The Philippines: A 4 Week Budget
We've riden down some pretty epic roads on rented scooters. This beauty is in the Philippines

The Philippines: A 4 Week Budget

The Basics

So you’re planning to visit the Philippines. With over 7600 islands to explore, the itineraries are endless and ways to bust your budget are as well if you’re not careful!

In our experience, travel in the Philippines requires a bit more advanced planning than any other country in South East Asia. This is largely due to the necessity to fly from island to island on multiple occasions to make the most of your precious time in this amazing country.

Arriving on Siargao with the Cebu Pacific ATR propeller plane

We were in the Philippines for 26 days in September-October of 2018 and thought we’d share some insight on how much we spent during our four weeks there. Note that during high season (December-April), you should plan to pay more for lodging and activities! Since it was our first time here, we stuck to the classic backpacker destinations (with some minor exceptions):

Manila: 1 Day (Transit)

Siargao: 8 Days (why so long you ask? Click here!)

Cebu: 2 Days

Siquijor: 4 Days

Bohol: 3 Days

Cebu: 1 Day (Transit)

El Nido: 4 Days

Coron: 3 Days

Just your average window seat view

Trip Length: 26 days / 25 nights

Total Cost: 101,983 PHP / 2497$ CAD / 1903$ USD

Cost / Day: 3,922 PHP / 96.01$ CAD / 73.21$ USD

Cost / Person: 1,961 PHP / 48$ CAD / 36.60$ USD

Note that this budget excludes the following:

  • Entry and exit flights: Since you will likely be arriving and departing the Philippines via different destinations than us, it makes more sense to exclude these costs. If we include our flights from Melbourne and to Hong Kong, we spent about 3100$ CAD between us.
  • Travel insurance: As Quebec residents, we overpay for travel insurance (we’re quite limited in our choices). 

All prices will be in Philippine Peso (PHP) with total costs converted to CAD and USD at the end of each section

Lodging

Lodging in the Philippines is slightly more expensive than other South East Asian countries such as Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia. Traveling as a couple, we typically stay in private rooms as it often comes out cheaper than booking two beds in a hostel.

Our bungalow for 4 nights on Siargao
Check them out @kubo_siargao

We used Airbnb and Booking for all our accommodation in the Philippines. Our budget for lodging was 700-1500 pesos per night. Since got four nights on Siargao sponsored with our friends at Kubo Siargao, we paid for 21 nights in total.

We stayed in private rooms except for all but three nights on El Nido, where we stayed in a four bed dorm.

We always had A/C except for three nights on Coron.

Total cost of lodging: 20,663 PHP / 21 nights

Cost of Lodging per person: 10,332 PHP / 21 nights

Price per day: 492 PHP  12.3$ CAD  9.5$ USD

Tips for Lodging: 

  • Book tourist hotspots such as El Nido and Coron well in advance (over a month before your trip is best)
  • Although electricity can be unreliable and many low budget places won’t have a generator, we still highly recommend paying the extra 3-4$ per night for A/C.
  • Best experience: Panglao Green Hills (Bohol). Great value for money, pool and restaurant on site, decent wifi (rare for the Philippines) and super helpful staff and owners.
  • Save 45$ CAD on your first trip with Airbnb when you sign up with our link!

Transportation

We’ll be honest, this is where things get a little tricky in the Philippines and you have to make some tough decisions. If money isn’t an issue, you can fly to and from almost all tourist destinations in a breeze. On the other hand if you’re a true backpacker and time isn’t an issue, you can also opt for often long and uncomfortable ferries to save a good amount of money.

Palm tree island

Since we only had 26 days in total, we wanted to waste as little time as possible, while also not breaking the bank. Therefore, we booked all our domestic flights within the Philippines 2-3 months in advance and were pleasantly surprised at the prices we were able to find!

Some major costs of transportation were:

  • Return flight from Cebu to Siargao: 5,250 PHP
  • One way flight from Cebu to Puerto Princessa: 1,850 PHP
  • One way flight from Coron to Manila: 1,600 PHP 
  • Fast boat (Montenegro) from El Nido to Coron: 1,760 PHP
  • Scooter rentals (15 days): 5,500 PHP

Note: For our first two weeks in the Philippines we traveled with a friend of ours, which reduced our transport costs as we split the costs of taxis and tuk-tuks over that period. 

Total cost of transportation (2 persons): 31,500 PHP / 26 days

Cost of transportation per person: 15,750 PHP / 26 days

Price per day: 606 PHP  15$ CAD  11.5$ USD

Tips for transportation: 

  • Make friends! Find people in your hostel or guesthouse that are booking transfers on the same days as you to split the costs.  
  • Haggle ALL your local transportation. This includes scooters, tuk-tuks and van transfers. 
  • Typical daily scooter rentals prices: 300p (Siquijor), 350p (Siargao), 400p (Bohol, Cebu), 500p (El Nido, Coron)
  • Stretch the budget by renting scooters for half-days (discounted rate) or negotiating a long-term discount (usually available for weekly rentals).  
  • Use Cebu Air Pacific and Air Asia to book cheap domestic flights. Avoid flying on weekends and holidays. 

Food & Drink (restaurants)

Much like accommodation, value for money in the Philippines for food is inferior to countries like Thailand or Vietnam. This is particularly true for fruits and vegetables. We found out this is because the government in the Philippines had restricted imports a few month before we arrived, which drove up food prices tremendously.

That being said, the main principles of travel in Asia on a budget still apply. Street food is always the cheapest and often the best. The Filipinos are huge on grilled meats and really good at it too. Our go-to budget meal was a whole roast chicken with two sides of rice, which typically cost 300-400p for the both of us.

For a meal at a sit down restaurant, we usually paid 150-400p per person, not including drinks. Just keep in mind that prices in restaurants can vary greatly depending on how touristy the area is.

Common Ground Cafe – Our favorite healthy option in the Philippines 

We didn’t drink much alcohol in the Philippines. On average we spent 100p on drinks per day, which gets you two San Miguel beers.

Total cost of food & drink (2 persons): 36,400 PHP / 26 days

Cost of food & drink per person: 18,200 PHP / 26 days

Price per day: 700 PHP  17$ CAD  13$ USD

Activities

This is where our budget may seem frugal (or even stingy) for many of you. There are SO many amazing things to try in the Philippines, but our favorite way to explore is on our own, on a scooter. You can find the best beaches, waterfalls and cliff jumping spots just by cruising around and asking the locals.

This is a relatively cheap thing to do compared to many other organized activities. Also note that we included the rental costs of our scooters in the Transportation section of this guide.

Motorbiking through Siargao
The best way to explore
Skipping the Canyoneering to have this place to ourselves

Because we often think of photography first, we often hesitate on activities which we know will probably not result in worthwhile content. Therefore we skipped on popular tourist hot-spots such as the Canyoneering at Kawassan Falls, the Whale Sharks in Oslob and Zip-Lining in El Nido just to name a few.

We also only did one boat tour on El Nido and Coron. We did plan on doing two in both locations, but Yass got sick from some bad Tofu in El Nido and in Coron we didn’t want to pay fees to withdraw more money from the ATM on the last day of the trip (and we were also just too darn tired). 

Boat tours are some magical days
Water you just can’t see on the mainland

Some major costs for activities were (costs for two persons):

  • El Nido Tour A: 2,400 PHP
  • Coron Ultimate Tour: 2,800 PHP
  • Siargao Island Hopping: 1,000 PHP 
  • Sugba Lagoon (Siargao): 1,600 PHP

Total cost of Activities (2 persons): 9,820 PHP / 26 days

Cost of activities per person: 4,910 PHP / 26 days

Price per day: 188 PHP  4.75$ CAD  3.50$ USD

Miscellaneous

This includes all the rest: Think petrol for the scooter, fresh fruits at the market, and a few souvenirs.

Miscellaneous costs per person: 1,800 PHP / 26 days

Price per day: 70 PHP  1.60$ CAD  1.30$ USD

Tips for Planning a Travel Budget to The Philippines

The Philippines is a cash based country. Except for a few restaurants in large cities such as Manila or Cebu, you’ll end up paying cash for all your expenses here.

Therefore, to avoid ATM fees, you should plan on arriving with as many Pesos as you’re comfortable carrying. We arrived with 40,000p, but looking back we would have done well to take a bit more with us, as the limit on most ATMs in the Philippines is 10,000p.

In general, if you’re not too picky on accommodation (basic & clean is our motto), you can have a really great time here for 30-40 USD per day. Multiply that by the number of days you’ll spend here and you’ll have a great idea of how much you’ll need!

Aerial view of naked island
Just another day in the Philippines
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