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Please read all of the information in this article if you are considering renting, and do any additional research you require to make the most informated and most secure decision for you and your traveling party.
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Standard hotel offerings in Paris can be challenging for families. Difficulties finding a quad or family room in this city of small hotel rooms may lead you to consider a rental apartment rather than booking multiple double-occupancy rooms to accommodate everyone. You might be a solo traveler or a couple, preferring to have more space and a few “comforts of home” that aren’t found in a typical hotel room. Perhaps you’d like the option of preparing a simple meal and storing a few things of your own in the refrigerator, instead of making do with a tiny hotel mini-bar. Maybe you are fortunate enough be planning a longer visit where staying in a hotel wouldn’t be feasible or affordable. For these and a multitude of other reasons, apartment rentals can provide an appealing alternative to hotels.
The cost of a two-bedroom apartment rental for a family is often essentially the same as the cost of two hotel rooms. Other benefits of vacation rentals include: having separate rooms where one can read or watch TV without disturbing those who wish to sleep; access to a washer and dryer, so you can pack less and travel lighter; having an equipped kitchen so you can eat a few meals at home to stretch the budget, or to have better control of specific dietary requirements; access to free WiFi and international calling that many apartments are now equipped with. Although there can also be downsides to renting an apartment, many times they offer significant overall benefits for a family or a couple on a longer stay. And let’s face it, it’s a wonderful feeling to wake up each morning in your own home in Paris! Only you can weigh the pros and cons of your particular situation and decide what best suits your needs.
There are a lot of details to consider before renting an apartment in Paris, and you should go into it thoughtfully. One thing to be aware of is that the city is in the process of sorting out legality issues regarding vacation rentals. The revision of a housing law in 2014 has many landlords working toward bringing their apartments into compliance, which is a long and expensive process. Most rentals continue to operate business as usual while it’s being sorted out, but some have been taken off the market because the owners have been approached by the city and asked to stop renting (no actual numbers are available). Unfortunately, the city does not provide a list of fully-compliant apartments. There have been a few instances of people who have had their contract cancelled prior to their arrival because the apartment was taken off the market. Those who booked with agencies report they were offered alternative rentals (sometimes not in the preferred area or with the same amenities), and those who booked with individuals had their deposits refunded, but were on their own to find replacement accommodations. Despite this, thousands of people continue to confidently rent in Paris with no problems.
Here are some facts to understand during this transition:
It’s wise to understand the subject before proceeding. Making a fully-refundable hotel reservation as a backup may ease any concerns. Purchasing trip insurance is recommended for safeguarding your vacation investment, whether you book a hotel or rent an apartment.
Consider your vacation personality—are you an independent traveler who easily manages an occasional glitch, or will your trip be ruined if some steps along the way don’t follow your diligently researched plan? You know yourself best. With vacation rentals: 1) Should your luggage be delayed by your airline, you may have to wait at your apartment for its delivery, instead of having hotel staff to accept it while you are out. If you rent from an agency with a welcome office in Paris, they should accept luggage delivery for you, just as a hotel would. 2) You must be diligent in avoiding scams. Renting from a reputable agency is important! Research carefully, and avoid CraigsList or similar. 3) You won’t have hotel staff to offer suggestions, make reservations, give directions, etc. Most rentals have a “welcome" book that provides detailed information, but staff may not be “on call” for you to ask non-apartment-related questions, unless you rent from a full-service agency that provides a concierge. 4) Check-in times for rentals can be more limited than for hotels, especially if guests are checking out the day you arrive. Some managers allow you to drop your luggage at the apartment while it’s being cleaned, and some will not. Agencies with welcome offices in Paris will store your luggage for you if there is a wait. Inquire about the specifics. 5) Some renters report difficulties connecting with their greeter, who usually asks for a call when you arrive at the airport. Have a clear plan with your agency/greeter before you leave home. Some agencies ask you to check in at their office, which eliminates the need to call upon arrival. 6) You might be the unlucky one occupying an apartment when the toilet overflows, or the hot water heater decides to break. A phone call to your landlord will get the ball rolling on the necessary repairs, but it can cause some inconvenience for a day or two. Most renters never experience these situations, but if it happens to you, can you take it in stride, or will it ruin your trip?
Now that the key pros and cons of apartment rentals have been outlined, the advice and tips offered in the remainder of this article will help you find The Perfect Apartment:
1. Decide what is most important to you: Size, Amenities, Location. Studios and one-bedroom, one-bath apartments are the most numerous, so will be the easiest to find in any budget. As you add more specific amenities to your “must have” list (i.e. two- or three-bedrooms, multiple bathrooms, a separate washer and dryer, air conditioning, an upper floor with an elevator, a balcony, a view, specific bed configurations, budget limitations, specific neighborhood, etc.), they can combine to make your search trickier. Decide what your highest priorities are, and which amenities you might compromise on. Most good apartment rental sites have search functions that are very helpful for zeroing in on rentals that will best suit your needs. Start your search early for the best selection (some rentals book a year or more in advance). Here’s a list of items you’ll want to consider (you may want to create a simple spreadsheet to keep track of which apartments have which amenities):
a) Location—Paris has 20 arrondisements (districts), starting with the 1st in the center and spiraling outward. The lower numbered arrondisements are generally the most central for sightseeing. The arrondisement can be determined by the postal code (75001=1st; 75002=2nd, etc.). Many people enjoy staying in St. Germain (6th), the Latin Quarter (5th), or the Marais (3rd & 4th) for a first visit, as these locations are walking distance to many of the sites and close to the Seine for lovely strolls and a very Parisian feel. Other districts shouldn't be discounted, however, as all are accessible to the sights (with a little longer metro ride). Each neighborhood within these arrondisements has their own personality, and they all have cafes, boulangeries, shops and metro stops. Use maps.google.com to take stock of what the area offers. Enter the apartment address to determine if there is a park nearby for your children. Is the nearest grocery store, patisserie, etc. convenient? If the street looks very industrial or unclean, you may wish to reconsider renting on that block. Is there a bar or other business under the apartment or across the street that could be noisy late into the night? Determine the closest metros and which lines they are on. You want to easily get where you want to go with a minimum of metro changes (transfers can involve a long walk underground, so the fewer transfers the better). Check ratp.com for nearby bus stops and routes.
b) What floor is the apartment on? Does the building have an elevator? If the apartment does not have an elevator, or if the elevator is out of order for a few days, how many flights of stairs are you willing and able to climb multiple times a day? If you have small children or a disability, you may want to consider a ground floor apartment. Paris is a very safe city, but if you are uneasy, you may not be comfortable leaving your windows open at night on the ground floor. Remember that European floors are numbered differently than some other countries—Rez de chaussée = ground floor, one flight up = 1st floor, 2 flights up = 2nd floor, etc.
c) Does the apartment face the street or a courtyard? You can check the streetview feature at maps.google.com to determine if the apartment is located on a busy street or a quiet side street. For those sensitive to noise, consider choosing an apartment where the bedroom/sleeping area is on the courtyard. You may also want to inquire with the owner/agency about whether the windows are double-glazed. If the apartment is on a small, residential-only street, noise shouldn’t be an issue even if the bedroom is on the street and you leave the windows open (bring ear plugs just in case!). Also, consider your view—what you’d like to see when you look out your windows. Many visitors really enjoy seeing Paris come alive in the morning and watching the neighborhood comings and goings. You might consider your apartment to be just a place to rest your head and shower, and don’t mind a view of the courtyard (trash cans?). You might really want an Eiffel Tower view, or a view on the Seine. Whatever your view—or lack thereof—it affects the amount of your rent, so consider what you are willing to pay for.
d) Smoking or non-smoking?
e) Beds--How many, and what size? Some beds appear to be queens, but are actually twins zipped together, and can be separated in two if you ask. Many city dwellers have small apartments and sleep on their sofa beds every night, so the comfort of sofa beds is often surprising to visitors—don’t automatically discount them. French bed sizes differ from those in the US. Ask for the measurement of the bed and don't rely on "double", "Queen", etc.
French Standard Bed Sizes:
Single—(100 x 190 cm) 39 x
75 inches (US Twins are 39 x 75 inches)
Sm. Double—(120 x 190 cm) 47 x 75 inches (US Double 54 x 75 inches)
Lg. Double—(140 x 190 cm) 55 x 75 inches
Queen—(160 x 200 cm) 63 x 79 inches (US Queen 60 x 80 inches)
King—(180 x 200 cm) 79 x 79 inches (US King 76 x 80 inches)
f) Is the apartment air conditioned? Are there fans? A/C is not common, and normally not needed in Paris, except for a few days in July or August. City ordinances prevent residential buildings from installing window units on the façade. In some apartments, portable units are provided, but they must be vented properly to be effective. Make sure there is a way to vent the unit without leaving an open window, or its efforts will be in vain. Beware renting on the top floor in the summer—the sun beats onto those metal roofs and can make the upper floors toasty. If there is no air conditioning, look to see if you can open windows on opposite ends of the apartment to create a pleasant cross breeze. Most days, this will be sufficient, but if you are used to a/c at home, you could be uncomfortable without it if it turns hot.
g) Are there laundry facilities? Many machines are a combination washer/dryer together in one unit. Some apartments have only a washer, and you will need to hang dry your laundry. Still other apartments have separate washers and dryers. Combination units may require removing half the load to dry sufficiently. Please don't bring laundry products from home—you risk damaging the equipment. European machines operate differently, and the water in Paris is especially hard, so use the products provided or purchase locally. If your apartment doesn’t have laundry facilities, you can Google "laveries libre-service" near the address, and go to the nearest coin laundry.
h) Is there a bathtub or shower? Some tubs have a hand-held sprayer. Make sure you know what is offered if you prefer one over another.
i) How is the kitchen equipped? If you must have a microwave, dishwasher or Espresso machine (or anything else), make sure one is listed and/or pictured.
j) Does the apartment have a WiFi connection? TV? Phone? Many apartments now provide free outgoing phone calls to many countries. Make sure the apartment has what you need.
k) Does the décor appeal to you? Check the photos provided (keep in mind that they may have been taken with a wide-angle lens to make the rooms look larger, or might be outdated). Look for any red flags or unappealing features—clutter, saggy beds, lack of a closet to hang clothes, etc.
l) Read the reviews! Many websites list previous guest comments and can be very helpful. Keep an objective eye, realizing that some reviews may have been written with a particular bias.
m) Is the apartment equipped with appropriate safety features? All residences in France (including rental apartments) are now required to be fitted with smoke detectors that meet NF EN 14604 standards. Fire extinguishers are not required, but are sometimes provided. If you are concerned about fire safety, choose an apartment on a lower floor, overlooking the street for an easy escape route. Apartments in the rear or on a top floor might be quieter, but could present problems in case of emergency evacuation.
n) What amenities does the owner/agency provide? Remember that a rental apartment is not a hotel. "You get what you pay for" applies—budget rentals are completely self-catering (you supply your own TP, cleaning products, etc., sometimes even towels); more moderately-priced rentals provide more (i.e. a "starter kit" with a roll or two of TP, coffee for your first day, etc.); full-service or luxury rentals supply all you need for your stay, just like a hotel (i.e. toiletries, TP, paper towels, and everything down to fresh flowers, bathrobes, slippers, and sometimes concierge service). Of course groceries are always on you.
o) Cleaning—Some rental contracts require tenants to clean before departure, or an additional cleaning fee may be applied. Mid- and upper-range rentals usually have all cleaning costs included in the price, and you are not required to do any cleaning at check-out. Deluxe rentals may also include a mid-week cleaning (fresh towels, fresh bed linens, light housekeeping) for stays of a week or longer.2. Narrow your search to a few apartments, then contact the agencies/owners and ask all the questions you need. Ask about any ambiguities in the description of the apartment or the floor plan. Get an estimate of the square footage if it’s not in the description. Verify all amenities that are important to you. You can ask for contact information (with permission) for prior renters that you can contact. Find out the exact price, and if any discounts are offered. Is there a minimum stay requirement that is longer than your planned vacation? Many apartments have a 7 night minimum, but some can be rented for only 2 or 3 nights. Weekly rates may be quoted on websites, but some will pro-rate for a shorter stay if you ask. Some rentals are available only from Saturday to Saturday, so find out if the apartment can be rented starting your planned day of arrival. Do a Google search of the owner/agency to read what previous renters have posted about their experiences. If you can’t find evidence that the agency actually exists (no physical location or interactions with verifiable people), move on to the next possibility. There are many reputable agencies in Paris and it's just not necessary to take a risk on an unproven or questionable entity. Check reviews on sites like Slow Travel France or the TripAdvisor Paris forum.
3. Reserving your apartment. Once you have chosen your apartment, you will typically reserve by email. Most agencies want a deposit upon booking (50% is common). Some will want full payment before you arrive, and others take your final payment at check in. Make sure you can use a credit card, which may offer some protection in case there is a misunderstanding or fraud. Make sure you understand and are willing to accept whatever the cancellation policy and deposit refund policy is. Discuss arrival date and time, logistics for obtaining the key, and what to do if your arrival is delayed due to travel issues. Verify how to get in touch with someone who speaks your language if you have a question or emergency while staying in the apartment. Be sure you understand what is included and what is not included in the apartment you are planning to rent. Ask questions before you sign the contract. Be sure you are aware of any additional fees for paying by credit card, taxes, etc.
If this much legwork sounds daunting, apart'hotels are an alternative that may be attractive to you. They combine the amenities of a hotel (daily room cleaning, front desk support, luggage storage) with the added space, kitchen and laundry facilities offered by apartments. Citadines and Adagio are the leading chains, each with several properties in different areas of Paris. There are not many B&B’s in Paris, but a list of those endorsed by the City can be found here.Below are some links to get you started on your search. Most have reviews posted of each apartment. (Note: the following links are not endorsed by Trip Advisor and are merely suggestions of where to begin an apartment search--you should research each listing on your own and check for outside recommendations)
1. Citadines Apart'hotels Paris,www.citadines.com
2. Adagio Apart'hotels Paris, www.adagio-city.com
3. Roots Travel, http://www.parisfurnishedapartments.c... 7, rue de la Cerisaie, 75004 Paris, phone 33-1-42-74-22-33.
4. Slow Travel France, www.slowtrav.com (reviews of rental agencies and their apartment offerings)
5. New York Habitat, www.nyhabitat.com/paris-apartment.html
6. Home Away, http://www.homeaway.com.au/holiday-re...
7. Vacation Rental by Owner, http://www.vrbo.com
8. Guest Apartment Services, guestapartment.com
9. Paris Deluxe Rentals, http://www.parisdeluxerentals.com/
10. Perfectly Located Art Deco Apt, www.ParisVacationApartment.net
11. France Homestyle, www.francehomestyle.com Wonderful selection of individually owned apartments -personnel in Seattle and France
12. www.welcome2france.com - apartments in the 7th arrondissement, between Rue Cler and the Eiffel Tower
13. City Getaway city-getaway.com large offer of apartments in the nicest areas of Paris (Marais, Montmartre,..)
14. Coach House Rentals Paris - most of their Paris apartments are either the homes of Parisiens who are away for an extended period, or their under-used pied-à-terre.
15. Paris Housing Services: offers an extensive choice of furnished and unfurnished apartments to rent in Paris.
16. Paris Perfect www.parisperfect.com
17. Paris BestLodge www.parisbestlodge.com
18. Best Paris Rentals : Vacation rentals by Owners - offers you a great range of Paris vacation apartments at prime central locations.
19. Adrian Leeds Parler Paris Apartments
20. Haven In Paris http://www.haveninparis.com/apartment...
21. Bed and Breakfasts Endorsed by the City of Paris, www.hotesqualiteparis.fr/en
23. www.vivreaparis.com: rent fully furnished apartments in Le Marais through this agency. They take care of the main adminsitrative procedures (electricity, Internet, TV,home insirance, etc.) which helps a lot. They also give good advices about your everyday life in Paris.