The Philippines have always appeared like a dream to me and when I started planning my trip to Southeast Asia, I was very enthusiastic at the idea of visiting the Philippines. Many people told me about how beautiful the many islands country was but also about how expensive it was. At some point, I almost decided not to go. I am so happy I did not listen to those people. As the Filipino slogan says; it’s more fun in the Philippines! And indeed it is the vibe is incredible! As for the cost, you must make a budget and stick to it.
So, is it more expensive than all the other Southeast Asian countries? Yes and no. Some things are more expensive when others are cheaper and again, it all depends where you decide to go spend your money! Here’s my list of what you should do and what you shouldn’t do to keep your wallet healthy while visiting the most pristine country of Southeast Asia.
Philippines on a budget
- Avoid Manila as much as possible. Remember, if you look for a safe area to stay for a few nights in Manila, it will also be one of the most expensive areas. Makati & Bonifacio Global City (BGC) are spectacular but hard to afford for a backpacker. Anyways, if you have to stay there for a few nights, Our Awesome Hostel is a nice, affordable & comfy place to stay. Their rooftop patio has a splendid view of the capital city. If you are short on money: stick to street food and grocery stores. Otherwise, hit the restaurants but be aware: they are pricey! If you are not too health conscious, go to the fast food restaurants… they are everywhere!
- If you have to take a taxi from any part of Manila to reach the airport, believe them when they say that the traffic is CRAZY. You can take easily 2 or more hours to get to the airport. I had to jump off the taxi and walk with my luggage until I manage to stop a motorcyclist who wanted to give me a ride for a couple hundred pesos. That was the only way I could have a chance to make it in time for my flight. Please don’t make the same mistake as I did. If you can, you should hire a motorcycle to get to the airport in the first place. It will save you precious time!
- Stay in Palawan… FOREVER! Only one thing, try to book in advance and take the time to shop for the best rates. Agoda.com hotsels.com or com were the best websites. Accommodation in the Philippines is more expensive than other Asian countries but nothing major. If you book in advance, you will get the best accommodation available instead of the worse ones. In general, remember that the tourism in the Philippines is not as developed as it is in Indonesia or Thailand. So less people means less choices in terms of places to stay.
- If you can afford a night of pleasure treat yourself to a stay at the Peace & Love resort in San Vicente Poblacion on Palawan. Steve, the owner, and his staff are so friendly, the food is cheap and tasty and the view from the resort is unforgettable. If you are on a very tight budget, there are a lot of beach huts or bungalows you can rent for cheap in Poblacion or Port Barton (on the other side of the bay).
- Island hopping tours are definitely a MUST DO in El Nido. Plus, they are affordable! Make sure you bargain a lot! The first price is always overrated!
- Avoid Boracay. Majestic I am sure but also very touristic and, obviously, more expensive. You are far better on Palawan’s long beach, where you can ride a motorbike & run naked if you want!
- Alona beach, on Panglao Island, Bohol are awesome and very affordable places to go to. Alona beach has much decent priced accommodation, lots of activities including diving and snorkelling. As well as only an hour’s from the wonders of Bohol including the chocolate hills and Loboc river. Read also about Island life around Bohol
To sum this up, the Philippines should be seen right now, in the next few years, before the tourism industry grows as big as everywhere else. You can make your travel in this country very affordable if you take the time to read a lot about where to go and how to make it there. Being aware and having other backpackers’ second thoughts will save you time & money in this beautiful place!