The other evening I was having dinner with a group of folks from out of town, and not one of them was staying in a hotel. Each had rented an apartment and were having a great time—and saving money, while doing so.
There are scores of websites and companies that rent mid- to high-end apartments, which are great places to stay if you’re looking for more plush surroundings. But while many owners will rent a short-term vacation apartment from an agency, the most economical way to stay in Paris is to find an apartment that’s for rent by owner. (FRBO). These deals may require a bit of digging, as residents will often post to online bulletin boards or send out e-mails to friends to pass on rather than listing them with agencies.
Aside from being less-expensive than a hotel, a benefit of renting an apartment is that you can save big-time by skipping hotel breakfasts and get your own freshly-baked pain au chocolat from that charming little pastry shop on the corner.
If you’re looking for a desk clerk or maid service, forget it. If you’re staying in a FRBO apartment, there usually isn’t anyone to call for museum hours, restaurant reservations, of if there’s a problem. Ask if they have someone you can call in case of an emergency.
The owner’s stuff may be there if you’re renting an apartment directly from an owner. You should expect a set of clean sheets (ask), as well as towels. But don’t necessarily expect fluffy stacks of high thread-count, brand-new linens or spacious, empty closets with lots of space.
With any apartment, you’ll pay a premium for location. Apartments in the Marais or Left Bank will be more expensive than other neighborhoods. Similarly, space is valuable in Paris, too. A studio will be far less than a 1 or 2-bedroom apartment. Consider how much time you’ll really be spending in your apartment and that tiny—and less-expensive—studio will probably be just fine.
Many rentals advertised may be from owners who are not legally entitled to rent their apartments. Keep in mind that they may not have insurance to cover events, such as personal and accident coverage.
Other things to inquire about: what floor is the apartment on, is there an elevator, what is the neighborhood like, are the owners smokers, can you use any food in the kitchen, are there any pets or plants, does the building have a guardienne, and ask if they can leave any instructions for operating the appliances as European machines work differently than their American counterparts.
Ask about a security deposit and how the rent will be paid, as well as the length of time before the deposit is returned. In spite of what some of the travel wags are telling you, few in Paris are interested in giving someone a deal who wants to pay in dollars.
Respect the owner’s belongings. Don’t snoop, and if you break something, leave a note and offer payment.
For those who want to be wired, ask about internet. Paris has free WiFi in nearly 400 public parks and spaces, too.
The first 9 arrondissements are considered the most desirable by visitors, although there are great places in other areas, too. Parts of the 10th, 17th, and 20th are not to be overlooked. But avoid areas where you’ll feel uncomfortable, especially on the outer reaches of the métro lines. Taxis can be scarce in Paris, especially late at night.
Make sure to get explicit instructions and directions from the owner about the apartment. Many places in Paris have door codes, numbered elevators, and what-have-you, which can be confusing if you’re jet-lagged and unaccustomed to Parisian apartment buildings. Print them out and bring them with you.
Always take caution sending money to strangers in advance and ask for references that you can telephone (not email) so you can confirm, to avoid being scammed. Never send money by telegram or Western Union, or places where you can’t verify the owner or get a refund unless you are 110% sure of the recipient. Some of the B&B websites have online reviews or verify owners, for an additional measure of assurance. Some other good tips can be found in Burned! A London Vacation Rental Scam.
The upside to renting a FRBO apartment over checking in to a hotel is the price, the fun of staying in a neighborhood and living with the locals, and having a kitchen to cook in. The downsides?…
Paris Apartment Rental Tips & Links
I don’t have any personal recommendations for apartment rental agencies since I have no experience dealing with them. These are links to sites that are either non-commercial or offer interesting alternatives to the usual apartment rental sites. As mentioned above, apartments rented from non-commercial agencies may not have the appropriate insurance that traditional agencies might offer and one should accept any risks associated with that.
If you’re interested in swapping apartments, or renting out a spare room in someone’s apartment or home, here are several sites worth browsing:
Apartments and rooms for rent in private apartments.
Apartment rentals where you stay with the owner.
Rooms and apartments for rent.
Very good place to look for apartments, for long or short term.
Check under “Housing” and “Sublets” for short-term rentals.
Paris vacation and short-term rentals.
One of the largest resources in France for real estate, including rentals. (Site in French and English.)
American Church in Paris
Mostly long-term, but the bulletin boards here have short-term apartments as well.
Paris Bed & Breakfast Network
As the name implies, Paris’ bed and breakfast network.
Bed & Breakfast Paris
Another B & B network.
Rents a wonderful apartment in the hip Bastille.
Offers the possibility to do a home exchange.
Description of Paris neighborhood and the attractions within each.
Secrets of Paris
Great tips and links for renting an apartment in Paris, including information about apartment rental scams.
Some unusual apartments for rent in the historic Marais.
Vacation Rentals By Owner
Apartment rentals directly from owners in Paris.
Worldwide network for travelers wishing to network and willing to crash on someone’s sofa.
Guardian Home Exchange
UK-based home exchange program.
Paris Apartment Info
Cross-reference listing of commercial rental apartment companies in Paris.
Paris Dining Guides
Finding a Hotel in Paris
My Travel Necessities
Health Care Tips for Travelers to Paris
Archive of my Paris travel tips