Travel blogger apartment rental interview about finding a monthly apartment in Olympia, Greece, with Europe-based blogger Brandy Bell.
1. Please tell us about your apartment, the location, when and how long you rented it for.
I rented a studio apartment in Olympia, Greece for the month of May 2010. As Olympia is a very small town my apartment was close to everything. A ten minute walk to the ancient ruins of the home of the Olympic Games and the wonderful museum that houses many artifacts. Twenty minutes of a gentle stroll up the mountains leads you to the immaculately preserved theater of Flokas, and only a 30 minute train ride to the lovely beach of Katakalon. Food and drink was 45 seconds away, and a drink on my personal balcony was free.
2. How did you find your apartment rental?
Word of mouth was the best way for me to locate an apartment in this small town. I had enough of the horrible lifestyle and ambiance of the local hostel, so I started putting the word out to people at local cafes, checking out apartment building posters and trying to convince people that renting for one month to a strange American girl was a good idea. Finally, I located the networking jackpot— the neighborhood gossip source: old Greek mothers!
3. How much did you pay and did you negotiate (price or terms)? What are your negotiating strategies when renting short-term apartments?
I paid 300 euro per month for a studio apartment which had a table and chairs, double bed, heating and air con, a private balcony, refrigerator and bathroom with a shower— great water pressure and steaming hot showers 24 hours a day. While negotiating was tempting, I was desperate to leave the hostel, and as a friend of a friend of a friend, I did not want to insult the generosity extended to me. It was quite a trusting arrangement, as the woman gave me a visual once over, said “300 euro” and handed me the keys. I didn’t pay the 300 euro until my last day at the apartment, and had to track her down to pay it — the trust was worth paying a bit more for.
4. Did you try any strategies for finding a rental that didn’t work?
I used Couchsurfing to try to locate a room, but because the town is small, it wasn’t a popular thread. In fact, many times when I inquired as to the availability of renting a room for a month most people gave me a strange look and said “no one’s ever done that.”
In smaller cities / towns the key to finding an apartment is likely going to be word-of-mouth and connections. In case you’re in a town where you have neither of these options, think of places that locals frequent daily : their coffee shops, bakeries, etc… spend a few hours in the morning asking around and asking the employees of these places is a great idea as they usually have good relationships with their customers and can lend you a helping hand in the search.
When all else fails, look for groups of older people hanging out in public spaces- with age comes wisdom, knowledge and usually meddling in business of the community ;) they’re sure to know if someone has an open room and usually have the protective urge to look out for us youngsters!
5. Did you experience any unanticipated problems, either with your rental or the location?
The biggest problem with my rental was the proximity of the local bakery to my mouth. I didn’t love the rooster who went off at every morning at 4:30am, but I did love that I could curse him and roll back over for a few more hours of sleep.
It also appeared that I was neighbors with about 15 immigrant men living in one apartment, but their parties never lasted longer than mine, so I had no real reason to complain— if you are someone who can’t handle noise disturbances, it’s a good idea to check out the apartment at night before agreeing to the rental so there are no nasty surprises.
6. Now that you’ve done your rental, what would you do differently? What would you do the same? Would you recommend where you went as a good place to spend a month?
I wouldn’t do anything differently, I paid a fair price for what was received, and having a consistent and safe place to lay my head at night was ample happiness for me. I recommend Olympia for people who enjoy slow travel, getting into the culture of a country / place and want to learn or practice their Greek and backgammon. The ruins around can be explored in anywhere from 2 days to 1 week, but each time I returned, I found something new to enjoy. As a writer, it was the perfect place to hatch stories, spend afternoons drinking Greek coffee and people watching. The nature, pace and people of Olympia, Greece make it one of my favorite towns in the world.
7. What advice would you give to other travelers looking for a reasonably priced apartment in the same location?
Hit up the backgammon games that are held on sidewalk cafes. In between hassling each other over making the wrong moves and calling each other “malakas” you’re sure to get a lead or two into apartment rentals- especially now that it’s been done before :)
8. Other than the rental we’ve focused on, if you’ve done apartment rentals in other places, what were some of the best ones?
This is actually the only long-term apartment rental I have paid for. I typically try to save my money on accommodation by using work exchange sites like HelpX, StayDu, or WWOOF. Using these sites I have stayed months in places like Lisbon, Portugal, Monemvasia, Greece and Essaouria, Morocco. Make sure to check out this page to find more opportunities for free accommodations while traveling.
This invited post was by Brandy Bell of It’s One World Travel. Brandy grew up in California, had a lovely job in the wine industry and left on a round-the-world trip in 2010. She now plots her next international adventures from her home base in Madrid, Spain. To follow her latest travels, receive budget travel tips and learn how to travel for free by following her on Facebook or Twitter