In the last five years, I have lived in seven different cities/areas in five different countries. In a few of them, I stayed for short periods of time, like one month in Bali, Indonesia; in most of them, I stayed for at least half a year, for example, eight months in Essen, Germany, six months in Pisa, Italy, over a year in Chengdu, China. So the whole move-to-a-new-place thing is really familiar to me.
I would like to give you some tips about looking for a place to rent based on my personal experience.
Finding accommodation may be easier than you think.
First, start searching ASAP. Normally the process of finding a satisfying accommodation takes from two to four weeks. It could be even longer when it is the busy season, e.g. the beginning of a new semester (September and February in the Czech Republic).
Second, where to search? Facebook groups are one of the best options. Take Brno as an example, you can check “Flat search with Foreigners Brno” and “Multilingual flats in Brno”. There are other groups, but these two groups are English-speaking friendly since I personally don’t speak Czech and there’s no translation offered for Facebook group posts either.
However, it may not be the best option to sign the contract and transfer the money to someone you just met on Facebook before you personally meet each other and have a room tour. Or simply you can only find limited options. Then I suggest you go through the process with an agency, for example, us, Foreigners. You will need to pay the commission fee, which is usually one-month rent, but it is more trustworthy and time-saving.
And the last tip, which may sound weird but many people neglect, is to read your rental contract through very carefully. The contract should specify the amount of monthly rent and utilities, what utilities include, if all of water, electricity, heating, internet, etc. are included, or some part of it needs to be paid extra by yourself. How the utilities are paid is also important to clarify in the contract, if it’s a fixed amount every month or the payment will be adjusted at the end of the year based on the real usage. Besides, the amount of your deposit should also be written on the contract. With almost everything clarified, you could avoid a lot of troubles.
One essential precondition is that the contract is written in a language that you are able to read. Here is another advantage of going through the process with an agency, that is, English service and contract may be offered.
Handle urban public transportation
The process of searching for accommodation took me two weeks. As far as I consider, it is really fast. However, there’s no time for celebrating, because the next challenge is coming – moving. I believe you all are familiar with international trains or buses, so I will just skip that part. What I want to talk about is how to handle the local public transportation, once you arrive in the city.
There are many ways to deal with public transportation, even without cash.
In the Czech Republic, it is even a bit more complicated given the fact that a different currency is used. If you want to buy tickets from a ticket machine, you need to exchange money. But it takes time to find the place for the best exchange rate, and it will never be around the train or bus station. Here I can give you two alternatives to avoid exchanging money.
First, many cities offer SMS tickets. In Brno, you can simply send “BRNO” to 90206 to get a ticket for CZK 29 valid for 75 minutes, “BRNO20” for a ticket for CZK 20 valid for 20 minutes.
Second, in Brno, you can easily use Visa or MasterCard to Beep & Go.
For my personal experience, only the first day, I bought tickets from the machine which accepts payment by card. Then I also tried SMS tickets several times, but it seems to work only with the Czech SIM card. Afterwards, from now on, I use my MasterCard only.
Other difficulties you could possibly face
Almost every time when I move to a new place, living in a new flat, there are problems. That’s totally normal, be prepared. And this time, moving in Brno, the very first night when I moved in, the shower was under maintenance, so I couldn’t take shower until the next morning. And since the internet is not included in my rent, I need to wait one week to have someone coming over to install it. Before that, I had needed to pay for either an expensive data package on the phone or a co-working space, since all cafés or bars with WIFI are closed due to the coronavirus. Later I found out the shower was still leaking even after the maintenance. So I need to wait for another one week to get the handyman back.
Of course, everybody expects a smooth move-in, but issues are more common to meet. I hope my experience and tips can be somehow useful to you and help you to avoid some problems when you move to Brno or other cities.