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siquijor beach with hammock philippines1

Traveling in the Philippines can be pretty cheap if you plan your trip properly, which mainly means map out your route before you go and book your flights! If you’re like me who has a hard time planning anything in advance, you’ll have to fork out a lot for plane tickets for flights that leave a couple of days later. I will share some things to consider when planning a trip to the Philippines after my daily expense breakdown.

Note: I am using the currency exchange rate from Philippine Pesos to US Dollars from February 2015 – 1PHP = 0.02269 USD; the exchange rate might change slightly over time.philippines prices

Daily expenses

My daily expenses in the Philippines came to US$56.55, which include said pricey flights, but not my flights in and out of the country. If I leave out my costs for flights within the country, my daily expenses come down to US$43.45. It’s not necessarily cheap, especially for South East Asia, but it is still less than $50 a day. I am confident that you can travel the Philippines comfortably on $50 a day, including flights, if you book them in advance and get better prices on them than I did, and on $40 a day if you don’t plan on doing any pricey activities such as diving, boat trips or renting motorbikes – but you’d be missing out if you didn’t include at least some of these things.

Budget breakdown

For a better idea of what to expect with regards to cost of accommodation, tours, public transportation and food, read on for my budget breakdown.philippines el nido boat

Accommodation

The cost for accommodation differs quite a lot, depending on where you go. In Boracay the cheapest private room I could find (in high season) was PHP1,250/ US$28.32, a dorm room in Boracay was PHP600/ US$13.60. Dorms in a central location in Manila are also around PHP600, slightly cheaper in older hostels or hostels that aren’t located as conveniently as the hostels in Makati, for example. For a budget hotel, check out the Tune Hotel in Makati (Tune Hotels work similar to budget airlines: the earlier you book, the cheaper the room rate). Less touristy islands like Siquijor had private rooms for as little as PHP500 /US$11.33, and the cheapest dorm I came across in the Philippines was PHP250 /US$5.66. The cheapest private room I found in El Nido was PHP600 /US$13.60, dorms in a centrally located hostel were also around PHP600.

Average per night: PHP500 /US$11.33

el nido kayak
I don’t have a single picture of a place I stayed at because the accommodation in the Philippines is frankly nothing to write home, or to blog about!

Transportation

My flights were all around US$100 but you can easily get better deals than I did if you book in advance – much better deals, for as little as US$15 during flight sales, or around $30 if you book in advance. I share more tips on finding the cheapest flights below.

The other main transportation you’ll take will be ferries, which range from PHP25 /US$0.57 or PHP62 /US$1.40 for short rides to PHP395 /US$9 for longer rides (3-4 hours). On top of that, you’ll always pay a terminal fee (see below). The most expensive ferry fee I paid was PHP965 /US$22, which included the ferry ticket, a surcharge for my luggage and the terminal fee.

Other modes of transport you’ll encounter are buses, which range from very basic city buses to more comfortable long-distance coaches. A 4-hour bus ride on Cebu Island cost me PHP175 /US$3.95, a night bus from Manila is PHP470-530 / US$10.66-11.90. The 2-hr bus ride I took on Bohol was PHP30 /US$0.68.siquijor ferryMotorbike rentals start at PHP250 /US$5.66 per day.

A taxi from Manila airport into town was PHP200 /US$4.50, a shared tricycle from the ferry port in Boracay to White Beach was PHP20 /US$0.45 – just to give you an idea of what to expect.

Average: PHP1,780 /US$40 for a flight, PHP210 /US$4.70 for a ferry ride.

Tours

Island tours and sunset cruises on Boracay were PHP800 /US$18, a walking tour in Manila PHP1,200 /US$27, a snorkeling tour Apo Island PHP1,000 /US$22.50, island hopping tours in El Nido were between PHP1,200-1,400 / US$27-31.50; Sabang underground river PHP1,500 /US$33.72; a motorcycle island tour in Siquijor PHP700 /US$15.75.

Average: PHP1,000 /US$22.50

Philippines Island Hopping Tour
Island Hopping Tours in El Nido: A full day of snorkeling, a lunch buffet and island hopping for PHP1,200 /US$27

Food

A meal in Boracay cost me around PHP300 /US$6.75, up to PHP500/ US$11.25 for a nicer meal. Prices in Manila were about the same. Food from a street food stall is between PHP25-50 /US$0.56-1.12. In other places, I usually paid around PHP200 /US$4.50 for a cheaper vegetarian meal, dishes with fish or meat were usually around PHP300 /US$6.75. I usually paid PHP190 /US$4.30 for breakfast, but in touristy areas (El Nido or Boracay) up to PHP350 /US$8 and a fancy breakfast in Manila set me back at PHP650 /US$14.72.  A big bottle of water averaged PHP30-50 /US$0.68-1.13, a decent cup of coffee was between PHP100-125 /US$2.30-2.83; a fresh fruit shake cost around PHP110 /US$250.

Average: PHP200 /US$4.50 for a vegetarian meal & PHP300/US$6.75 for a non-vegetarian meal.Food in the Philippines

Entertainment

Let’s start with alcoholic drinks: Beer is usually between PHP40-60 /US$0.89-1.35, in some pricier places PHP80 /US$1.79. Cocktails were on average around PHP200 /US$4.50, but can be pricier in some bars in Manila and Boracay. I never paid entrance fee for nightclubs since I only went to clubs and bars that didn’t have a cover fee.

Average night out: PHP250 – 500 /US$5.66-$11.33, depending on your drink of choice.Philippines drinks

Things to consider when planning a trip to the Philippines

Have a return ticket!

Most countries require proof of a return ticket out of the country, but I’ve seen this rarely checked, especially in South East Asia. In the Philippines, however, I had to show my ticket and prove that I’d be leaving again. Luckily I bought a ticket from Manila to Bangkok the night before I boarded my flight to the Philippines, otherwise I wouldn’t have been allowed on the plane.

Plan in advance

My main recommendation is to plan your trip as detailed as possible – especially the flights you’ll be taking. Since you’re only issued a 28-day tourist visa in the Philippines anyway, you should know your dates for at least some of your flights already.cebu pacific plane

Factor in terminal fees

When you take a ferry or a plane, you usually have to pay a terminal fee in the Philippines. These vary considerably – from PHP100 (US$2.27) to PHP200 (US$4.54) at airports to as little as PHP14 (US$0.32) at ferry ports. While they are not outrageously high, it is still an expense you need to factor in. Sometimes they are included in the ferry ticket, other times they are not. When leaving the Philippines, I paid the highest terminal fee: PHP550 (US$12) at Manila Airport.

Compare airlines

I found that in the Philippines, it could make a huge difference which airline you took. Unfortunately, Cebu Pacific, the least reliable airline, often had the cheapest tickets (none of my flights was ever cancelled, but I was usually delayed – other travelers were less lucky), but sometimes PAL Express or AirAsia had better ticket prices. It pays off to compare prices on each individual website instead of using flight comparison websites because they usually don’t include all of the budget airlines and/or don’t factor in extra charges for luggage.

tarsier in bohol corella
Cheapest activity in the Philippines: Visiting these cute little tarsier guys in Bohol – PHP50, around US$1

Avoid high season if possible

This one might be obvious, but especially destinations like Boracay or Palawan, which are very popular with Filipino travelers and visitors from other Asian countries, fill up like crazy during local Holidays such as Holy Week or Christmas, and prices for accommodation sky rocket.

Planning around the seasonal weather is a good idea anyway, because you don’t want to cruise around the islands near El Nido when it’s raining or overcast, or get rained out during your beach vacation in Malapascua.

Htrail walletow I keep track of my expenses

I used my indispensable travel budget app Trail Wallet, which I highly recommend to track your expenses. You can read more about it here.

Have you been to the Philippines and got any tips to share on how to travel in the Philippines on a budget, or were you able to spend less than I did during your trip? Please share your experiences in the comments below!

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34 Comments

  1. This is just the post I needed.
    I want to travel to the Philippines as a part of my upcoming RTW trip, but for ages I have kept it as a ‘maybe’ as I kept getting different views regarding expenses. Some people said it’s cheap, other people says it’s expensive.
    It was refreshing to get a different view and such a detailed budget 🙂

    1. Zascha, so happy to hear that! And now I am heading over to your site to read your Copenhagen post – very timely since I’m getting ready for my first visit to Copenhagen! 🙂

  2. The Philippines isn’t exactly the cheapest Southeast Asia destination, but I agree that it’s totally possible to do it on a budget. I spent about $40 a day (but since I was there for 2 months I wasn’t moving around as much as you were). I like that you include all the info about booking flights ahead of time. That is SO key. The only reason I ended up tacking the Philippines onto my Southeast Asia trip was because I hit up some crazy AirAsia promos. I booked a ticket from Manila to Kalibo (Boracay) for like a $1. And I found an exit ticket from Cebu to Kuala Lumpur for $15! I was very proud 🙂

    1. Justine – I guess I learned it the hard way (booking flights early 😉 ) The deals you found are amazing, especially Cebu to KL for $15!! I’ve heard from several people that AirAsia often has promotions to the Philippines – I’d jump on an offer like that!

  3. When I travelled in South East Asia in 2009, the Philippines was actually my cheapest country – I think I managed to average less than £20 a day! I guess that was a lot to do with the fact that I only travelled on Luzon island, and so went everywhere by bus/jeepney, and only flew in and out of the country…and this was 6 years ago and I was much less fussy about where I’d sleep than I am now!

    1. £20 a day!!! Aaah amazing, Sam. I would be interested in seeing how much you’d spend in 2015 though 😉 And trust me, my budget breakdown includes some places that I would have rather not slept at but in El Nido for example, I just couldn’t find anything decent in my price range. I made up for it with some 4* and 5* hotels in Thailand though 😉

  4. Great tips Dani! I will be there over Christmas and New Years this year so I guess I better prepare for the expensive accommodation! I am planning to be there for 28 days so will prebook all my flights as well as accommodation around the holidays – would you say it would be OK to wing it generally with accommodation and just show up?

    1. Thank you, Katie! 🙂 In some places I was okay just showing up (Siquijor for example) but in Dumaguete I was lucky to get one of the last beds and in El Nido I went to so many guesthouses that were full that I started to think I have to sleep in the street. I’d definitely pre-book for the period of the Holidays since many Filipinos will travel then as well. I might run into you when you’re in the Philippines – if things go according to plan, I’ll return to the Philippines in January 🙂

    1. Thanks, Carrie! And yes, so worth the money!! I took a couple of similar tours in Thailand a month later and I paid double the money for tours half as good as the ones in the Philippines, so now I think they’re DEFINITELY worth it 🙂

    1. Adam – that pizza was delicious.. and totally authentic Filipino food 😉 But everybody was raving about that one pizza place in El Nido that makes really good Italian-style pizzas, so I had to go see what the fuss (and the lines out the door) were all about. It’s named Atrove, and yes the pizza is definitely worth the splurge, if you ever find yourself in El Nido 😉

  5. Given that your average reader (as well as the average person reading that $50/day book being hawked), is from the US, it is completely and utterly disingenuous to ignore the trans-pacific flight costs.

    At the very cheapest, such flights would be $700-1000, for a 1 or 2 week trip, which means the cost to Phillipines (or really any other vacation destination) will be well over $50/day.

    All this is just a way to sell that ridiculous book slogan, which is completely and utterly false. Sorry but no, $50/day is only possible if you’re a full time nomad, not someone who has to actually fly to places for 1 or 2 weeks off.

    1. I completely agree with you which is why I didn’t include my cheap flights to and from the Philippines from other Asian destinations. It still gives people an idea what to expect when they get there, and they can plan their budget accordingly. Also, I have many readers who are already on a round-the-world trip or South East Asia backpacking trip, and they will obviously have a completely different expense for their flights as someone who’d go just to the Philippines.

  6. Siargao island & Malapascua r still pretty cheap to visit. Go now before it follows boracay and el nido. There’s also Coron in Palawan, Caramoan and Calaguas in Bicol Region. U just missed Camiguin just down of Bohol ( the volcanic island w water falls, white beach sandbar, and hot springs) . In Manila, check out the new city of dreams . Also, the newly opened 3d interactive museum in Cubao. And the scenic tagaytay just 1:30 hr south of Manila. Mt pinatubo, sagada, & rice terraces in the north. So much more, but these r the usual routes for tourists. Thousands of Philippines islands r really stunning, and has something to offer! Best wishes!

    1. I can’t wait to visit Malapascua and Coron (was bummed that I ran out of time during my visit!) – wasn’t sure if Siargao is worth it because I don’t surf but I keep seeing photos and it looks sooo beautiful! Thanks so much for all the recommendations – some of the places I haven’t even heard of and will google them now – I can’t wait to go back and discover more of the Philippines 🙂

  7. Nice post Dani – we’re just planning our month trip in the Philippines now and cursing out loud at the cumbersome sites of airlines like Cebu.

    We’re limitng things to El Nino, Boracay, Coron and obviously Manila to get in/out.

    We’re going in the shoulder season (mid May to mid June) pre monsoon but we’re still gonna try to pre-book things as much as possible…!

    1. Make sure to check the weather for El Nido because I’ve heard that it can be a bit of a let down during the rainy season. And look into the Tao Expedition from El Nido to Coron, I think I’ve told you about it and it’s well worth the splurge. If you consider doing it, I’ll send you a couple of articles about it. The Cebu website is awful but sadly they’re often the cheapest. Enjoy the beautiful Philippines 🙂

  8. thanks for that very useful breakdown of costs. we’re thinking of travelling there next year and I know I need to start thinking about budgets and travel plans, but I hadn’t yet really gotten my head around this. This will help a lot. In reference to one of the previous comment, we will definitely have to fly in from far away and won’t be able to spend that long, so the cost of the trans-pacific airfare will definitely be one of the largest components.

  9. Everything’s spot on! I tend to have 4 or more cups of coffee a day, so I always bring several sachets of pre-mixed coffee and just ask for a cup of hot water wherever I’m at, otherwise it’d make up 25% of my daily expenses. Was that pizza from altrov’e?

  10. Nice post Dani. I’d love to travel to the Philippines..there’s some great prices on flights from Australia these days
    Cheers

    1. Thanks, Emma! I met a guy from Australia in the Philippines who told me his flight from Oz to the Philippines was cheaper than one of the flights he took within the Philippines!! There must be crazy good offers now 🙂

  11. Hey Dani! This has been a really helpful post! I’m planning a slightly ambitious shoe-string budget trip to the Philippines in March 2016 🙂 I was just wondering when you visited Philippines and the duration of your stay. Also, what was the weather like at the time? It will give me a slightly better idea of what to expect.

    1. Hi Nina, thanks so much! I went at the beginning of this year and spent a total of just over three weeks in January and February 2015 there. The weather was still great at that time of year – I think the monsoon season doesn’t hit until May, so you should be good 🙂 Let me know if you have any other questions 🙂

  12. I am so proud being a Filipino! Thanks for visiting our country, I hope you will never get tired or bored visiting our place. yes, traveling in the Philippines is better cheaper compared to other countries that’s why a lot of tourists don’t hesitate to visit here. I highly suggest that you would also visit Cagayan de Oro,Camiguin,Palawan and Siargao for your next visit, I am sure, you will have a wonderful experience again.

    1. Thanks, Jenifer! 🙂 You live in a beautiful country and thanks so much for the recommendations for my next visit. I definitely want to check out Siargao – high on my list! – and return to Palawan. And now I’ve added Cagayan de Oro and Camiguin, wow.. looks amazing!! Thanks again 🙂

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