Digital Nomad Living: Why I Prefer Apartments Over Hostels


Are you an expat or a digital nomad that regularly needs short term accommodation in foreign city? Save money, live with awesome housemates in the best location of any city with my Complete Guide To Finding Short Term Accommodation In Any City

I have now lived in 6 foreign cities for 4 weeks or longer:

City Year Time Length
Manila 2010 5 weeks
Tokyo 2011 4 weeks
Hanoi 2011 4 weeks
Hong Kong 2012 9 weeks
Bangalore 2012 4 weeks
Vegator (Goa) 2012 4 weeks

 

Not a significant achievement in terms of the average digital nomad but far more significant than the average Westerner. You may have noticed a trend that all of these cities are Asian. It wasnt planned this way, it’s just that trips to Asia have been convenient for the following reasons -

  • Proximity to Australia
  • Cost of living & travel are low
  • Similar timezone to Australia (makes working easier)
  • My old employer had a call centre in Manila (which was the reasons I went to the Philippines in 2010)
  • Asia is awesome
I have lived out of a hostel in Vietnam for 1 monthGoa for 1 month and also a Filipino Island for a few weeks. Dont get me wrong, these months were awesome times of meeting a huge variety of interesting people – you really learn a lot about the world from short intense bursts of conversation in a hostel environment. However I have also lived in apartments in Hong KongTokyo Bangalore and I have to say I have enjoyed the latter for the following reasons:
Apartments can be 200-300% cheaper

It depends on which country and the relative relationships between costs of short term renting & hostel rates but generally they are significantly in your favour. Combined with more freedom to be able to cook yourself; apartments are quite an attractive option financially.

City Type Cost Per Month (USD)
Manila Hotels Lots
Tokyo Apartment $1200
Hanoi Hostel $750
Hong Kong Apartment $650
Bangalore Apartment $400
Vegator (Goa) Hostel $900

 

With the exception of Tokyo both the other times I have stayed in apartments have been cheaper than staying in hostels. I never intended on staying in Goa for a month and opted for a private room & continually kept paying 3-4 days onto my credit card – by the end of my trip it really added up. It was a waste of cash but I but I balanced it with a shorter time in Singapore on my way home.

I honestly cant remember what it cost to live in Manila as for half the trip my ex-employer was putting me up in a 5 star 3 bedroom serviced apartment (Ascot Makati – right above Glorietta 4). It was by far the nicest hotel I have ever stayed in my life and it sat above one of the largest shopping centres districts in Makati.

You can live in a nicer place
My apartment in Shiba Koen, Downtown Tokyo

Hostels are not designed to be pretty & you can generally rent some great new western style apartments; even in developing countries.

My apartment in Tokyo was shared with 14 other people and was very clean, tidy and modern. It even had an amazing rooftop that we underused.

Better relationships are formed in apartment living

Meeting people in hostels is usually a hazy memory bars & parties whilst living with people for weeks on end you tend to build a more formal relationship. There’s the added benefit of the cultural experience in living with locals in apartments. The girl I shared my apartment with in Hong Kong made it her selfless priority to make sure I had the best time possible in her City.

I also got to know most of her friends & was invited to most of their dinners. Here’s a hot pot dinner that Ill never forget due to devouring a certain body part of a rooster.

Thinking back to when I stayed at a hostel in Vietnam I really only remember 3-4 people (although I would have met 100+) and I cant remember them very well. Whereas everyone I have stayed with in an apartment situation I have plans to catch up with them again at some stage. With this said, Goa has been the exception.

You gain a better understanding of the city

This is assuming that you are moving around cities in hostels but after a few weeks you really start to have a basic understanding of how the city operates. Anything from the subway routes, checkout chicks at the local 7-Eleven, the better restaurant chains, the best views etc.

I love big cities and I want to remember them vividly.

It’s easier to get work done

Hostels generally have lots of distractions from cheap beers, female European backpackers & party times.

Some days in Goa I would take my laptop into the common room with the good intention to get work done for the entire day however I would be met with new backpackers who are looking for things to do in Northern Goa. 20 minutes later I would be out of my scooter leading a clan of backpackers to the northern beaches.

I cant say no to a game of (Austrian rules) Uno.

So there’s 5 reasons that I prefer to travel the world working out of apartments rather than staying in hostels. Ill always strive to find an apartment (or house!) in my chosen city and save the hostel life for the weekend get away.

If you’re a well traveled digital nomad – let me know what you prefer, hostels or apartments!

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Short Term Accommodation Guide

Are you an expat or digital nomad that is looking to save money, live with awesome housemates in the best location of any city?

A Complete Guide To Finding Short Term Accommodation In Any City is a walk through guide to help you create a budget, methods of apartment research and ranking and also the best strategies to deal with advertisers.


Comments

  1. DAN says:

    Excellent post! What methods do you use to find apartments while away?

    • CHRIS SCHWARZ says:

      Every time has been slightly different.

      I usually start at the classic AirBnB & Wimdu type sites just to find out what the market is like – generally looking at the quality of places and the prices.
      I would possibly then just switch over to Google with some searches like “Short term accommodation in X” and browse a few sites (this is how I found my accommodation in Japan http://www.modernguesthouseliving.com and my accommodation in Bangalore http://casapiccola.com/casapiccola/eng/index.aspx).
      I then usually try and source some local knowledge & find a city expat forum or local classifieds website (Here was a bubbly expat forum in Hanoi – http://tnhvietnam.xemzi.com/en). To find these I would probably use Google or Reddit or Quora. I’d set up an account and ask my questions there to see if anyone can help me out.

      I found my accommodation in Hong Kong through my blog. Good story.

      • Couchsurfing.org is really useful for not only finding short term accommodation (most cities will have specific sub threads for those looking for paid accommodation) but also for asking general questions about living (good location etc).

        Internations.org is also a really great source to find expats in locations.

  2. I’ve been wondering if it was better to rent an apartment vs a hostel. Mainly, to cut down on the amount of distractions for working. I get distracted easily and have noticed when I stayed in a hostel just for vacation purposes (no work) that I might have a difficult time focusing if I was working while travelling. Thanks for posting your experience AND how you find your apartment accommodations in the comments!

    • No problem Colleen.
      I guess is also depends on how long you want to stay at a location. Finding accommodation for 1 month only can be far more difficult than somewhere for 3 months.

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