If you're looking for a long-term place to rent, there's not many of these listed on-line, and the ones that are listed are typically pricier. The best bet is just to line up a stay of a week or so (or maybe even a month or so, if you want some time to look around and get yourself situated before settling in), and then start looking for a place once you're here. Making a commitment to a long-term rental that you haven't seen in person is a risky move- it's better to pay a bit more for short-term housing to start and then find a place you know you're going to enjoy. Most rentals here don't have lease agreements, typically you pay month to month, with a deposit held, and 30 day notice needed prior to moving. The majority of rentals are furnished (fridge, oven, bed- you'll just need your linens, kitchenware, and sometimes can find ones that include those items as well). What things should you look for when you're considering where to live, and what questions should you ask?
1. Location- being away from any noisy neighbours might seem like paradise, but could make you a target for break-ins. If the place you're looking at is on a side street, you might want to check how the lighting is at night, and if it's a dirt road (most of the side streets are), it might get in pretty bad shape in rainy season, so if you're set really far in and have a low lying car, that could be an issue. Some people love the far east side of the island, but it's a far drive if you'd like a bit of night life. If you don't have your own vehicle, public transportation is cheap and frequent between West End, Sandy Bay and Coxen Hole, as well as Coxen Hole to French Harbour. 2. Utilities- if you'll be responsible for paying for your own water and electric, it's a good idea to ask how much the bills usually are. Water sources vary in each area, some areas are metered and some have flat monthly fees. In some areas, water is only turned on a certain number of days per week, or may be turned off at night- you'll want to ask about this, and if there's a cistern to use when the water's off. Almost everywhere, water is not drinkable, but 5 gallon jugs of purified water are cheap. If you're paying for electric, the rates on the island are very high. Most people use propane to cook with- if the place that you're looking at has an electric stove and you like to cook/bake, it might really make your bill go up. Is there hot water (many rentals, there's not), and if so, how's it heated? (electric tanks use a lot of electricity). If you can't live without air conditioning, be prepared for the jump in your bill to use it!
3. Internet and Cable- Can't live without wi-fi? Most of the internet providers require an 18 month contract, so if your place doesn't come with w-fi in it and you don't know how long you'll be staying, you might just want to get an internet stick with one of the cell phone companies. I haven't used this myself, but I think it costs around $50 monthly. If you're settling in for the long haul and are going to sign up with a provider, Max and Navega are the two main companies that people use. Max also does packages tied in with cable services. There are a couple of other cable providers on the island as well. If you're used to streaming (with Netflix or Apple TV, for example), you won't want to do this if you're using an internet stick with one of the cell phone companies, as the internet isn't unlimited with those. If you have a connection with Max or Navega, there might be a lot more buffering than you're used to, as the connections are slower than North America, unless you're paying a lot.
4. Phone- home phones are kind of hard to get on the island, depending on where you're living, and not really worthwhile anymore, as cell phones are everywhere. Most places are within cell phone range of the 2 major cell phone companies, Tigo and Claro.
5. Security- has the place you're looking at had any problems with break-ins? Is there a deadbolt, and security bars on the windows? The island is a lot safer than the mainland, but break-ins are pretty common, so it's worth paying attention to these details when you're apartment shopping.
6. Pets- if you're thinking of getting a pet or are going to be bringing one along, make sure to ask the landlord about their pet policy.
Have you found the perfect place to call home, just need to pick up a few things to make it feel like yours? Eldon's supermarket has bathroom basics (shower curtains, bath mats, towels, sheet sets, pillows), as does Lady Lee, up by the mall in French Harbour. Serranos Hardware also has household wares. For second hand finds, try Megapaca at the mall, or Paulesha's in Coxen Hole. If you are making a trip over to La Ceiba, there's now a Walmart, as well as Diunsa, Carrion, and several smaller shops that often have better pricing than the island.