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Renting a vacation apartment in Paris
Most hotel rooms in Paris are appropriate for a couple, but there are virtually no one-room options for a family of four. If you are a family of three, some hotels will bring in a bed for a child, but know that rooms are smaller than Americans are used to, and having a portable bed will make things very cramped. For a family of four you will have to rent two separate rooms.
Are you one who likes to have more room to spread out than a hotel room offers? Something comfortable other than the bed to sit on while relaxing in your room? Would you like the option to prepare a simple meal and have a few things of your own in the refrigerator, but your hotel won't allow food brought to the room?
You can get around these problems by renting an apartment. The cost of a two-bedroom apartment rental for a family is essentially the same as the cost of two hotel rooms. Although there are some downsides to renting an apartment (see below), an apartment overall has significant benefits over a hotel for a family or a couple on a longer stay. You will save very significant sums by eating some meals at home; having separate rooms where some can sleep and some can read etc. is a big plus; an apartment will usually have a washer, and sometimes also a dryer, which lets you travel much lighter. Nearly all apartments provide equipped kitchens and linens, and many offer free local calling and free WiFi. Most agencies have onsite assistance if you have questions once you arrive.
Some possible negatives of renting an apartment are (1) if your airline loses your luggage, you may have to wait in your apartment to receive the luggage while a hotel could accept it while you are out (if you rent from an agency that has an office in Paris, they will most likely accept luggage delivery for you); (2) falling prey to a rental scam (this is why renting from reputable agencies is important); (3) not having a hotel concierge to suggest places for dinner, make reservations, give you directions, make phone calls for you about attraction hours, etc. (most rentals do have some type of "Welcome/Information" book that provides similar information, but they may not be “on call” for you all the time, unless you rent from a full-service agency that provides these services).
The remainder of this article provides advice as to how to find and evaluate an apartment.
1. Decide what is most important to you: size of the apartment, amenities, location. If you are looking for a one-bedroom one-bath apartment and price is no object, you will have the luxury of choosing exactly what neighborhood you want to be in, and may even be able to find the right apartment on a particular street. If you are looking for a larger apartment, especially one with certain unusual amenities, such as several bathrooms, a washer/dryer combination, and air conditioning, and you have a price limit, there will be fewer options available to you. Most rental agencies have search functions on their website that allow you to search by number of bedrooms and in particular locations and also will show you if a particular apartment is available during the time you want to rent it. Here are some things to consider:
(a) What floor is the apartment on? Does the building have an elevator? If the apartment does not have an elevator, are you willing to climb steep, narrow stairs up several flights multiple times per day? If you have a stroller or have to carry a baby up a flight of stairs, you might want something on street level or not above the Parisian first floor (in other words, the second floor). On the other hand, if you are very security conscious you may not be comfortable on the ground floor.
(b) Does the apartment face the street or a courtyard? If you are sensitive to noise, look at street view in maps.google.com and see if the apartment is located on a busy street. If so, determine whether the bedroom faces onto a central courtyard or onto the street. If only onto a central courtyard, whether that the street is busy or noisy will not matter. If the bedroom faces onto the street, then you may want to find a rental on a smaller street, or inquire with the owner/agency about whether the windows are dual-glazed.
(c) If you are a non-smoker, consider whether the apartment is non-smoking.
(d) Is there a minimum stay requirement that is longer than your planned vacation? Many apartments have a 7 night minimum, but some rent for as few as 2 or 3 nights.
(e) Some rentals are available only from Saturday to Saturday, so if you are planning on arriving on another day, can the apartment be rented starting on your planned day of arrival?
(f) How many beds are there, and what size are they? If you have two children who refuse to sleep in the same bed, make sure that there are two twin beds or a twin and a sofa bed, or enough room and linens to create a second sleeping space on the floor of the children's bedroom or space. Many Parisiens have small apartments and sleep on their sofa beds every night, so the sofa beds available there are typically a lot more comfortable than those accustomed to in the USA. French bed sizes differ from the States. Ask for the measurement of the bed and don't rely on "double", "Queen", etc.
French Standard Bed Sizes:
Single (lg) --- (100 x 190 cm) 39 x 75 inches Single (sm) -- (090 x 190 cm) 35 x 75 inches (USA Twins are 39 x 75 inches)
Double (sm)-- (120 x 190 cm) 47 x 75 inches (USA Double 54 x 75 inches)
Double (lg) -- (140 x 190 cm) 55 x 75 inches
Queen -------- (160 x 200 cm) 63 x 79 inches (USA Queen 60 x 80 inches)
King ---------- (180 x 200 cm) 79 x 79 inches (USA King 76 x 80 inches)
(g) Is the apartment air conditioned? It's not common, and normally not needed in Paris, even in August. But it may be important to you.
(h) Is there a washer or washer/dryer in the apartment? Parisians have some machines that are combination washer/dryer, so even if the picture shows only one machine, that does not necessarily mean there is only a washer.
(i) Bathtub/shower or combination in the bath or baths; and "real" showers versus handheld; if you absolutely must have one or the other, make sure you know what is being offered.
(j) Equipment that you need in the kitchen (e.g., if you must have a microwave make sure one is listed/pictured).
(k) Does the apartment have a wired or wifi internet connection? TV? Phone? Many apartments these days provide free outgoing phone calls to many countries. Make sure the apartment has what you need.
(l) If you have young children, take the address of the apartment and put it into maps.google.com and see if there is a park nearly. Also determine the closest metros and which lines they are on. You want to easily be able to get to the major tourist attractions with a minimum of metro changes, especially if you have young children, because many times the changes can involve long walks underground. You also don't want to have an overly long walk to the metro above ground, especially if you have small children.
(m) Google street view will also let you see what shops are on the street. Is there a patisserie, a boulangerie, a grocery store? If the street looks very industrial or not clean, you probably don't want to rent on that block. Is there a bar or other business under the apartment or across the street that may be noisy late into the night?
(n) Consider what amenities are provided. "You get what you pay for" is applicable here--basic rentals will be completely self-catering (you supply your own toilet paper, cleaning products, etc.); more deluxe rentals typically provide more (i.e. a "starter kit" with a roll or two of TP, coffee, 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 bathrobes and slippers, and sometimes even concierge service). With some budget rentals, you are required to clean before you leave, or there is an additional cleaning fee. Mid- and upper-range rentals almost always have the cleaning costs included in the price and you are not required to do any cleaning at check out. Be sure you understand what is included and what is not included in the apartments you are interested in renting.
2. Choose several possibilities and then investigate further. Narrow your search down to a few apartments based on location, price, size, amenities, and availability. Then carefully inspect the photos of each apartment, keeping in mind that many are taken with a wide-angle lens and will look bigger than they are in reality. Many websites will give you the square footage of the apartment, which is a better marker. Some websites will provide a floor plan. Decide if the decor of the apartment appeals to you. If there is a lot of clutter in the photos you might want to look elsewhere. A spreadsheet comes in handy to keep track of which apartments have which amenities. Many websites list previous customer comments. If you have any doubts about the validity of the comments, ask the rental agency or owner to provide you with email addresses or phone numbers of prior renters for you to contact.
3. Get in touch with the agencies or owners for your first choice apartment and ask as many questions as come to mind. Ask about any ambiguities in the description of the apartment or in the floor plan; get an estimate of the square footage and of the size of each room if it is not on the apartment description. Verify all amenities. Find out the exact price; the owner may offer an unadvertised discount for a certain length of stay. Do a google search on the agency renting the apartment to see whether any other previous renters have posted adverse or positive comments. If you are looking at an agency rental and a google search does not show any evidence that the agency actually exists, has a physical location, and has had interactions with actual people, move on to the next possibility. There are many reputable agencies/owners in Paris, so it's not necessary to take a risk. It is riskier to rent directly from an owner but you can mitigate some of the problem by asking for contact information for several prior renters and by checking reviews of the apartment on sites like Slow Travel France or the TripAdvisor Paris forum (see below).
4. Reserving the apartment. You will typically reserve by email. Most agencies will want you to place a deposit and many will want full payment before you arrive. Make sure you can use a credit card, which protects you in case there is some 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 English if you have a question while staying in the apartment.
Here are some links to get you started on your search. Most have reviews posted of each apartment.
1. Roots Travel, http://www.parisfurnishedapartments.c... 7, rue de la Cerisaie, 75004 Paris, phone 33-1-42-74-22-33.
2. Slow Travel France, www.slowtrav.com (reviews of rental agencies and their apartment offerings)
3. New York Habitat, www.nyhabitat.com/paris-apartment.html
4. Home Away, http://www.homeaway.com.au/holiday-re...
5. Vacation Rental by Owner, http://www.vrbo.com
6. Guest Apartment Services, guestapartment.com
7. Paris Deluxe Rentals, parisdeluxerentals.com/
8. Perfectly Located Art Deco Apt, www.ParisVacationApartment.net
9. France Homestyle, www.francehomestyle.com Wonderful selection of individually owned apartments -personnel in Seattle and France
10. www.welcome2france.com - apartments in the 7th arrondissement, between Rue Cler and the Eiffel Tower
11. AvenueStory, www.avenuestory.com.
12. City Getaway city-getaway.com large offer of apartments in the nicest areas of Paris (Marais, Montmartre,..)
13. 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.
14. Paris Housing Services: offers an extensive choice of furnished and unfurnished apartments to rent in Paris.
15. Paris Perfect www.parisperfect.com
16. Paris Attitude www.parisattitude.com
Please edit this page to add any agencies that you have found to be reliable.