Travel in the Philippines
While the Philippines is a bargain when coming from Europe, North America, or East Asia, it averages out to be a little more expensive than Thailand and the other countries of Southeast Asia. Figure at the resorts in places like Boracay food and accommodation will be even more expensive. Prices even vary dramatically from local-only areas to locations with heavy domestic tourism. Depending on the type of trip you make, your expenses could be different than those listed here. Below I give an account of a typical low-budget traveler’s daily costs.
Meals, Accommodation, and Transport
$25-30 US per day is a good estimate for on the ground expenses if you’re a tight budget traveler. If you’ve booked some domestic flights ahead of time, which is advisable, factor those costs additionally. If you travel slower, smarter, and more local, you might make it on less than $25 per day, but you might be sacrificing basic comfort and sanitation.
Travelers can eat alright in the Philippines for a $2 US per meal. For breakfast, the Filipino breakfast will usually run you between 60 – 100 pesos ($1.50-2.50) and noodle soup for less. Street-side cafés, where dishes are prepared ahead of time and are out on display in pots, are a great option for budget travelers. The food here is usually fresh, cheap, and best of all, it’s Filipino! You’ll be supporting a family-run business, not the ubiquitous fast-food chains that populate the Philippines. The dishes at these cafes run about 25-30 pesos each, and you’ll need at least two to fill up. For nicer restaurants, figure on spending at least $5 for a meal.
Accommodation in the Philippines is usually a crapshoot. I’ve had nice, clean, single rooms for 300 pesos ($7.50), and dank, dumpy rooms for 600 pesos ($15). Prices and value depend much on location. Some popular places you can score a dorm bed for as little 200 pesos ($5), but I wouldn’t count on that as the norm. For a couple, plan on budgeting at least 800 pesos ($20) per night on accommodation. You may find cheaper some days and other days you might have to spend a bit more for a room that meets your idea of basic cleanliness. As a general rule, traveling with two or three others will save you money by splitting the cost of a room.
Transportation, in general, is cheap. I’ve ridden on two-hour bus rides for as low as 65 pesos ($1.75) and four-hour trips for 200 pesos ($5). Ferry boats are cheap too. A two-hour journey to Bantayan Island cost 250 pesos ($6.25). Taxis are very reasonable as well. A 10 km trip in from the Manila airport cost me 240 pesos ($6) and a ride in the back of a jeepney costs 8-15 pesos ($.25-.38) My domestic 2-hour flight from Laoag in the north of Luzon to Kalibo in the Visayas cost about $125 when purchased one month in advance.
A Day’s Expenses for Travel in the Philippines:
Breakfast: batchoy (noodle soup of pork organs and cracklings in chicken stock): 30 pesos ($.75 US)
Bunch of little bananas: 20 pesos ($.50)
Coffee (nescafe): 15 pesos ($.38)
Jeepney ride to ferry terminal: 9 pesos ($.25 US)
Ferry ride from Iloilo City to Bacolod: 335 pesos ($8.25 US)
Lunch: pork adobo, laswa (vegetables), and rice at common cafe: 60 pesos ($ 1.50 US)
Dinner: grilled chicken and unlimited rice: 90 pesos ($ 2.25 US)
San Miguel Beer: 35 pesos ($.85 US)
Accommodation in Bacolod: 300 pesos for a shared double room (600 peso total for the double) ($ 7.50 US)
Total: 894 Philippine pesos or ($ 22.23 US)
ATMs and Cash
ATMs are relatively common in the cities and cash exchange is even more commonplace. The Philippines is one of the few countries where cash exchange is easy and the rate is excellent for the consumer. My advice, if you are comfortable carrying cash, would be to take US dollars. As always, wear a money belt.
On the date of publication: $1 US = 40.5 Philippine pesos
Making the most of your travels through the Philippines
The Philippines is one country that I can neither recommend nor persuade you from visiting. There are plenty of reasons to travel in the Philippines but an equal number of reasons to avoid the country. Compared with the other countries of Southeast Asia, the Philippines is very much less traversed. So there is a feeling of being a sort of pioneer backpacker. The main problem with the Philippines is that if the destination is not the extraordinary rice terraces of Luzon or one of the incredible islands with clean sandy beaches and clear-blue shallow water, it may very well be a polluted, dirty place with very little to interest the traveler. Do research and choose your destination wisely!