Apartment rental tips

This item appears on page 48 of the March 2011 issue.

In the last three issues, we printed subscribers’ advice on renting apartments outside of the US. This month we lead with some practical advice by a reader followed by appraisals of specific apartments. We’ll do the same next month.

If you write in regarding a particular rental property, include its location and/or address plus contact info for it and state when you stayed there plus the approximate price you paid (for how long) and what was included. Write to Apartment Rental Tips, c/o ITN, 2116 28th St., Sacramento, CA 95818, or e-mail editor@intltravelnews.com (include the address at which you receive ITN). Photos welcome.

It can be tricky going from an international flight to making transit arrangements in a country where you don’t speak the language. Even though it may cost more than other approaches, I try to make the airport-to-city transfer through the same folks who rented me the apartment.

One time I didn’t do that and there was no one at the flat and no instructions on how to get a key. They had said someone would be there, but sometimes instructions (or I) can get befuddled.

I have rented many apartments in Paris. Usually there is a building concierge, who you pray will speak English, and he/she will show you where to place the trash and how to manage the security codes for the front door. There have been times when I arrived to fresh flowers, a bottle of wine and some cheese, but those were the exceptions.

Once you get to Paris, search out a paperback called “Le Bus Parisien.” I have found it at WHSmith (248, rue de Rivoli; phone 01 44 77 88 99) and in the book section of Bon Marché (24 rue de Sevres; phone +33 [0] 144 398 000).

This bus-route guide is in French, but there are two pages for each numbered bus plus maps that are easy to figure out. For example, bus No. 24 goes up one side of the Seine and returns down the other.

The time you get the cleaning deposit back is usually upon leaving the apartment at the end of your stay, after someone inspects to see that you haven’t packed all the silver in your carry-on.

You need to remain open-minded when renting an apartment in a foreign country. There will always be surprises. That is part of the joy.

Sheila Wolfe

San Antonio, TX

The view from my one-bedroom apartment at 68 quai des Orfèvres

This was the view from my one-bedroom apartment at 68 quai des Orfèvres on Île de le Cité in July ’08. It’s one of many apartments I’ve rented in Paris for a month.

This one sleeps two to four and is listed online where it is rented by the owner for half the price of what other websites (which factor in commissions) are asking for it.

The current per-night rate is €170 (near $232), minimum seven nights; €160, minimum 14 nights, or €150, minimum 30 nights.

Sheila Wolfe

San Antonio, TX

Through www.vacationinparis.com (Newton, NJ; 800/403-4304), we rented an apartment (ID No. 56, “Eiffel Hideaway”) in Paris at $1,100 for seven nights in November ’08.

With plenty of room for three of us and with complete kitchen facilities, we were very comfortable. We bought food to prepare for breakfast each morning at the apartment, after which we were off for the day.

In our experience, hotels often are cramped and sterile and have no charm. Our advice is to get an apartment instead.

Edwin Sypolt

Florence, KY

Tripadvisor.com sometimes lists apartments for rent. That’s how we found the wonderful Bonobo Apart Hotel (Goezeputstraat 5, B-8000 Brugge, Belgium; phone 32 [0] 50 33 12 82, fax 33 82 35) in Brugge, Belgium, where we stayed for four nights in April ’10.

I can’t recall how much it cost per night, but it was significantly less than what a hotel room would have cost, and service was impeccable.

Nancy Tan

Fresno, CA

Bonobo’s current nightly apartment rates are as follows: one to two people, €83-€92 (near $113-$126); three to four people, €136-€151, and four to six, €191-€211. A four-night stay in May for two people would cost €316 ($429).

For 11 days in 2006, we rented two apartments In London from John Doncaster (Box 669, Rockport, ME 04856; 207/236-4136, e-mail jaydonc@tidewater.net), who advertises in the back of ITN. At that time, he was offering a two-bedroom as well as a one-bedroom apartment for a minimum of a week.*

Mr. Doncaster’s well-furnished apartments were in a prime location at the apex of Brompton Road and Knightsbridge, with multiple bus lines and just across the street from the Knightsbridge underground station. There are restaurants, a small market and, of course, Harrods just a few steps away.

Mr. Doncaster allowed us to pay him in Maine in US dollars, which much simplified matters.

• Early in 2010, I began searching for an apartment in Nice, where my husband and I would rendezvous with our daughter and her family in April. I Googled “rental apartment in Nice, sleeps 10” and up came a website from the UK, www.homeaway.co.uk, with several offerings meeting my criteria. One, in particular, stood out, describing a “unique luxury apartment close to the Flower Market and near the sea in Old Nice.”

The reviews of it from former tenants were stellar, and the photographs were enticing, as were the promise of four bedrooms and two baths. The claim that the apartment was so located as to not necessitate having a car was most appealing. Everything was close at hand, including a very inexpensive bus system (€1 per person), which ranged throughout Nice and into neighboring hill and coastal towns, even as far as Monaco.

Carine Marti, the landlady, was welcoming and accommodating by e-mail. Since she lives in Switzerland, there was no way we could pay her in cash upon arrival, so, via a money transfer in euros from our bank to hers, for eight days we paid her €2,025 ($2,748) plus a compulsory €150 for cleaning after we left.

The apartment proved to exceed our wildest expectations. Atop one of the many restaurants which define Nice’s Flower Market, it is full of interesting art and equipped with every small or large appliance one could wish for. The wall tiles and a splendid Murano chandelier in the kitchen were in shades of purple.

We made daily use of the “market” just outside the door. Old Nice and the rocky beach were a block away, as well.

The ash cloud from the Eyjafjallajökull Volcano zapped four days off our planned vacation, but Ms. Marti kindly allowed us all to stay one extra night, so we had five glorious days together in the apartment!

Peggy Zeigler

San Francisco, CA

*John Doncaster wrote to ITN, “We sold our two-bedroom apartment but continue to maintain and rent — for four weeks, minimum — our one-bedroom apartment in the same building at 141 Knightsbridge, immediately south of Hyde Park. The rate for four weeks is $5,000 (in advance, checks accepted in dollars or equivalent in pounds).

Using www.vrbo.com, I found this flat in central London: Albany Court, Flat 1 (e-mail albanycourtsw1@aol.com). It’s five minutes’ walk from Westminster Abbey or one minute from St. James Park Underground Station.

There’s an elevator. This roomy one-bedroom sleeps three with a UK king-sized bed and a Murphy bed. It has a kitchen with a microwave; a full bath with shower and tub; a sitting room with plasma TV, and washer/dryer.

For five nights in December ’10, we paid approximately $257 per night, including a cleaning fee.

Wes Lingren

Bellevue, WA

My wife and I rented an apartment in London’s Chelsea area in June ’10 through www.centrallondonapartments.co.uk. It was located in the Chelsea Cloisters complex on Sloane Avenue. The building is located a seven-minute walk from the South Kensington Tube station.

We chose an efficiency apartment for 15 days. The company offered a reduced rate for staying 14 days or more, which meant that it cost less than if we had stayed only 13 days. Our total cost was $1,598, or $107 per night. There were no extra or surprise charges.

The Cloisters did not require a deposit to hold the reservation. They accepted credit cards and expected payment on arrival. Personnel manned the desk 24/7.

In the same building as our apartment, there were Indian, Malaysian and Argentinian restaurants. Not far away was a highly regarded Italian restaurant and also a French bistro. A Sainsbury’s food market was one block away.

The downsides — this rental was on the small side and had no place to sit except at the breakfast table. There was no air-conditioning, and it was rather warm in the evenings, making sleeping not always easy. The bathroom was quite small but, once you got the hang of things, functional. Getting into and out of the shower involved a high step — aggravating.

We would definitely consider renting from Chelsea Cloisters again, but we probably would upgrade to a one-bedroom unit with A/C.

Robert Major

Norfolk, VA

Using cottages4you.co.uk, we rented an apartment in Ramsgate, England, for a week in October ’09. We were delighted with the apartment The Castle (Apt. 4, 68 Harbour Parade, Ramsgate, Kent CT11 8LN, U.K). It became our home base while we explored Canterbury, Dover, etc. The cost for the week, including booking fee, was £353 (about $565).

The apartment consisted of two bedrooms (a large room with a double bed and a small room with a twin bed), a large bathroom with both tub and shower, a large kitchen with eating area and a large living room with a magnificent view of the harbor.

The only drawbacks — it was on the third floor (in the UK, the second floor), with no elevator, and parking was a problem on Harbour Parade, though there was a parking garage only a couple of blocks away.

• From ITN’s MART classifieds we learned of the “London Chelsea” apartment (6 Tite St., London SW3 4HY, U.K.; phone 011 44 20 7376 7646 or e-mail wonderfulchelsea@aol.com) offered by Ted and Francoise Phillips.

Walking distance from bus stops and the Tesco mini-grocery shop, the apartment is in the basement, with a private entrance; the Phillips live upstairs.

It has a bedroom with twin beds (can be made up as a king); a nice bathroom; a living room with sofabed; a kitchenette with fridge, microwave and coffeemaker, and a washing machine, plus WiFi and use of computer.

We stayed in October ’09 for five days and wished we had longer. The rate was $185 a night, with a three-night minimum; they accepted American checks.

We were highly pleased both with the apartment and our welcoming hosts.

Vicki Schell

Pensacola, FL

Regarding the London Chelsea apartment described by Ms. Schell, Ted Phillips informed ITN, “The rate is the same as during her 2009 stay. By the way, my wife and I are Official London Tourist Guides. We offer an ‘Off Beat Tour’ by car for which we charge £200, but all of our apartment guests get it for free."