Budget Travel In The Philippines

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.

Paddling your way down the river like Jerick could be a good way to budget travel in the Philippines…. but a bus or plane might be faster! – Loboc River in Bohol


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.

With such cheap calling rates, you don’t have to think twice about calling home to brag about being at a spectacular destination like this waterfall – Cambugahay Falls, Siquijor

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.

Trying the local food and drink is always a fun thing to do in a new country… budget travel or not!

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.

Not as many travellers head to the Philippines, so the budget traveller can expect less crowds – El Nido, Palawan

Other small yet important things to remember

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. Buy locally made handicrafts and souvenirs in family-run stores. It’s cheaper and you are also helping out by supporting local businesses.
  2. 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.


    • says

      With some of the cheap air Asia flights out there, it is not that expensive to get there… especially if you are already backpacking through SE Asia. I am really excited to head to the Philippines next year!

  1. says

    Philippines are very high on my list of places to visit and maybe even retire. Thanks for the great overview and tips. Hopefully I’ll be using them soon.

  2. says

    I was chatting with a Filipino woman in Abu Dhabi last month about her country and she really sold it to me. Hopefully we’ll get to visit there – sounds amazing! Great tips!

  3. says

    The Philippines is on my very long list of places to visit. It looks beautiful and the fact that it’s so cheap makes it all the more alluring. Great post!

  4. ***The LensMaster says

    The Philippines is cheaper to travel around once you’re already in the country. Hopping from one island to another really proves a challenge since it’s an archipelago. BUT you can save on your plane ride by booking in advance with Cebu Pacific. You may also try Ensogo Philippines or Deal Grocer Philippines to save on accommodations. Home-stays are also preferred.

    • says

      When you were in the Philippines did you mostly fly between islands? I am thinking of trying to do as much overlanding as possible…. do you have tips for island hopping by boat?

      • ***The LensMaster says

        You can actually reach every major destination in the Philippines by boat. Each island is connected by inter-island vessels. For example, you may book with Super Ferry, an inter-island shipping company, in the capital city of Manila to go to say Coron, Cebu, Bohol, Boracay, and even as far as Davao and Zamboanga and to other major tourist destinations. Travel time via ships in those places can range from 1-3 days depending on the location.

        For the most part, you will be traveling by bus or rented car when going to places outside the capital city.

        • says

          Great tips!!! I like the idea of booking the major ferry rides in advance as well. I like to have those sorts of “big” things sorted near the beginning of the trip so I dont have to stress about them along the way. Although Im not sure how well I would do on a 3 day boat ride! I am prone to sea sickness after all…

          • says

            Yep, overland trips are possible for major cities across the archipelago but The LensMaster is right – it sometimes takes days to do it and the money you save won’t be that huge.

            Planes are the most cost and time-effective way to go around really. Why travel 3 days if you can fly for only 2 hours with a fare difference of only 30 – 50 USD?

  5. says

    My favorite travel destination. In large cities such as Manila they also have night food markets which are a great way to sample all kinds of different foods. Now that Clark airport is expanding some flights are cheaper than taking them out of Manila.

  6. says

    I really want to go to the Philippines and reading is makes me want to go more but I’m a bot concerned about safety. How safe is travelling in the Philippines?

    • says

      Most areas of the Philippines are safe to travel in, but some regions in the south need to be avoided. The situation changes so quickly, it is best to check travel advisories closer to the time you intend to travel. In the north and central areas though, it is generally very safe

  7. says

    Philippines is not very expensive travel destination. However, these tips can be extremely helpful for people, who travel on a budget. So, simply make use of these tips and enjoy your travel in Philippines.

  8. joy says

    Thanks! Nice to know a lot of people wants to visit our country! If you have any problem or question, you could send me a personal email :) Will be glad to help. I have a group of friends who travel in different places in the Philippines since 4 years ago for almost every weekend, but still could not do enough! There’s always a new place to visit and things to try. Hope you will enjoy your stay here in the future! :)

  9. joy says

    Thanks! Nice to know a lot of people want to visit our country! If you have any problem or question re your visit, you could send me a personal email :) I will be glad to help. Myself and a group of friends travel in different places in the Philippines since 4 years ago for almost every weekend, but still could not do enough! There’s always a new place to visit and things to try. Hope you will enjoy your stay here in the future! :)

  10. Angelo @Old Boot Travel and Tours Philippines says

    Very true. The Philippines are relatively cheap compared to Western standards, and if you eat at local restaurants and travel like the locals then apart from saving up precious money which will keep you travelling longer, you will also truly experience the country!

    And yes i cannot say this enough: Sari-sari stores (those little shops) never have change, so bring at least a few 20’s bills

  11. says

    The first time I visit the Philippines, It was my best friend wedding. They married in Boracay. We supposed to stay for two weeks but we decided to extend for two more weeks. We had a blast the experienced was amazing. We stayed at Discovery Shores. The hotel was awesome world class indeed. Since then I keep coming back. Next year we’re planning to visit Sumilon Island.

  12. Ej Jimenez says

    Thank you for this great review for my country. Beside from being a amazing and cheap tourist destination, Philippines is also a good place for retirement. A lot of foreigners are tourist before and now they are living in Philippines for years and counting. Filipino is a very close family ties that’s why we are known to be hospitable, very caring and loving.


  1. […] Travel Blogger Feature: Jade and James – Our Oyster Hello there! If you are new here, you might want to subscribe to the RSS feed for updates on this topic.Powered by WP Greet Box WordPress PluginThis Monday’s Newcomer Interview is with Jade & James of Our Oyster. Their travels are inspiring as they often look for the best experiences while keeping the budget and their environmental footprint in control. They have great resources on budget travel all over the world, and with your truly doing a contribution about Budget Travel in the Philippines. […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *