Traveling anywhere you want in style can be reserved for the rich and famous.
If honesty is the only policy then we all have to admit that travelling, done in the wrong way, can break the bank. Okay fair enough, it’s sometimes great to experience the highlife on the other side of the world, but for some of us that is not always an option. However, that doesn’t always have to be the case. Coming from a country like South Africa, the exchange rate is hardly ever in my favour.
Philippines provided a refreshingly different experience though, and I would like to share it with you. Because my trip to Philippines was the longest trip I have done so far, I needed to save every penny possible. Living with the locals and learning the tricks of the culture and commerce in that country helped me to stay there longer than I intended. So I think it’s only fair to share the secrets I learned along my way with you.
Why Save Money?
If you have the money to travel in Philippines (which is highly likely taking into account the value of the Philippines Peso), why should you be interested in saving cash dollar when travelling? It is quite simple really: it will enhance your experience. The more money you save; the more money you can spend. I realize that it sounds a bit ridiculous to save if you are just going to spend it elsewhere. But where you spend your Pesos will determine your overall experience, and if you are traveling to Philippines then your experience should be nothing less than incredible. So, we need to save money to splurge on the good things in Philippines. Or maybe you need to save money because, like myself, you cannot afford the luxury life. Either way, saving money is key!
You might also like: Top 10 Amazing Things To Do In The Philippines
Philippines on a tiny budget tips
Now that we have seen the need to save a penny here (in order to spend a penny there), let’s look at some tips and tricks for how to do Philippines on a tiny budget. How did I spend my money wisely in an Asian country?
1. You have to listen to the locals
It sounds like an obvious one but we are so used to living our mundane routine in our home country, but travelling is a whole other ball game. Let go of all your habits and live like a local to get the real sense of the place you’re in. Specifically in Philippines…
2. Let go of your addiction to coffee
This was the toughest one for me, but the coffee is not cost-effective in Philippines and it doesn’t taste the same (especially on the smaller islands). One reason for this is that most of Philippines dairy products are imported, and powdered milk is often the only option.
3. Buy food at the local markets
This will give you an authentic Philippines experience while saving you some doe at the same time. Also, remember that locals will see a tourist from a mile away and try to make an extra buck on you. If you think this is happening, use some phrases in the local languages so the locals know you aren’t a rookie.
Example in Cebuano:
How much does this cost? “Tagpila?” or simply, “Pila?”.
That is expensive! “Mahal” or when it’s much overpriced: “Grabe mahal!”
Good price for me? “Maayong presyo para nako.”
4. Hire a scooter instead of taking public transport
The public transport on the small islands usually consists of a Pilipino man on a speculative motorbike. It is not expensive to get a hubble-hubble ride and if you are in a group and only going out for a short amount of time then it could be the better option, but if you are staying for more than two days then I would say hiring your own scooter is better.
5. Ask locals for tours instead of the bigger tour companies
Face it, who knows a place better than the people who have lived there for most of their lives? They will often do it for much less, or even better: they can tell you how to do it yourselves. Then if you are on a trip with friends, you don’t need a spare wheel tagging along for a high price.
6. Finding affordable and comfortable accommodation
This will most likely be the biggest struggle. Avoid using Airbnb or any online booking company to find accommodation. Look at the reviews of the place first and book your first two nights somewhere nice. After that you can suss it out on the island.
Best things to splurge on when on a budget trip in the Philippines
It’s good to save money, but if you are saving enough money then you can spend as well, only on the best things though. So here are a few things that are the great to spend money on…
- Good accommodation – you want to be on the beach and experiencing the best island life.
- Good entertainment – where you choose to go out is important; go to all the hip and happening spots. If you have to spend a little more to enjoy the vibe then it is worth it.
- Island travels – when in Philippines, island hopping is a must. See as much of this beautiful place as possible!
My Approximate monthly spending in Philippines – all expenses included.
Here is a detailed budget that I worked out when staying on the small island of Siargao. Obviously, this will fluctuate depending on where and when you go, and how much of a spender you are. I have recorded the budget in USD spent over a month:
- Rent: $420 for an apartment (which you can easily share with another person).
- Food: $250 when buying food from markets and going to restaurants.
- Scooter Hire: $100 for the entire month. (This seemed to be a good price so try and barter with this one.)
- Flight: $40 – this is only including the flight from the main city to the smaller island I was staying on.
This budget isn’t including the price for a visa (plus-minus $68), but the first months visa costs nothing. Therefore it only needs to be considered if you are going for an extended amount of time. Also extra funds will be needed for things like tours, petrol (although this is not a big expense), gifts and entertainment.
My hope is that by sharing my experience of doing the Philippines on a tiny budget you can see that it’s definitely possible. So use my budget travel tips and tricks to turn the dream of travelling to an exotic paradise like the Philippines into a reality. If you had asked me two months before my trip whether I would ever go overseas, my answer would have been no because I couldn’t afford it. But I could and you can, if you travel on a budget, and I guarantee that you will have more fun doing it that way!
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