Where to stay in Eastern Europe

The Blond Parade in Riga May 2010

Welcome to Eastern Europe, where the pivo is cheap, the women are krasiva and people are experts at taking 3 hours to drink an espresso.  The first practical lesson for you in this paradise is easy:  Don’t get a hotel. Stay in an apartment! You can rent an apartment for the same price or less than a hotel in virtually any Eastern European city. All you have to do is Google “apartment rental [insert city of your choice]” and start shopping.

Lesson One: Rent an apartment when you stay in Eastern Europe, and get an apartment near the center of town.

Now let’s talk about the reasons why you want an apartment over a hotel besides cost (short term it may be similarly priced but long term it will be way cheaper):

1.) More space.

2.) Sleeps more people.

3.) You can cook to save money and you can cook to bang.

4.) No hotel staff to bother you if you want to do something questionable like throw a party at 3 A.M.

5.) It presents the image that you live there rather than just passing through.

6.) The person who rents the apartment to you will often be a useful contact.

Let’s examine each of these in detail now:

1.  More space: Obviously even the crappiest apartment is going to give you more space than an average hotel room. At the least you’ll probably have a nice sitting area to watch tv, a little kitchen, a guaranteed private bath (don’t forget in Europe hotels can have shared bathrooms) and a separate bedroom.

2.  Sleeps more people: Since we advocate team travel it’s cool if you can all share a nice little bachelor pad and it’s cheaper when you split among two or three people.

3.  You can cook: Cooking saves money. Saving money is great because every little bit gets you closer to your next adventure. Cooking for a girl at home kills several birds with one stone. Girls just like a man that can cook, period. Most guys can’t or won’t do it. Cooking at home gets her into your place and comfortable with it. Even if you don’t head straight to the bedroom after dinner she’s already been to your place once so it will be easier to get her back there.  We love the website Cook to Bang.  It has a lot of good recipes for cheap and easy and impressive home cooked meals.  You can also do drugs during dinner if you’re into that sort of thing.

4.  No hotel staff to bother you: If you have a single hotel room and you come a rockin’ and rollin’ in with a couple buddies an a couple chicks the staff may not be havin’ it. Let’s face it, if you want no holds barred access to most hotels you probably need to be somebody famous and you need to be ponying up for the presidential suite. In an apartment you’re not going to have that problem. There’s always neighbors but they rarely present a problem.  The old communist blocks you’ll likely be staying in are solid concrete and well insulated. You’ll have to really party your ass off to bother the neighbors as long as you don’t shout too much like English DAFF idiots in the stairways. Besides, Eastern Europeans love to party, if you do have trouble with the neighbors, apologize and offer them a shot. Chances are you’ll be fine.

5.  It presents the image that you live there: Even if you’re in town for only a short while having an apartment makes it seem more like you live there rather than some westerner just passing through looking for a quick one night stand (quality girls don’t like that).  The apartment has a much more welcoming feel to your guests.

6.  The person who rents the apartment to you will often be a useful contact: Another thing we have noticed is the kind of person who often acts as the agent in this kind of transaction often ends up being one of two things:

(a):  A cute young professional girl who works at a real estate agency while she’s going to school.  This one is self explanitory.  You need someone to show you around, right?

(b):  Even better, there is another species that often works in this position:  The Young Eastern Euopean Dude Who Can Get You Anything.  We run into this guy a lot when we rent apartments in Eastern Europe.  He generally has ten different businesses of varying degrees of legality and can hook you up with whatever you want.  Restaurant reccommendations?  Bars?  Sports tickets?  Drugs?  Prostitutes?  Midget wrestling?  He knows who to call for everything.  We find if you make friends with this guy he is as useful as the best concierge.

The last reason I submit to you for avoiding the hotel staff is an unsubstantiated rumor. I don’t know if it’s true because I always get an apartment but I’ve heard it so many times that I believe it. I’ve been told on many occasions that many Eastern European girls (especially in Russia and Ukraine) simply will not go back to a hotel room with you because they are afraid of being mistaken for whores. Not only that but sometimes the hotels will want a cut. Whether that’s true or not I’ve given you enough reasons to just get an apartment.

The second crucial point is that the apartment should be centrally located.  The reason why the central location is imporant is as follows: in Eastern Europe the good bars and clubs and coffeeshope, etc, usually tend to be located in the center of town.  You want to be as close to the party as possible because it makes it much easier to move the afterparty up to your place after.  If you stay in the sticks that is much more difficult.  It may be cheaper initially, but if you have to take a taxi at the end of the night those cost savings will be wiped out immediately especially if you’re drunk and the driver notices you’re new in town and decides to rip you off a bit.

So the basic dos and don’ts are a follows:

Dos:  Use the internet to find your apartment. Talk to a lot of agents and get the best deal (i.e. do your homework). Cook to save money and cook to bang. Try to negotiate weekly or monthly rates if applicable (otherwise it’s daily). Make friends with your neighbors and the bartender(s) at the closest bar(s) to your pad. Stay in the center of town or the “old town” if applicable (this is SO important).

DON’T: Stay in a hotel. Tell the apartment agent how many people will stay, send someone ahead to secure it*. Take the first apartment you find. Get drunk and shout in the stairway.  Try to save money by staying in an apartment far from the center (DO NOT DO THIS , TRUST US).

This is one of our greatest tricks of the trade, use it wisely and enjoy.

*They often try to charge you depending on how many people are staying. European hotels try to run the same scam too. Don’t tell them. If you’re going to cram a ton of people in and they will need to pay for unreasonably high utility bills or an industrial cleaning after you leave and you feel guilty tell them 2 are staying instead of 4 so you don’t feel guilty. They will really rip you off, charging per head is totally unreasonable. Renting an apartment to 4 people does not cost twice as much (or more) than renting it to 1.

Charlie adds:

Another option for certain parts of Eastern Europe we call the “Baba Apartment”.  We have found this most often in the Balkans.  In this situation all the old grandmas (babas) rent out rooms in their private houses.  They will meet the incoming buses at the station so look for them there.  This is essential in certain places like Dubrovnik where there aren’t much in the way of hotels.  These Baba Apartments are generally a good deal and you may get a home cooked meal or two and usually plenty of privacy.  Don’t forget to negotiate and definitely go and look at the place before you pay.

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