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A Hawaii travel assignment can be a dream come true for any traveling healthcare professional. But once the initial excitement of getting the job is over, reality sets in. What do you pack? What do you do for transportation? Where do you live?
If you are looking for housing in Hawaii you may realize that it is not an easy process. There are scammers on websites trying to take your money before you arrive and many expensive options. This definitely may be an assignment where you have your travel agency set up housing for you, instead of taking the housing stipend, to avoid the headache.
Housing In Hawaii: The Basics
Before you begin your housing search, please understand the difference in housing and costs between Hawaii and the mainland. Hawaii is an island so space is limited. Houses and apartments may be much smaller than you are used to. This is normal.
A bedroom in a condo or house may, on average, cost anywhere from $700 to $1200 a month. A studio or small one-bedroom apartment may start at $1600/month and could easily be more than $2200 in a more popular area.
Also, electricity is expensive and the trade winds are cooling. Many apartments do not come with air conditioning or central air. If AC is a deal breaker for you, please don’t forget to inquire about that up front.
For travelers in Honolulu, parking can be a considerable expense (upwards or $200/month) and may not come included with your apartment. If you have a car and need parking, make sure you ask if parking is included with the apartment, do not assume that it is included.
If you decide to move forward with finding your own housing, here are my tips for finding housing for your Hawaii travel assignment.
Ask Your Travel Agency for Help
Healthcare travel agencies have housing departments that employee housing specialists. These departments have worked with landlords and owners at different locations across the US. Even if you are not taking company-provided housing, it can be useful to reach out to your agency to see if they have any good contacts for housing on the islands that they can connect you with.
Search Websites, But Beware of Scams
Popular housing websites include Craigslist, AirBnB, Zillow and Apartments.com. You can search those websites to locate room shares and apartments in Hawaii. However, BUYER BEWARE! There are MANY scams for apartments in Hawaii.
My best advice to avoid being scammed is to have the apartment verified by another person (a traveler who also lived there, etc) or to avoid booking sight-unseen. Many travelers come to Hawaii and book a hotel, hostel or AirBnb for a week to give themselves time to view apartments in person.
Network with Others
If you know anybody who has worked in Hawaii or are a member of any forums for travelers in Hawaii (there are Facebook groups dedicated to each island and some specifically to hospitals), ask what others would recommend. A lot of owners rent via word of mouth and rely on travelers to pass on their information to other travelers when they leave.
Walk Around and Read the Signs
Do you remember getting an apartment before the internet? I do. You walked around and looked at signs on bulletin boards and in apartment buildings. Many parts of Hawaii still run like that. Instead of listing apartments on the internet, people will list them on bulletin boards in the ground floor of buildings. The apartment that I am living in now, I found through this method. My landlord posted his ad on a bulletin board in the building and nowhere else.
So how do you find these advertisements from the mainland? That is a challenge. As I mentioned above in the internet section, you may consider getting a hotel, hostel or Airbnb for a couple of days or a week when you first arrive. This can give you time to walk/drive around your preferred area/neighborhood and look at “For rent” signs and bulletin boards.
Hawaii is a dream location for an assignment, but housing can be far from a dream. This may be a time to rely on your agency’s housing department to find you housing or help to point you in the right direction. You also may really want to consider setting up a hotel or Airbnb stay for a week to give yourself time to scout apartments in person. Best of luck and aloha!
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