After six weeks of living out of my backpack, I wanted to find an apartment in Manizales as soon as possible. Initially I began the search online, however I quickly realized that what worked in Sydney doesn’t work the whole world over. Should you find yourself looking for an apartment in Colombia, these are my observations:
Online options suck: The most success I had was from walking through an area I liked and taking photos of all the ‘For rent’ signs in the windows. There were many more options on the streets than there were online, and unlike Sydney, there was no shortage of affordable and available places.
Contact: Whatsapp is the most popular method of contact in Colombia. This is especially good news if your Spanish is a bit rough and the thought of talking to someone on the phone makes you anxious. If I could have arranged my internet service through Whatsapp, I wouldn’t have needed speaker phone and the assistance of two Une employees.
Empty properties: All of the properties I saw from the street were empty. While I thought it was strange that landlords would prefer to have gaps between rentals, I figured this worked to my advantage. First of all, people with empty properties want them filled ASAP. And second of all, I wouldn’t have to worry about people viewing my apartment while I was still in it- awesome! The last time I had a property viewing, a group of people walked in just as I got out of the shower.
Also, when I say empty, I mean empty. You have to bring your own light bulbs when you move in. This was especially ironic to me because my previous landlord had wanted to charge me $110 dollars to replace three burnt out light bulbs.
Paperwork: Oddly enough, I was not asked for a deposit. Come to think of it, none of the online listings had ever mentioned a deposit either.
Once I had found an apartment, the landlord and I went to a papelería (office supply shop), bought a rental agreement, filled it out, and then went to the notary around the corner for the official purple stamps and fingerprints.
Furniture: Because the apartment was completely empty, Barret and I had a hard time deciding how well to furnish it. Eventually we settled on a minimalistic approach, which is just a nicer way of saying empty and cheap. I ordered a mattress over the phone and when I asked the salesman if he thought it would be suitable for two, he advised that I upgrade to the wooden leg posts. They were more ‘secure’.
We also decided that we could live without a fridge. That might sound a little crazy, but when we eat out, the meals come with so much meat that it’s nice to be vegetarian at home. There is a grocery store across the street, so it’s easy to buy fresh vegetables and fruit every few days.
The hardest decision we made was to do the washing by hand. The closest laundromat would have been pricey and we definitely didn’t want to buy a machine. I had heard about a rental service, but it wouldn’t have been convenient- the machine is delivered and installed one day and then picked up the next! Even if we did wash everything at once, there is nowhere to dry it all.
Six weeks in and so far so good. With views like this, it’s totally worth doing small daily batches of laundry.