Finding accommodation for a longer-term trip abroad isn’t always easy, whether you’re coming as a student, intern, volunteer or fully-fledged worker. Do you arrange housing before you leave – and risk not liking the place you end up – or take the scarier route of finding a place when you arrive?
Finding a house or apartment before you come to Chile is certainly the most reliable option, and if it’s your first time living abroad it can give a welcome sense of security. Many visitors, however, prefer to stay in temporary accommodation for a week or two and do some research before choosing a place. And while the uncertainty can seem nerve-wracking, the pay-offs are great: you meet housemates before you move in and get to know your favorite neighborhoods before you make a commitment.
Whichever you choose, you’ll need some help to find the best accommodation for your stay. Here are our top tips:
Buy before you fly: organizing accommodation in advance
Many universities in North America and Europe will be able to help foreign-exchange students find accommodation before study abroad begins, ranging from home-stays with Chilean families to single-person apartments. Speak to the study abroad representative at your school or university to see what information they can offer.
Chile-based agencies can also be a great help, offering advice on locations and prices and liaising with landlords for you, though commissions add extra costs. Contact Chile and Home Chile are popular choices, listing furnished rooms and apartments for rent, with English-speaking staff and English websites. If you’re coming to Chile to study Spanish, many Spanish schools can include accommodation as part of your program. Check schools’ websites for details.
A temporary base: hostels in Chile
If you’re planning to find a place when you arrive in Chile, it’s sensible to book a few nights at a hostel before you leave home to give you a base while hunting for longer-term accommodation. Hostel World and Hostel Bookers are two of the world’s largest hostel search engines, and feature hostels in almost every city in Chile, along with photos, independent reviews and online booking.
Another useful source of information is Hostels and Tours, a Santiago-based organization of hostels and tour providers. Their English and Spanish website has a wealth of ideas on where to stay and what to do in the capital – and you can contact them on Twitter or Facebook for personal advice.
On the ground: apartment hunting in Chile
One of the best resources for finding a shared house or apartment in Chile is CompartoDepto.com. Part of the global Easyroommate.com family, it has hundreds of listings in cities throughout Chile, including Santiago, Valparaíso, Viña del Mar, La Serena and Concepción. Set up a profile and you can search by budget, area, size, couples allowed/not allowed and more. It puts you directly in touch with current housemates or landlords and is available in English, though some listings are only in Spanish.
Another common – and surprisingly fruitful – way to find accommodation in Chilean cities is simply to take a walk around neighborhoods you like, looking for signs in windows saying “se arrienda” (or other permutations of the word arrendar, “to rent”). You can knock on doors or call the phone number on the advert and owners will usually be happy to show you round.
Word of mouth, while less reliable, can also be an excellent way to find hidden gems. If you’re working or interning in Chile, colleagues may know of good houses or apartments that are convenient for work, and sometimes at bargain prices. If you’re studying, fellow students are a good source of information, and campuses in most large university cities, such as Concepción, often have accommodation notices posted in common areas.