Hi Frugalistas! When you are planning a trip to Paris a basic question to think about, especially for less experienced travellers, is “is an apartment for rent in Paris best or is a Paris hotel better?” Would you be happier in some form of hosted accommodation such as a Paris hotel, hostel or B&B or is an apartment for better for you? Here are some questions to help you decide if going it alone in an apartment could be right for you:
Do you have a budget that will allow for a bond on the property?
Like any apartment rental you will often need to have money up front to be paid as a bond for your stay. If you are on a tight budget make sure you budget for this. If you aren’t prepared to keep your place clean and in good repair you will also need to be prepared to pay extra cleaning costs which will be deducted from your bond.
How many of you are travelling, and are there any children in your party?
From a cost perspective apartments really make great sense if you are travelling as part of a group. Traveling alone or even as a couple they are pretty much line ball and therefore not really a financial consideration (except for the savings you can make on cooking your own meals). European hotel rooms are usually quite small, so an apartment really starts to come into its own financially if there are three or more of you traveling together. Add in the lack of quad and quint share hotel rooms (meaning you often need to book multiple rooms) and even a larger apartment starts to make more financial sense than a hotel. Expect a two bedroom apartment in Paris to accommodate between 4 and 8 people – with 8 being a real squeeze.
Do you want to prepare your own meals, or are you planning on eating out all the time?
One of the great advantages of an apartment in Paris for short stay is obviously having a kitchen where you can easily make a cup of tea or coffee, or cook a meal for yourself. We found the option of a kitchen ideal, when we had to change our plans while staying in a Paris Perfect apartment. If you don’t want to do that, a hotel may suit you just as well, depending on your other motivations.
Are you prepared to manage all your own restaurant and tourism bookings?
One of the things about an apartment rental in Paris is the lack of any concierge services. While most apartment booking agencies or owners will have a local representative they are not there to provide you with a concierge service. You need to be prepared to go it alone, or organise your plans through some other agency. Most apartments will have a guest book where other people who’ve stayed will list good restaurants and other local contacts, which can be really handy – just be prepared to do your own booking.
Are you confident enough to deal with any problems you may have?
Lost phones, illness, and non-appearing taxi bookings. Just some of the problems you may encounter when you are travelling. In a hotel, the staff will happily help you sort out your travel and health dilemmas, recommend an English speaking doctor and direct you to a pharmacy on a Sunday morning for urgent medicines. They will also make sure your taxi booking appears on time.
In an apartment you need to be prepared to deal with all these sorts of problems yourself. While we can provide help in my France Travel Planning Facebook group (you can join here if you aren’t already a member), I know I’m not the only member who gets a little frustrated at times at how ill equipped some members who are staying in an apartment are to deal with problems they encounter.
Are you prepared to take out the rubbish and do the dishes when you’re on holidays?
If you rent an apartment you will be expected to do this before you leave. If you don’t want to do it, either be prepared to have your bond refund reduced, or don’t stay in an apartment. For some it’s a small thing, but for others it can be a deal breaker (double check that your apartment has a dishwasher if that’s the determining factor).
Are you planning a trip to Paris? Click here to join my France Travel Planning Facebook group.
Housekeeping in Paris apartment rentals
Following on from the above, with most apartment rentals the cleaning service only comes once a week – which will include your change of linen. You can’t just ring down to the front desk for extra towels. In my experience, apartments can be quite generous with towels at some times and quite miserly at others – it really does depend on the owner and the agency you book through. If you like to use a lot of towels and it won’t cost you any more to book for an extra person, do what I do and add an extra person to your apartment booking to make sure you get enough towels.
Do you want/need to be able to use a washing machine?
This is one of the reasons why staying in an apartment in Paris can be truly useful. Apartments can be great for a couple of nights on longer trips or when travelling with young children so you can use the washing machine. Sometimes they will even have a dryer. If having a washing machine is a key decider for you make sure a washing machine is included on the list of amenities. If it’s not listed, you won’t have one. Be prepared for it to have all the dials in French, although many thoughtful owners will include English language instructions.
Booking a holiday apartment in Paris because of COVID-19
COVID-19 might be one reason to consider an apartment booking in Paris if you have not done so previously. Yes, you need to think about all the above considerations – including what your plan is in the event you get COVID-19, but I know many readers will feel more comfortable staying in the own self contained space where there are fewer people loitering in public areas.
How to choose a short term apartment in Paris
Many members of the Facebook group (particularly American members) will automatically think of Airbnb for their Paris apartment rental. In reality Airbnb is not always the best choice for short term Paris apartment rentals. While many members have had good experiences, others have not. The issue lies with some properties not being registered with the local Paris authorities. Airbnb has indicated they now check the registration status of owners but from time to time problems do seem to occur. If you really want to book an Airbnb make sure you only book Superhosts, and before you book seek confirmation the apartment is registered with the local authorities.
There are many other companies who don’t seem to have this problem and who operate under a different business model, whereby owners have to have their properties approved by the company, rather than just acting as a listing platform. This can also provide some reassurance that how the property is described is how it will present:
Plum Guide: an excellent range of properties at a number of price points. Search for Plum Guide properties here >>
VRBO: works a bit like Airbnb in that they grade their hosts, but don’t seem to have the same problems in Paris that Airbnb has had. Search for VRBO properties here >>
Vacation in Paris: this company offers apartments in popular Paris neighbourhoods. They are handy for American members as they accept payment in US dollars and have a friendly office based in the US that customers are welcome to call.
Paris Perfect: good quality properties in popular locations. A high proportion of their properties offer Eiffel Tower views.
Paris Attitude: better for longer term rentals.
Bookingdotcom: yes, my favorite hotel booking site also lists a big range of apartments available for short term rental. It is also the best place to look for apart hotels – hotels that have small apartments rather than just rooms. These give you the best of both worlds – an apartment with a reception desk and concierge. Citadines is a popular apart hotel group with a number of properties in Paris. Search for apartments on bookingdotcom here >>
It is also important to check a number of things before you make a booking:
Decide on an arrondissement before you start looking. Bigger sites have so many properties, spread all over central Paris as well as the suburbs that it is bewilderingly difficult if you don’t have at least a short list of neighbourhoods to focus your attention on. You can read my Paris arrondissement guide here;
Check the amenities of the apartment. Assume that any apartment that doesn’t mention elevators or air conditioning doesn’t have them. If that is important to you, double check before you book. Check things like washing machines and dishwashers, wifi, English language television channels. If they aren’t listed, check before you book. Smaller apartments may not have an oven, and may have a tiny cooktop or no cooktop at all. If you are planning on doing a lot of cooking this may not be suitable for you. Check photos of the kitchen very carefully and if you aren’t sure, again, ask before you book, or choose a different property;
Check and double check cancellation policies. What a number of members of the Facebook group discovered during covid was that the rental company they had booked through was very much at the mercy of individual property owners regarding refunds outside the official company cancellation policy. Read the company cancellation policy carefully and also check whether the individual property you are looking to book has any particular cancellation or refund policy. Assume that you will only be entitled to what is published on their website.