Pension houses offer basic accommodation at an average rate of between 500 and 1,000 pesos per night. As in any other country, you get what you pay for, and if you pay less than 1,000 pesos, that's not much. If you're used to staying in nice hotels, you may be shocked by the standards at a pension house: you'll be lucky to have air conditioning, and if you do get it the unit may be two decades old and make more noise than the jet that brought you here. Fittings and furnishings in your room may be old and worn, and water heaters will be non-existent, ineffectual, or broken. If you complain, the staff may be puzzled by the fact that you're upset, since the standards of their own lifestyles are much lower still, and treat you with benign tolerance.
Since there is nothing much to choose between the facilities and amenities pension houses offer, and they are all pretty cheap - I haven't even bothered including room rates on this page - the pension houses are listed here according to two attributes: location and friendliness of the staff. The latter is important, more so than at a hotel, because, firstly, pension houses are small, and you will likely see the same faces all the time, and secondly, customer care manuals usually do not exist, so it is up to the individual members of the staff to determine how to help you.
The hospitality factor was tested by a personal visit by myself, and, a few weeks later, via a phone call from one of my secretaries purporting to be a college student working on a research project. Obviously, this method is not fool-proof; staff may change, and anyone will have good days and bad days. Nonetheless, staff at a decently run pension house will have been taught to be friendly to all callers, and what we discovered bears this out. In most cases, when I found the staff to be unhelpful, so did my secretary. I have excluded all intolerably unfriendly establishments from this page.
Lastly, note that most pension houses do not accept credit cards.
Now, I just said that the facilities at all pension houses are pretty much the same, and this is true. But there is one exception. Casa Rosario is conveniently located - a few minutes walking distance from Mango Square and Fuente - and also has a broadband service. For just P100 a day you can be hooked up to the net at top speed. So if you are a laptop-toting type of traveler on a tight budget, Casa Rosario is the place to stay.
In terms of location, one of the most convenient is La Florentina. It's just a short walk from Ayala, where you can buy anything and get a ride to just about anywhere, via jeep or taxi. Moreover, it's on a quiet side street with little traffic. The design is rather charming, too. Myra's Pension is a stone's throw away, fronting Escario St.
A number of pension houses are concentrated in a small quadrant between Chong Hua Hospital and the Capitol. The side streets are relatively quiet and the convenience of the mid-town location is excellent. And if you have a problem with your digs you can easily cross the street and get a room with the competition. These are Jasmine Pension House, Verbena Pension House, the Westpoint Inn, Capitol Tourist Inn, and the Dynasty Tourist Inn.
Then there are a number of pension houses also in this area which are not tucked away in side streets but are right on the main road. These will be noisier, due to the traffic, but you'll be able to hop on a jeep or cab without walking more than five yards. Shamrock and Elegant Circle Inn are right on Fuente Osmea; you can't get any more central than that. The Kan-Irag, on Ramos, is next to two girlie clubs - Volvo and Thunderdome - and houses one of the few 24 hour restaurants in Cebu, Abuhan. Consequently, this may not be a terrific place to stay if you have impressionable kids.
If you do have kids, a good affordable place is the Vacation Hotel, which has a pool - and that's perhaps why it's not called the Vacation Pension House. The Vacation Hotel and C'est La Vie are on a side street parallel to Osmea Blvd, but this side street gets a lot of traffic. For some reason, there are five or six more pension houses along this road, called Juana Osmea St. You can't get jeeps here, only taxis. I decided to include C'est La Vie on this page because of the fatalistic naming, and El Jardin because of the super-friendly staff.
There are a number of pension houses in the downtown area. I wouldn't recommend these for tourists; the crime rate downtown is high, traffic is terrible, and the place is always teeming with people, people, people. Most guests staying downtown are local business travelers from the provinces and other islands. However, if you do want to stay downtown for sake of convenience and gritty ambience, a good place would be the Cebu Business Hotel, which is right on Colon, the oldest street in the Philippines and the heart of the downtown area.
There are not that many pension houses in the better part of town. Near the JY Square is the Metro Park Hotel, located on a quite side street. The Metro Park was built with care but has been going down the tube lately; you'll find unwashed windows and peeling paint. Ford's Inn, meanwhile, is conveniently located a stone's throw from Foodland, on A S Fortuna, and happens to be one of the best-managed pension houses in Metro Cebu. It is also home to a Cafe Wien restaurant, useful if you start craving Western fare.
There's only one low-cost facility in Mandaue that I know of, next to the Subangdaku flyover. The Nikkei (345-8087) has a 24-hour restaurant.
In Lapu-Lapu, there are a few budget inns offering the same proximity to the sea as the more expensive beach resorts. Boyla (492-1823) is a dive shop which also has a small accommodation facility. Getting around will be a bit harder at these places; you'd better be prepared to walk at least a few hundred meters to the nearest tricycle stand. Ditto for the Buyong Beach Resort (492-0119), and Mactan Pension House (340-5524).
In the unlikely event that you'll need to stay in the vicinity of Talisay - essentially a sprawling suburb - the Tourist Seaside Hotel (272-7813) will come in handy.