other than hotels; you know who you are. And hotels are no guarantee of perfection and don’t count on scoring the best room.
You simply need to do your homework (whether renting an apartment in Paris or anyplace) and keep in mind that a wide-angle lens can do wonders to make tiny spaces look as if they’re mansions.
If you have additional tips, please add them below.
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