Off-Campus Housing Tips and Resources
If you are a Stanford student traveling abroad and are responsible for arranging your own housing, there are several factors to consider. Regardless of where you’re planning to stay, you should conduct a safety and security assessment of the housing prior to booking. Please use the guide below to help you with this process.
Common Questions and Tips
- What kinds of housing should I consider?
There are a variety of housing options students have used in the past. These include: hotels, hostels, short-term rentals, leases and sublets, homestays, and local university housing. Each of these options has pros and cons and it is important to determine which one is right for you. Hotels offer privacy and predictable amenities but can be pricey for longer term stays. Hostels can be enticing for the budget conscious and those wanting to connect with travelers, but communal living may not offer adequate privacy or security.
Leases and sublets provide you with your own space, potentially at the mercy of a landlord. Homestays provide a culturally immersive experience for those looking to connect cross-generationally. Local universities offer the dorm experience and connections with local students, but may not provide the amenities of residence life at Stanford.
- Can Stanford help me find housing?
Your sponsoring unit may be able to assist you in identifying housing options. They also may be able to connect you with alumni of your program or students who have previously worked, researched, or studied in your location. You should also ask your host organization for guidance. They may be able to help with everything from recommending low-risk neighborhoods to arranging housing for you. International SOS, Stanford’s international travel assistance provider, can also assist you by providing minimum housing standards and recommended locations. You can ask for these by emailing email@example.com and providing your itinerary.
- What should I take into consideration when assessing housing?
Some of the things to consider before booking housing include:
- General building condition (no overt signs of dilapidation)
- Payment and deposit expectations, methods, and frequency
- Commute times/distances between the housing and your place of work/study/research
- Feasibility and access to reliable and safe transportation
- Proximity to essential amenities (e.g. grocery stores, medical facilities)
- Security measures: Locks on doors, secure entry, on-site security, cameras, neighborhood safety environment, etc.
- Safety measures: Fire safety, evacuation plans, etc.
- Ability to quarantine/isolate if needed
- Accessible for any accommodation needs
Use the checklist to help you assess potential housing options!
- How do I assess the housing if I’ve never seen it?
Before you book housing, make sure to read reviews from other guests. More recent comments are generally the most helpful. You should try to find a housing source with at least 10-20 reviews, allowing you to see if the listing has any red flags or concerning trends. Airbnb, for example, uses advanced analytics to eliminate suspicious hosts or guests, and every booking is given a risk score before it is confirmed. Prior to booking, request a full list of safety and security features (e.g. smoke detectors, spy-hole in door, deadlock and key chain, etc.) and the latest proof of building inspection from the landlord. Also, try to book with a provider that has a complaints department or a resolution service.
If you are conducting research, studying, or working with an organization, or if you have any local connections, you may want to ask if they would be able to check out the housing on your behalf.
You can also get a sense for the area using Google Maps or by reviewing information from International SOS. If you have specific questions about the safety of a neighborhood, particularly in high risk locations, please contact the Global Risk team at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
- Is there more specific guidance for various types of housing? (e.g. hotels, short-term rentals, leases):
- Read reviews on sites like TripAdvisor or Booking.com to learn more about the facility and location. For security information, TripAdvisor has a keyword search function that can be used to search for reviews that contain terms like “security” or “safety.”
Short-term Rentals (Airbnb, VRBO, etc.):
- Try to stay in a unit that has a five-star/10 user-rating or is hosted by a “superhost,” which means the owner has been identified as someone who takes extra care to ensure the needs of the guest are met.
- Do not share an apartment with strangers. If renting through Airbnb/VRBO, only rent vacant apartments, not room shares. Avoid shared bathroom arrangements and other shared spaces with people you don’t know.
- Documentation is key. When communicating with a host, it’s best to use the communications portal or app for all questions and dialogue. If you communicate with a host via phone or text, then the conversation will not be accessible to the platform in the event something goes wrong and the platform needs to take action on your behalf.
- Remember that arrangements made through Airbnb/VRBO are often personal residences that are not subject to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Leases or Sublets:
- Don’t rely on one source! Housing descriptions often contain hyperbole that oversells the unit. Check multiple sources/reviews to get a broader, well-rounded view.
- Before you sign a contract, pick up the phone to speak with the owner or manager.
- Review this helpful blog post that goes over tips for avoiding scams when searching for housing. Do a reverse image search of listed pictures before contacting landlords and getting a tour.
- Inquire about protocols for when a problem or incident arises. Is there a 24/7 phone number to call to report an issue?
- Don’t wire money. Wiring money is an unsecure, vulnerable method of payment used by scammers. Make payments through reputable, insured financial institutions. If you must wire money, send the smallest amount possible and pay the remainder upon arrival.
- What should I do upon arrival?
During check-in, ask for an emergency number that you can contact in the event of an incident. If there is a security guard presence, ask for their contact details and determine if there are hours when security is not present or gates are locked. After you’ve checked in, do a thorough safety walk-through to identify anything that could be a risk to your well-being (e.g. no fire extinguisher or sprinklers, broken locks, locked emergency exits, etc.) If you identify issues, report them immediately. Identify fire exit routes and know what to do if an alarm is activated.
You should also familiarize yourself with the neighborhood. Find your nearest market, coffee shop, laundromat, medical facility, police station, and ATM. Practice good situational awareness and identify safe routes - streets with sidewalks or that are pedestrian friendly with good lighting.
Use this checklist to aid you in evaluating the level of safety and security for your proposed housing selection.