Digital Nomad Room Rental Parameters
SAN CRISTOBAL DE LAS CASAS, Mexico- As I walked into the city of San Cristobal in the far south of Mexico I made a boast to my wife:
We are going to get a good room here with WIFI, hot water, cable TV for no more than 100 pesos — seven US dollars — a day.
She did not believe me.
We were looking to rent out a room or an apartment for a month or two, as has been our strategy for traveling as a family with a baby. We now dot the map of the world with hubs that we expect to stay in for one to three months at a time, and then travel as quickly as we can get to the next temporary home. Travel like this allows for more of the normal — human — side of living to encroach upon our traveling life. We can now have things like friends. We may go to less places now within a given span of time, but we get into these places deeper. Sometimes we even stay long enough to make enemies — something a traveler doesn’t take for granted: if you are hated you have left your mark somewhere, if you stay somewhere long enough to not get along with people you have delved under the upper layers of social integration.
We planned to plant a hub in San Cristobal for at least a month — maybe two — so we went looking for a room.
Criteria for a traveling webmaster room for a month
This was the criteria that we were looking for in a room as far as business purposes were concerned:
- Good wireless internet. I have just spent the past three months in the jungle of Guatemala running Vagabondjourney.com from a Blackberry. Not fun. I have some serious work to do now, the site has began falling apart.
- Multiple electrical outlets in room. It is rough being in a room with only one electrical outlet, as what happens when you want to charge multiple devices? What happens when you want to work in another part of the room? What do you say when you try to sneakily pull the plug on the novela that your wife is watching on TV so you can recharge your laptop? A good traveling webmaster room must have multiple electrical outlets in strategic locations around the room — it often does no good to have a desk in a room if our computer plug cannot reach to it while being connected to the nearest electrical outlet. When choosing a room, check to see how many and how well positioned the electrical outlets are (and, if you are in a country that provokes doubt — most of them — try the plugs out before committing to renting the room).
- A desk and a chair. This is an element of choosing a room that I often overlook, but it is as essential as any other. After a few days of working on a laptop upon a bed surface your body begins to take a toll — your back is not made to sit crunched over for multiple hours a day, your body is not designed to be curled up like a cat’s. A good traveling webmaster room will have a desk, a chair with a solid back, as well as an electrical plug nearby.
- Light. I remember a room that I rented out for an extended period of time in Morocco, it was completely adequate except for the lighting: at night the little bulb that hung from the ceiling could not light the room well enough for reading or working on a computer. After only a couple hours of either activity my eyes would hurt terribly, it go to the point that I stopped working at night — which is one of a traveling webmaster’s prime times for work. I need windows for light during the day and good light bulbs for the night to work and be happy and feel good.
Criteria for a room for a family
I travel with a family now, I have added a few more creature comforts and new parameters to my criteria for what makes a good room. When looking for a room to pay for by the month my criteria is far higher than if I am just looking for a place to crash for a night or two. If I am going to stay at a place for 30 to 90 days I am going to make it into a hub — a home — and I want it to meet the standards of such.
- Space for baby to play. San Cristobal is often rainy and cold, Petra likes to move around and play, so we need either an apartment with a lot of space or a hotel with big sprawling common areas. A large hotel or hostel is preferred, as the wings of my family can stretch over the entire inside area.
- Kids for Petra to socialize with. Petra likes friends, she makes them all day long as we walk through the streets, but it is better to have young people for her in the place that we live so she can see them every day. We are shooting for a room in a hotel or hostel that has resident children or an apartment complex with the same.
- Hot water. San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico is cold. If you intend to work you need to shower regularly in most parts of the world, a cold shower in a typically cold city does not encourage much showering. We want hot water in this city — in hotter climates it is an unnecessary luxury. We want it all here in Mexico.
- Room close to city center. This is a criteria that I never heeded too much before last week. My family went out for a long walk in San Cristobal and it began raining. We got really cold, but were across the city from our room. By the time we got home our bodies received so much of a shock — for the past 8 months we have been in exclusively HOT climates — that the next day we were all sick. We stayed sick for nearly a week. We want a room near the city center, not more than a 20 minute walk from just about anywhere we would like to go. I believe strongly that I can find a room that can meet all and every criteria that I have.
- Private bathroom. I am an adult. I have a family, and my baby is virtually potty trained — she has a blue plastic turtle toilet that she pisses and craps in which I would like to keep in the bathroom.
- Kitchen. I want to be able to cook for myself. When traveling in affordable countries I like to follow this formula: one meal at a sit down restaurant, one cold meal that I make on the go, one meal that I cook myself.
Price criteria for a room
I don’t want to pay over 300 USD for a room that meets the above standards anywhere in the world. If a room meets every criteria that I have outline above then I would not mind paying nearly $300 for it, but if any criteria is lacking then I expect to pay proportionality less.
But even in expensive countries I know that I can come upon a room for $300 a month. I want it all when I look for a room to live in, and I found that an upper end room in a decent hotel — with all of the amenities that I want — is often similarly priced to rooms in roach hostels if paying by the month. This is one of the great mysteries of travel, but one that works out well for the traveler.
As we looked at apartments and private rooms in hotels/ hostels which meet most of our criteria we are getting prices between 2300 to 3500 pesos — $177 to $269 — a month for a room in a hotel or hostel, and from 1800 to 3000 for a temporary stay apartment. Surprisingly, almost all of the per month prices for rooms that we have yet received are pretty similar, but the quality of the rooms vary greatly — the hippy hotels are charging the same as the mid range hotels, each apartment with internet wants more or less the same about of money, so we are shooting high.
Must pay more for internet
If it were not for my demand to have WIFI internet we could have taken an otherwise adequate room in San Cristobal for around 150 USD a month — or even less. But getting a room or an apartment with internet often takes you into the next price bracket — it is a luxury demand. As I only plan on staying here for a month or two I am not going to have internet installed into a cheap room just for me — no, I want the internet there from the start, this is how I make my money.
But if I had to calculate the extra amount of money that I spend to have internet per month I would probably hesitate when looking at how much money I actually bring in from web based publishing. I suppose I must justify this by calling my desire to have readily accessible internet not only a business expense but an entertainment one as well. I do not only use my WIFI connection for publishing Vagabond Journey, but I also use it for fun — and, when it is all added up, what I pay for internet a month it works out to be a pretty inexpensive form of entertainment and work expense.
Room criteria conclusion
It is possible to shoot for it all when looking for a room to rent for a month, there is no need to lessen your standards. If you plan to stay somewhere for a month or two then you are getting into the price realm of the people who live there, you are leaving the round of tourism. There are often plenty of cheap options for people who want to stay places for a moderate amount of time. I know that if I travel the world staying places for one to three months a shot that I will not only take away a far more expansive view of the place but also spend far less money than if I were to travel fast.
I also know that I can get a room that meets all of my criteria in San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico for under 100 pesos a day. Slow travel is easier on the pocketbook, more expansive for the mind.
Digital nomad family criteria for a hotel room