I have previously written detailed summaries of my travel costs for Central America and South America that seem to be moderately popular. Since I recently finished a full month of traveling in the Philippines I thought it might be helpful to do the same for that country.
How I Travel and Other Observations
Any breakdown of this nature deserves some background information, and the value of my expense tracking will naturally depend on how similar your travel style is to mine. Perhaps the best description of my travel style is comfortable cheap. Whenever possible I try to save costs but I am not on such a tight budget that I will put up with extremely unpleasant or unsafe circumstances just to save a little money. Here are some more details, based on the expense categories I track, of how I travel to help you understand my numbers better:
For lodging, I prefer a private room if it is reasonably priced, but I am fine with a shared bathroom. I am also fine with a dorm room depending on the circumstances, including: if I am in a social mood and want to more easily meet fellow travelers; when the dorm is particularly nice; when I plan to be so busy that I just need a room for sleeping; when I just don’t think the added cost of a private room is worth it.
I have never been a foodie, and while I enjoy trying local dishes, food rarely takes a central role in my travels. Like anyone, I occasionally want to treat myself to a good meal, especially when I am in a country where doing so is reasonably priced, but I don’t do it often. That’s as much personal preference as a concern for my budget.
Travel / Transportation
Whenever possible I walk or rent a bicycle. One reason is simply me being cheap, but more importantly, I like the exercise and I find it a great way to see places I would miss if I took taxis (especially useful since I am always looking for good street art). For longer distances, I generally travel by local transportation and avoid taxis. I’ve never hitchhiked and am slow to the Uber game, though perhaps I should try in the future.
In Camiguin, Bohol, Bantayan and El Nido I rented a motorbike for a day to explore at my own leisurely pace.
Drinks and Entertainment
I am not much of a drinker or club goer. This fact alone is one of the biggest budget savings in my favor.
I found many activities in Philippines required a tour guide (either by natural need or by town/tourism mandate). This added to the costs of enjoying various places, but I think it is good to support the local economy and prices were reasonable.
Internet / Phone
At a friend’s recommendation, I got a prepaid SIM card from Globe but Smart seemed very popular as well. They have different promotions and generally if you go to a kiosk you can inquire about the latest promotions and even have them help you sign up for them.
My Spending by Category
For the 31 days I traveled (including transit to/from Thailand) I spent US$1,123 for a daily average of US$36.24. That includes all expenses including flights. Below are charts breaking down those expenses by category.
How I Track My Expenses: Get the Spreadsheet Yourself
There are now some useful smartphone apps to track expenses, but when I started traveling in early 2009 I was still years from owning my first smartphone. Instead, I created a spreadsheet to track my travel expenses, which I still use. I suppose it is a bit old school, but it works for me and if you are interested in using it as well, I gladly make it freely available. Just click through for the Google Sheets version or contact me to request an Excel or Open Office version.
The spreadsheet will automatically convert to US dollars and Euros and it can handle a variable number of days, up to 366 (accounting for a leap year), though there is a smaller one-month worksheet as well for shorter trips. It will also automatically graph your expenses by category. If you do use it and find any errors please let me know.
Spending Breakdowns Around the Web
In my Central America cost breakdown I listed quite a few similar budget breakdowns from other bloggers that I have come across which you might want to check out. Alternatively, Jodi at Legal Nomads offers a regularly updated resources page with an even better collection broken down by RTW and part of the world.
General Observations of the Philippines
- Most people would love to have 30 days to explore a country. I know I am fortunate to have that freedom. But, there is so much worth seeing in the Philippines that it is quite impossible even given that much time. I am happy with the places I went but there were many destinations that I had to cut from my plans due to time constraints. I guess there will have to be another trip someday.
- I believe I was traveling in a shoulder season. I wasn’t paying peak season prices but some places said they were entering the busy season. I believe accommodation prices do rise a fair amount in the high season.
- People often say the people in this place or that are the friendliest in the world and I have met many friendly people in many countries, but the Philippines was the first where I was very regularly greeted with hellos in the streets by countless locals who did not want to sell me anything. Of course, this behavior was more prevalent among the children but many adults said hello as well. As a corollary, it seemed to me that almost every Filipino is outgoing. I expected a fair representation of shy or introverted people, but I didn’t notice any!
- Getting accurate information online (schedules, prices, etc.) about ferries can be difficult. Partly this is because many ferry operator websites either don’t exist or are not very useful. Another reason is that things change often. Most notably, sometimes a ferry will stop and start a route based on the season or weather.
- Internet is the worst of any place I have been. It is truly awful. I guess that makes sense for a country comprised of more than 7,000 islands – it must be difficult from an infrastructure point of view. Exceptions were Cebu and metro Manila, which again makes sense. Note that many accommodations advertise WiFi but this is often nothing more than a MiFi device that guests can share and you can imagine how well that works out. Thus, my recommendation is to get a prepaid SIM card and an unlimited day plan. It will still be slow but at least you won’t be sharing, though in El Nido I found that even my data plan was useless in the evenings when I guess the entire community was sharing one very poor connection from the carriers.
- I prefer My Philippines Trip Itinerary
I stayed in the Philippines for the maximum 30 days allowed and visited the three major island groups. I flew into Manila but immediately caught a connecting flight to the south and then worked my way north and west, finishing in Luzon. Here is my exact itinerary along with some notes for each place I visited.
Day Itinerary 1 (January 16, 2016) Arrive Manila; Fly Manila to Cagayan de Oro (CDO); Travel from CDO via bus and then ferry to Camiguin Island 4 Ferry from Camiguin to Jagna, Bohol; Bus from Jagna to Taglibaran 7 Ferry from Taglibaran to Cebu City; Bus from Cebu City to Hagnaya Port; Ferry from Hagnaya to Bantayan Island 12 Ferry from Bantayan to Hagnaya; Bus to Cebu City 13 Flight to Puerto Princesa 14 Bus to El Nido 19 Bus to Puerto Princesa 20 Flight from Puerto Princesa to Cebu City 22 Flight from Cebu City to Clark Airport; Bus to Quezon City 24 Overnight bus from Quezon City to Sagada 27 Bus/Jeepney from Sagada to Banaue 29 Overnight bus from Banaue to Quezon City 30 (February 14, 2016) Flight from Clark Airport to Kuala Lumpur
Camiguin is a lovely island off the northern coast of Mindanao, accessible either by ferry from someplace like Bohol or by a flight to CDO and then a bus/ferry combination to the island (ferry leaves from Balingoan Port and arrives Benoni Port). I included it in my itinerary at the suggestion of a friend from the Philippines. Since it was my southernmost destination, I made it my first stop.
This is a great place to rent a motorbike for getting around, though there are motorized tricycles (motorela) and individual motorbike taxis (habal-habal) plying the main road as well which are convenient.
I saw the main attractions for the island, the most famous of which is White Island, which you need to reach via a small boat that costs about 450-500 PHP. This is quite expensive for a really short boat ride, but that price is for the boat so if you can arrange to share the trip with others it can be quite cheap.
Where I stayed
- Useful Links
- Backpacking 101: Camiguin Island Travel Guide, Budget and Itinerary
- From white beaches to jungle clad volcanoes – Camiguin has it all
Bohol—home of the famous tarsier—is a recommended destination that can be enjoyed for multiple days or even as a long day trip via ferry if you find yourself in Cebu City. Many (most) visitors choose to base themselves in Panglao, which is home to a nice, but very touristy beach. Other visitors choose a more relaxing jungle stay in Loboc and I met travelers who said nice things about doing so. Probably not many decide to stay in the city of Taglibaran, though that is exactly what I did. I admit the city is nothing special and I knew this beforehand. But, my plan was to rent a scooter to see the island and so I just wanted a convenient base. Plus, the accommodations were cheaper and it is very close to the ferry port to Cebu. So, overall I am happy with my choice.
You can do all-day tours in Bohol, but I opted to drive myself around on my rented scooter and that worked out well. I did do the Loboc river cruise with lunch, which wasn’t bad but wasn’t so great either. All told, for that cruise, a visit to the Tarsier Conservation Park, the hanging bridges and the chocolate hills entrance fee I paid 630 PHP.
Where I stayed
- Nisa Travelers Inn (500PHP). This is a fairly well-known place in Taglibaran yet you cannot book online so you will have to call or email, or just show up, as I did, and there will probably be a room available. I booked a single, fan room with shared bathroom and breakfast was included. The hotel was clean and the staff very pleasant and helpful. The room itself was small and basic and had open walls at the top, so noise from neighbors can be a problem. I rented my scooter from the hotel itself and, as a result, probably paid more than I needed to, but it was convenient and hassle-free.
- Philippines 2011: Day 10 – Bohol tour: Chocolate Hills, Loboc river cruise, Tarsiers, churches
- Bohol Island – Your Next Destination
Bantayan Island (Cebu)
My original plans were to maybe visit Oslob and Moalboal but after reading some very good things about Bantayan I decided to go there instead and am glad I did. It is a sleepy island with some nice beaches and overall a great place to just spend a few days relaxing. I took a snorkeling and island hopping tour here (including the very nice Virgin Island). I shared the cost with another traveler I met on the ferry ride over and paid 550 PHP with use of a snorkel.
Where I stayed
- Useful Links
- Bantayan Island – Facets of a mosaic paradise
- Bantayan Island, Philippines – A Picturesque Island Hideaway
I spent two nights in Cebu City, first in transit from Bantayan Island to Puerto Princesa and then again in transit to Quezon City. There aren’t many tourist attractions in the city, but there is enough to merit a day of sightseeing and it seems like a decent place to possibly base as a digital nomad if you are so inclined.
Where I stayed
- Elicon House (580 PHP, single with private bath and A/C). I stayed here on my second passing through Cebu City and this place was great. It is more or less a fairly large hotel, and my room had no window, but it was clean and comfortable and very professionally run. It is run as a green operation (the name comes from Ecological LIving and CONservation House) and it is in a great location, walking distance to main tourist attractions and the south bus terminal. Also, even though there are many places to eat nearby, I ate two decent and inexpensive meals at the hotel restaurant. One negative is that WiFi doesn’t work in the rooms. On the other hand, it worked fairly well in the common area and the common area is spacious and comfortable. In summary: I highly recommend this place and wish I had stayed here both of my nights in Cebu City.
- Our Guide to What to Do in Cebu
- Things to do in Cebu
- Visit our Best Places in Cebu
- Philippines 2011: Day 9 – Cebu: Fort San Pedro, Basilica of Santo Niño, Taoist Temple
- The Poor Traveler – Cebu
- Bantayan Island Travel Guide
Puerto Princesa (Palawan)
I stayed in Puerto Princesa a night each en route to and from El Nido. It would also be a natural base to visit the underground river, which I did want to see but ended up skipping to spend more time in El Nido. There aren’t a lot of tourist attractions in Puerto Princesa so you really don’t need to spend much time here but the timing of flights and the travel times to some popular destination on Palawan mean you might indeed need to spend a night or two here.
Where I stayed
- Useful Links
- The Poor Traveler – Puerto Princesa
- Do-It-Yourself Puerto Princesa City Tour
- Going Underground in Puerto Princessa
- Philippines 2011: Day 12 – Puerto Princesa Underground River tour, Palawan
El Nido (Palawan)
I read mixed reviews of El Nido before arriving. Most people absolutely rave about it but there is a growing chorus of people claiming its charms are exaggerated and the tourism has gone too far. I tried to keep my expectations level and I can say that I understand both points of view. El Nido and the surrounding areas are undeniably beautiful and it is equally undeniable that the place has become enormously popular on the backpacker circuit as well. Maybe not to Boracay levels yet, but perhaps it is heading that way? Regardless, I think it definitely worth visiting if you keep in mind that it is not some unspoiled paradise just waiting for you to enjoy.
The town has implemented tourism rules restricting tours (barely) and instituting an environmental fee for said tours. I have no idea if these things are just to further generate revenue or if they are being used for protection and smart growth purposes.
I rented a scooter here to visit Nacpan Beach (highly recommended) and to see the incredible sunset at Corong Corong Beach (the sunset at is not really so great at Nacpan due to the geography of the place). I also did Tour C (1000 PHP for the tour and 200 PHP for the environmental fee) and with two other travelers hiked the local peak (250 PHP each for a guide).
Note: there IS an ATM in town (many people have written that there is not) BUT it seems to be out of service often, and when it did re-open one morning a German girl I met was unable to successfully use her card. So, bring enough cash with you.
Where I stayed
- Miikeys (600 PHP, room with two beds, fan, shared bath). This place was recommended by someone staying in the same hotel in Puerto Princesa. It isn’t online and is sort of easy to pass by because it is in a small courtyard across from the main church. This recommendation turned out to be very good because (1) most budget places were already booked by the time I arrived in late afternoon and (2) it was a very pleasant place. Again, no luxury but clean and basic and conveniently located. Not on the beach, but you won’t find anything for this price range on the beach anyway.
- Islands, Lagoons and Beaches – Palawan Dreaming in El Nido
- How to Get to El Nido from Puerto Princesa Airport, Palawan, Philippines
- The Ultimate Guide to an Active El Nido Vacation
- El Nido Tour A Review – Palawan Philippines
- See the Philippines on Wheels: Riding a Motorcycle in El Nido, Palawan
- Taking a Shuttle vs Taking the Bus to El Nido from Puerto Princesa
- El Nido Travel Guide
- Paradise FOUND!! – El Nido – Palawan, Philippines a complete travel guide to El Nido
- Philippines 2011: Day 11 – Arriving in Puerto Princesa, Palawan
- Philippines 2011: Day 13 – Puerto Princesa to El Nido by bus
- Philippines 2011: Day 14 – El Nido island hopping tour A and sunset at Las Cabanas beach, Palawan
- 6 Popular Restaurants in El Nido, Palawan, Philippines
Quezon City / Manila
Honestly, the only place in the Philippines I had no interest in seeing was Manila. I probably would have skipped it entirely except my one friend from the Philippines (we met traveling in Brazil) lives there. Fortunately, she lives in Quezon City, just outside Manila and this is a much nicer place to be (as far as I can tell, since I only spent a day sightseeing in Manila).
Note that I stayed in Quezon City twice. Once on my way to northern Luzon and one night on my way back before leaving the country.
Where I stayed
- Useful Links
Sagada was a nice little town and quite popular with foreign tourists and locals alike. In the past, there weren’t direct buses to Sagada but now there are. I only spent two nights here but if I had more time I would have been quite happy to stay longer.
In Sagada, most activities require a tour guide and these are arranged in an organized way by either the main tourism office or the tour guides office (just down the street—it is a small town). I think requiring a guide to see the hanging coffins is a bit of overkill since it is so incredibly easy to reach on your own. But, it wasn’t expensive (200 PHP for a guide) and would be even less so if you are in a group. In fact, if you are alone, I recommend that you go to the entrance area (past the church) and just wait for a group to show up and join them.
Besides the hanging coffins, I did a tour of the big waterfall (Bomod-ok Falls) with a couple that was staying in the same hotel. We had to pay for private transportation and the guide and my share was 410 PHP. I also did the Cave Connection, which was actually somewhat challenging and, I daresay, a bit dangerous in some spots. A guide for that is 800 PHP, which I shared by going with another traveler I met in my hotel.
Note: for such a small town, there are quite a few good dining options, though I found the famous Lemon Pie House to be overrated.
Where I stayed
- Useful Links
- Backpacking 101 in Sagada
- The Budget Travel Guide to SAGADA, Philippines
- Sagada Travel Guide: Getting There, Sample Itinerary and Budget
- Exploring Northern Luzon – From the Grasslands of Sagada to the Ifugao Rice Terraces
- Sagada: An Unbelivable Place in the Philippines
- Philippines 2011: Day 3 – Sagada’s Lumiang burial cave, Sumaguing cave, Hanging Coffins of Echo valley
- That Thing Called Kiltepan Sunrise: Sagada, Philippines
- Over the Mountains to Bomod-ok Falls: Sagada, Philippines
- The Hanging Coffins at Echo Valley: Sagada, Philippines
- Sagada Weaving: Mountain Province, Philippines
- Sumaguing Cave: Spelunking for Beginners in Sagada, Philippines
- Cave Connection: Next-Level Spelunking in Sagada, Philippines
- Gone Spelunking In Sagada, Philippines– Sumaguing + Lumiang Cave Connection
- Lumiang Burial Cave: Sagada, Philippines
- The Yoghurt House, Sagada: A Love-Hate Affair
- Lemon Pie House: Where to Eat in Sagada, Philippines
- Salt N Pepper Diner: Where to Eat in Sagada, Philippines
Banaue (and a few hours in Bontoc)
I just stopped a few hours in Bontoc on my way from Sagada to Banaue, long enough to visit the local museum which I had seen recommended online. It was nice but not spectacular. I heard there are some good hikes around Bontoc that might make a stay there worthwhile but I didn’t have time.
Banaue as a town is pretty uninspiring, but it is the base for visiting the world-famous Batad rice terraces and, in fact, there are other very nice places in the vicinity worth visiting (including my favorite, Bangaan).
My main tourism expense in Banaue was the trip to Batad and Bangaan which was 2300 PHP (I paid half this by sharing this with another traveler I met in town).
Where I Stayed
- Useful Links
- Batad Rice Terraces Dazzle in the Philippines
- The Bay-yo Rice Terraces and the Mysterious Waterfall: Bontoc, Mountain Province
- Banaue Rice Terraces in Ifugao, Philippines
- WikiTravel – Banaue
A Few Photos
More Information about the Philippines
I have included some links I found useful for the various places I visited during my trip but below are some more worth reading.
Travel Guides and Videos:
- Wikivoyage Philippines
- Philippines – Paradise on Earth
- THE PHILIPPINES: More Islands, More Fun! – free travel guide
- FREE EBook: The Philippines – Pearl of the Orient
- The Complete Guide to Traveling Around the Philippines
- A Complete Itinerary For A Three Week Trip To The Philippines
- Philippines Tourism Office
Bloggers Covering and/or from the Philippines
- The Pinoy Backpacker
- Girl, Unspotted
- Mitun on the Net
- Solitary Wanderer
- The Poor Traveler
- The Pinay Solo Backpacker
Locations I Didn’t Visit
- The Philippine Island of Danjugan, an Idyllic Ecotourism Escape
- 5 Reasons We Were Disappointed With Pagudpud in the Philippines
- On to Boracay Island Philippines…
- Homestay in the Philippines: Anda Part 2
- Batanes: the Philippines’ most remote islands
- Debauchery in paradise: Letting loose in Boracay
- 5 ways to travel to Boracay, Philippines: planes, (no) trains and automobiles
- Ultimate List of Best Hostels in Boracay @tourismPHL
- Escaping the Hell of Boracay in Carabao
- Coron, Palawan: Make Sure To See These 8 Places When You Visit This Paradise
- Island hopping around Biliran and Diving Malapascua
- Siargao – Philippines: Surf and Beach Paradise Can Be Yours at 20$ a Day!
- Budget Guide for Palawan, Philippines
- The top places to visit on Palawan
- Ultimate List of The Best Hostels in Palawan
Other Budget-related Posts
- How much does it cost to travel in the Philippines?
- Tips From the Banker: The True Cost of Travel in the Philippines
- Budget Travel in the Philippines
- Scuba Diving: Philippines| Recommended dive centers
- 7 KG PLUS: The carry-on baggage policies of Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific Air, and Air Asia in one easy-to-bookmark page
- Do’s and Don’ts in the Philippines
- Planning A Trip To The Philippines? 4 Things To Keep In Mind
- Philippines Travel Tips
- Best Places For Solo Travel In The Philippines
- Back from the Philippines – Fresh Thoughts After an Unforgettable Journey
- The Philippines: The forgotten beach destination
- One Week Philippines Travel Expenses Wrap Up
- Roundup Philippines: A country that has it all
- How to Spend Ten Miserable Days in the Philippines
- Top Three Budget Friendly Tourist Destinations that You could Visit in the Philippines
- What I REALLY Think Of The Philippines…
- The most beautiful islands of the Philippines
- Facebook Travel Bloggers Group thread: places to go/what to see and getting around safely
- Island adventures in the Philippines
- How to Travel Safely to the Philippines – Travel Tips
- The Philippines – beyond the beaches
- Itinerary for Philippines – 3 weeks
- Useful Links
- Useful Links