Cebu has plenty of world-class resorts and hotels that are perfect for a luxury vacation. Some of the high-end ones like Movenpick Hotel and Bluewater Maribago Beach Resort are a destination of its own. But if you’re going to stay in Cebu for a few weeks or more, chances are you’ll want something more practical. Besides, with all the places to see and things to do in the Queen City of the South, you’ll probably spend more time outside than in your room.
So what are your options?
Short-term rental options in Cebu
It’s not uncommon for locals to open up their homes to travellers. It’s a win-win situation – the host makes extra money while the guest gets a good deal and a local’s eye-view of the area.
Most guest homes that are not a primary residence list a lower price for monthly rentals than for weekly bookings. The options range from cosy cabins to beachfront properties. This means that there’s a choice for different types of trips.
Vacation homes usually have more space than hotel rooms. This makes them a good bargain particularly for families and groups who can split the cost. Having a kitchen also helps you save on food expenses.
If you want to stay within the city, private condos are worth looking into. Many Cebuanos or expats in Cebu actually buy condos to make them available for short-term stays.
You get a space that feels like your own and you also get access to on-site amenities like swimming pools and gyms. Most condominiums in the city are located within business districts and busy commercial centers, so everything you need from restaurants to laundry services are usually within walking distance. It also means getting transport to and from your rental likely won’t be an issue. As an added bonus, local owners sometimes offer assistance in case you need help getting to places.
You can book one for as low as Php 700/night. With that price, you’ll have a cozy bed and a clean studio space all for yourself – luckily, with a view of the cityscape as well. While condos are often rented out on a daily basis, it’s possible to negotiate a longer-term deal for a cheaper rate.
As opposed to condos, serviced apartments are considered commercial complexes. They’re typically attached to shopping malls. So you have commercial amenities at arm’s reach – restaurants, spas, retail shops, cafes, coworking spaces, etc. And you won’t have trouble getting transport services since most are available around malls.
The catch is you have no control of non-residents moving around the area. So if you want some peace and quiet, you’re better off with a private condo space or a serviced condominium complex that isn’t attached to malls.
As for price, the “service” in serviced apartment will cost you more than a private condo. It can be worth it if you’d rather spend your time touring or doing business than cleaning your room.
Pension houses are basically budget hotels. Standard rooms often start at P700, with family rooms (5 pax occupancy) starting at around P1,500. So, for that price, you get a decent room with AC and daily housekeeping. Not at all a bad deal for an extended vacation.
Many pension houses also offer van/car rentals and other concierge services. So if you have a local Cebu tour in the plans, you don’t need to go further than the front desk.
If you need something even cheaper, you could try a homestay, i.e. sleeping in someone’s spare bedroom. You could make arrangements with a friend in Cebu or you could use sites like Couchsurfing.com.
Homestays give you the chance to meet interesting people and get a taste of local life. Choosing this requires a lot of trust and willingness to adapt. But it can be a worthwhile experience.
Cebuanos aren’t shy to the idea of couchsurfing. So if you’re already part of the community, just find and connect with local hosts through Couchsurfing.com. On the site, you’ll be able to check the profile and personal background of potential hosts.
If you’re going to be sleeping on someone’s couch, then it’s nice to be able to choose someone you’ll likely get along with. As for safety, it helps that both hosts and guests are verified on different levels and given reviews by other travellers.
If all you want is bed to crash at night, hostels and guesthouses are an option. They’re pocket friendly, too. Often, you can get a basic room for less than the cost of a low-end hotel. The cheapest we can find cost P355 – P550 a night, which includes a bunk bed in a shared room, communal bath, and free WiFi.
Some guesthouses offer bed and breakfast deals, while others provide a communal kitchen.
Hostels and guesthouses are okay if you want to meet a lot of people. They attract mostly backpackers, unscheduled travellers, and adventure seekers.
How to find a place in Cebu
If money is not tight and your time is worth a lot, simply make a quick Google search and book anything you like. But if you want a decent place to stay for a reasonable price, you’ll have to put in some effort.
Vacation rental and accommodation websites
From luxury resorts to budget hotels, you can find popular places to rent via these sites:
- Airbnb – Vacation homes, condos, and places to stay
- Agoda – Hotels and homes
- Tripadvisor – Popularly reviewed accommodation + travel tips and tourism information
- HomeToGo – Holiday houses and accommodation
- Trivago – Hotels and resorts
- HomeAway – Vacation rentals
- Rentpad – Condos, apartments, short-term rentals
- Travelbook.ph – Hotels and resorts
- Lamudi – Apartments, condos, townhouses, long-term rentals
Tip: Properties listed by private owners are often priced on a daily basis. But, you can always negotiate a deal for a longer-term stay. You could end up paying less than the listed price – some owners would rather agree to a lower price than have their place sitting empty. If you want to stay in hotels, it might be worth asking the management about special deals for long-term guests.
Browsing through vacation rental and hotel booking sites can take some time, especially if you’re hunting for the best price. But if you can afford it, you can always hire an agent to get it done for you. Sometimes, you even get a better deal this way as agents may know of properties that aren’t listed online.
You just need to set your budget and describe your ideal accommodation, i.e. location-wise, nearby amenities, on-site facilities, rental agreement, etc. Then your agent will do the rest.
Or that’s the idea. The quality of agents varies widely. It’s not uncommon that someone uses half a dozen agents, following up with them regularly and rejects half their “matches” because they actually don’t match one of the basic criteria. The upside of agents is that many properties are in fact not listed online, and the only way to find them is as so often in the Philippines: know someone that knows someone.
If you know someone in Cebu, you could ask for references. Otherwise, you can find some of Cebu’s well-known real estate agencies and brokers here.
FB groups (Cebu Foreigners Club)
If you want recommendations on the best places to stay in Cebu from fellow expats, try joining Facebook groups like the Cebu Foreigners Club and the Cebu Underground Club for Expats and Foreigners. It’s a community of foreigners who offer each other advice and share their experiences. It’s also common to find real estate listings on these pages.
You can get the word out once you’ve been accepted as a member. If none of the members have a place to rent, chances are they will have a friend who knows a friend who does. It actually works!
Outside of groups, you can search Facebook for local pages that offer vacation stays, guest homes, and rental deals. The best deals don’t always make it to Google’s top search results, so Facebook sometimes come in handy.
Walking around a neighborhood
If you find yourself in Cebu without a place to crash, try walking around the neighbourhood and watch for signs or talk to people.
Pension houses and smaller guest homes usually don’t have a website. But you’ll usually find them tucked in neighborhoods within the metro. For example, walking along General Maxilom Street, you can find signs to nearby accommodation like Mango Park Hotel, Cebu Guest House, Hey Fellas Hostel, Azia Suites and Residences, Travelbee Business Inn, Horizons 101 condominium, and Sampaguita Suites. You could even find apartments for rent, and then try to work out a deal for a few weeks’ stay.
If budget is a major concern, you can always book a cheap hotel on arrival, and look for a longer-term place after. Apartments near schools are often cheap since they target mostly students and young workers.
Do a home exchange
Fancy trading places with a Cebu home owner? It’s possible via a home exchange website. It may take a while to find the perfect match, but it’s usually easier if you own a vacation home. Once you find a place you like, you can always contact the owner and work out a “non-simultaneous exchange” so your travel dates don’t have to match.
Searching a place to stay in Cebu can be a daunting task. The best way to deal with that is to see it as an opportunity to explore and discover the many gems Cebu has to offer. Have fun! 🙂
About the author
Hey, it’s Chenzi! A writer made in Cebu. Stringing words is my bread and butter, but baking and mothering my 3-year-old are what feed my soul. I have an insatiable thirst for learning.