US dollars are the most widely accepted foreign currency in the Philippines; it is accepted even in suburban areas. Australian dollars, Euros, Japanese Yen, and Canadian Dollars are also accepted but this may not be applicable in all places. Some Middle Eastern currencies are also accepted in Metro Manila.
Philippine Peso Exchange Rates
Having foreign currencies converted to Philippine pesos is rather easy especially in metropolitan areas like Manila, Cebu and Davao. Banks, ATMS, and money changers run the gamut in these places and the only problem you might face is finding out which establishment works for you. The best and safest place to have foreign bank notes or traveler’s cheques exchanged is in banks. Though money changers have slightly higher exchange rates, there have been reported cases of rip-offs and scams.
There’s usually no problem transacting using foreign currencies in Metro Manila but this does not apply to all cities not to mention provincial areas. Luckily, there are numerous ATMs in most shopping malls, department stores and bank branches. You may use these ATMs to withdraw cash from debit or cash cards and make advances from your credit cards. Note that cash advances are in Philippine pesos.
A lot of establishments accept US dollars during cash transactions but take care to ask before proceeding. It is always handy to have local bank notes on you, especially in smaller denominations so as to avoid the usual ‘Sorry, no change’ antic some vendors (mostly cab drivers) employ. Of course, carrying cash is a risk. One way to minimize the risk is to carry the money in a money belt.
Credit, Debit and Cash Cards
The easiest and most convenient way to bring cash when traveling is always in the form of a debit, credit or cash card. Most establishments accept your plastic and you may be able to easily get cash advances using your credit card in the event you run out of funds. However, this is not applicable across the country; most businesses in rural areas only accept cash during transactions.
When using your plastic, remember to ask whether it is accepted or not before proceeding. A lot of shop fronts display ‘Visa/MasterCard/AmEx Accepted’ but it is never too smart to double check. Also, only use your plastic in transactions that require a signature and never allow an attendant to disappear with your card into a room as there have been cases of credit card fraud in some places. Keep receipts and a record of all your transactions.
Useful Tip: NEVER leave a city without cash. The Filipino slogan “Your credit is good but we need cash” is very applicable in rural areas.
Larger cities in the Philippines cost a little higher than the smaller ones. For example, basic hotel accommodations in Manila and Cebu cost at least PHP1000 but you can get a more comfortable room on the same amount in Laoag City or Dumaguete City. This said, the fact remains that the Philippines is not really an expensive country to visit. True, the sky is your limit when it comes to spending but you can get by with a lean budget and still enjoy your stay.