In January of 2014 we flew to Manila, the Philippines to go backpacking for about 2 weeks. As usual I wrote down every penny we spent so I could keep track of our expenses and to make sure we wouldn’t spend more than our budget would allow us. In this blog post, I will show how you can travel the Philippines on a budget and still have a good time.
Preparing for our backpacking trip Yvonne & I gave ourselves a budget for our vacation. It’s something we usually do, but it turned out very well! Even better: we were able to stay under the budget we had given ourselves.
Conversion rate at the time $1 = PHP 45.33
When traveling we divide our expenses in 5 groups; accommodation, food & beverages, transportation, excursions, and miscellaneous.
Travel the Philippines on a Budget
When you travel the Philippines on a budget it’s good to know that hotels and guesthouses often have a ‘promo rate’ available. They won’t actively promote these rates, but it is worthwhile asking for it. It can save you up to 30% a night on your stay.
We spent about PHP 900 per night on accommodation and for this we usually had a double room with a private bathroom. The most we paid for a room was PHP 1200 in Sagada, but this was the effect of the Sagada ETAG Festival that was being held at the time. This caused the city to be full with Filipinos from the surrounding cities and raised the prices of accommodation.
Food & beverages
After adding up all the numbers it didn’t struck us as a surprise that most of our budget went to this group. As foodies we love to try the local food and that’s exactly what we did! For breakfast we frequently visited local bakeries. They are a good choice as they often offer different kinds of pasteries and usually have coffee available too.
Bottle of water ~ PHP 30 s
Red Horse (beer) ~ PHP 40-60
Bun at a bakery ~ PHP 5
Simple dinner ~ PHP 200
First of all: we found it very easy to travel in the Philippines using public transportation. Both jeepneys and the metro in Manila are easy to use. A ride with a jeepney will cost you about PHP 8, sometimes a little bit more when you’re covering a longer distance.
When traveling from city to city prices for bus tickets will depend on the kind of bus you’re using and the distance. We traveled from Manila to Baguio in a Victory Liner bus. The tickets for these buses are a bit pricier than the local buses. This is because the buses of Victory Liner have airco & Wi-Fi. A ticket for one person cost PHP 450 peso. These were the prices for the other bus rides:
Baguio – Sagada ~ PHP 220
Sagada – San Fernando ~ PHP 80
San Fernando – Manila ~ PHP 436
We didn’t spend a lot of money on excursions this time. A lot of the things we did were for free. The most we spent for an excursion was PHP 800 surf lessons (PHP 400 per person) in San Juan, La Union. Many of the museums were free, along with the beaches. So, for the most part we spent very little on excursions.
Quite a big part of our budget was spent on miscellaneous. Altogether a mere PHP 2192.50 pesos. Included in this are the PHP 70 (per person) we paid at the tourist registration office in Sagada. It is required for tourists to register when they arrive in Sagada. 50% of the total was spent on the exit fee you need to pay when leaving the Philippines. The exit fee was PHP 550 per person at the time. Be sure to have some cash left when leaving the country.
It is possible to travel the Philippines on a budget, especially when you are heading towards Luzon in the north. If you skip the major tourist site, which we often do, you will find that traveling in the Philippines on a budget is quite easy. We often found it difficult to spend money because, other than the beaches, there was very little to do in terms of excursions. We also found the food to be bland in many areas, which keep us from splurging on dinners.
We really enjoyed our time in the Philippines because there was plenty of outdoor activities, which didn’t cost much, and allowed us to move our lazy butts. Overall, we had a great time and for the both of us we spent a total of PHP 28,948.35. That’s an average of PHP 1207.18 pesos per person, per day. Converted to US dollars that would be $26.50. If you want more information on how to travel the Philippines on a budget than check out this Lonely Planet article.