How To: Find a Place to Live
So you’re going to move to Copenhagen! If you hadn’t guessed by the title, this guide will help make sure you have a place to live while you’re studying here. Meaning you can spend more time focusing on the classes and less time worrying about whether it will rain on your bus bench that night.
There is a saying that “God helps those who help themselves” and nowhere is that saying more true than house hunting in Denmark. Due to its strong socialist government, there is a ‘housing wait list’. Unfortunately, you could be done with your degree by the time you actually get a government sponsored house. If you just got your acceptance letter on the 1st of August, these agencies will be flooded with applications and it is very unlikely you will have any success with them. So, if you do put in an application in August, don’t be surprised when you’re sitting in your new apartment in November and only then finally start seeing housing offers.
Luckily though, it is relatively painless to get on these lists. And, even if you haven’t officially been admitted to CBS, you should enter your name soon after the submission of your application with the knowledge that you can always pull out later if faced with rejection. You can start by looking at CBS’ international accommodation page, after that the two main websites for publicly based housing are Kollegierneskontor and Findbolig.
CBS has nine Kollegiums it’s officially affiliated with with. Exchange students get priority over these accommodations, so if you are here for the full 3 years, this will likely only get you a six month extension on finding your own place. While the kollegiums are competitive, they’re a good place to start if you’re worried about finding a place in the September apartment rush.
Kollegierneskontor is the largest and easiest dorm application website. Since CBS doesn’t have an extensive number of dorms, you may have to apply to publicly listed ones elsewhere in the city. To do so, just go to Kollegierneskontor and put in your start and end date you’ll need housing for, look through all the possible dorms, select the ones that make the most sense for you, and away you go. If you really want to be in a dorm, search for ones that aren’t on the kollegium kontor website. Use Google, the word Kollegium and the name of the area you want to be in (try some more specific neighbourhoods like Frederiksberg, Amager, or Valby). The other kollegiums will have a lot less applications just because they aren’t as easy to apply to.
Findbolig is only really useful if you’re on the wait list for CBS, and you’re planning to stay for the full 3 years. There are a few rules with it though, such as only a limited number of rejections. It certainly doesn’t replace looking for an apartment yourself, but it does add an extra automated pair of eyes.
If you’re going to use government agencies, you might as well use them all. The website bl.dk has a directory of all the organizations which offer housing. It’s about ¾’s down the page. Select “region hovedsteden” (the name of the capital region) and find ones close to Copenhagen. Unfortunately, there are too many to walk through here, so take out a map and start comparing names.
If you’re willing to put in the time, looking yourself is easily the best way to find a place in Copenhagen. There are two major housing websites that you can use; Bolig Portal and Bolig Basen. They both require a fee of about US $100, but they certainly do work. If you’re in International Business, you can contact your intro guides to get a free 2 month login for Bolig Portal. Other programs may have similar deals, so make sure you ask.
The other major place to look is “the blue newspaper” or in Danish “Den Blå Avis”. This isn’t the ideal place to look, but it doesn’t hurt to cover all your bases. Most of the results that pop up are going to be other people looking for apartments, but in between those ads there are a few places for rent. Unfortunately, often the contact info will link you to one of the other two sites mentioned above, but occasionally there is an apartment that you can contact for free. The biggest upside of DBA, if used in coordination with the other two websites, is that it has a map function. If you use the map to find apartment advertisements, then use your accounts on the other two sites to contact the renters.
Finally, if you find a place that needs a roommate, share with the rest of your study program! Everyone else in the program is also looking for someone to share with. We guarantee it. The minute you start discussing the housing hunt with others, you’ll realize that those already fortunate enough to have a roof over their heads do so because of parent and family connections. It is possible that they might still be looking for a roommate or two too, so don’t be afraid to ask around for leads!
Copenhagen on first glance looks incredibly difficult to navigate, but we swear it isn’t. There are two things you’ll want to decide on before picking where to live. First, do you want to take public transit, or ride your bike to school? And second, how often do you plan on partying?
While the debate between biking and public transportation may not be the biggest determinant in your hunt, you should remember that choosing to bike means doing so in all weathers i.e. winter with high winds, rain and ice on the ground, something the seem Danes seem innately impervious to (maybe blame it on the Viking genes?). It should also be noted that while public transit has the added benefit of comfort; biking is cheaper, keeps you fit, and is extremely common here. You’ll never be the sole rider, someone else will always be out similarly braving the great outdoors.
So if you decide to bike, go to your local gym and find an exercise bike that can record distance. Now put on your clothes that you wear every day, and your back-pack with four textbooks a water bottle and lunch (the most you’d probably have to take to the campus). Now in your odd gym wear, go to the bike and see how far you can bike without breaking a sweat. That is your radius of apartment hunting. It allows for a nice big circle out from the campus where your potential apartment will be. Using Google maps walking directions provides an excellent route planner as all major roads have a bicycling lane and you’re allowed to bike on pathways if there’s no separate cycling path provided (albeit slower than you would on the road). Finally, keep in mind how long it will take to bike home and grab that thing you forgot. It adds a bit of a limitation if you’re 45 minutes away.
If you’re taking transit, you’re going to have to become intimate with the rail system. CBS is located on the metro line (their subway system). This connects to the S-tog’s (the regional trains) at Nørreport and Flintholm. This means that if you’re on any other train line than the metro line, you’re going to have to change trains; depending on how you are in the mornings this may be important. You’ll have to look at a few maps; a simplified train map, a train map with the train lines marked or the full blown transit map. A more detailed “How To” will come out detailing how to use the transit system effectively and the costs for tickets, but for finding a place to live, using Google maps is more than adequate.
The other decision, the amount of partying, is important simply because most of the parties occur in bars in central Copenhagen. This means if you plan on biking, you might not want to be too far west because you’ll have to bike the extra distance to central Copenhagen and of course back again once you’re drunk after a night out. If you’re on the train, being too far out on a S-tog line could result in you riding out into the countryside if you fall asleep (or worse, Sweden if you get on the wrong train). That means quite a bit of confusion when you wake up or a costly fine if you don’t have the correct ticket (usually the attendants that check tickets will just try to put you on the correct train home. Denmark is very friendly to drunks especially when they’re in a sorry state. Just try not to throw up on anyone).
If you can’t find a place
If the intro trip is upon you and you’re still in a hotel, you’re going to need to kick it into overdrive. Try asking people in your program if they have a sofa you can sleep on, or if they need a roommate. You might also be able to talk with the hotel/motel/hostel you’re with to see if you can pay for a week or a month at a time. If you haven’t already, you might move from e-mailing to calling potential landlords and modifying your e-mail to explain the urgency of your situation (don’t make it too personal though, just a short line such as “Ready to move in as soon as possible as my study program has started” will suffice). There’s also the forum on e-campus (go to “buy, sell or rent”). And of course, your intro guide might be able to find a second year student who has space to take you in until you find a place.
If you are really worried about the whole ‘going to a foreign country for school’ idea, sign up for the buddy program offered on the intro web page by the 2nd years. It will mean you’ll have a 2nd year helping you every step of the way.
In short, finding a place to live in Copenhagen isn’t too difficult, it just takes time. Be sure to have a stock e-mail that you’ll send out to possible landlords (it can be either in English or in Danish) and if you have even a vague possibility that you think you’ll live there, send an e-mail. Copenhagen is a wonderful city to be in, and homeless or not, you’ll have a great time.