French workers are blessed with six weeks of vacation a year, on average. Many of them take a full month off in late summer. Their good fortune is also yours. The reason? A good number of vacationing Parisians will try to sublet their apartments while off dallying in the Maldives.
These exchanges happen first and foremost by word of mouth. Parisian party chat in early summer consists of "where are you going on holiday?" and "do you know anyone who wants to rent my apartment?" Twitter and Facebook are also increasingly being used to advertise apartment availability, i.e. "going 2 Bali rent my Aug apt 300 wk". If you have a local connection or participate in any Paris discussion groups, it's a good idea to make your vacation desires known.
For those without a local friend, Craigslist is a great way to connect with departing Parisians. A glance at "sublets and temporary housing" today revealed about forty different listings for July and August. You can snag a one-bedroom in the Marais for €500 per week or a two-room studio along the Bassin de la Villette (my favorite 'hood) for €300 per week.
Advantages: These informal exchanges are much cheaper than traditional short-term rentals, which are already much cheaper than hotels per night. You can generally stay a week for the same price as a couple of nights in a hotel. Apartments offer the possibility of cooking—or at least of morning coffee. They also offer a look "behind the curtain" at local life.
Disadvantages: Unlike the short-term rentals that we've discussed in "Paris at a Price That's Right" and here, these are "real" and lived-in apartments, filled (for better or worse) with the occupant's stuff. That could mean a well-stocked gourmet kitchen and a library filled with interesting books. It could also mean clutter and bursting closets. Cleanliness varies. Some hosts will scrub their apartments, but most will do a quick tidy before heading out the door. They'll usually leave you with a contact number in case of emergency, but you'll otherwise be on your own.
As mentioned in a previous blog post on Paris sublets, it's buyer beware with these informal agreements. I've had friends arrive at their holiday apartment to find somebody else already settled in. I've heard about travelers sending security deposits to people who subsequently disappeared. The best way to avoid trouble is to ask a lot of questions, trust your instincts, and avoid wiring any money.
These warnings aside, informal rentals offer incredible value and a way for unfussy travelers to lengthen their stay in Paris. They also help the fortunate Parisians to order a few extra Piña Coladas during their holidays. Everybody wins.
Let's hear now from you: What have been your experiences in renting apartments from Craigslist or similar websites? Any advice or strategies to share?