Of course, at the top end there are many amazing places, but in the middle and bottom end of the league they leave a lot to be desired.
While other Southeast Asian countries, such as Thailand, have a ton of great budget options, in the Philippines truly budget options are thin on the ground, particularly outside the bigger cities.
Why this should be is anyone’s guess — seeing how many hotels are chains, it could be down to ‘corporatism’ and over-regulation, meaning there are very few ‘mom and pop’ type places, where the owners aim to please. Instead, at the faceless chains, you generally encounter underpaid staff who frankly don’t really care.
It was with this in mind that I decided to give AirBnB a go.
Now if you don’t know what AirBnB is, the concept goes something like this: If you have a spare room, villa or apartment you can list it on the AirBnB website. Customers read your past reviews (hosts can also review customers) and if they decide to book, AirBnB takes a small cut and everyone’s happy.
Following so far?
What has made this popular in a lot of bureaucratic countries (Cuba being a prime example) is that it takes the money and business away from state-run or corporate entities and into the hands of local people.
These people are much more likely to provide a pleasant stay than a mere employee, who would be unlikely to take any particular pride in the establishment nor be concerned about securing good reviews.
So, I was looking forward to seeing how this system plays out in the Philippines. My first test was with a group of friends in Puerta Princessa in Palawan.
Another factor that led me to trying out AirBnB instead of Booking.com, for example, is that it is nigh-on impossible to book twin rooms in The Philippines.
I guess when guys travel together they either share a bed or get their own room — but for me, on a budget, this didn’t work.
In fact for Puerta Princessa I could find nothing shared, and when it got to single rooms, frankly, for the price, it didn’t seem worth it.
On AirBnB however, I found a six-bedroom villa (with twin beds), its own pool, tennis court, housekeeper and transport for about $700 per night.
Now in real terms this still came out a few hundred dollars more than what I had planned to spend — but 10 small rooms for $500 in a three-star at hotel, compared to $700 for a deluxe five-star private villa was just no contest.
I have since used the site in Manila, and again found some great places at superb prices. The only problem with Manila is that there are very few villas in the centre of town, which means hitting some traffic to get about — but you can’t blame AirBnB for the city’s gridlock.
But there are some amazing properties throughout the Philippines. Take this little beauty for example – a house on your own private island in a lake near Manila. Complete with the services of a caretaker/boatman, it can accommodate up to 15 people for less than 12,000 pesos!
So far, for me, AirBnB has been an absolute game changer in the Philippines.
Sign up via our link – here – and get a $30 credit towards your first AirBnB booking.