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Republique - Canal St Martin area safe? And VRBO apartment rental questions

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Hi fellow Fodorites, based on a recommendation from one of you I am booking this apartment in the Canal St. Martin area: http://www.vrbo.com/232791

However, I have a few concerns. Using Google maps, the immediate area en route to Place de la Republique shows a LOT of graffiti, and some pretty low-market chain restaurants.

Is this a safe area for a young, solo woman traveler? The apartment is near the Place Jules Ferry, so a good 15 minutes south of the popular Quai Valmy.

I am planning a trip for early April, last-minute, and hoping to spend around 80E/night, so my options are limited. But I would like a safe, quiet place, ideally very walkable. This apartment meets most of those requirements, but I can't judge it on safety.

Also, I have never reserved via VRBO before, and am astonished that I have to mail a check in advance of arrival. It's only ~$88 but that seems such an easy way to get conned. I know many of you have used VRBO before...can you reassure me? Or do you stick to the credit card-only apartments?

Merci beaucoup a tous! Time to start brushing up on my French....

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