Ultimate Guide: Philippine Budget Backpacking
Many travellers from all over the world include the Philippines in their bucket list. The country has so much natural beauty that it becomes impossible to dive yourself in its wonders for just a week. You need a longer vacation than that! Nonetheless, if you do find time to visit the Philippines, here's a quick guide on how you can make the most out of your trip on a very tight budget!
Did you know that you could book a room for as low as $19.00 a night? A $19.00 room would already cover free breakfast, internet, air conditioning, nice beds, top of the line room service and all the necessary basics for accommodation. A suite would cost about $50.00 to $100.00 per head a night which, on my opinion, is already a low price to pay.
If you think that $19.00 is already surprising, wait until you hear this. You can get rooms for as low as $5.00 per head. Usually, cheap rooms like this are houses turned into resorts situated beside a beach. I am a beach person that you could take any day to travel to the shore, that's why we got really cheap rooms during my visit.
The trick to getting really low prices on rooms when you want to travel to the Philippines is to book your accommodation ahead of time. The Philippines is becoming a top tourist spot for people from all over the world so you really have to fight for reservations especially during the holiday season.
One of the things that I enjoyed the most during my visit to the Philippines was their scrumptious but inexpensive food. The food is cheap because they cultivate ingredients themselves. There is even a restaurant that we visited near the North that has a fresh pond of fish where you can pick what you want to eat.
A meal could cost as low as $1.00 which already includes two viands, a drink and dessert. A $5.00 meal is already considered an expensive meal in the Philippines. Food poisoning won't be a problem as long as you make sure you are eating in a clean and health inspected establishment.
Getting buzzed is easy in the Philippines. I enjoy trying out different kinds of alcoholic drinks. Filipinos often study Hotel and Restaurant Management with barista courses because it is in demand abroad. This is why you can expect great cocktails and margaritas when you go bar hopping in this country.
FA beer would cost you as low as 70 cents. A premium beer is sold for as low as $2.00. A glass of cocktail would cost you around $3.00 - $4.00 which is already quality booze!
When you take at look at photos of the Philippines via the internet, you'll think that all you could do is sight-seeing. But ever since foreigners started flooding the country, they're tourism industry boomed as well.
At present, there are hundreds of various activities that you can immerse yourself into. There are activities for solo tourists, for families and even for kids. Here are the ones that I've personally tried.
- Scuba Diving - There are many dive sites in the country including Coron, Borocay, Anilao, Dumaguete and more. You can rent a complete and top of the line gear for diving for as low as $8.00. The complete package with lessons, an instructor and a tour under the waters would cost each person around $54.00.
- Mountain Hiking - Adventure packages for hiking is inexpensive as well. If you want to be above the clouds and watch the sunrise, you only need to pay around $37.00. This comes with a tent, food and an unforgettable view. Tagging your friends along would give you discounts as well.
- Surfing - The Philippines' top surf camp is located at San Juan, La Union. The waves are perfect for beginner surfers like me. Four of us wanted to try this out. A 2 night accommodation plus 3 hour surfing lessons for 4 people with complete gear and set-up would cost less than $60.00 for the group.
- Shopping - We couldn't skip this. Goods and services are really cheap in the Philippines. Before we went home and checked in the airport, we had to visit the biggest mall in Asia, the Mall of Asia. The Filipino version of flea markets got us paying more for baggage! But we don't regret it at all! Clothes, shoes, gadgets - all new and original.
Places to Visit
There are 7,107 islands in the Philippines and it would be impossible to visit all but I did my research before travelling so we visited the most popular places in the Philippines based on online and social media reviews.
Palawan - I booked our first travel to El Nido, Palawan. I was so excited to soak up the sun that I wanted to visit a beach first before anything else. Palawan did not disappoint me at all. If anything, I think positive reviews are not enough for this island. I particularly enjoyed visiting the Palawan Wildlife Rescue Conservation Center. I was in awe when I saw a big skeleton of a huge salt water crocodile. There are many other animals housed in the center as well.
Boracay - Another top destination for many tourists, Boracay has a ton of activities in store. We did some island hopping, snorkelling and some heart pumping parasailing. We were actually worried our camera memories were not enough because there were so many things to do and parties to end. It was my first time clubbing beside the beach and I got drunk of too much fun! I think I will have the Boracay hangover forever!
Baguio - Baguio is deemed the Summer Capital of the Philippines because it is the coldest part of the country. It's a small city but tourists love going here! The people are so friendly and the city is full of music and arts. Any street you walk on at night, there would be a band playing. Art is sold in the streets. I was able to get hold of really cool hand painted shirts! I enjoyed visiting the Ben Cab Museum where there are different forms of art displayed.
Bohol - Bohol is where the famous Chocolate Hills is located. According to the latest count, there are a maximum of 1776 hills. What amazed me the most is the story regarding this place! A handsome young giant named Arogo fell in love with a mortal woman. When the mortal died, he cried and his tears turned into hills. Isn't it just amazing when people make stories out of great places like this? Whatever the origin of the hills is, I would say that the experience was surreal. The viewing deck gave us a great view of the place.
Cons of Visiting the Philippines
I want to write an honest review and although I really want to give the Philippines a 10 out of 10 rating, I would give it one lacking star. My 9 out of 10 rating is because of a few experiences I didn't enjoy about the country.
First of all, if you want to go to the Philippines, make sure that you do on a vacation that isn't during the common holidays shared around the world. Ever since the Philippines became a tourist spot, it also became the number 1 destination during holidays. And although there are many discounts during this season, it isn't a pretty sight at all. It's such a daunting task to look for decent transportation and accommodation unless you've made prior reservations.
Second, don't forget to check for weather updates. The Philippines is a number one destination for tourists but typhoons find their way to the country as well. If you are caught in a typhoon, it would make it impossible for you to go anywhere because it would be totally unsafe.
Third, I loathe the prostitution I witnessed. It's so disturbing to see young women, who have no means of getting an education or a decent job to be taken advantage of older men. Even with laws implemented, prostitution isn't completely avoided.
Fourth, the rising incident of Dengue Fever is quite alarming. But you will do fine if you use a bug spray and when sleeping outdoors, use a mosquito net.
In conclusion, visiting the Philippines is a great experience so as long as you avoid any of the cons listed above. The locals are friendly, the food and booze is great and the places will be etched on your mind. Usually, Visa Regulations would allow a 21 day visit to the country which is not enough time but will already relief you from the stress of your day to day activities at home. If given the chance, I would go back to the Philippines again and visit the places that I have not had the time to go to like Dumaguete, Sagada and Intramuros.
Do you have any tips to share on budget travelling to the Philippines? Let us know in the comments.