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A quick confession before we dive into today’s post: before I started travelling, I don’t think I worried about accommodation at all. Like, not once. Nada.
It’s something many of my readers and YouTube viewers have been asking about recently, though, so I guess I’m a bit of an anomaly! Along with the questions about money and (of course) travel, accommodation is something I get asked about a lot.
Plus, in my bid to answer as many of your questions about the digital nomad lifestyle as possible, it’s only right that I delve a little deeper. I hope this post answers any questions you may have about finding digital nomad accommodation, but of course feel free to comment below if there’s anything else you’d like to know.
The places I call “home”
In the last year alone, I’ve called Cape Town, Manila, Tbilisi and Crete home. I’ve also spent some time in Taipei, Windhoek, Porto, Amsterdam and many other incredible cities. These stays were much shorter but, with nowhere else to call home, they were all kind of “home” for the time I was there!
That’s the thing about living nomadically.
Sometimes those places feel like home. You relax as soon as you walk in the door. You catch yourself calling it ‘home’, rather than ‘the apartment’. You forget about the invisible line between you and the locals – you’re one of them.
One of the many lessons I’ve learned from living as a digital nomad is narrowing down what I want from life. What kind of place I thrive in, how I like to structure my day, which values I hold highly, etc. I’ve also learned to recognise when a place brings out the best in me. *cough* Cape Town *cough*
Many places never begin to feel like home – and that’s okay, too.
Even the most adaptable among us would struggle to feel truly content anywhere in the world. Every place has its strengths and challenges, and each offers a multitude of lessons. It’s one of the reasons why I travel, and I don’t expect to feel at home everywhere I go.
Choosing a base
So, onto the more practical side of things!
I’ve already written an entire post on how I choose a destination, so I’m going to skip that step for now. If you’re curious, you might want to go check out that post before reading on. It opens in a new tab so this one will be here waiting for you.
Once I’ve chosen my next temporary base, the next step is finding somewhere to live. A roof to put over my head and a place to potentially call ‘home’ for a while.
Let’s get something straight: if you assumed that I live in hotels… think again.
That would be expensive, for a start! But, even more importantly, it would mean constantly living in an impersonal setting that never really felt like home.
Although I spend a fair amount of time in hotels and guesthouses, it’s usually only when I’m in travel mode or on a press trip. I enjoy them while I’m there, but I would go crazy if I had to spend more than 20% of my life living in hotels. Because hotel rooms just aren’t made for living…
That’s why I prefer to rent an apartment when I can.
Staying in hotels can certainly be fun, especially when there’s a rooftop pool or well-equipped gym, but there’s nothing like having your own space. And a kitchen. And rooms to move between.
As well as adding some much needed home comfort to a relatively comfort-free life, staying in an apartment is usually WAY cheaper. And, thanks to the internet, it’s now easy as pie too.
How I find accommodation
If you came to this post looking for some sneaky tips on finding digital nomad accommodation, I’m afraid you’re out of luck. I use very little imagination when choosing a place to inhabit.
On the plus side, that means anyone can do the same. These are the sites I usually use to find accommodation:
About 90% of my accommodation is booked on Airbnb. When I decide to make somewhere home for more than a few days, it’s almost definitely booked there.
Since July 2018, I’ve been making a base in each destination and travelling from that base when I want to explore. When I do this, I rent the apartment for the entire time I’m in the country, even if I’m aways some of the time. When I do this, my apartment is ALWAYS booked on Airbnb.
It might seem silly to pay for two rooms at once (the Airbnb and the hotel where I’m travelling), but it’s a nice way to have a true ‘home’ for a while. It also allows me to lighten my suitcase for once!
If I’m only spending one or two nights somewhere, it’s not usually worth looking at Airbnb. Once you factor in the back and forth emails arranging the key etc, it’s just easier to stay in a hotel. Plus, you still have to pay the same cleaning fee no matter how long you stay for!
For hotels, I nearly always go to Agoda first. Sometimes I’ll also take a look at Hotels.com or Booking.com, but I like to stick to Agoda because it offers cashback.
TRAVEL TIP: If you spend a lot of time in hotels, Hotels.com has a great loyalty scheme that makes every 10th stay free!
Going forward, I’ve made it my mission to start testing out some new accommodation sites.
The one I have my eye on right now is Cool Stays, a site where you can book a stay in some of THE coolest and quirkiest rooms and buildings in the world. Think tree houses, glass domes and converted castles… sounds dreamy, right?
Even though it might cost more than a standard Airbnb, I think it will be a worthy investment from time to time. As well as the experience, it’ll give me a cool environment to film videos in! Plus, I spend enough time working indoors to know I’ll get my money’s worth.
What I look for in a digital nomad home
Every apartment I’ve lived in as a digital nomad has been unique, but there are certainly some similarities between them all.
I always book accommodation before I arrive somewhere, so finding the perfect place can be a bit of a daunting task. To make it a little easier, I have a checklist of things I always look for:
Space: Since I’m normally travelling as part of a couple, space is definitely a priority.
WiFi: Sad, but it’s true. If somewhere doesn’t have WiFi (or the reviews say the WiFi is bad), it’s a no-go!
I like to carry my own WiFi with me just in case. SkyRoam pocket WiFi offers unlimited data around the world, so you’ll never be without maps, emails and a way to contact home.
A desk: Having a desk or area to work is pretty crucial. I like to have somewhere to work at home even if I plan to join a co-working space.
Location: While most travellers probably look for the most central location for exploring, I look for an area that’s good for living. I don’t mind travelling a little further when I want to get out and explore if it means I have everything I need on a day-to-day basis close by. That’s usually a bank machine, a mall or supermarket and hopefully a co-working space or cool coffee shop.
Reviews: Nobody wants to have a bad Airbnb experience, but I’m especially careful when booking long term accommodation. I’d rather pay a little more for somewhere that has good reviews than risk a nasty surprise when I arrive.
Accommodation costs as a digital nomad
As I’ve said in other posts, accommodation costs is one of the reasons I’m able to travel long term. Lots of people ask how I’m able to afford to travel all the time, but of my ‘homes’ have been more affordable than my London rent was. I’m actually saving money by travelling!
In London, my rent came to around £850-900 per month once I included all bills. That was for a single room in a tiny three bedroom flat (with no living room!). Since I left London, my accommodation costs have been anywhere from £100 to £600 per month for (my half of) a one bedroom flat. That means I’m paying less and getting more, so it’s a win-win situation.
It’s something I never really thought much of until the questions came rolling in, but I realise it might seem confusing. After all, if you struggle to make rent each month, how could you possible afford to travel?
I appreciate that not everyone is in the same situation…. By which I mean not everybody is paying extortionate London rent prices! But if, like me, you’re used to living in a super expensive city, travelling full time can be surprisingly affordable.
In case things don’t go to plan…
Even though you hope you’ll never need to use it, travelling with insurance will make sure you’re covered if anything goes wrong. I use World Nomads because it’s the most comprehensive cover I’ve found – they even cover the more adventurous activities that other insurers won’t. Find out more about them in this post or get a quote right here:
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