Budget Travel in the Philippines

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Traveling to the Philippines is already cheap as it is. A holiday in the islands would probably be one of the cheapest you will ever experience. And we don’t mean cheap-tacky, we mean cheap-best value. In fact, Lonely Planet just named Palawan, Philippines as one of the top 10 best value destinations for 2014.

Now let’s say you can make your trip to the Philippines even more affordable. Would you pack your bags and go as soon as you can?

Like in any other destination, there will always be ways to save when traveling to the Philippines. True, you already incur some savings by choosing to vacation here but when it comes to budget travel in the Philippines, there’s always room for some extra bucks to spend on something else other than accommodations, tickets and food.

Here are some tips:

Apply for a visa before traveling.

If your travel plans are flexible or if you’re really not set on leaving on a particular date, we suggest you apply for a 3/6/12-month multiple-entry visa to the Philippines. Citizens of most countries are issued 21-day visas upon arrival but that might not be enough time to really enjoy the islands. Plus, you’d most likely have to show proof of onward travel. Obtaining a pre-travel visa allows you to stay for 59 days per entry and saves you a lot of time, hassle and money should you want to extend your stay beyond 21 days.

Book through a group buying site.

We are well aware that people have been scammed by illegitimate buying sites but there are some that actually deliver. Sites like Groupon Philippines and MetroDeal offer as much as 90% off the regular hotel, restaurant and activity rates. There are plenty of deals like a 3D2N stay at a high-end resort in El Nido, Palawan for half the published rates. And we’re not just talking about hotels; there are also deals for water activities, guided tours, even spa treatments while you’re on holiday!

Or book direct.

If you are not comfortable with group buying sites, you can always book your accommodations the old-fashioned way. Here’s a trick we have mastered: check hotel booking sites for the best-value, guest-recommended hotels in your destination but don’t book through them. Instead, contact the hotel directly and ask for a discounted rate. Most hotels in the Philippines would be happy to entertain inquiries about discounts and possibly give them especially during off-peak season (summer to winter in the western hemisphere).

Try the local cuisine.

Where’s the fun in traveling to the Philippines if you still eat pasta, burgers and fried chicken the whole time? Take to the streets and find the best (and cheapest) meals in the sidewalks. We don’t recommend that you do this every time but you should try it at least once. You can score a complete meal with drinks for less than P50 if you know where to look!

Filipino Street Food
Filipino Street Food

Eat the hotel’s free meals.

Most hotels offer free plated or buffet breakfasts and the smartest thing to do is take advantage of them. Sure, we’ve had plenty of experience when it comes to bad hotel food but trust us when we say you can never go wrong with tapsilog, tocilog or adobo. These three, along with other delightful Filipino breakfast items, will most likely be on the menu or the buffet table. Eating at the hotel when it’s free will save you about P200 per head versus eating meals at a mid-range restaurant. Hotels Combined allows you to compare thousands of travel sites from one location in order to find the best deals on hotels in the Philippines.

TapSiLog, a classic Filipino breakfast © Shubert Ciencia on flickr

Watch out for domestic seat sales.

Your airline tickets to the Philippines might put a huge dent on your vacation fund but inter-island travel does not have to. Budget travel is in the Philippines is made more possible because ocal airlines regularly hold seat sales where you can score tickets for way cheaper than when you book regular. Keep checking cebupacificair.com, flypalexpress.com, airasia.com/ph for excellent deals, especially if you are keen on not staying in just one Philippine destination during your visit.

Join group tours.

Unless you are on your honeymoon, it would be smart to share a boat or van with other travelers when exploring. If you don’t mind the company of other bright-eyed travelers, you will see a significant increase in savings when you join group tours. For example, an island hopping trip in Boracay would normally cost P2000 regardless of how many you are as long as it’s within the boat’s capacity. Now if you’re just a twosome, you can join another pair and just pay half. We all know math so you can calculate how much that would be if there’s a third pair in the tour.

Banana Boat Ride in Boracay
Banana Boat Ride in Boracay © Peanuttt on flickr

When in the Philippines, it’s easy to get distracted with the cheap prices that travelers often splurge on everything just because. More often than not, they find out that they’ve spent more than they intended to by the end of the trip. Sure, that meal at Fridays, full-body massage at the local spa, ticket to Coron, and that luxurious hotel room were cheap compared to when you pay for the same services back home but when it adds up, it’s still expensive. Our tips will help you make sure you avoid getting on the expensive end.

Any tips on budget travel to the Philippines you want to add? Make sure to leave in the comments box! See you around!

Click here for the best deals on hotels in the Philippines


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