Hello, my friends!
This post is for those of you that are looking to spend some time in the Colombian capital.
One of the most frustrating things about heading to a new country for a short or long term stay is finding an ideal place to live; the rush and excitement of arriving in a new place is quickly moderated by the reality of needing to hustle to find an apartment...unless of course you're comfortable paying for an overpriced Airbnb or living in a hotel for months on end.
I'm here to help make the process a bit easier.
I've compiled a list of helpful resources to make your house hunt go as smoothly as possible, because the last thing you want to do after finally arriving stepping off that plane and arriving to Bogota is get stressed out.
Here is how to rent an apartment in Bogota.
The Easiest Way To Find a place to live
1. Airbnb - If you're a traveller, I'm going to assume you know how Airbnb works, so I'll spare you a boring description. In Bogota, renting an apartment through Airbnb will invariably be more expensive than other options. The upside is that it is undoubtedly the easiest way to get your living situation sorted. If budget is not an issue for you, there are some very nice private rentals (short and long term) in good areas - Colombia is well-served by Airbnb. Just be aware that you'll be paying 20%-30% more than if you were to search for local listings (don't worry, we'll talk about local listings soon)!
2. Craigslist - Like Airbnb, you probably all know how Craigslist works. Unfortunately, it hasn't really caught on in Colombia, so you won't find many listings. And the ones you do find will normally be priced high because they will be targeting foreigners.
The upside at rental ads aimed at foreigners is that the process for renting is usually much more simple and more secure; the individual who owns the apartment is more likely to speak English or be a foreigner themselves, and therefore won't require things like cosigners or references so long as you can prove that you have sufficient funds to pay to rent the place for the duration of your stay.
If you have a high budget and don't speak much Spanish, Craigslist will be one of your easier options down here. Just don't be surprised if you only find a handful of listings on the site.
3. VRBO - VRBO is similar to Airbnb, although it normally has less listings. The prices on the site are also similar; VRBO may be slightly cheaper. Like the two aforementioned options, the listings are normally in English, so it's a good resource if you don't feel comfortable conducting yourself in Spanish.
If you're looking for easy options, I'd only check out VRBO if you strike out on Airbnb. VRBO isn't much (if any) cheaper and they have fewer options.
If the easiest options mentioned above strike you as too expensive, the next place I'd check out is Facebook. There are a couple groups that you can join where apartment rentals and rooms are updated regularly.
3. Habitaciones, Chapinero Bogota (do some research on Chapinero first to decide if you'd like to apartment hunt there)
If you don't manage to find anything on Facebook, not to worry!
There are plenty of sites operating locally that have tons of listings.
Just make sure to have a currency converter and Google Translate ready, as these listings will typically be in Spanish and in Colombian Pesos.
Here are 10 of the better websites I've found.
1. Go Place It
8. Bogota OLX
10. Mercado Libre
It will be a bit of a slog going through the listings on these sites - most of them aren't user friendly and the owners are not very responsive. If you're lucky, 1 in every 5 phone numbers you call will be answered. It's even worse with email. I swear it must be hardwired into Colombian DNA not to answer emails. You'll be lucky if you get 1 response of of every 10 emails you spend.
The Roommate Option
Renting a room in someone's house or apartment is a great option for younger people on a budget. It's an excellent way to meet people while saving a few pesos in the process.
Along with the Facebook groups I've mentioned above, there are 2 other websites that get the My Latin Life stamp of approval for finding a roommate in Bogota.
1. DADA Room
The Old Fashioned Option
Want to find an apartment like a local? Another great option is to simply walk around a neighbourhood you're interested in living and call the rental numbers you see listed on apartment buildings (don't worry, you'll see a lot!). Or, simply talk to the doorman of the building about the unit being rented. He'll put you in touch with the owner, or sometimes even show you the apartment himself if the owner is not around.
This option is ideal for a few reasons. First of all, finding a listing this way will almost always be cheaper than finding one on Airbnb, where prices tend to be inflated. Second, it's much more efficient than scrolling through endless listings on the Internet and waiting for someone to respond to you. Finally, the process is quick. If you do it this way, you can get in touch with the owner faster, and if you two agree on a price and a contract for the amount of time you'd like to stay, you can find yourself moving in that very same week...sometimes even the same day.
The downsides of this option is that you'll need to know how to communicate in Spanish. If your language skills are only basic, it can be intimidating calling phone numbers and talking to doorman. Even worse, it leaves the possibility for miscommunication regarding prices, utilities, house rules etc.
If this seems like a daunting option, try to find a Spanish-speaking friend that can help you out to ensure that you understand what you're signing up for.
Or, if you prefer to do things yourself and it's a couple months before you're set to leave, Learn some Spanish with SpanishPod. It's effective enough to get you up to a conversational level in a very short period of time.
More often than not, simply walking around and calling numbers and talking to doormen will be the quickest and cheapest way to rent an apartment in Bogota.
Sometimes it's best to go old school.
Alright, time to bring this to a close.
I hope that I've helped demystify the process of renting an apartment down here.
Another great place to ask questions about this are travel forums. People who have spent time in the city may know of a trustworthy real estate agent or rental company who can take care of all this for you.
Happy house hunting.
Until next time,