Thinking of moving to a new country to teach and work online abroad?
This can be an excellent way to leverage earning money in one currency while spending in another, effectively increasing your spending power overnight.
But how do you find a place to live abroad?
It may seem like a daunting task, but by using the tips in this post and checking out our you’ll see it’s pretty easy!
First, check out our Connected Classrooms Map to see if there is a verified location available where you’re going.
If not, read on to learn from the mistakes I made as I found my own apartment in Spain:
I overstayed my welcome on friends’ couches, got too comfortable in my short-term rental and didn’t search around enough, and then I rushed to sign a 6-month lease through a Realtor when my visa was expiring in less than a month!
I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything, but here’s how I would do it now:
1. Do your research.
Almost every great search for anything begins on the good ol’ interweb, and housing abroad is no exception.
You can get a general idea of the layout of the city, including proximity of certain neighborhoods to gyms, entertainment, dining, and historical attractions.
You can also pick through the forums at places like nomadlist.com if you’d like to see where the prices match your budget and what other nomads have to say about their experiences. While this can be useful in weeding out locations that don’t suit your style, remember you can form your own opinion in a later step.
a. Leverage your social media platforms
As an additional part of the Online Researching step, check out local expat groups or apartment rental groups on Facebook or Couchsurfing (safely of course).
But try this: Search for apartment rental groups in the language of the country you’re moving to. There are often separate groups for expats and groups for locals or university students, and I had much better luck finding affordable places in the groups my Spanish friends recommended than the ones targeting expats who don’t speak the language.
If you don’t speak the local language, you can always ask a friend or go with google translate.
Ask a friend?
Yea! Check out the next tip to see how social media will help you find friends you didn’t know you had.
2. Who do you know there?
Your initial answer to this might be “No one at all”, but hear me out:
Are you on Facebook or other social media platforms?
Let everyone know where you plan to head with a status update asking if anyone knows people in the given destination. You’ll be amazed at who responds and who knows who (six degrees of separation at its finest!)
Have you met anyone in your travels who was originally from the place you’re going? Reach out to them.
Getting perspectives from locals or friends who have visited the place are important because they’ll help you narrow your search and eliminate unsuitable neighborhoods before you even get there.
They may even let you crash at their place until you’re settled!
I reached out to some Spanish friends I had met in London who helped me narrow my search based on some criteria I gave them. When I arrived, I was ready to hit the ground running and knew just where to look.
3. Find a short-term rental and do some wandering.
While your local contacts can be a huge help in finding your perfect apartment, you can’t leave all the searching to them, right?
And there’s no better way to get a feel for a new city then to wander its streets on your own.
If you’ve overstayed your welcome at your friends (gracias otra vez, amigos!) or no one has extra space for you at the time, stay in a hostel or rent a room through Airbnb for a week or so while you explore on your own. Owners often offer reduced weekly or monthly rates, so take advantage of them!
Plus, here’s $40 off your stay with Airbnb as a first-time user to say thanks for reading!
Exploring the neighborhood you want to live in is the way most of my local friends found their apartments:
They walked around and took note of the ‘for rent’ signs along the way. This is where you might find a very inexpensive deal not listed elsewhere.
4. Call up a Realtor.
I’ve left this as a last tip because it’s my least favorite and the least adventurous in my opinion, but it’s great in a pinch. It can also allow you to control your internet situation a bit better.
Realtors are always there if you’re pressed for time, and although there may be commission fees if you end up going with the spot they showed you, you’ve saved time.
Just make sure you’re aware of what you’re expected to pay and how long you’re signing on for.
Have a local friend you trust read through the documents if you’re not given a copy in English and you’re unsure, or the lease might run beyond the date your visa expires depending on the country.
You don’t want to spend your remaining time wherever you’re at scouring travel forums and panicking about getting fined or banned from most of the countries of an entire continent.
(Silver lining- I am now much more aware of the best way to handle this situation if anyone has any questions hah.)
Bonus Tip: Free Housing?!
These are two suggestions I haven’t tested myself as a teacher, but I know others who have used these platforms successfully.
Housing and food are two of the biggest expenses when traveling, so imagine you could take care of some or all those costs.
Couchsurfing.com lets you stay with locals for free. I buy them beer and make sure to clean up after myself but that’s about it.
Housesitting or house-swapping allows you to watch someone’s house while their away. Just pay to become a member and the rest is often free. You’ll have use of their home for your teaching purposes.
Workaway.info allows you to work in exchange for housing and often food. I worked at a villa in Italy with this program and taught a kid in Barcelona. Both were amazing experiences.
I remember viewing one position for someone needed to work three overnight shifts at a hostel in exchange for a bed and all meals. Look at how much time you’d have each week to teach your classes or explore and with your two biggest expenses covered!
Did you do something different the last time you found an apartment abroad? Share it with us in the comments below!
Have a question about these tips or the process? Just me know in the comments, and I’d be happy to help!
I was inspired to share my experience with this by Jennifer at https://www.esleverywhere.com/. Check out her site for info about teaching English online!