The Philippines is one of the cheapest places for a tropical vacation. The islands feature white sand beaches, inland attractions, and beautiful people. It’s the perfect recipe for an adventure! So how much money should you bring to the Philippines for a vacation?
The answer can vary widely depending on where you stay, the things you do, and the food you eat. You can plan to have an average daily spend of $30 for a budget vacation, $70 for a mid-cost stay, and upwards of $150 for a luxury vacation.
Most foreign travelers find the Philippines to be ridiculously cheap. While that may be true, expenses add up especially when you are not paying close attention to your spending. Having a budget keeps you in check and in control, making sure that you do not run out of funds before the end of your trip.
Budgeting for your trip
Your trip budget will depend largely on how you want to spend your time in the Philippines. If you’re planning to backpack all over the islands, you should allocate a large portion of your budget for domestic long distance travel. A luxury vacation means spending a great deal on hotel stays, spa treatments, and high-end restaurants. If you’re looking to explore the country like most tourists, set aside money for entrance fees and tours.
Let’s assume that you are staying for a week (7D6N) in Metro Manila. Here’s a sample of how your basic expenses will be based on your travel style: backpacker, average tourist and luxury traveler.
|P675 x 6 = P4050
|P50/meal x 2 x 7 days = P700
|P100 (10 jeepney rides x 7 = P700
|P1500 X 6 = P9000
|P200/meal x 2 x 7 days = P2800
|P200/taxi ride x 4 rides/day x 7 = P5600
|P10,500 x 6 = P63,000
|P500/meal x 2 x 7 days = P7000
|P1300/day rental x 7 = P9,100
As you can see, there is a stark difference even between the backpacker and the average tourist. The figures are based on current prices of backpacker dorms, hotel rooms, street food, mid-cost restaurants, public transportation, and car rentals. Free breakfasts in hotels have also been taken into account hence the 2 meals per day computation.
Keep in mind that the numbers are just approximations and are just for basic needs. You also need to set aside money for the actual tourist stuff like tours, shows, parties, and museum visits. Prices can significantly go down as you move away from Metro Manila.
How much money can I bring to the Philippines?
How much money you should bring and how much you can actually bring to the Philippines on your vacation are two different things. In accordance with international anti-money-laundering and anti-terrorism financing regulations, you can carry up to $10,000 or its equivalent in any foreign currency, in cash or other monetary instruments into the Philippines.
You are allowed to carry more than $10,000 in cash to the Philippines but you need to declare it with customs when you arrive. The Bureau of Customs requires that you complete the Foreign Currency and Other FX-Denominated Bearer Monetary Instruments Declaration Form. Failure to declare carrying such an amount may lead to confiscation of the money and even imprisonment.
In the same manner, you need to submit the declaration form if you are leaving the Philippines with over $10,000. In fact, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas rules say that foreign nationals are not allowed to bring more than P50,000 in Philippine currency outside of the country.
Should I use cash all the time in the Philippines?
Unless it is absolutely necessary for you to carry large amounts of cash, you’re better off with just enough to cover food and transportation for a couple of days. Credit and debit cards are accepted in most places and you can always withdraw cash in ATMs and banks. You may also have money wired to you from anywhere in the world and claim it in remittance centers and banks.
Electronic payment methods are also accepted in the Philippines. Services like Paypal, PayMaya, Gcash, Alipay, Dragonpay, and WeChat Pay have become widely available in recent years.
Big hotels, casinos, and restaurants in the Philippines accept foreign currency (usually U.S. dollars) but it’s quite rare. It is best that you have your money exchanged into the colorful Philippine notes. There are plenty of places you can have your money exchanged but we strongly recommend going to a bank. Other places may offer slightly better rates but they’re not always reputable.
Philippine banknotes are very easy to tell apart because of their colors. Here’s a quick guide:
- Orange – P20
- Red – P50
- Purple – P100
- Green – P200
- Yellow – P500
- Blue – P1000
Coins are an entirely different story. The recent update by the Philippine mint made the P1, P5, and P10 coins almost impossible to tell apart. Look closely at the coin before paying up.
Tourists, especially Caucasians, tend to stand out in the Philippines. It’s an advantage in most ways but it also makes you a magnet for pickpockets and con artists. Here are some things you can do to ensure you and your money are safe:
- Never let anyone know how much cash you have on you. You never know who is listening.
- Use a money belt or a wallet you can sling around your neck and under your shirt.
- If you’re not comfortable with #2, you can use an anti-theft satchel like the ones from Pacsafe or Travelon.
- Consider leaving your valuables at the hotel safety deposit box.
- Avoid using an ATM in secluded areas. Those located in banks or in malls are much safer because there are guards and other people around.
- Keep receipts of charges if you use a credit card. Never let your card out of your sight.
- Get familiar with the Philippine peso. It’s easier and faster if you use small bills.
- Go cashless whenever you can. Especially now that there is a pandemic, viruses may stick to things like currency and can easily pass from person to person.
- Insist on using the meter when riding a taxi. Dishonest drivers can rip you off and charge three times the regular fare.
- Avoid wearing jewelry and other expensive things. Also, do not take your cell phone out when using public transportation.
The Philippines is a fun place to spend your vacation in. The beaches, mountains, food, and people make your time on the islands very memorable. Your enjoyment does not depend on how much money you bring to the Philippines on your vacation. Rather, it depends on how deep you immerse yourself in the local culture and how much you interact with the friendly locals. It is indeed more fun and cheaper in the Philippines!