Traveling in the Philippines: Hotel, Hostel, or Airbnb?

The most exciting part of planning a trip is deciding which places you’ll visit–but where you’ll be staying (and sleeping) is also pretty important, to the extent that it can make or break your trip. There are so many options now, mostly reachable through a single click or a phone call: hotels, hostels, and Airbnb. Confused about what to choose? Our comprehensive travel guide tackles not only travel destinations, but also accommodations. We break down the pros and cons for each accommodation type here:

Hotel

Photo Credit: Marriott

Pros: Hotels are the classic choice of accommodation for travelers. You can easily secure a room by placing a call or making a reservation through their website–and candid reviews abound online, from hotel curator websites like TripAdvisor to lengthy blog posts complete with photos. Unlike hostels or Airbnb, unpleasant surprises are very unlikely here. The prime advantage of hotels, though, is the convenience. Everything’s already taken care of you: there’s likely to be 24/7 room service, restaurants and bars downstairs, even a swimming pool, and the location’s at a strategic part of the city, where you won’t have trouble getting around. It’s safe, tried and tested–and you can lie back on your bed and relax.

Cons: While hotels are still the most popular in the Philippines–with at least 16,000 in Metro Manila alone–you’ll have better luck finding them in oft-visited places, like Baguio or Boracay. Get off the beaten track to the more remote areas, and you might have trouble finding one–or the sole hotel might already be fully booked. Hotels are heavy, too, on the wallet, which is why they’re recommended for short-term stays. A three-star hotel can cost much higher than a hostel or an Airbnb, and you’d have to weigh whether the additional amenities are worth it. For the more adventurous, hotels might also come off as less authentic, more streamlined. Except for a few local touches, they’re more or less the same here and there.

Cost per Night: P1500 (three-star) to P8000+ (five-star)

Stay here if… You’re only dropping by for a few days, and you want to be as comfortable as possible (no room-sharing with strangers and no tiptoeing around someone else’s house).

Check these out:

  • Agoda – helps you find hotels in the Philippines, complete with customer reviews and detailed information
  • TripAdvisor – another directory of local hotels that helps you compare prices and score a bargain

Hostel

Photo Credit: Coffee Heritage House

Pros: You could say that hostels are less glamorous versions of hostels–glorified dorm rooms come to mind, in particular–but that’s a perception of the yesteryear. There’s been a revamp, especially in the Philippines where eco-hostels and quirky boutique hostels are at an all-time high in terms of customers. The price is much cheaper, yes, thanks to the stripping away of some amenities. No wine glasses or massage service readily available at your call, and roommates are a 50-50 possibility, but you still have the basics of wi-fi, electric outlets, and likely more. More than a place to sleep in, a hostel is also an experience: you get to meet other travelers and backpackers from different walks of life, which makes for a more exciting time, since you never know what stories will be traded around and who you’ll encounter.

Cons: Not all hostels require room-sharing, but that’s where the major disadvantage lies. There’s the risk of having very little privacy, which is expected if you’re already in a large group or perhaps desired if you’re a solo traveler, but it sucks for couples. Or for people who want their quiet time, even. Because the space is markedly smaller than in a hotel, walls might not be that effective in blocking out noise–prepare to endure the sound of karaoke in the wee hours of the morning, or drunken laughter, or vacationers being, well, vacationers. It’s also definitely not as luxurious as a hotel, but if you’re out and about most of the time, then that shouldn’t be much of a problem. A note about payment–you might want to consider bringing cash along instead of a credit card, just in case they don’t accept card payments, but you can always call them up to check before crashing in.

Cost per night: P500-P3000

Stay here if… You’re only staying for a few days, you don’t mind skimping on amenities, and you’d love to meet other people.

Check these out:

Airbnb

Photo Credit: The Shooting Star

Pros: Airbnb is all the rage right now–the startup, which launched at XX, is already valued at more than two billion dollars and is present in nearly 200 countries. The Philippines isn’t too far behind on the list, with investors buying condo units to rent to travelers. In fact, the number of Airbnb accommodations in the country amounts to more than 30,000. Like hostels, part of Airbnb’s charm is that it’s cheaper, and there’s the diversity of choices as well–instead of staying at a classic but ho-hum room, you can choose a rustic cabin, a cozy apartment, or even an entire island. Still, a huge chunk of accommodations resembles homestay. You can almost live like a local, and the address might bring you down interesting side-streets and detours you would never have explored otherwise.

Cons: Similar to hotels, although at a more extreme rate, Airbnbs tend to exist in pockets. They congregate in traveler-populated places, and dwindle down to nearly zero in other areas. This is compounded by the absurdly slow internet connection in the country, which might scrap online renting as an appealing business idea for many locals. The consequence of this for you is you might not get wi-fi when you stay over–and service is bound to be even less than that in hostels, with the additional payment of a cleaning fee. While Airbnb meticulously checks its listings for security purposes before approval, it’d be advisable for you to research on your own and double-confirm with the owner. There have been a few stories about owners ditching their pre-booked clients, although this is more of a rarity.

Cost per night: P1000-P3000  for apartments or condo units, but can reach up to P15,000+ for vacation houses and villas

Stay here if… You’re aiming to live like a local, and you’re willing to eschew hotel service and try the unfamiliar.

Useful Resources:

 

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