Let’s talk about Boracay’s beautiful white sand beaches and the depths of Palawan’s Underground River. With its more than seven thousand islands, the Philippines is packed with thousands of different ways to captivate every adventurous soul. The exciting part is, you don’t even have to spend a fortune to enjoy the charm of the “Peal of the Orient” – if you know what to look for.
So how can you have an unforgettable journey that would surely be light to your pockets? If you’re looking to travel to the Philippines with a modest budget, this guide will walk you through everything you want to know to make the most out of your hard-earned dollars.
The key to every great adventure is being prepared, especially for those traveling on a budget. When planning on where you would visit, always remember that there is so much to do in the Philippines. For example, you might think of visiting the captivating view at Chocolate Hills in Bohol; on your way, you can start by visiting places like Panglao Beach, which is fifteen minutes away from the airport. You can try to find other activities around your destination so you can make the most out of your stay while lessening traveling expenses.
Preparing ahead can also lead to significant savings. As with other countries, if you booked early, it can lead to great discounts. Plane tickets could even go for as low as $20 one way if booked ahead of time and could quickly go up to hundreds of dollars when booked a day or two earlier. It applies to hotels too. Make sure that you get to look for the best deals you can find online.
Another deal you could look out for is “group traveling.” Usually, how this works is that there would be a vehicle for rent and there are set destinations and itineraries for each travel package. Now people just sign-up for slots for each travel schedule. You can find these deals through social media apps like Facebook. Motorcoach tour is one cheapest and primary option to travel if you have not yet decided where to go or what to do.
As for the wifi/data connection, there are free SIM cards at the airports, and you can easily score data plans that will last throughout your stay. Remember that sometimes, especially in rural areas, you might get a poor connection – but dealing with your phone is not the point of traveling anyway.
Lastly, try to research about phone applications to give you the best deals out of pretty much everything. You can use apps for booking like Agoda, Traveloka, or Booking.com. For food deals, you can find some through apps like Booky, Eatigo, or Zomato.
Pack everything you need
Make sure to bring everything that you need to avoid shopping for your needs during your travel. Preparing everything you need is a general rule for every country that you visit. Ensure that you have your basic needs, such as extra pairs of clothing, additional battery packs, light snacks, water bottles, etc. You might also want to pack some toilet paper as the Philippines is not a country that uses toilet paper a lot. If you’re going to delve more into the culture, you can use a water bucket, or tabo, instead.
The Philippines, especially in the summer season, is a hot and humid country. Make sure to stay hydrated all the time by bringing your water with you. Do not drink tap water.
For the rainy season, do bring some raincoats or umbrellas unless you want to start looking like that one famous scene from The Notebook.
Remember, bring everything that you need – but not too much. Travel light so you can enjoy basking in the beauty of the Philippines.
Travel out of season
As mentioned earlier, rates during the peak seasons could quickly go out of budget. It is best to familiarize yourself with the peak seasons in the Philippines and avoid them.
The most common peak seasons are during the Holy Week (usually March-April), the summer season (April-May), and the Christmas season (November-December). You must, however, avoid the unpredictable typhoon season of the Philippines (from June-September) as plans could easily be set-back by a typhoon. In my experience, January to February seems to be the month where a few people are traveling and (if we’re lucky to have a few typhoons) September to October. When you avoid peak seasons, you might also get better service from the places you will visit as caretakers can focus more on you.
Lookout for alternative destinations
Most of the tourist areas in the Philippines are continually improving to serve visitors better. However, some of these places tend to ramp up their rates. And also expect that these places will be very crowded tight, especially during peak season. The best way is to do a bit of research to find alternative tourist spots. For instance, during the summer, beach visitors in Luzon island tend to flock northward to popular places like La Union or Aurora to enjoy surfing. You’ll be surprised that you could get the same experience by traveling east instead to the coasts of Real, Quezon. Not only would your travel costs below, your travel time will be shorter, but you can also enjoy lower rates at local inns.
Pro tip: ask the locals about these “alternate destinations.” Usually, they will point you to some of the Philippines’ untapped beauties.
Have your money exchanged for A LOT of smaller bills and coins
The only currency you can use while going around the Philippines is the Philippine Peso (PHP). In most urban places in the Philippines like Metro Manila, you can use your credit cards or other cashless payment methods. However, this is not the case with the rural parts of the country. You will need small bills and coins. You will need your cash when you are going around the Philippines. For instance, a cheap way to go around the country is via jeepneys (more on that later). The minimum fare for a jeepney ride is about Php 9.00 (or about $0.20. You might want to have your coins ready to avoid the hassle of waiting for the driver to give you a change for your one-thousand-peso bill. Not just for transportation but also in purchasing things from the local vendors.
Food is cheap in the Philippines – don’t hesitate to try them all.
FILIPINO cuisine is not as distinct compared to others. It’s a celebration of different cultures blended with native and colonial influences. Some would even say that Filipino food is one of the earliest versions of fusion cuisine. It is greatly influenced by Chinese, Spanish, American, and Japanese cultures, so you can expect a variety of food to enjoy – and the food in the Philippines is cheaper than you expect it to be.
You can enjoy local Filipino cuisine everywhere. Though there are many restaurants to choose from, it’s sometimes even a great choice to delve deeper into the culture and let the locals do the cooking. Naturally, Filipinos are very hospitable and welcoming. There are some places where locals would offer to cook food for you – and most of the time, this is the cheaper and more authentic way to enjoy Filipino food.
Embrace the extraordinary array of public transportation in the Philippines
Have you ever tried riding a horse carriage? How about a jeepney or a tricycle? These are some of the modes of public transportation that you can find in the Philippines. They are almost everywhere to the point where I can safely say that you might not ever need to get a taxi to go to where you want to go. Riding these public transportations sure is cheap, easy but with some caveats.
The jeepneys are the most basic and most noticeable mode of transportation in the Philippines. Usually, these funky looking beasts roam around the country’s most traveled parts, especially in the cities, for a low price. If you would take onto the narrower roads, then the tricycles are your friends. These three-wheeled fellas are motorbikes with a sidecar (an enclosure with seats) attached to them. If you travel to the county’s rural parts, you can even rent out a motorbike, called habal-habal, for yourself from the locals. If you would go island hopping like in Pangasinan’s Hundred Islands, you can rent out a small boat to tour you around the area. I’m sure that you will find it interesting to try at least one of these public transportation methods. Note – your travel to the Philippines is not complete if you have not attempted to ride a jeepney.
Build relationships with the locals
The Filipino’s are easily recognized worldwide as very hospitable and welcoming people. It seems that the culture revolves around being friendly towards each other. The best way to get closer to the culture is to be familiar with the locals. Filipinos love having foreigners around. One way that you could easily charm them is when you try to speak the Filipino languages yourself. A “Kamusta?” means “Hi, how are you.” “Magandang umaga/hapon/gabi” is Filipino for “Good morning/afternoon/evening.” Or if you want to impress them a bit more, you can tell them that they are good-looking by saying “gwapo(boys)/maganda(girls) ako.” Give it a try, and you can thank me later.
However, some people would take advantage of a visitor’s lack of familiarity with the place to juice some money out of you, which could sometimes chip away a portion of your budget. There might be a few instances that you might encounter this, so back off from some “deals” that might be too good to be true. Others might even disguise acts of friendship like carrying your luggage for you, etc. Just be wise and be careful at all times.
Being nice to the Filipino people can also turn out to be an advantage. For instance, while traveling back a couple of years, we rented out an inn at a less visited beach. We got a chance to mingle with the locals and learn more about the place through them. While talking with them, they have pointed us to other beautiful spots to visit around the area. Not only that, but they also gave us free fruit, and basically, they have provided us with the things that we needed for the night’s barbeque, like an extra grill and some firewood. Remember, a little friendliness in the Philippines can go a long way.
Treasure experiences, not souvenirs
While the Philippines offer a load of souvenirs that varies from destination to destination, it also provides a unique experience in each spot. Instead of planning to bring that extra luggage for your souvenirs (which are, I think, overrated, by the way), bring with you an extra ounce of being adventurous and daring. Collect memories, photos, even Instagram posts, and above all, collect experiences – instead of souvenirs. Not only would it make your travel economical, but I assure you that this could bring greater happiness and satisfaction. By doing so, you can come back home with a lighter load, more significant savings, and even a more fulfilled heart.
In conclusion, the Philippines is easily among the top places to visit if you are on a tight budget with cheap options for tourist destinations, affordable transportation, and relatively inexpensive food. Just plan, get familiar with your destination and enjoy making memories while you are there. And the best part about traveling to the Philippines on a budget? There might still be enough for a second or even a third visit.