Pros and Cons of Living in BGC, Manila (What I Like and Dislike)

I recently tried living for 1 month in Bonifacio Global City (BGC) in Manila, Philippines. I had heard that BGC is basically the richest, nicest area in the whole Philippines, and I was intrigued.

As it turned out, I did like BGC a bit more than Cebu City, the previous city I had tried in the Philippines… But I still found several big negatives for me.

In this post, I’ll share all those pros and cons, illustrated with personal stories and photos I took myself.

5 Pros of Living in BGC

Keep in mind: I’m a single American male digital nomad in his 30s. I like big cities. I work online. I don’t drink alcohol or go out to clubs. I eat a plant-based diet and the gym is important to me. All of this affects my point of view.

1. Clean and Modern

Overall, the Philippines is still a developing country—but BGC looks very different from most of the Philippines.

BGC is sleek, clean, and modern. You could say it’s “manicured.”

It looks pretty similar to IT Park in Cebu City, if you’re familiar with that area—but BGC is much larger. There are signs posted that say “BGC Is Photo Friendly,” and it really is.

There are still some issues like stray cats, but overall this is a very clean, good-looking city. And that makes it a pretty nice place to hang out and walk around.

2. Friendly Locals

Many SE Asian countries have friendly locals, but in my experience, Filipinos are the friendliest of all.

The English level in the Philippines probably helps with this. In other countries, many locals are too intimidated by the language barrier to chat casually with foreigners. But that barrier isn’t as big in the Philippines.

The friendliness of Filipinos comes out in small daily interactions, as well as the overall social life you can create. And particularly as a western guy, dating is easy in the Philippines.

Compared to other Asian countries, more Filipinas seem interested in dating foreigners. At the same time, there are not many foreigners around to be your “competition,” compared to Thailand for example.

Personally, I noticed more women holding eye contact with me in public in Manila than anywhere else I’ve traveled. Obviously, it still takes initiative to say hello, but as a westerner, there are plenty of locals who’d love to meet you.

3. English Is Widely Spoken

Out of everywhere I’ve been in Asia, the Philippines has had the best English proficiency. It’s even much better than Hong Kong, which was a British colony for 150+ years.

And it makes sense. English is one of the official languages of the Philippines. 

This means you’ll have an easier time talking with hotel staff and taxi drivers compared to Thailand or Vietnam. And it helps with building deeper connections with locals, too.

4. Awesome Gym

This point may be oddly specific—but BGC has the best gym I’ve used in my whole digital nomad journey. It’s called Get Fit 24/7.

The equipment was top-notch, everything was spread out in a beautiful big space, the air conditioning was good, and it wasn’t crowded. Perfect for me.

This is in contrast to my experience in Cebu City, where I joined an Anytime Fitness gym. Although the equipment was good, the space was almost always crowded and a bit hot, and eventually I stopped going. (I hate crowded gyms.)

5. Not Many Beggars

This is one point where BGC seemed much better than Cebu City, in my experience.

For me, one of the big cons of Cebu City was the frequent presence of beggars, including very persistent ones. But I only encountered one beggar during my whole month in BGC. So, it was much less of an issue.

Obviously, this is a small sample size—just my personal experience. But personally this helped make BGC a more enjoyable place to walk around, compared to Cebu City.

5 Cons of Living in BGC

Unfortunately, BGC also comes with several big negatives. Here are five things I didn’t like.

1. Not as Cheap as Elsewhere in SE Asia

For some reason, Manila is not as cheap as other big cities in SE Asia. It’s actually quite a bit more expensive. I’m mostly talking about the rent or hotel costs.

For context: I usually stay in high-rise condos in SE Asia. In Bangkok, Saigon, or Kuala Lumpur, it’s ~$30 to $40 USD a night for a very nice studio or 1-bedroom. Sometimes I’ll splurge up to $50 or higher for an extra nice place, but that’s rare.

But in BGC, my Airbnb costs ranged from $44 to $79 per night, just for studios and 1-bedrooms. And really, the lower-end ones weren’t great. You definitely get less quality for the same price in BGC compared to Bangkok, Saigon, or Kuala Lumpur.

I’d say you’ll almost pay double the price to get the same quality of place in BGC, compared to those other cities.

Of course, there are some cheaper places to stay in BGC, too, but you’d take a step down in quality. And for me, the biggest perk of SE Asia is being able to live well for cheap.

Of course, there are still some cheap prices to be found in BGC. For example, haircuts anywhere in the Philippines seem to be super cheap (just a few dollars).

But overall, you seem to get more “bang for your buck” elsewhere in SE Asia. Even in Cebu City, I found far better deals for housing.

2. Unreliable Internet

The Philippines has a bit of a bad reputation among digital nomads, due to the weak Internet. Even in the most developed cities like BGC, you’ll get more buffering, lag, and dropped connections than you’d ever get in Thailand or Bali.

I stayed in four Airbnbs in BGC over the course of a month, and only one had reliable Internet. All the others had slow or unreliable wifi. Sometimes I found myself watching YouTube at very low resolution (144p) to avoid buffering.

Unfortunately, the data you get on your tourist SIM card tends to be inconsistent in Manila, too. So you can’t rely on just setting up a personal hotspot from your phone.

For most casual Internet use, you may be fine. But if you need to do video conference calls, that’s where you may really run into problems.

If you want consistent Internet in BGC, I’d recommend one of these:

  • Join a co-working space with awesome wifi, and do your online work there. BGC has at least one We Work location and a couple other co-working spaces, too.
  • Get a long-term lease, and pay to get great Internet installed. Most wifi routers in my Airbnbs did poorly… but some expats rave about their “fiber” connections and other such high-end options.

3. Annoying Building Security

Compared to other countries, the Philippines has more security checks when you enter buildings. This is maybe especially the case in BGC—there are security guards all over the place.

When you enter shopping malls, for example, you’ll be asked to open up your bag or purse and show the guard what’s inside.

But the most annoying thing was the security at the Airbnbs I rented. Most units have a “no guests” policy. You need to send the host a passport photo of anyone who will enter the unit at any time.

I’m sure you can find buildings that are more lax, or where the rules are not enforced. But just be aware that these rules are common in BGC, more than any other city I’ve visited in Asia.

4. Transportation in Manila Isn’t Great

Getting around BGC itself is easy—pretty much everything is walkable. But if you want to travel outside of BGC to the rest of Manila, it can be more of a hassle.

Metro Manila is huge—and like many big cities, the traffic can get bad. Personally, I was not able to figure out an efficient way to navigate it during my one-month stay.

The normal taxis seemed slow because of the traffic—and sometimes I struggled to find or hail a taxi on the street at all.

Manila has Grab, which is like the Uber of SE Asia—but sometimes, there aren’t any cars available. And Grab in Manila doesn’t have motorbike taxis, which are typically the quickest way to get around big cities in SE Asia.

Unlike Cebu City, it wasn’t easy to just find random motorcycle taxi drivers on the street to give me a ride, either.

Eventually I found an app, JoyRide, for motorcycle taxis in Manila. I used it successfully twice, and it worked fine—but I didn’t test it out enough to really give a detailed review here.

Maybe with more time, I would’ve figured out how to get all around Manila efficiently. But I mostly just stayed in BGC. It felt a little bit like a bubble. Which is my next point.

5. It’s Like Living in a Bubble

As noted above, BGC is not like the rest of the Philippines. It’s kind of like living in a luxury gated community, surrounded by poorer neighborhoods.

I noticed this sharp contrast when I lived in Cebu City, too. The “nice” areas looked completely different from the more run-down areas right next to them.

It seems like the inequality of development in the Philippines is perhaps more drastic than anywhere else I’ve traveled.

This can have various downsides, beyond the annoying security stuff mentioned above. For me personally, it felt like I wasn’t actually experiencing the “real” Philippines very much.

Some people may also just feel weird or bad about it, depending on your personal beliefs about money, poverty, inequality, and so on.

Overall, staying in BGC has some perks, but it also has more downsides than most cities I’ve stayed in.

For me personally, I think Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City are better big-city options for living in SE Asia. They have more reliable Internet and lower prices, and for me, better food as well.