Preview trips are not always practical or feasible if you are moving a long way across the globe, but I would highly recommend doing one if it suits your schedule and budget.
We all have our own preconceived thoughts about places thanks to social media, the news, or hearsay. In the internet age, we can also easily access Google Earth for satellite and street views of places far away from home. This will sound very cliche, but DO NOT JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER.
- Start by visiting the country as a tourist
If you have never been to the country before, a preview trip will give you a flavour of your destination. If time permits, spend a few days enjoying the city or country as a tourist. This will give you a general sense of how things work in the country and also a feel of the different vibes in the different towns and cities. This will help you pick the right locale for you and your family.
- Do your research before going, but keep an open mind
Blogs, travel reviews, and dedicated travel sites will give you important information about your destination country. Use this as a guide, but try not to make judgements before you see and experience the place yourself.
H and I have never visited Manila before. We did lots of research prior to our preview trip and had our hearts set on the Bonifacio Global City (BGC) because it was touted to be new (no building is more than 19 years old!), swanky, clean, and safe. However, when we arrived, we surprised ourselves by choosing Makati City over BGC for a few reasons:
a. Makati seems more vibrant with greater diversity and more options. You’ll get a good mix of up-scale luxury malls and mid-range affordable shops. The buildings were also a good mix of skyscrapers and low-rise buildings. If you prefer the urban jungle with skyscrapers all covered in glass and you like the hustle and bustle of living within a business district with offices of international companies, then maybe BGC will be for you.
b. Makati isn’t that old! It has a good mix of old and new buildings that balances it out. I think this diversity is what gives the place character! Makati is also home to several gated villages that form the homes of the rich and famous as well as the old-rich who have been living in their large homes for generations. Each area also has its own character and vibes so you’ll have to experience them to decide on what you like!
c. Newer does not mean better. The newness of BGC that initially attracted me to the region was also the reason that deterred me from choosing it as our home away from home. It has only been 19 years in the making, so there are still development projects going on. The streets felt like construction areas to me. Sure, there are no hanging or exposed cables in BGC; they are replaced by scaffoldings and dust from all the construction in the city. I’d say give it a few more years and it may indeed be the beautiful and new BGC I imagined it to be.
- View the apartments that you want to rent BEFORE you pay for it!
This might be a no-brainer, but if you do not have a chance to do a preview trip and you’re keen to get a place before you move yourself and your things over, you might be very tempted to secure a place before you even see it. Here’s the thing: the unit layout and furnishing you see online is usually just a guide and units can vary from unit to unit (even for serviced apartments).
If a preview trip is not possible, there are a few other options to consider:
a. Book a stay in a short-stay apartment or hotel first and use the time that you are there to look for an apartment that you like.
b. Choose a reputable serviced apartment — they are more likely to look like the pictures you see online.
c. Get in contact with a reputable relocation company with consultants who can do the ground work for you.
Hope my experience helps to guide you in your own relocation and home-hunting! Do you have any other tips to share?
The Expat Wife