Safe Housing Abroad
Most ASU study abroad programs provide housing, but in some cases (i.e. Exchange programs, independent study/research/internship abroad programs, etc.) students are responsible for finding their own accommodations. The resources on this page are designed to help ASU students (and other international travelers) identify and select safe housing abroad.
Questions to Consider
What is safe housing abroad?
Living in safe housing means that your mental and physical well-being are protected and you are in an environment in which you can stay healthy. When you leave your accommodation, you are confident your belongings are secure, you can explore your neighborhood without fear, and you have access to clean water and healthy foods on a daily basis.
Why is this important?
Safe housing minimizes risks, allows you to feel comfortable, and can help you thrive in an unfamiliar environment. Safe housing allows you to focus on learning while abroad without the stress of an unstable housing situation.
What factors should I consider when choosing housing?
Country and community context
Housing styles and standards differ across the world and researching your chosen country and/or community is the first step to understanding the local housing context. What is realistic for where you are going? What are common or standard housing features in your host location? How will this be different than what you are used to in the U.S.? How will these differences affect the type of housing you choose?
You may need to adjust your expectations in order to adapt to the local context. What are your current priorities for housing? Are those realistic for where you are going? If not, how will you adjust? What preferences are you willing to compromise on? Keep in mind that you will rarely find housing that fulfills your entire wish-list.
The difference between being uncomfortable and unsafe
You may be stepping outside of your comfort zone by living with a host family, other international students, or completely alone for the first time. Feeling uncomfortable in any new experience is normal, but there is a difference between feeling uncomfortable and being unsafe. Everyone has a different tolerance for new experiences, but if at any point you feel your housing situation compromises your health and safety, you should immediately reach out to your primary contact for your international experience and consider alternative options.
Using Airbnb (and similar sites) While Traveling Abroad
When securing housing through shared economy websites like Airbnb, VRBO/HomeAway or couchsurfing.com, it is not always possible to have confidence that you and your belongings will be secure and that you will be living in a safe and healthy environment. Although rare, there have been incidents of violent crime associated with the use of properties rented through sites like this. The fact that you may be in an unfamiliar city and culture can put you at even greater risk.
Because of the risks associated with booking housing through this kind of service, the ASU Study Abroad Office does not use services like Airbnb to arrange housing for any ASU study abroad program participants. If you determine that using this or other similar commercial or social websites is your most viable option to find lodging while abroad, you should proceed with the highest caution for your safety and security.
When searching such sites for temporary lodging options, please follow these recommended guidelines*:
- If using Airbnb, consider booking through Airbnb Plus, which offers a selection of quality homes with hosts known for great reviews and attention to detail (in limited markets only).
- Look for properties rented by Verified Hosts These individuals have been vetted by Airbnb, who confirm their online identify (i.e., they are who they say they are). There is an enhanced risk when renting from unverified hosts (i.e., they may not be who they report to be on the site). Even better, rent from Superhosts who are experienced hosts who meet a series of key satisfaction metrics.
- Look for a history of positive reviews; avoid properties/hosts with no prior reviews. Not everyone will leave positive reviews for hosts, but sticking with properties that have a history of at least 10 positive reviews should ensure that the property is more likely to match the details provided online (i.e., the property is what they say it is).
- Once you are given an address, take a close look at the neighborhood and surrounding community on the internet. Ask others in the community about the area; call a tourist bureau or similar agency; and seek any further resources for the same information. If you have doubts about the location or concerns about the host’s reliability, trust your instincts and look for another alternative.
- Before you meet a host identified through Airbnb or another application, look carefully at their posted reviews and references. If you schedule a meeting with the host, agree only to do so in a public place during daylight and if possible, take a friend with you to the initial meeting. If you agree to meet the host, make sure that you have a charged cell phone and know or have programmed in your phone the emergency telephone number for local law enforcement response.
- Let others know exactly where you’ll be staying - including the address and the host’s name and contact information. Tell someone that you’ll check in with them about an hour after the scheduled meeting time to report that you’re safe and satisfied with circumstances.
- Review https://getprotected.asu.edu for important tips on protecting the security of your personal (and ASU) information while traveling abroad.
During Your Stay
- On the day you are scheduled to check in, be sure to arrive during daylight hours; never arrive at your accommodation for the first time late at night (especially if you are alone).
- Once you have arrived at the apartment or lodging, take a look around with safety and security in mind. Look in the closets and adjoining rooms. Make a quick mental note of how you might exit if there is a need. Be sure there is an internal lock on your bedroom door that cannot be opened with a key from the outside (e.g., it has a chain or bolt lock). Check for electronics, cameras, strange wires, etc. that seem out of place or that could be used for surveillance.
- If you are not satisfied with the circumstances you find or something just doesn’t feel right - leave right away and find other lodging. Any extra money spent is worth the investment in your safety!
After Your Stay
- If you have a poor experience, post a review to help others. If you have a positive experience, do the same!
- Monitor your credit card bill for any unexpected/unapproved charges. Make sure to get a receipt for any services--especially if paying in cash.
*Special thanks to the University of Wisconsin-Madison for their partnership in developing these guidelines.