Backpacking the Philippines on a budget
Backpacking the Philippines has to be cheap right . . . I mean, why would you even bother reading this when you know all of South East Asia is cheap?
Simply because there are some people who travel cheap and then there are some people who travel cheap and participate in awesome activities that not a lot of people even knew existed. I am one of those people, and I want you to be one of those people too.
It would be a total shame to go half way around the world and not absolutely appreciate what there is to offer. And don’t shake your heads because yes, there are people out there who pass on unique and awesome adventures. I know crazy right, but don’t stress. I wont let that happened to you, especially whilst backpacking the Philippines where adventurous opportunities are abundant!
So first things first, when backpacking the Philippines on a budget, try stick to a daily limit, for food, accommodation and transport. Obviously the longer you are backpacking or travelling, the less you can afford, but in saying that the more you can enjoy.
Which is why I always try to stick to a daily limit, it’s good practice to stay under budget. You can get rooms quite cheap from 500 PHP and less, it helps if you are travelling with someone or in a group. So try and befriend people if you are solo to share a room with someone or buddy up with mates.
Also, you should never book something online in the Philippines, as you are almost certain to get ripped off (well, at least pay a lot more). Which is why I suggest writing down 2 or even 3 locations or hostel names you have researched to be good value for money and be taken there by either tricycle or Jeepney.
When you arrive check out the room first before you pay, and nearly every time you can barter for a cheaper price. And the great thing about having more friends or people with you, the more leverage you have for bartering and gaining a cheaper room. When they notice a lot of bodies, this means a lot of business and that is business they don’t want to turn away, so my greatest tip is buddy up.
When it comes to transport, always establish a price of what it costs you to get to where you need to go before you are taken. This way you will not get totally ripped off. Using a tricycle you can barter, although a Jeepney is normally a fixed price and is incredibly cheap compared to any other transport. I suggest this, and sure you may be sitting with locals and a lot of them, but this is good because you can ask questions about the area. For example where things are, what’s good and what is not, great places to eat and etc. Asking the locals for tips is often the best advice you can get and generally they will be happy to help you seeming you asked, especially in the Philippines, people are just so friendly.
Most tricycle rides will cost around 20-40PHP per person, taxi’s are cheaper if you run them by the meter if you don’t know where you are going in cities and etc. Or ask the locals an average price you should pay before you go off to find a taxi. Jeepneys are very cheap, you can ride anywhere from around 8 PHP to 30 PHP and it’s by far the cheapest transport. Busses are more expensive, especially if they are air-conditioned, although you will usually find out the price before boarding. I suggested busses over taxi’s for long distance if you are looking to save cash on transport.
Food is something you cannot go without, so don’t starve yourself. Instead stay away from fast food and take away chains. Not only are they expensive but they are no good for you. Walk into a local Philippino restaurant, see what they have, ask questions about what food they have and generally go somewhere there are other people sitting down and eating. This is an indication that the food will not be poisonous, haha just kidding. It won’t be, actually to be honest I never got sick from food once in the Philippines after spending a whole month there.
But to be safe you will know it’s good if there are a lot of people, and that goes for street food stands too. You should eat from them and try the local tastes, but don’t go somewhere that looks dodgy, trust your instincts on this one, you need to rely on them ever now and again too. Most meals at a local restaurant will average from 60-150 PHP, Where as if you go to fast food chains you will be spending in excess of that.
Now for the fun part, the awesome activities! Seeming as though you are saving on food, accommodation and transport, this give you flexibility to spend up on fun activities in the Philippines, like, hiking, diving, island hopping and swimming with the whale sharks to name just a few. And it’s awesome that you are participating in all these great things, however you can also, in some cases barter to get better prices, depending on the activities.
Again if you have a bigger group, the cheaper you can go, meaning the harder you can bargain. For example we did this in Coron with a large group of 10 that I latched onto. So don’t be afraid to talk to other travelers in hostels, on busses or anywhere you may meet some. Often in those places is where I meet friends who I end up travelling with for weeks!
So backpacking in the Philippines really is cheap. You can live off about US$20-$30 per day including transportation. So no need to buckle down and save hard, get over there, it is quite easily the best country in all of South East Asia. For me probably in my top 3 countries I have ever visited!