Planning a trip to Manila, but can’t find a good, affordable hotel where you want to be? Airbnb has arrived in Manila to help! But having lived in Manila for more than three years, there are a few pitfalls for the first-time visitor when picking a place to stay. Let me help you find a great place to stay in Manila on a budget you can afford!
Why consider airbnb in Manila? Hotel rates in Manila are higher than in other Asian capital cities, due to the lack of competition, especially in the mid-priced segment. While you can find a very good 4-5 star hotel in Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur for $50-100, you will have to spend more than $100 for a comparable hotel in Manila. Most hotels below $100 will either be old or in bad neighborhoods – and many budget hotels are really “love hotels”, so beware!
Airbnb disrupts this dysfunctional market and the building boom of condominiums has added a lot of new, small units to the market, with quite a few available for short-term rentals, driving down prices for affordable stays in Manila!
Where to stay? I have described the best areas for visitors to stay in Manila in my post Travel Made Easy: Where to Stay in Manila. The horrendous traffic and inconvenient public transportation make it important to pick a place to stay close to where you want to be. For most visitors, that will be the business, shopping and entertainment centers of Makati or Bonifacio Global City, as well as the Manila Bay Area with the historic Intramuros and plenty of gambling and entertainment.
In Manila, “good” and “bad” areas are very close to each other. You can find high-end condos and shopping on one side of a main road – and slums on the other. As Manila is changing, new condos are sometimes built in the middle of a “developing” area, so you need to be very careful where to stay with airbnb, for your convenience (nearby ATMs, shops, restaurants, etc) as well as safety. Therefore, I’d recommend to choose an apartment in the following areas:
Makati: The best areas are Legazpi village (around the Greenbelt and Glorietta malls) and Salcedo Village. The area is roughly bound by Buendia/Sen Gil J. Puyat Ave, Amorsolo and EDSA roads. Poblacion is technically part of Makati and has some new condos, but also is home to the red light district with cheap hotels and entertainment. Unless that’s what you are looking for, I wouldn’t recommend to stay there!
Bonifacio Global City is a new development on a former military base and most of the buildings are less than 10 years old. It is part of Taguig City, with mostly much less desirable neighborhoods. I recommend to stay as close to High Street, the commercial center, between the Mind Museum and the SM Aura Mall. The new development area is bound by the golf course in the West, the American Cemetery in the South, C-5 in the East and Kalayaan Avenue in the North.
If you want to stay near the Manila Bay, most of the new development is between Roxas Boulevard and the Bay, around the Mall of Asia. A few very large developments in this area opened over the last few years, with many units bought by investors. You can frequently find a studio apartment with access to pool and gym for under $50/night, great value in expensive Manila, if you are on a budget. Keep in mind that traffic can take more than 1h from here to Makati or BonifacioGC, hopefully less with the new sky way opening up soon.
What to look for? Now that you know your area, look out for neighborhood offerings – you’ll find variation from street to street. Look on Google Maps for stores, banks and restaurants – if Google doesn’t show anything on the same street, you probably don’t want to be there – you will have a harder time to find the things you need, including taxis or uber. A pedicab or tricycle might look like fun the first time, but is expensive, slow and uncomfortable after a while.
Old or New? Many new buildings in Manila are up to international standards with great features and amenities – and many older ones are poorly maintained, so staying in a new building is a good idea to protect you from issues with broken elevators, closed pools or the issues with the supply of electricity, water and ventilation. Photos of the amenities or pool are your best indicator for the age and maintenance of the building. If amenity photos are missing or look bad – I’d pass, chances are the building is in poor shape and that will impact your stay!
Basic or luxury? The built quality and level of amenities will depend on the category of the condo building and just like with hotels, there are vast differences from one building to the next. The rent can be 3x just across the road and that usually has a good reason. Basic units might not have air conditioning, single-pane windows and no noise insulation , too few elevators, limited/no security – and the list goes on.
Basic units also have very small floor plans, with studios as small as 20sqm (220 sft) or 1 bedrooms of 36 sqm (400sft). That can feel very tight, even for a couple.
The best indicator for a more upscale unit is the bathroom – high-end condos will feature nice tiles and glass shower/bath enclosures. If those are missing, the rest of the apartment will be pretty bare bones, too!
Private or professional: In many condo buildings you’ll find one or a few real estate agents or brokers who live in the building and focus on renting and selling units in that building or complex. They know the right people in the building and neighborhood and are around all day. That makes your visit a lot easier and better: It’ll be easy to get or leave key, get tips for necessities around the area and fix problems that you might encounter during your stay. A host living now (or before) in the same building can have the same benefits.
Check the listing for references to the host living (or having lived in the building) or the unit being managed by somebody in the building. While I wouldn’t consider this a show stopper, it’s worth considering for a problem free stay!
My last tip is to make the most of Filipino hospitality: Ask your host for tips and recommendations. Most Filipinos are proud of their country and genuinely want you to have a great time during your visit. They’ll be happy to give you tips for the best stores, restaurants or bars in the neighborhood, their favorite hair salon or spa or transportation tips! Take advantage of it to make your trip better and more personal!
Are those tips helpful to make your first airbnb booking in Manila? How did your stay in Manila work out? Ask me in the comments below for more tips. You can sign-up for airbnb and book through my link here! Have a great time in Manila!