While traveling Southeast Asia can be relatively cheap, the Philippines is a little more expensive than countries like Vietnam and Thailand. The main reason being the fact it's a collection of over 7,000 islands, making it more expensive and timely to get from place to place. However, you can still keep your trip on a budget! My three week trip cost me about $32 per day, but if you read my post you'll learn how you can backpack the Philippines for even CHEAPER.
How much did I spend?
My trip lasted 21 days during the month of September, and covered popular areas like Banaue, Batad, Sagada, Bohol, El Nido, and Port Barton. Not including a plane ticket from Seattle to Manila, I spent about $682 (USD), or 34,287 Philippine pesos (PHP) total. Below is a breakdown of where my money went:
Food + Drinks: $180 USD or 9053 PHP
Accommodation: $110 USD or 5550 PHP
Domestic Flights: $166 USD or 8346 PHP
Cabs: $22 USD or 1090 PHP
Buses/Jeepneys/Ferries: $82 USD or 4140 PHP
Tours: $71 USD or 3590 PHP
Miscellaneous: $51 or 2555 PHP
My miscellaneous fees included things like band-aids and toothpaste, renting scooters a few times, getting a massage, ATM fees, and a $10 terminal fee at the airport in Puerto Princessa.
Ways to Save Money
Throughout the Philippines, you'll notice a lot of shops have pots out with pre-made food in them. Typically, this type of food is the cheapest you'll find. The only downside is it's not always hot, and there aren't a lot options for vegetarians. However, you can save a noticeable amount of money eating here.
Travel during the low season
The rainy season in the Philippines starts in June, and goes through October - with Typhoons occurring primarily in September and October. These months are considered the low season for travel here, meaning you'll encounter fewer tourists and save a ton of money!
My own trip was during the month of September. The only rain I experienced though was in El Nido, where it seemed to downpour non-stop. While that made for a few 'gray' island tours, it was still an amazing trip. In El Nido in particular, costs were significantly lower than they would've been during the high season. We stayed in a couple of beautiful, beach side hotels for half the regular price.
Book flights in advance
During my stay, I booked three domestic flights in order to see different areas of the country. One from Manila to Cebu, another from Cebu to Puerto Princessa, and the third from Puerto Princessa back to Manila. These flights ended up costing me a lot of money though, and made up a large portion of my expenses. The main reason for this was I bought them last minute - one time the day before the flight!
To avoid the inflated fees I encountered, look into purchasing any plane tickets you'll need at least a month in advance. However, if money is less of an issue, I recommend waiting. When I was in the Philippines, I didn't have a set schedule. This allowed me to change my plans and spend more time with some of the friends I'd made on the road. It cost me a little more money, but it was worth it.
Share a cab
Cabs are expensive in Manila, and the drivers aren't shy about ripping you off. The best way to save some money on transport is to find other travelers going in the same direction as you, and ask if they'd like to share a cab. While I was in Manila, I was lucky enough to be with three other people I'd met who I could split my ride with - significantly reducing costs.
TIP: Make sure to set an agreed upon price with the driver before getting in their car
Stay in a hostel
It's surprising to me how many people have never stayed in a hostel. They're clean, extremely affordable, and the best way to meet people on the road. If you're worried about safety, opt for a private room instead of staying in the dorms - it'll still be MUCH cheaper than the hotel down the street.
This is oddly one of my favorite things about going abroad because it's not something we typically do in the U.S. In many countries, negotiating is common, if not expected. While in the Philippines, I negotiated cab fares, tour fees, and even accommodation.
TIP: If you're traveling during a country's low season for tourism, bargain even harder! Less travelers means locals are fighting for your business and are willing to go much lower than the standard cost.
Rarely, are tours worth your money. I've found the best experiences while traveling are usually the ones you plan yourself or with the people you meet. While I was in Bohol, my friends I'd met and I really wanted to see the chocolate hills, but we didn't want a structured tour. Instead, we rented motorbikes and grabbed a map of the island from our hostel. This gave us the freedom to go at our own pace, stop when we wanted to, and not be crammed on a bus with someone rattling off facts.
TIP: There are some activities in the Philippines where tours are unavoidable (Ex: Island hopping in El Nido/Port Barton, and the caves systems in Sagada)
Have you ever traveled on a budget?
Let me know in the comments below!