Paris Apartments: How to Find Something Cheap and Clean
When visiting or moving to a new place, one of the first things you try to settle is where are you going to sleep? Before you get lost in the flood of available apartments in France, there are a few things you should think about.
For year-long students like me, I was trying to find a furnished rental flat. There is no shortage of these in Paris. It was simply a matter of whether I wanted an independent room, a studio, or a multi-room apartment. If you are willing to pay a premium and use a service (immobilier) to secure your housing, you are likely to end up with a nice place with floor space, probably a real bed, a kitchen*, and your own bathroom (toilet included!).
On the other hand, if you are living on loans or are otherwise in the price range less able or willing to pay this premium, there are some decisions to make before arriving which will help you choose the safest and healthiest lodging for your budget.
1. How comfortable are you sharing a toilet or shower with other people who you may never meet and which may be of uncertain cleanliness?
Not very? Look for something with a WC privé. You may want to consider a studio. You’re okay with this? Then an independent room might be for you.
2. How much room do you really need?
If you don’t have a shower or toilet in your room, and only have a kitchen*, your flat may be quite small if all you need are a bed and somewhere to stow your clothes. I found that I had a lot less space than I was accustomed to in the US. This means I have found public spaces to study, meet, and socialize rather than doing these activities at anyone’s home. Interpretations of dimensions of a room in an advertisement can be very non-standard: a slanted roof in a “chambre de bonne” (maid’s room) really does cut down the useable floor space.
3. What are your laundry needs?
If you can’t stand air drying your clothes, you may be able to skip the apartments offering a washing machine. This “added convenience” usually resides in the kitchen or bathroom but rarely includes a dryer. There are many laundromats offering reasonable rates to wash and dry in the self-serve manner.
4. Are your utilities included?
One of the most frustrating experiences is an unexpected expense by way of a utility bill. Internet is a service that if not specifically listed is likely not included in your rent. If your bills are included, you usually see “charges compris” in the advertisement.
5. Is there a Guardien?
If the housing you select has a “guardien” or “guardienne,” get to know them. They will sign for packages for you, help you out with your mail, and with any info you need to know about the building (like where to put your trash). They are often closer to hand than your landlord and more knowledgeable of the building and with who is supposed to clean what.
6. Do you need to take extra hygiene precautions?
Now, these are all practical details, which you’ve probably all heard before. But let’s look back at my first point for a moment: How comfortable are you sharing a toilet or shower with other people who you may never meet and which may be of uncertain cleanliness? This isn’t just an idle question to scare you. Vaccinations and hygiene when sharing a living space with others should be part of your considerations when selecting your new abode.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) do not recommend any additional vaccinations before coming to France. However, when sharing facilities with people, it is a good idea to check with your doctor if there are any recommended for people who will be sharing close spaces. In university residence halls (and close French apartments with shared bathrooms), the largest risks to your health could be meningitis and hepatitis through contact with unsanitary conditions or bodily fluids.
If your shared bathroom is well kept, this is not likely to be a concern. But if it turns out that your bathroom or shower are not cleaned regularly, there are precautions you can take, which include vaccinations, wearing “shower shoes,” carrying flushable toilet seat covers, and talking to your guardien to find out whose responsibility it is to keep the shared facilities in good order.
Don’t let a preventable illness keep you from enjoying your time abroad!
*A note on Parisian rental kitchens: most rental flats, and I’ve toured most of my classmates’ rentals of varying prices and neighborhoods to compare them all, have a two burner electric cooktop (un placard éléctrique), a microwave, and a fridge whose dimensions are most familiar to college and university students living in a dorm room (that is to say, it is very small). Only two of my many classmates have an oven. This is a consideration if you are the type to cook a lot or your own food due to allergies or dietary restrictions.