Month 58: Travel Summary and Statistics


Views from Lisbon's castle
Views from Lisbon's castle

We decided to fly to Lisbon on a whim.

Dave and I knew a couple who had recently made the city their home, and, as we were looking to find a base somewhere in Europe but hadn’t yet decided where, we dropped them a message to find out what they liked about it.

When we received a gushing response back, essentially describing a place that ticked every single box we had on our dream city checklist, we booked a flight from Miami and a month-long stay in an Airbnb apartment.

We were giving ourselves a month to explore the city and see if it could potentially work as a base for us.

Neither of us had ever even been to Lisbon before.

Alfama neighbourhood, in Lisbon
Lisbon’s Alfama neighbourhood

It took exactly three days.

On our third day in the city, we turned to each other, head over heels in love with this city and knew this was exactly what we had been looking for.

I’ll go into more depth about why we love Lisbon later this month, but to sum it up: it’s inexpensive; it’s beautiful; English is widely spoken; the weather’s great; the locals are lovely and welcoming; it’s close to a beach; the food scene is incredible; there’s a thriving start-up scene; we have lots of friends here; it’s close to an international airport.

It was perfect for us, and I wasn’t even the slightest bit apprehensive about deciding to stay there for longer. I was ready to have a familiar place to return to between my travels.

Now we just had to find an apartment.

Views from Lisbon's castle
Views from Lisbon’s castle

We gave ourselves a month to find our dream apartment, which felt like a decent amount of time, especially after chatting with friends who lived in Lisbon and had picked up bargains in a short time on their places. €900/month for a 100sqm two-bedroom apartment; €700/month for a 75sqm one-bedroom apartment.

We gave ourselves a budget of €1000 (around $1100) a month for a two-bedroom place in a central location, and started hunting. We spoke with both our local Portuguese friends and digital nomad friends to find out which sites were best to search, looked at them all, and promptly realised there was absolutely nothing.

We would be looking at either €1000/month for a dark, dingy, one-bedroom apartment in a crappy neighbourhood, or €2000/month for exactly what we were looking for.

And this totally felt like karma.

Lisbon Cathedral at night
Lisbon Cathedral at night

Because Airbnb has screwed Lisbon so much.

It turns out that if locals put their apartment up on Airbnb for three months over summer, there’ll make more money than they would renting it out to a local for an entire year. So why list it anywhere but Airbnb?

For us, though, and many locals in Lisbon, when it comes to renting an apartment, they’re incredibly expensive relative to the price of everything else in the country, and places are snapped up within minutes.

Few of our Portuguese friends can afford to live in the centre of the city any more. We no longer believed we could afford to live there.

I had ten tabs of apartment listings open in my browser for weeks and I did no work over that time. All I did was sit and refresh all of them every five minutes, and there was nothing. Whenever we found an apartment that looked nice, we’d email them within half an hour of the listing going live and hear that it had already been taken by someone.

I got to witness first-hand the downside to Airbnb and it had me seriously rethinking my use of them.

(Side note: after three awful experiences in a row with Airbnb recently, I’ve actually sworn off them for good [aside from using my referral credit up]. It’s hostels and hotels all the way for me now!)

Lisbon's famous trams
Lisbon’s famous trams

We started looking at alternatives, because our month in Lisbon was rapidly drawing to a close and we hadn’t even looked at a single apartment. Granada was cheap, but we hadn’t liked it that much; we liked Madrid but didn’t know many people there; we loved Amsterdam, but apartment-hunting sounded like it would be even more competitive there; we couldn’t afford London; we knew tons of people in Berlin, but did we want to spend winters there?

Nowhere felt right but Lisbon, and we were devastated we couldn’t find anywhere to stay.

Then: a hope.

A beautiful apartment that had everything we wanted and was within our budget. The apartment was listed at midnight and I sent the real estate agent an enquiry immediately.

The next morning, we turned up for our viewing and found out that five people had already also arranged to see the apartment today. As the guy showed us around the apartment, his phone didn’t stop ringing with more people wanting to see it, too. This was going to be vicious.

Fortunately, the owner of our Airbnb apartment knew the owners of this apartment, and also knew that they happened to be travel bloggers, too. That was our in! We wrote a kickass pitch to convince the owners we would be the best possible candidates and was thrilled when they chose us.

A few days later, we collected our keys.

We had an apartment in Lisbon!

And while that craziness was going on, we somehow managed to find the time to road trip around Portugal with some friends. This month, we checked out Nazare, home to the biggest wave ever surfed:

Nazare

Obidos, a medieval walled town that’s famous for its ginjinha — a cherry liqueur that’s drunk from a chocolate cup.

Obidos at sunset

And Alcobaça, where you can find the stunning Alcobaça Monastery, built in the 12th century and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

alcobaca

And that was the month!

Month 58 Travel Map

Countries visited: 1

Portugal

Places visited: 1

Lisbon

Distance travelled: 0 miles

Number of photos taken: 13

My Next Steps

Month 59 travel map

Over this next month, I’ll be spending a significant amount of time exploring the different Lisbon neighbourhoods and checking out the best beaches in this part of Portugal.

Towards the end of the month, I’ll be flying out to Girona to see travel blogging buddies Pete and Dalene. I sometimes feel as though I’m the only travel blogger to have not yet visited Girona, so I’m looking forward to seeing what makes it so special. Also: drinking gin.

Previous How to Back Up Your Photos While You Travel
Next Exploring a Berlin Air Raid Shelter as a New Zealander

24 Comments

  1. Brooklyn Murtaugh
    October 19, 2016
    Reply

    Congrats on getting your dream apartment! That’s so exciting to have a home base!

    • Lauren
      October 19, 2016
      Reply

      Thank you! I’m totally in love with our place :-)

  2. Jonny
    October 19, 2016
    Reply

    I really enjoy these monthly write-ups, Lauren – in fact I’m thinking of making a monthly video recap myself just for family and friends. I guess month 58 is still a few months back though? So we have more to look forward to! :-)

    I have to say, I’ve always thought about Portugal as a great place to base myself for a while, but your apartment-hunting woes have kind of scared me a bit. Speaking of Airbnb, I hope you’ll be doing a post about what’s turned you off them – I’d like to read it. I’ve always had good experiences but I find the 12% service fee charge a total rip-off, especially if you’re booking a long stay somewhere.

    Good vibes from Bali

    • Lauren
      October 19, 2016
      Reply

      Thank you! Yeah, I took a break from doing them for about eight months, so I’m playing catch-up now.

      Definitely going to be doing a post about my Airbnb experiences. I had three awful experiences in a row — the last one being the host not turning up to check me in, me waiting on the ground outside for two hours before giving up and finding a hotel, and Airbnb refusing to give me a refund until I escalated my claim. I’ve had great Airbnb experiences, too, but this recent trip around Europe has been nothing but hassle and made me realise I’d much rather just not stay in them at all.

  3. Caroline
    October 19, 2016
    Reply

    Apartment hunting seems to be the WORST thing no matter where you are. So stressful. I’m glad you found a place that feels like home! Would love to see a photo tour of your neighborhood sometime, I’ve never been to Portugal!

    • Lauren
      October 19, 2016
      Reply

      Yeah, I’ve definitely been spoiled when it comes to finding places to stay longish-term while travelling — I’m used to either just booking somewhere on Airbnb or rocking up to a place in Southeast Asia and moving in a few minutes later!

  4. chewy
    October 19, 2016
    Reply

    I hate the apartment search. I’ve only had to do it twice in my life, and hope to keep that number pretty low. I’m glad you finally lucked out!

    Lisbon is sounding more and more awesome each time I talk to friends from there or who have visited. I hope to swing by next year after a friend’s wedding!

    I’d be curious to hear about your experiences with Airbnb. It is sad that it has affected the rental market so badly in Lisbon. I wasn’t aware of that issue, but it makes sense.

    • Lauren
      October 19, 2016
      Reply

      I’ll definitely be writing about my recent Airbnb experiences. And yeah, Berlin actually has banned Airbnb from the city now, for the same reason: locals were getting priced out of the city, because everyone was putting their apartments up on Airbnb rather than renting them out long-term.

      Lisbon’s lovely! Definitely try to get out here — it’s such a great city :-)

  5. Dominique
    October 19, 2016
    Reply

    So lucky with the apartment! Good to hear! :) Lisbon looks and sounds like a great place to stay! I have to check it out one day!

    • Lauren
      October 19, 2016
      Reply

      So lucky! If we hadn’t found that one, I’m not sure we’d be in Lisbon now, which would be such a shame, because it’s now my favourite city ever! :-)

  6. Kathi
    October 20, 2016
    Reply

    So glad you ended up enjoying Lisbon so much – and you actually found a place!
    I’m looking forward to reading more about the city from you, and about your trip to Berlin. :)

    • Lauren
      October 20, 2016
      Reply

      Thank you! It definitely all worked out well in the end :-)

  7. Stephanie Craig
    October 20, 2016
    Reply

    Gorgeous! Portugal looks amazing.

    • Lauren
      October 20, 2016
      Reply

      It’s such an amazing country! I can’t wait to explore even more of it! :-)

  8. Lotte
    October 20, 2016
    Reply

    I’m very happy you find the perfect apartment in Lisbon! I can say from personal experience apartment hunting in Amsterdam wouldn’t have been fun either, the demand is so much more than the supply resulting in crazy prices… I’m glad I live in Utrecht where it’s slightly better.

    On a side note: I still have to visit both Lisbon and Girona!

  9. Atanas
    October 20, 2016
    Reply

    Hey, Lauren.
    You should totally participate in the House Hunters International show on the Travel Channel. Will be good to learn more about your looking-for-an-apartment adventure ;)

    • Lauren
      October 20, 2016
      Reply

      Ha! I’ve already found an apartment though :-) And either way, being on TV sounds like the worst thing in the world to me.

      • Atanas
        October 20, 2016
        Reply

        It doesn`t matter you`ve found, cause It`s set up. They only work with couples that have already bought/rented a house/flat and act as though they hesitate between it and two other properties. But the catch is – only you two will know that ;)
        It will be a great memory for you and Dave.
        Or… maybe it won`t, if you are shy :)

        • Lauren
          October 20, 2016
          Reply

          Not shy, just not my thing. I put so much of my life out into the world that I value my privacy.

  10. Mariana
    October 21, 2016
    Reply

    Hi! I’m Portuguese living in Lisbon for 5 years and can totally confirm how flat hunting has become a nightmare here. We’re actually quite lucky with our current situation (live with my boyfriend in a 2 bedroom flat + attic in the center, already furnished and equipped, for 600€/month), BUT because we rented it back in 2013, in the middle of the financial crisis and before the AirBnb boom. Before that we lived for 2 years in a one-bedroom flat in Mouraria, also already furnished and equipped, for 400€/month. Which is now listed on AirBnb and booking for 60€/night + 10€ cleaning fee.

    Now the tourism is growing more than ever in Lisbon and the real estate sector has fully recovered from the crisis, so the prices are rapidly going high. Also, Lisbon is such a trend right now, so lots of foreigners are visiting/moving/studying here AND there’s also the constant income of Portuguese people who move here to study/work. We’re hanging to this flat with our lives and hope we don’t need to move in the near future ;) I have Portuguese friends who have been flat hunting recently, suffered the same as you and are paying 900€ for a flat similar to ours, but in a less central area.

    Anyway, I’m glad it all worked out and that you found a place! And I’m happy you’re enjoying your stay here :) best of luck!

    Mariana

  11. Antonio
    October 21, 2016
    Reply

    I´m very happy you find a little pice of home away from home. Lisbon is gorgeous all year round. Well i´m suspicious talking about it. Anyway, enjoy your stay and your “travels in between”. I love reading your posts. Cheers, Antonio.

    • Lauren
      October 21, 2016
      Reply

      Hahaha, thank you! :-)

  12. arni narendran
    August 3, 2017
    Reply

    Yes -apartment hunting could be nightmare, especially when you are at pressure for Time. Having lived in 14 cities in 20 accomodations in the Indian subcontinent, I have finally made Mumbai my Home in a suburban gated community and thats something I can call my own after 4 decades of nomadic life. Cheers and may you have a good base at Lisbon.

    • Lauren
      August 16, 2017
      Reply

      Thanks, Arni!

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.