Whether you’re an expat, a digital nomad or just someone looking to retire in a cheap and warm country, you’ll soon realize that finding a place to stay abroad is a bit harder than it looks. Shouldn’t the rent in San Juan Del Sur be a lot cheaper than what it would be in the USA or Canada? Then why are the prices so high on Airbnb?
Simply because the people that are on there are targeting the tourists. People who own vacation rentals know they can make quite a bit of money charging a per-night fee instead of renting by the month. So unforutnately, if you were expecting to book a long term apartment or house ahead of time, you might find yourself paying triple the price of if you just came down to San Juan and asked around.
Because Chris and I don’t want to pay $1000+ per month, that’s what we did. We arrived in San Juan Del Sur without having anything booked in advanced. We rented a room at Casa Oro for $32, put our backpacks in there and hit the street.
During our quest to find the perfect place to stay in, we found a few valuable tips that we wanted to share with you.
Get A Room Somewhere First
The last thing you want to do is walk around town with your suitcase or your backpack. Finding a perfect house is not an easy task, so try to be as comfortable as you can doing it. You don’t have to go to the most luxury hotel either. Usually, hostels have rooms that you can book. As long as you’re not coming down here during the highest highs of the season, you should be able to find something when you arrived.
Just drop your bag somewhere safe, make sure you have good shoes on and grab a water bottle. The day is going to get hotter, and you don’t want to have to turn back because you’re thirsty.
Make A List Of What’s Important For You
You might want to write it down, but that doesn’t matter that much. What matters is that you’re clear on what you want, so you don’t settle for a place you’re going to hate down the road. Do you need reliable internet? A place out of town? AC or not? You’ll probably visit a few houses or apartments before you find the right one, but it’s good to know exaclty what you want, so you don’t waste your own time.
Extra tip: we wrote down everything we wanted on a sheet of paper (in Spanish) and used that to ask locals if they knew of a place. It was a lot easier than trying to have a conversation, as we’re really not that great in Spanish. They also didn’t have to decode our accent to understand what we wanted to ask them.
Know Where You Want To Live
Start by walking around town and checking out maps. Some areas are going to be louder than others; others are going to be far from grocery stores. Figure out which part of town sounds good to you, and go there. You might not find anything in that area, but it’s a good place to start.
Ask The Business Owners
If someone in town has a restaurant or a store, there’s a good chance they have some money for rentals. Don’t be afraid to talk to those people, as they’ll probably be the ones with the good leads. For example, Chris and I were eating at a restaurant, asked our waiter if he knew of anything. He came back a few minutes later with his boss, and he took us to see his building after we were done eating. It was unfortunately too out of town for us, so we didn’t take it after all, but it was a great backup plan if we didn’t find anything else.
Don’t Be Afraid To Stop People On The Street
When walking around the neighborhood we wanted to live in for the next five months, we asked everybody we saw―or almost. There’s a few type of people you might want to skip, like workers and street vendors. They’re probably not your best leads and might not even be from the area. But if we saw a couple sitting in front of their house or a family walking down the street, we asked politely if they knew of anything.
Ask For Referals
This applies to sales, but it also works great with finding your perfect house. If someone doesn’t have a property to rent, ask them if they know anybody who does! They might not, but they could also have a great lead for you. And really, it doesn’t hurt that much to ask.
Check Out The Rental Companies In Town
We decided to give them a try, but weren’t really convinced we’d find anything. After all, those people are usually online, and if they are, that means they’re already fully booked. It doesn’t hurt to come in and ask if they have anything available, as they might know someone who has something that’s not online. And they usually speak English, in case your Spanish is bad.
In our case, one rental company just had a cancellation the day before, and a great two bedroom house was now available. After visiting it, we booked it right away. Yes, we got pretty lucky, but isn’t that what finding the perfect house is all about?
Come During The Right Time
To find a great place quickly, you have to be lucky. But you also have to know when you have the most chances of being lucky. If you arrive in San Juan Del Sur around Christmas or Semana Santa, you’ll probably end up sleeping on the beach as everything is booked already. Be smart about where you want to live, but also, what time of the year you’re getting there. A lot of expats want to live in Nicaragua during the winter, and you might want to do that too, but it doesn’t hurt to maybe come down a bit early if you can so you can snag the greatest apartment before everybody else.
Don’t Give Up
Finally, my last tip is not to give up. Yes, it might get tough, and you might not find your dream place within the first day in town, but if you give yourself a week, you should be able to find something that fits your need. Try to be as flexible as possible and maybe see if you could split your time between two places.
And if after a week you haven’t found anything, it might be time to move on. Make sure to have a backup plan to fall on it case living in San Juan doesn’t work. There are a few other beaches north and south of San Juan that could work as well!
Trust that you’ll find something and you will 🙂
And this pretty yellow house is the one we ended up living in! I work from the patio on the second floor. Look at that view! It’s the best place to be productive!