First impression. Z Hostel along Don Pedro Street is in a seven-storey building in the middle of what is becoming Metro Manila’s new backpacker district, Poblacion in Makati. Its predominantly grey façade is initially intimidating, and the flight of stairs leading up to the hostel's door adds to the somewhat unapproachable feel, but a sign by the door that says “only good vibes beyond this point” breaks the formal exterior like a surprisingly warm, well-timed handshake. Inside, the energy is youthful and energetic.
The lobby and reception is clean and bright, furnished in trendy industrial style. The look is a refreshing departure from the usual colorful, graffiti-strewn hostels. The reception, a book exchange, and a computer station are housed on the ground floor, while a game room complete with custom-made beer pong table, and additional showers are in the mezzanine. Rooms occupy the second to sixth floors, while the topmost floor houses roof decks on either side of the building.
Room. Z Hostel has 30 rooms in total, with eight private rooms, two all-female dorms for six, and 20 mixed dorms. The number of beds in each mixed dorm varies between eight, six, and four.
I get one of the six beds in an all-female dorm, one of the bigger rooms at 30sqm. The decor follows the hostel’s industrial look, resulting in a rather stark space. Thankfully, glorious sunlight streaming in through the windows almost make up for its plainness (thick blinds are ready to block out the sunlight if needed).
Bunks are attached to the walls and the steps are angled, making the top-bunk climb more pleasant than usual. Each bed has its own reading light and charging station.
A chalkboard hangs from the top to bottom bunk, providing both privacy and doodle space – though the absence of chalk on hand keeps me from having fun with it. The mattresses are firm but comfy, covered in basic white linen. There is only one pillow.
Built-in locker lights solve the dilemma of having to dig through a backpack in the dark while roommates sleep. The extra power outlets inside the lockers allow for unsupervised charging. The en suite bathroom, while very basic, has hot and cold running water. The thick fluffy bath towel is another nod to Z’s luxury hostel claim.
Some comforts – a dressing table with illuminated mirrors, a blow-dryer, waffle bath robes – are exclusive to the girls-only dorms.
Food. The Z Café and Bar near the lobby serves complimentary breakfast, including free-flowing coffee, to those who book a private room. Arroz Caldo (rice porridge) adds a Filipino twist to the usual hostel breakfast spread of toast and jam. The bar also serves coffee drinks including espresso for P60 (about US$1.2), brewed coffee for P50, and cappuccino for P80. Within walking distance of the hostel, a food trip awaits. El Chupacabra’s grilled chicken skewer is one of he best I've tasted. Tambai serves up all kinds of delicious yakitori. Senor Pollo and its famous Latin fried chicken is also a five-minute walk from the hostel.
Activities. A theater with flat-screen TV and Playstation is on the topmost floor overlooking the roof decks that open in the evenings, serving up beer (P75 for a bottle of Brew Kettle, San Miguel Pale Pilsen or Light), an amazing view of the nighttime cityscape, and good music. The travel desk at reception will also happily arrange a Metro Manila tour.
Service. The front desk is manned by young staff who are efficient – answering questions and providing needs as soon as I ask. They are friendly, and seem to be genuinely concerned with my well-being. They even offer to take my tiny backpack all the way up to the room. The friendly managing partners are omnipresent and ready to give travel tips and share stories, which help create that homey hostel atmosphere.
I Like. Pretty much everything. From the lobby to the rooftop, and everything else in between – the beds, the lockers, the strong Wi-Fi connection, the endless opportunities to make new friends. I also love the general feeling that each detail was well-thought-out to make a backpacker’s life much easier.
Not so Keen. Being on the sixth floor, my dorm is right below the roof deck, and the nightly party keeps me awake. It’s a niggle that can be tolerated, even avoided if you book a bed on the quieter lower floors.
Verdict. Highly recommended. It’s pricier than Manila’s average backpacker hostel which can go for as low as P500 a night, but the amenities are worth the extra pesos.
The hostel's special rates for the rainy season are P669 for a bed in the eight-bed dorm, P849 for the six-bed dorm, P899 for the all-female dorm, P749 for the four-bed dorm, and P2,430 for the private rooms. Special rates are until September 30.
Regular rates for a bed in the all-female dorm is at P1,350 a night. A bed in the mixed dorm is at P990 a night in the eight-bed room, P1,260 in the six-bed room, and P1,080 in the four-bed room. Private rooms for two are at P2,700 a night.