Moving to Dublin: An insider’s guide

 

Moving to Dublin to study or work?

You probably have a lot of questions. I certainly did. Read on for my insider’s tips on how to smooth your transition and find your feet in the bustling Irish capital.

Dublin is an exciting city. It’s a popular place to come to study or to work. There are many top notch post-secondary educational institutions, as well as high calibre language schools, and a growing tech sector. There’s a vibrant cultural and social scene, and generally a good quality of life. If you’ve decided to come be a part of the action, congratulations and céad míle fáilte!

 

Now there are a few things you’ll want to get sorted ASAP.

 

Practical Matters:

I wouldn’t be a tax nerd if I didn’t include these all-important practical concerns. You can’t apply for your PPS number until you arrive, but forewarned is forearmed. Put these essentials on your to-do list.

  • PPS number

This is an important identification number that you should apply for shortly after your arrival. You make your appointment online, then you go into the Intreo centre for a short appointment. I found the process simple and straightforward, and I was pleased with how smoothly it went!

A basic guide to the PPS number is available here. More information on booking your online appointment is available on Welfare.ie: How to Apply for A PPS Number.

 

  • Emergency Tax

If it’s your first time working in Ireland, you’ll be placed on what’s called “Emergency Tax” until you apply to Irish Revenue for your tax credits. Revenue have a helpful guide on what to do when you start your first job in Ireland. 

If you act quickly, you may be able to get off of Emergency Tax within your first few months in Ireland, and therefore get to keep more of your hard-earned paycheques!

 

Housing:

Housing is probably top of mind. Finding accommodations in Dublin can be a challenge. It helps to do your research, and to know the best tools to use.

  • Research neighbourhoods

Dublin is a city with a number of appealing neighbourhoods. Many people choose to live outside city centre to find more space, a more appealing price, or a slightly slower pace. Depending on where you work or study, there should be an area within reasonable commuting distance that appeals to you! Lists like this are one place to start.

It will help to familiarise yourself with the postcodes used in Dublin. The odd-numbered ones are north of the Liffey, and generally the smaller numbers are closer to city centre, increasing as you move further into the suburbs.

Map on DublinTourist.com

 

  • Find your flat!

Locals tend to use Daft.ie, which is fine for securing a long term lease. But what about for your first flat, for those first few weeks or months whilst you get your bearings? Or what if you’re only going to be in Dublin for a few months?

I’ve recently been introduced to a site that makes searching for a furnished flat, or a room in a shared accommodation, easy and intuitive.

Nestpick.com is a tool that searches across a number of resources, and allows you to refine your search based on price, type of accommodation, and numerous other factors.

Having played around with it a bit, I think it would be extremely useful for someone looking to find short term accommodation in Dublin. I really like the map feature, it’s very intuitive, and it will really work to your advantage if you’ve already done your research and have an idea what neighbourhoods you’d like to focus on.

If I’m honest, you’ll miss the user interface on Nestpick if/when you need to use Daft to find a longer term flat.

 

Transport:

  • Leap card

I’m shocked when I encounter someone in Dublin without a Leap card. They are the best way to use the public transport system in Dublin, and can be used across the DublinBus, Luas, and DART services. And you typically save 20% over cash fares!

I just load travel credit on mine and top up as needed. I wish they had an iPhone app, but it’s not too difficult to add credit online, and then load it at a designated location (such as any Luas stop).

 

Are you ready to make your move to Dublin?

With a little research, a bit of patience, and the right tools, your move to Dublin can be a smooth transition and you can get straight into what matters: focussing on your studies, excelling in your new job, and perhaps enjoying a pint* (pro tip: it’s never just one…) to celebrate! Sláinte!

This post was written in collaboration with Nestpick.com. 

 

6 months in: seeing the trees, not just the forest

Then:

  • Not creating
  • Feeling stuck
  • Stressed out
  • Unclear on future goals
  • Unable to find time for both family as well as personal travel

 

Now:

  • Actively learning and creating
  • Feeling inspired
  • Less stressed (but slightly more apprehensive!)
  • Developing future goals and plans that excite me
  • Prioritising what matters most to me: health, family & loved ones, travel

 

As of 8 October, I’ve been blogging for 6 months. In that time, I’ve quit my corporate job, given notice on my apartment, and had a few exciting adventures along the way. It’s amazing how much can happen in the span of 6 months.

 

I’m only just beginning, both in terms of my blogging journey, and in self-employment. I think it’s often easy to compare ourselves to those around us who are much further ahead on their journeys, and feel it’s too late, or that it will be too hard to catch up. Those thoughts do still surface, but ultimately I remind myself I’m grateful that I started when I did.

 

The old saying is true, whether we’re talking about investing, creating something, pursuing your dreams, or making a big change in your life:

 

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” – Chinese proverb

 

I could have spent the last 6 months still unhappy in my job, still feeling like I wasn’t progressing towards anything. Yes, still collecting a steady paycheque. But still no closer to the others out there, doing what I wished I could be doing.

 

And, much more importantly, still no closer to my dreams for the life I wanted to create for myself.

 

Because ultimately, my dreams and goals aren’t comprised of metrics like money, or pageviews, or anything that can be externally measured. But even if it’s not measured out in numbers that can be reassuringly analysed, making progress towards goals requires action. Taking a first step, and then taking another. And then another. 

 

It’s so often repeated as to become trite, but I find I need to remind myself of it on a regular basis, now that I’m working towards creating something for myself. Taking action is always, always, always, better than the alternative. Trying something, anything, is going to be better than staying stagnant. And it’s never possible to be fully optimised, so it’s best to just jump in.

 

Seeing the trees, not just the forest

It’s easy to get distracted by all the noise out there, by all the possibilities. We all want to succeed (whatever that means), to offer something of value, and, perhaps most dangerous of all, to not be left behind. The more time I spend in the entrepreneurial sphere, I notice a kind of business FOMO out there. If you’re not careful, it can make you feel like it’s a HUGE CRISIS that you’re not simultaneously building an FBA empire, and mastering Pinterest, and growing your email list, and dabbling in crypto currency, and, and, and…

All of those things are great, and have been paths to incredible success for many people. But we can’t properly focus on all of them, all at once. And for many people, that sense of overwhelm could stop them from even starting something new.

Whether it’s starting a business, or embarking on a creative endeavour, or travelling, or starting to invest and get your finances in order, I think all of these worthy pursuits can seem out of reach when we all we see is forest.

Just to continue on with tree-related cliches for a moment, the old admonishment that it’s a problem when you can’t see the forest for the trees certainly has its place. But how do you know where to start, when staring at the vastness of an impenetrable forest? What if instead you chose to focus on one perfectly manageable tree at a time?

This approach keeps me moving forward, which is the best cure for overwhelm. And each step taken, each action, each tree planted (or climbed, or hell, even hugged) builds on the last, until you may find yourself in the midst of a far more beautiful and interesting landscape than when you started.

I’d love it if you’d comment and share one step you’re taking, whether it’s in business, personal finance, travel, your personal life, or anything else!

Happy autumn, and here’s to your next 6 months. 

 

Airbnb strategies – Part 2: Digital nomads

In Part 1, I shared my thoughts on Airbnb strategies for hosts, particularly geared towards those of you considering subletting a place you rent. If you decide to try that out, it can be a great experience. And of course the side income stream to help fund your travels doesn’t hurt!

 

But what about using Airbnb as a digital nomad?

 

Part 2 will discuss strategies for digital nomads to use Airbnb as part of their accommodation planning process, and the 3 ways I think digital nomads can benefit from including Airbnb in their housing search.

 

What’s different about digital nomad housing needs

 

I’ve used Airbnb many times as a typical guest, most often for stays of less than a week. And I think it’s great for that purpose. I generally prefer having a more “like a local” experience, rather than staying in a hotel. And while Airbnb can certainly be pricey in some cities, I still think it can be far more affordable than most hotels. It’s also just a more interesting experience. But I’m really not a fan of hotels. I don’t like how sterile they often feel. Staying in a real home is much more comfortable to me.

 

However, as digital nomads, our housing needs are a bit different than the typical traveller who spends a few days or a week at a time in any one place. A digital nomad might spend more like 1 to 3 months at a time in a location.

 

That’s the time frame that I’m planning on, which dovetails nicely with the amount of time many of us may have to spend in countries visa-free. There are plenty of good resources to help you figure out how long you can stay visa-free in various countries. But once you decide how long you want to stay in a given place, what’s the best approach for finding housing?

 

I think there are 3 advantages to using Airbnb, but I’m also keeping my eye out for new and emerging tools and solutions. I really think this is an underserved area right now, but there are a few interesting and creative solutions coming out that digital nomads will want to be aware of.

 

  1. Planning
  2. Rent, don’t own
  3. Socialising/normalising in a location

 

 

1. PLANNING

 

I love planning. One of the most fun parts of getting ready for a trip of any length is getting stuck into research and anticipating what neighbourhoods you’ll explore and what unique experiences you’ll want to seek out.

I know many digital nomads advocate a boots-on-the-ground approach to finding housing, and I intend to test out that approach myself. But even so, I’d want to do some research into a completely new place before deciding to go there.

In fact, I think a reasonable approach for the digital nomad who’s looking to keep her costs low, is to choose a location with housing costs very much in mind.

The way I’ve begun to tackle this is to start by searching Airbnb for a somewhat random month, and comparing the selection across a few different cities. The trick to searching for an entire month at a time is it allows you to see the discounted monthly rates that many hosts offer.

 

For example, by searching for at least 4 weeks at a time, the site shows you the monthly rate, instead of the nightly one. And many hosts offer steep discounts off their nightly rates when you book for an entire month at a time.

 

Here are some examples of searches for the month of March, in Prague and Budapest:

Prague daily rates

Prague monthly rates

Even for one of the cheaper daily rates, at €27 * 28 nights = €756. As you can see, there are plenty of monthly rates offered well below that.

Let’s compare Budapest as well:

Budapest daily rates

Budapest monthly rates

Besides a few cheaper outliers, the daily rates don’t come close to the value found when you search monthly. That first one for €485/month?! What a steal. See ya soon, Budapest.

As you can see, by searching for 4 weeks or more, you open up a lot more affordable options.

For comparison, here’s what you get when you search in Dublin. Much as I love it here, the housing market is not conducive to those looking for short term housing. Or any housing. Or wishing to pay less than €1200/month. 🙁

Sad map

 

Now, ultimately, savvy nomads may find they can source even more affordable housing once they’re actually on the ground in those cities.

But, I appreciate knowing that I can secure housing in advance, and knowing exactly what it will cost. It’s there as a backup in case you need it, or in case you can’t find anything better or cheaper.

When I search Airbnb for monthly rentals and can’t find anything suitable for less than €1000/month, it gives me a good idea of how expensive housing is in that city, and I may rule it out for longer stays.

 

 

2. RENT, DON’T OWN

 

When putting together your monthly budget, don’t forget about all the things you don’t need to buy/bring when you are renting a furnished, fully stocked Airbnb. This is a huge advantage of the digital nomad lifestyle.

It also means there’s far fewer things for you to do when you arrive in order to get set up. You don’t need to set up wifi. You don’t need to go buy towels and bed linens. And you don’t have to pay separately for heating or bin collection.

That makes those lovely sub-€600 monthly rates even more appealing. Even if I’m just comparing that to my current base monthly rent, I’d come out ahead, but when I factor in all the bills, heating/electric, bins, wifi, etc, the difference is really significant.

You don’t need to kit out a whole kitchen, so if there are a few things that would make your month more enjoyable, you may not mind shelling out for a better knife*, or a decent bottle opener. Then just leave them for the next guests, to pay it forward.

*Incidentally, what is it about most Airbnb’s having nigh-unusable knives? I’m far from a kitchen gear snob, but something that can chop vegetables would be nice! But if I have to pick up something for €15 (or in all likelihood, far less) so that I can properly cook, I will happily consider it a friendly parting gift to my host when I leave it behind.

 

 

3. SOCIALISING/LOCALISING

 

If you’re going to be in a place for a month or more, you may prefer to get a full apartment to yourself. However, in many of the places I’ve researched, the hosts either live nearby or clearly state they are happy to provide tips and show you around. This could work as a nice way to develop your local knowledge, or even make a new friend.

Places that are willing to rent you a room in their home for a month at a time would likely be even more open to socialising. It could be an easy, natural way to make some local contacts and to avoid feeling isolated in your first few days in a new location.

 

And, since you’ll most likely be in a real neighbourhood, rather than an area that only tourists stay in, you’ll get an instant look into how and when people shop, go out to eat, have coffee, and/or commute into city centre. You can adapt to the local rhythm much quicker that way. Plus, wandering around your new neighbourhood you can scope out the best places to buy groceries, as opposed to the overpriced and understocked options you’re likely to find adjacent to hotels.

 

 

PITFALLS

 

After having such a good track record with Airbnb, my last few bookings have had some unexpected twists and turns. There were last minute cancellations from the places I’d booked in Oslo, Madrid, and Nice. The one in Madrid was the most dramatic, as unfortunately the host wasn’t able to contact me and I was left waiting outside the apartment at 1 am, and eventually had to check into a hotel. Exciting!

 

These things happen, and Airbnb’s customer service were very helpful and reimbursed my hotel straight away so I wasn’t out of pocket. And in fact, I ended up in a way cooler part of Madrid, so I wasn’t too disappointed.

The view from where I ended up in Madrid

To be fair, unexpected adventures in housing can happen no matter what. Dealing with them with a good sense of humour goes a long way. To me, the random factor is a small price to pay for having access to such a wide array of housing options around the world.

 

ALTERNATIVES

 

Right now, I haven’t come across a site that’s as comprehensive for searching in many different locations. There are a few sites that are highly specific to particular regions, which seem like they can often offer better prices. And there are a few alternatives which have their own pros and cons.

 

Sites like NomadList are a good resource, as are many of the various nomad-oriented Facebook groups out there.

 

One of the sites I’ll be keeping my eye on is GoGoPlaces, which offers some amazing looking deals in parts of Europe. Their selection in Croatia is especially good.

 

And then there are coliving sites, like TheRoof.io which I was fortunate to take a look at in Las Palmas. And more are popping up all over the world. My main hesitation with many of the coliving sites would be the price. Many are more expensive than what you might find on Airbnb. But they do offer networking opportunities with other nomads, and often times access to coworking spaces as well.

 

Opportunity

 

What I’d really love to see is a site that offered an easy way to search all of these options, rather than having to hear about each one individually, or scrolling through various forums. That’s something I could really see giving Airbnb a run for its money in the digital nomad community.

 

I’m looking forward to reporting back on how my little Airbnb experiment goes! What tools do you use when searching for short-term rentals? Please share in the comments below! And let me know if you want to work on that idea for a nomad housing search tool…

Airbnb strategies – Part 1: Hosting

I’ve been a longtime Airbnb user. Recently on Facebook, a memory popped up from 2011, when I posted about this “cool site I was trying out.” Yes, it was a simpler time. I don’t even know if the phrase “sharing economy” existed yet. Fast forward a few years, and there are probably relatively few seasoned travellers out there who haven’t given that “cool site” a try.

 

While Airbnb isn’t all sunshine and roses (check out Part 2 for a few recent experiences I’ve had to prove that point!), I think it has some key advantages that can support both your pursuit of financial independence, and your location independence, if you so choose. If you keep a few simple strategies in mind, it could speed up your progress to both, and expand your horizons once you get there.

 

As this is a chunky enough topic, I’m splitting it into two parts, for both hosts and guests (primarily guests of the semi-nomadic variety). First up, hosting, to get your side hustle income stream flowing:

 

PART 1

HOSTING

 

Airbnb can be an easy way to add a little side hustle income stream to your roster. There has been much written and said about renting out a spare bedroom on Airbnb, or using Airbnb instead of longer term rentals in an investment property (if you didn’t already know, Paula Pant of Afford Anything is an amazing resource for all things investment-property related).

 

What I don’t see discussed as often, and perhaps with good reason, is the potential of making a place that you yourself rent, available as an occasional Airbnb rental. I personally was too scared to try this while I lived in the US. It just felt like there were too many legal/regulatory risks.

Whether or not that fear was justified, for whatever reason it didn’t seem as risky in Dublin, and thus I began my hosting career almost exactly 1 year ago.

 

Tips for hosting in a rental

 

First, I’d say you should determine how annoyed your neighbours and landlord are likely to get, if at all. And obviously have a read through your lease to see if there’s anything explicitly prohibiting it.

 

I took the view that I’d have no qualms about having an out of town friend stay in my place while I was away, which wasn’t so different from what I’d be doing, since I was only going to rent it out when I was out of town travelling. And my building was a pretty relaxed place in general, with people mostly minding their own business. It seemed ideal.

 

*I’m aware that many cities, probably primarily in North America, but possibly increasingly around the world, local authorities are getting a bit tetchy about Airbnb. It’s a complex topic, and often an emotional one, so make your best assessment of both the legal and ethical implications, and proceed accordingly.

 

In Dublin, there’s a full blown housing crisis, and that has knock-on effects into the short term and hotel markets as well. I’ve been told it’s often difficult for visitors to find a hotel room for less than €200 a night, which is far beyond the budgets of many travellers. I’m generally in favour of increasing choice for both residents of a city, as well as visitors. So I was and am satisfied that making my otherwise-unused apartment available while I was away (at far, far less than €200/night, let me assure you!) was a net positive for everyone involved.

 

So, if the stars align and you decide to take the plunge, what are some tips for would-be Airbnb hosts?

 

  • Make check-in/out easy and low-touch for you and your guests

 

Checking in should not require an in-person meetup, if it’s at all possible to avoid it. For me this was essential because I was almost always going to be on a plane heading out of the country whenever my guests were arriving. As a guest, I knew how much I valued being able to check in and out at my leisure, without having to text and coordinate with someone and cater to their schedule.

 

My solution to this was to buy a key-safe lockbox, which I attach to a railing near my building’s front door. I always inform my guests of this in advance, and I send them pictures of its location in case they are checking in after dark, and just to allay any potential worries that they might have.

The one I use is here:

 

Overall, I’m delighted with that solution. I’ve very rarely had anyone who had any difficulty with locating or using the lock box, and I’ve never received any negative feedback because of it. Possible alternatives could be a local business that doesn’t mind giving a key to your guests, especially if you’re a regular customer or if you have some relationship with them. Or an obliging friend or neighbour who you don’t impose upon too heavily. I’ve stayed in places as a guest that did both, with varying degrees of success. I’d still suggest going for the fully remote solution where possible.

 

  • Set expectations

 

This is so important for both your sanity, and that of your guests. I try to emphasise that my place is small, and in an older building, and is also my main dwelling place, so people know what they’re getting. This doesn’t mean I’ve never had a complaint that the place is small, but at least I’d caveated that emptor, so I didn’t feel too badly about it.

 

I’d also let guests know in advance the situation regarding parking, wifi, how heat/hot water/garbage worked, and what they could expect in terms of linens and bathroom basics. I’d still sometimes get questions on all of those things, and more, but to the extent possible I made an effort to be very explicit about all the quirks and features of my place.

 

  • Anticipate questions

 

This ties in closely with the above, but I made sure to make a house manual on Airbnb for specific things that I knew were unique about my place, such as the switch for the hot water, or the highly sensitive smoke alarm that will go off if you leave the door open while taking a shower.

 

Another thing I did that I think worked well was to preemptively send a link to the exact coordinates of the location on Google Maps. I actually don’t know why more hosts don’t do this! Addresses are funny and are so different from one place to the next. And it’s so blindingly easy to drop a pin on Google Maps that Airbnb should actually make it mandatory.

 

  • Bonus: prepare for tax time!

 

One of the things people sometimes worry about related to becoming an Airbnb host is what to do in terms of taxes. Generally, income is income is income, and whatever jurisdiction you live in would like for you to report that income, please and thank you very much. But how exactly that looks will vary widely from place to place.

 

In Ireland, at least, Airbnb very helpfully reminded their hosts that our income had been reported to Irish Revenue, just in case it might’ve slipped some people’s minds. How thoughtful of them! Here’s the email I received:

To Airbnb’s credit, as you can see, they did provide some links to resources in case people had questions. And when it comes to taxes, I know firsthand that people always do. And that it’s almost never an especially easy or user-friendly process.

 

If you’re a new Airbnb host and wondering what to do about taxes, here are some first steps to consider:

  1. Keep record of your related expenses

    From supplies like sheets and towels for guest use only, to getting that second set of keys cut, to the lockbox itself, it helps to keep track of all these small expenses as you go. I stuck mine all in a simple spreadsheet.

  2. Determine how and when you’ll report it

    Be especially mindful in case there are any pre-filing registrations you need. For example, in Ireland, I needed to register for MyAccount, which I discovered entailed Revenue sending me a code in the post. So I was glad I didn’t wait until the last minute, as the Irish tax filing deadline is coming up on 31 October!

  3. What are your expenses when you don’t own the place yourself?

    This will vary depending what jurisdiction you’re in, but one approach that makes sense from an accounting perspective is to take a ratable portion of your monthly rent as a rental expense. 

    For example: My monthly rent was €850, so if I rented my place for 5 days in a month, I’d figure my expense for that month as follows

(850/30)*5= €141.67

You could reasonably treat your monthly wifi, heating/electricity, and even bin charges, in a similar fashion.

Be aware that if there is no specific guidance from Revenue where you live, you should have a sound basis for why you claimed the expenses you did.

 

  1. Seek out a professional

My general, and very high-level tips aside, if you haven’t reported rental income before, and if you have any doubts at all, you should definitely seek out a qualified professional. It’s almost always worth the expense, both in terms of peace of mind, and in the cost of your valuable time. Getting your reporting right the first time, and avoiding time consuming and potentially costly questions or corrections with the tax authorities in your location, is definitely the way to go.

If you have questions from a US perspective, I’d be happy to assist you. In my experience, US reporting is likely to be one of the trickiest, and adding rental income when you’ve previously been a simple W-2-only kinda gal or guy, might mean you’d benefit from a little initial guidance.

 

PITFALLS

 

Becoming an Airbnb host is a great way to generate a little side income, to fund your travels, and to help utilise a resource that might otherwise go unused. These are all good things, but there are some potential pitfalls. In my experience as a host, these are actually pretty minor and most importantly, rare.

 

  • Cleanliness/potential damage

 

The main concerns of most hosts would be the condition that guests leave their place in. I have to say, my expectations have been wildly exceeded in this regard. Of the 17 different bookings I’ve had, ranging from solo travellers, to couples, to, in one case, a young family with a 1 year old, no one has done more damage than a broken plate (which they kindly left a euro to compensate for!). And the extent of any “mess” to clean up has been a few stray crumbs.

 

Have I just been preternaturally lucky? Well, it’s possible, and it wouldn’t be the first time. But being an Airbnb host has actually cemented my belief in the general soundness of people. I feel like this concern shouldn’t be a dealbreaker for most would-be hosts.

 

  • Unexpected guest needs

 

This one might be a bit more of a wildcard. Again, my guests have been lovely. But I could certainly see a guest who had a lot of demands being difficult to manage from afar.

 

I have had people who had questions about things that I wasn’t always able to respond to immediately (usually due to being mid-flight), and my terrific guests have either figured it out themselves, or been wonderfully patient.

 

And then there was the time that, thankfully, I was in town, and I almost had to go assist a guest with the keysafe at 3 am, which I definitely would have done. In fact, I was somewhat tipsily attempting to hail a taxi when they rang to inform me they’d figured it out! So hosts should be prepared for that to happen on occasion.

 

  • Last minute cancellations

 

There’s not much you can do there, besides set a stricter cancellation policy and hope for the best. Airbnb do a good job of managing this on both sides.

 

So should you consider becoming an Airbnb host? I say yes, with some caveats:

 

  • Be aware of the impact on those around you, including any landlords, neighbours, housemates, etc

 

  • Educate yourself on the tax and legal implications

 

  • Be ready to be flexible and adaptable to guest needs

 

Opening your home to a traveller in need can be a wonderful experience. In Part 2, I’ll talk about the guest side of the equation, particularly the potential utility for digital nomads.

 

What do you think? Would you try hosting on Airbnb? If you do, please consider using this link to sign up as a host, and I’ll get a small referral credit!