Guest post by Jerick – he is a Filipino traveller currently living in Brussels. He currently aims to travel to 25 countries before he turns 25 this year. Visit www.25travels.com. All photos in included in this post are by Jerick and can be found at his flickr.
Budget Travel In The Philippines
Travelling around the Philippines, if put into comparison with other destinations around the world, is a budget travel destination in itself.
The Philippines is the perfect destination if you are looking to travel cheap and for off-the-beaten track destinations and experiences.
Because of its geographical location, the Philippines has often been missed out from the main tourist trail in Southeast Asia. However, it means that there are more experiences to take in without the hassle and disadvantages coming from the common tourist traps.
Travelling to and around the country’s 7,107 islands is a journey in itself. Though when compared to its neighbours, it’s more difficult and complicated. But if you follow these tips and advice, it will make journey more inexpensive while still keeping on the full travel experience.
With budget travel in the Philippines, the key is to plan early.
Flights, in general, costs around 3000-6000 PHP (Philippine Pesos) return depending on the destination – but as always book early to get the best deals. Airlines like Cebu Pacific and Air Philippines have promotional fares (usually around 50%-70% discount) if you buy 3-4 months in advance.
If you don’t want to splurge on flights, buses are also a good and cheap way to go around. Going to the whale shark sanctuary Donsol, for example, can be done one hour by plane – but you can save half the price if you take the overnight bus from Manila.
Taxis are cheap compared to Western standards (can be around 100 to 300 pesos for a ride). However, you can take on the full local experience with jeepneys and public buses that have fares starting at a cheap 8 pesos per ride!
Accommodation & Communications
Hostels are virtually non-existent yet it’s slowly growing business in the Philippines, so it may come as a challenge to look for one. However, there are lots of guesthouses, homestays and 2 star Manila hotels that offer good quality stay for low prices. And if you plan to stay longer, it always pays to ask and negotiate for a discount.
You can also try the usual Couchsurfing.org option for a more local experience.
In terms of communications, internet is universally available and internet shops can be found in almost every town in the Philippines. Expect to pay around 25 pesos per hour of use.
For making calls, it’s better to buy a local sim card rather than use your phone’s roaming. Sim cards can be bought for 35 pesos. Calls can be made at 7 pesos per minute for a local ones and at least 20 pesos per minute for international ones. Local text message is 1 peso per minute while international SMS is at 15 pesos per message.
Food & Drinks
Food can be bought cheaply almost anywhere.
The Philippines offers lots of street food. Dimsum-style fishballs and squidballs, fried bananas or if you are a bit more hardcore, balut (fertilised duck embryo) and isaw (grilled pork/chicken intestines) can be bought under 20 pesos and can be a good snack or light dinner.
Markets are great places to experience the local atmosphere and get fresh food at the same time. Ingredients found in the market are often caught fresh (especially if you are buying seafood and you live next to the seaside) and cheaper than in the supermarkets.
Fast food joints are also a good place to get cheap dinners with 50 – 150 pesos per meal. Prices at mid-range restaurants range from 150-300 per meal.
Beers are affordable too. The common but very palatable San Miguel beer & backpacker favourite Red Horse strong beer can be bought for 25 pesos per bottle in supermarket and small stores. Getting it in clubs and bars is often more expensive and can set you back 50-80 pesos depending on the venue.
Tanduay, the local rum, is a cheap way to get drunk easily. A pint can set you back 25 pesos.
Going out & Activities
The Philippines is rich with natural beauty that it’s enough to just wander around. Whether it’s admiring the Mayon Volcano or the Chocolate Hills, walking along the mountain sides of the Banaue rice terraces or lounging on a beach in one of the Philippines’ 7000 islands – the budget impact are often minimal for the experience you get.
Surfing, kayaking, scuba diving, snorkelling can be done cheaply too, yet the price varies depending on where you do it. One dive with all equipment included can be as cheap as 1000 pesos. It can be more expensive in touristy places like Boracay, Malapascua or Puerto Galera, but if you go to less popular places like Siquijor, Palawan or Bohol – it can be much cheaper. Scuba lessons can be done at a budget too.
In terms of nightlife, most bars and clubs don’t have cover charge. Yet at the fancier ones, you can expect to pay around 200-400 pesos as the entrance. Karaoke bars are common in Filipino night scenes and you can rent your own “karaoke” room for at least 100 pesos per hour – good singing voice, of course, is not included.
Other small yet important things to remember
- Stock up on as much small bills as possible. Most small stores, taxis and public transport often find it difficult to give change for bills with higher denomination so it’s better to keep a lot of 20,50,100 bills as often as you can.
- Most of the people speak a bit of English but as with any travels, learning and saying a few words in the local language help make things run smoother, faster and sometimes can help drive a price of an item cheaper. Know how to say salamat (thank you), kamusta? (how are you?), magkano? (how much?) as a start.
- Despite the current economic development in Southeast Asia, most of the Philippines remains to be poor. Think twice when bartering in the market, taxi rides, small town guest house or a local trip, as that 1 USD extra can go a long way. Tipping is not standard but appreciated.
- Buy locally made handicrafts and souvenirs in family-run stores. It’s cheaper and you are also helping out by supporting local businesses.
- The current exchange rate at the time of publishing is 43 pesos to 1 USD and 55 pesos to a Euro.
You don’t need to dig down deep into your pockets to travel in the Philippines,.
And in the end, it’s not the price of travel that matters but the experience and lessons you get from the journey. Travel is whatever you want it to be.
Have you travelled to the Philippines? What was your favourite experience? And do you have budget tips to share? Let us know!
Looking for more budget travel tips? Check out our budget travel category.