Travel Philippines in a low budget. Yep. That title is surely misleading. How can you even wish for travel in the Philippines to be much more cheaper than it already is? If you’ve been a reader of the blog, you’ll know that there just countless ways to sleep for free. Let’s put a number: 28. But if you’d rather spend much longer days on the beautiful beaches and amazing islands of the “Pearl of the Orient Sea”, then hang around with me, as I give you all the juicy (and actionable) details.
The Philippines is one of the most visited countries in the South East Asia. It is almost a no-brainer to travel longer in the Philippines, especially with a $10 daily budget. If you’ve been here, you know just how beautiful the country can be, how friendly the people are, how easy it is to communicate with the locals, plus the cheap cost of everything. I’ve been here around 5 times, and I will share to you all things Philippines – travel itineraries, food, how to go even cheaper than the usual, and the real local life. That last bit might be something you haven’t really read somewhere, so I’m pretty excited to share that one.
Before anything else, let’s start with checking the level of difficulty of travel here:
Check out the level of ease in traveling Philippines below!
Transportation – EASY. Accommodation – VERY EASY (for getting hosts). Food- VERY EASY (There are many options for street food)
Pretty sleek and easy! I traveled in the Philippines for a month and I spent only $300.
Before the trip: What do you need to prepare?
Let’s start with the basics of traveling.
Nothing too complicated. Just make sure all is set and prepared based on the requirements for you to visit Philippines. US and Europe passport holders need their visas to be at least 6 months before expiry. That’s for eligibility to stay for 30 days free.
Flight out ticket
This is a must. In my experience, they will really require you to show your flight out ticket. I was once stuck in Singapore because they required me to purchase a ticket on the fly to make sure I will leave the country. And that’s even with me telling them that I am renewing my visa in the Philippines!
If you don’t have solid plans on dates of leaving the lovely archipelago, here are sweet options for you:
- You can buy a flight ticket and ask for a refund later from the flight company. Some allow you to cancel with a refund for until 48 hours. Make sure about the conditions. Some will not refund you for 100%.
- Check flight companies. Some of them will provide your booking details, and they won’t charge you until after 24 hours. So, just book the flight out, and later if you don’t pay, they will cancel anyway. But you will already have the chance to print out your booking and show to the flight company. There are websites which will book your flight ticket for 24-48 hours. They will charge you between 5-10 USD. You can print out the booking and show to the flight company. Check onwardflights and flyonward for this option. Check returnflights. You can print out your flight out ticket. For FREE.
- Your last option is to buy a cheap flight out ticket. You always have the option to use or not use it.
The Philippine’s official currency is the Peso (Pesos for plural).
Average exchange rate is 1 USD= 47 (PHP). You can check here for more information.
Here’s a complete list of of vaccinations and other health information you will need before traveling to the Philippines. If you are coming from a country with risk of Yellow Fever, you will need to check the list closely. If you are going to visit a risk Yellow-Fever-Zone in the Philippines, they also recommend vaccines against Hepatitis, Japanese Encephalitis and Rabies. They recommend to bring cream against mosquitoes and to take prescription medicine against Malaria. Make sure to check with your health adviser with all the health requirements and protection.
Traveling in the Philippines is safe. You should not have a problem. There is of course the basic make-sure-your-stuff-is-secure advice, but apart from that, there’s no need for extra security. I had the pleasure meeting female travelers and friends in Philippines who told me that they felt totally safe at every moment exploring the country.
The Philippines is a tropical country and only has 2 types of seasons: Dry and Wet. The hottest time of the year is April and May. This is a really good time to visit since it’s not only in line with the summer months (beach time!) but also the time for Holy Week and Easter season. A lot of the places in the country are still observing old Holy Week and Easter traditions which are a must-see. Traveling the Philippines from January to May will help you avoid the typhoon season. The Northern part of the Philippines (Baguio and Banaue) is colder than the rest of the country. You will have to make sure you are bringing attire appropriate for the cold weather.
Travel Itinerary (when you travel Philippines in a low budget)
Choosing destinations and picking your flight
There are easily many places where you can start your trip in the Philippines. Manila, the capital, is quite a popular start since a lot of flights to Philippines go here. Check maps, plan itineraries to follow (or break, ha!), guides for prices, special places or festivals to see and the situation regarding the weather. Your budget can start at $10/day. Feel free to upgrade for special instances. Especially if you go to the beaches. Traveling in the Philippines is one of the easiest and cheapest countries to travel in the world.
If you are traveling around South East Asia, there are cheap flight companies you can buy tickets from. Hopefully you plan to bring a light backpack so you won’t have to pay for any extra luggage fee. I’m an avid fan of Skyscanner, so I recommend you to use that for searching really cheap flights. That has worked well for me, for years. Google Flights is also a nice alternative. Keep in mind that you have 30 days free visa, so either plan to stay and maximize that, or budget for extending your stay.
Remember the 28 ways to get sleep for free traveling? That’s the key to a low budget when traveling. So, if you can meet local friends or local hosts from websites like couchsurfing, take the advantage. Unless you are traveling for pure luxury, staying with a local is the ultimate culture infusion – you’ll definitely learn and experience new things.
Some areas in the Philippines are much more expensive than the others. Provinces or what we know as places not considered as cities yet, are definitely cheaper than the big cities and top touristic attractions. Cheap accommodation starts from $5-8, depending on your location.
The Philippines is very famous for the jeepneys. Prices are very cheap and you can find jeepneys everywhere. Buses are very cheap too in Philippines. The main problem traveling when traveling in the Philippines on a budget are ferries for long distances. It’s difficult to hitchhike a ferry, avoiding the fare. I don’t think it’s possible to hitchhike with the ferry rides they have or at least, not easy. I have experienced successful hitchhiking with ferries in Indonesia. But, I definitely recommend hitchhiking overland in the Philippines. If you’re a novice, it’s a good place to get some experience. Hitchhiking in Philippines is very easy, but not the easiest, compared with the rest of South East Asia. Filipinos (Philippine locals) are not really familiar with hitchhiking so you might experience some no’s, or at least people watching you telling you it’s not allowed or impossible, but it definitely is. Just do it.
When you take ferries, prices are around 20 USD. On my last trip to Cebu, it took 24 hours for the ferry to arrive the port to enter the city. They will provide you a bed for sleeping and food during your trip. A trip will most likely take longer when you ride the ferry, but it’s usually cheaper than an airplane.
One really good thing about traveling in the Philippines is that locals speak English. The country has been a colony of a lot of countries, Spain and the US are a 2 of the biggest, which influenced the country in big ways. The Filipino language has evolved from following a local, Filipino version of the English alphabet to a now “evolved” language where everyone says “Hello” and “Hi” as normal, local way of greeting someone. This makes conversation with locals really easy. No issues when asking for simple directions or help with some things you don’t understand, or just when trying to meet people. Unless you are in the very remote areas of the country, you can strike a conversation which anyone.
During the trip
If you are getting to Philippines by plane, do not exchange money in the airport. Exchange rates are usually lower outside the airport, in smaller money exchanges. If you are bringing credit cards or your own bank cards, make sure that the ATMs don’t charge commission. Metro Bank and Citibank don’t charge commission to foreign credit cards. The others banks charge 200 pesos commission (4 USD). It means 4 USD, every time you withdraw money.
Hitchhiking in the Philippines
Hitchhiking in Philippines was a really great experience. I hitchhiked from Central Luzon til the North of Philippines, from Angeles to Pagudpud, for 500 kilometers. The waiting time to get a ride was 15 minutes, on average. Hitchhiking in the Philippines was definitely harder if I compare it with Thailand and Taiwan. However, the Filipino people are very friendly. I met a lot of great people hitchhiking in the Philippines. For a solid hitchhiking guide, refer to this previous post I wrote. Here are some hitchhiking specifics to help you travel Philippines with a low budget.
- If you want to leave Manila. You will have to get a bus. You can check Hitchwiki. They will tell you the best way to leave Manila. It depends on where are you heading to.
- When you want to ask for a ride, make sure you are waiting at a safe place, where cars can stop easily. Filipino drivers are crazy. If they see you and you ask the for stop, they will stop even isn’t totally safe.
- To ask for a ride, try to move your arms up and down. Give them your best smile. That will do the trick! 🙂
- Make a sign with your next destination written on it. Filipino drivers will easily understand what you are doing. Once they stop for you, you can explain to them about your next destination. The sign is very helpful for hitchhiking in Philippines
- There are many local transportation in Philippines like jeepneys and tricycle. Make sure that when you ask for a ride, you are staying at a point far from local people who are waiting for local transportation. If you don’t do that, drivers won’t understand you asking for a ride. They will think that you are waiting for local transportation. Jeepneys drive very slow and they will stop close to you when you are asking for a ride. So, the best way is walking a few minutes to leave the city or just take a jeepney to go outside the city.
- As a guy, it was very safe for me to hitchhike in the Philippines. I met girls who hitchhiked in Philippines. They felt safe too. Speaking English is very helpful in Philippines for traveling.
- Just enjoy the experience when people are driving you. Talk to them and you will learn things from them. You will get many invitations to sleep in their place. Or just invitations to have lunch. People will recommend you many places for visiting.
- Petrol stations are perfect for hitchhiking. You will find everything you need there.You can get food. You can look for a quiet place to pitch your tent. Asking for a ride in petrol stations is really good. The cars will stop and listen to you. When you explain to them where are you going. They will drive you.
- If you want to get long distances hitchhiking, you can look for a truck. They usually go far. The problem with the trucks that they don’t usually go inside the city. You will have to get a bus or a jeepney to reach city center.
It’s fun hitchhiking in the Philippines. You can ride different vehicles. I’ve ridden cars, regular buses, trucks, vans. Once, a driver drove me until the windmills in Ilocos Norte. It wasn’t his destination but he wanted to make sure that I can take a picture of the windmills and see their amazing city. He drove a few kilometers outside his route and he was showing me around touristic places.I was hitchhiking near Baguio. A guy bought me a bus ticket. He stopped the bus and he made sure that I was leaving in that bus to Baguio.
A policeman didn’t let me hitchhike near the toll road from Angeles to Manila. He stopped a bus and made me go inside, for free, to Manila. When many people help you during your trip, you need to do good for the others. You can help people who don’t have anything. There are some people who live in the streets in Philippines. They don’t have money for food. They have no place for sleep. Outside touristic places, I could find the best people in the Philippines.
Once you’ve avoided to spend money in transportation and accommodation, you are ready to travel Philippines with less than 10 USD. You can spend some money in transportation inside the cities. Jeepneys are so cheap if you don’t feel like walking. If not, you can walk around cities or small towns.
In 2014, I traveled from Central Luzon to North Luzon, hitchhiking and backpacking.
Hitchhiking Route: Mabalacat, Tarlac, La Union, Bacnotan, Vigan which is UNESCO World Heritage Site, Ilocos, Laoag, Pagudpud, Baguio, Angeles City.
Other amazing places to visit
Manila, the capital. It´s very busy and good place for flight connection.
Binondo, Chinatown in Manila. Great place to eat street food.
Palawan, visiting El Nido, the most touristic place.
Boracay, nice beaches. One of the most famous beaches in The Philippines.
Bohol, home of the Chocolate Hills.
Traveling to South Philippines, I would say, was a very new experience for me. I visited Dipolog City, in Zamboanga, Mindanao with some local friends to attend a birthday party of one of my friends’ relative. Since this was a part of the country that is not very developed just yet, you will see the people with a different culture than that of the rest of the Philippines. I would say this is a gap between cities and the provinces of the country. People were more innocent, people were aimless and fighting for food when the roasted pig was served and they used their hands eating, and much less posh and formal than the people from the cities. This is the interesting part when you’re in a country where people are divided in groups and speaking various dialects (smaller languages only used by a specific group). Some have different culture. Where I’m staying at (Pampanga), it’s very customary that people are dressed so well, and food served when there’s a visitor almost always involves meat dishes. In Ilocos regions of the country (North Luzon), even with visitors, people still serve dishes with vegetables and very little meat. Also, the way people clothe are a lot less stylish compared to people in cities (Pampanga, Manila, Cebu).
My Favorite Things to Do in the Philippines
Eating and Drinking
If I have to recommend something you should be spending money in, I will definitely say food. Not everyone will agree on this. There will be a lot who will spend more money to visit the beautiful beaches and islands the Philippines has to offer. And to be honest, that is a really fine choice, too. So choose your own adventure!
To travel Philippines in a low budget is possible, and still focus with the country’s gastronomy. There are many different dishes in Filipino gastronomy. You can visit street markets. There are also various fruits to try in Philippines. All of them are very tasty. All of them are affordable. There are smoothies and juices everywhere. Prices are 1-2 USD. Since summer time can be really hot in the Philippines, this is really refreshing! You can buy beer from 1-2 USD. It depends on the size. When you travel Philippines, you can’t miss street markets. There is too much variety of food. Prices are affordable. You can get street food from 1 USD to 3 USD. Prices for food in Philippines are so cheap. About food, Philippines is one of the cheapest countries in South East Asia. Filipino gastronomy is focused in pork for the most of the dishes. When you travel Philippines, doing hitchhiking and avoiding to pay accommodation, you can spend some money in street food. My favorite food in Philippines was in North Philippines.
It´s coming from the ears and head of the pork. It´s mixed with onions, chili and calamanzi. It´s my favorite street food in Philippines.
Mami (Street Soup)
Shared from Buzz Feed Video on Facebook
Where to get WIFI for free?
Getting wifi for free in Philippines is so hard. You can find wifi in restaurants, hostels and malls. Connection is not the most stable in malls, so if you are looking for wifi to make quality calls or to spend some serious online work and blogging, be sure to go to coffee shops. Surprisingly, Mcdonald’s, Starbucks and 7-Eleven’s here in the Philippines do not offer free wifi. I assume that it’s because of the young culture. Young people might stay in droves with these places not purchasing anything. In that case, some coffee shops offer amazing internet. Be sure to check the speed, and since when you see one, you’ll find many, you can easily make a choice.
Unique things you’ll find in the Philippines
What’s bidet shower?
One thing that I really love in Philippines: The sprinkler. Since I started traveling in Asia, I was wondering, why don’t we had a sprinkler in Western countries? It’s cleaner and you don’t need to waste toilet paper.
Filipino people go crazy with karaokes.
The culture just love singing and performing in general. Singing, dancing, and other creative activities are included and celebrated highly from early education. This is why you see a lot of people embracing singing and dancing in public, and in a competitive way at that. It is very usual to have performance competitions even when someone’s already in college. Even for people who are already working, in public or private companies, have talent contests and performances in celebrations like Christmas and New Year parties. Filipino families also value children and relatives who are talented. This is why you can see a lot of Filipinos all over the world prominent in the performing areas.
People love boxing.
If you are a Filipino, and you don’t know who Manny Pacquiao is, you will be VERY eccentric for anyone. The whole country celebrates him in a really big way for bringing a good light to the Filipino name for his worldwide boxing prowess.
Filipinos generally love festivals.
This is something the culture has inherited with the Spanish. Celebrating patron saints and Catholic gifts and spirits. And since this is still respected country wide, there is a TON of holidays in the yearly calendar. So less time for working. You can either make your own opinion whether the culture is generally relaxed with work, or just love the focus on fun – you make your own opinion.
There are various Holy Week and Easter Celebrations, some can be gory for the usual “celebration” taste, but nevertherless, interesting to see if you ever travel around these times of the year. There are the much more traditional things like praying with procession in the streets.
The Chinese New Year is also celebrated big here, especially in Binondo. The China Town in the Philippines is the oldest China town in the whole world, and you can see almost the whole country adapting with the celebration cooking Tikoy (or Nian Gao).
Also, we cannot omit celebrating Christmas in the list. Everybody is gift giving, the whole place is surrounded by Christmas lights (starting September), people singing carols, and Aguinaldo (giving money to children as gifts), and gift giving during the holidays. It’s not my favorite thing because I much better appreciate people living in balance and not splurging money for a one year event, but I admit, people, especially Filipinos abroad making their best efforts to connect with their local families staying in the Philippines, to make sure they are remembered. A lot try to go home, and if they can’t, at least send out gifts or connect thru calls.
A small thing I observed which you won’t easily see in the Western countries. Really curious. They walk around in the morning wearing their pyjama.
Okay. If you think I would never mentioned this, I just can’t. Who has been in the Philippines who hasn’t spoken highly of the Philippine beaches and the islands (and the girls?) Just like the other countries (like Thailand and Indonesia), the Philippines is composed of bodies of water that are just achingly beautiful. Nope, not even a hyperbole. Try Palawan, Boracay, Puerto Galera, or for off beat vibes, Camiguin. And this list can go on and on and on. Conclusion: Beaches in Philippines are a paradise.
Routes I took: My hitchhiking trip
I started in Angeles, then from Angeles to La Union, from La union to Vigan and Pagudpud, going down to Baguio, from Baguio to Angeles City, from Angeles City to Manila, from Manila to Batangas and Puerto Galera and going back to Manila by ferry to Cebu. Then from Cebu to Bohol and coming back to Cebu.
There are many different routes to follow in Philippines. I focused in the North of the country. In the South, you can visit paradise beaches. It´s a good chance if you like scuba diving. Filipino beaches are one of the best in the world. You will have to make add extra in your budget (and you won’t regret it) if you want to try scuba diving in Philippines.
After travel Philippines for a month, I spent less than 300 USD in a month. I didn’t spend any cent for accommodation. I spent very little for transportation. It´s difficult to avoid paying for the ferries in Philippines. Landscapes and people were great. So, I can recommend to you 100 % travel Philippines in a low budget.
Filipinos can be shy but very respectful. But it is very easy to talk to them, what with the wide practice of English or basic English words already a part of the main language. Even kids can speak basic hi’s and hello’s to you.
What is a $10 day in Philippines?
So how does a typical $10 day look like? Here’s an example from my experience:
Breakfast – $1-$2 – Milkshake + Fruits, You can easily find these in Street Markets. If you have bread and bakery for breakfast, it will be cheaper than $1.
Lunch $1-$2- Street food sharing with rice, you can find per $1.
Dinner- $5 eating street food. You can treat your host for dinner or for a beer.
If you want to know more about backpacking Philippines travel itinerary, make sure you read this post from The Broke Backpacker.
All these stories are based from my own travel experience. If you are in Philippines to discover local life, integrate with the culture, meet new people and spend time with your host, then a $10 day doesn’t really sound bad. You can spend on essential things like food, and cut back to almost zero on transportation and accommodation (by hitchhiking and couchsurfing).
I can 100% recommend traveling in Philippines if you are in a tight budget. And if this post feels like a promotion for them, it’s really not. I have come to love the country, with all it’s up and down sides.
Have you ever tried traveling in a low budget? Are you planning to visit Philippines? Let me know if you have questions and I’ll go ahead and answer them in the comments. Also, share this post to extend the love. You know we all have to tell everybody they can travel now, with a very low budget. So yes, NO EXCUSES.