So, maybe you have heard the rumors by now that the Philippines is an incredibly cheap place to travel. That it’s like a budget backpacker’s dream. That you can live in beach paradise for pennies on the dollar. Well, those statements wouldn’t be exaggerations. It is really cheap to travel in the Philippines, but you also have to know how to make your dollar stretch. That means knowing how to barter and bargain hunt, and how to negotiate prices. My wife and I have just wrapped up a 3 week trip around the Philippines and so I thought I would write a post to summarize some of our budget and discuss the prices we encountered. We consider ourselves to be budget travelers by most measures. However, I acknowledge that not everyone values the same things when they travel and could therefor spend substantially more or less than we did and still have just as good of a time. Before we jump into what we spent, let’s take a look at a few important aspects about money in Philippines.
- Currency: The Philippine Peso
- Exchange rate: $1 US Dollar = $50 pesos (2017)
- Credit Cards: It is more common in the bigger cities. Bigger grocery stores accept Visa and MasterCard, as do some chain restaurants and franchises. However, places you would expect to be able to use them, such as convenience stores, fast food restaurants, AND SOME AIRPORTS, do not.
- ATMs: ATM’s are very common around the Philippines. There are a lot of small branches of various banks that have them, in addition to many pharmacies and convenience stores having them inside. HOWEVER, every ATM I attempted to get money out of had a limit of 10,000 Ph per transaction. That means you can only take out $180 usd at a time. So you get stuck with a good amount of ATM fees from the machines and probably your bank too.
- Online Booking: You can make reservations and pay for them at many hotels on the major hotel websites like booking.com, priceline, hotels.com, and even AirBnb. They are actually cheaper to book online than to go in and pay the posted rates.
- Skin Tax: Filipino people are some of the nicest in the world. However, they do attempt to charge foreigners substantially more for just about everything. Tricycle drivers are the worst about it. You will never get to pay the same as a local for a taxi if its your first time making that trip.
- Price Negotiating: If you have to ask how much something costs, that means the price is negotiable. Sometimes I just start with what I’m willing to pay and tell them that’s what i’ll give them. That way the seller doesn’t feel like they had to back down so much if you asked the price first and they told you something really high.
- Tipping: Tipping is common in the Philippines but not expected. Some restaurants include it on the bill and some have a tip jar out. It’s not unusual for a cab driver to tip themselves by telling you the price is like 50-100 Ph more than they initially stated if there was bad traffic.
- Phone/Data: You can buy a special tourist SIM card in any of the airports for 3,7,15, or 30 days of unlimited text/calls and a decent amount of data. Ours was 1000 Ph ($20) for 30 days and we used 9G of data. You can refill them with more minutes that can be used for data and its super cheap. Globe has better coverage around the country than Smart does.
Now that we have talked a little bit about how to navigate the Philippine economy, let’s take a look at some of our actual spending while we were there in August of 2017. It should be noted that some of the prices you see here are rates that we negotiated therefor and may not be what you are told. These prices should act as more of a baseline for you to plan your trip off of and help you know what things should cost so that you can negotiate your own cheap prices. All of the prices I have listed have been adjusted to be for one person, and are stated in both Philippine Pesos and US Dollars.
Travel & Transport
- Flight from Cebu City to Kaliblo to go to Boracay: 4000 Ph ($80)
- Flight from Puerto Princessa to Manilla: 2792 Ph ($56)
- A 24 hr scooter rental in Moalboal: 250 Ph ($5)
- A 24 hr scooter rental in Bohol: 400 Ph ($8)
- A 24 hr scooter rental in El Nido: 400 Ph ($8)
- Ferry between Catilan and Boracary (ticket & all fees/taxes): 200 pesos ($4)
- Boat from Argao to Bohol: 140 Ph ($3)
- Ferry from Bohol to Cebu City: 450 Ph ($9)
- Taxi from Mactan-Cebu airport to IT Park: 200 Ph ($4)
- Shared van from Puerto Princessa to El Nido: 500 Ph ($10)
- Shared van from El Nido to Sabang: 600 Ph ($12)
- Shared van from Sabang to Puerto Princessa: 200 Ph ($4)
- Shared van from Kalibo to Caticlan: 100 Ph ($4)
- Jeepney in Cebu: 7 pesos ($0.14)
- Local Bus from Oslob to Argo: 85 Ph ($1.60)
- Airbnb in Cebu City: 750 Ph ($15)
- Airbnb in Oslob: 750 Ph ($15)
- Guesthouse in Moalboal: 500 ph ($10)
- “Resort” in Ponglao: 896 Ph ($18)
- Bungalow in Sabang: 700 Ph ($14)
- Beachfront hotel in Boracay: 750 Ph ($15)
- Hotel in Kalibo: 350 Ph ($7)
- “Deluxe”hotel in Puerto Princessa: 800 Ph ($16)
- Cave swimming in Bohol: 125 Ph ($2.50)
- Chocolate Hills entrance fee: 50 Ph ($1)
- Taiser Conservation Sanctuary Entrance: 60 Ph ($1.20)
- El Nido island hopping Tour A: 1000 Ph/person ($20)
- El Nido island hopping Tour C: 1100 Ph/Person ($22)
- Sabang Underground River Tour: Ticket = 725 Ph ($15) and boat ride = 185 Ph ($3.50)
- Whale shark swimming in Oslob: 1000 Ph ($20)
Food and Drink
- Red Horse Strong Beer in a 40oz bottle: 80-100 Ph ($1.60-$2)
- A can or bottle of San Miguel: 50 Ph ($1)
- A small bottle of Tanduay Rum: 75 Ph ($1.50)
- A small bottle of Emerador Light (Empy Light) Brandy: 60 Ph ($1.20)
- Chicken and Rice with a Coke: 30 Ph ($0.60)
- Breakfast: 100 Ph ($2)
- Hard boiled eggs on the side of the road: 12 Ph ($0.24)
- Rice and two sides from a pots and pans side of the road restaurant: 100 Ph ($2)
- Burritos in Boracay: 250 Ph ($5)
- All you can eat seafood buffet in Boracay: 250 Ph ($5)
The Philippines is Cheap
We really enjoyed our time traveling around The Philippines. The cost of living makes it so you can say yes to just about everything that looks appealing to you. You can fly or boat between islands with ease. You can try all kinds of diverse foods. And you can get out in the natural world and have some once in a lifetime experiences. Most importantly though, you can make some friends for life and learn about another culture. If you would like to read more about our time in the Philippines check out our Philippines page here.