Don’t be a stranger in your own land. The Philippines has so much to offer to travelers!
International travel is back! In 2022, the Department of Tourism (DOT) recorded 2.6 million tourist arrival and P173 billion tourism revenue. The DOT said more than 628,000 of international arrivals were returning Filipinos or balikbayans.
Like many countries in the world, it was domestic tourism that sustained the industry during the two-year pandemic lockdowns and international travel restrictions. Domestic tourists, including people who changed locations to work remotely and weekend travelers, kept businesses open and local people employed. In 2021, domestic tourism recorded 37,279,282 overnight trips, a 38.16% growth compared to 2020’s 26.9 million trips when most of the year was spent in hard lockdown.
When you travel locally, not only are you sating your thirst for adventure, you are also helping support local businesses and workers who rely on tourism for their income. What's more, touring the archipelago will not affect your financial wellbeing too much, but of course you still need financial planning for trips. Here are tips to help you prepare to roam the Philippines on a budget.
Spend around: P1,500-2,000
Airlines with domestic flights such as Cebu Pacific and AirAsia offer piso-fare all year round. As a rule of thumb, book your trips a few months in advance and include them in your financial planning. Airfare consumes a huge portion of one’s travel budget that many experienced travelers book whatever affordable flights are available and then plan their trips around that destination. A well-timed booking can get you a roundtrip flight to and from Cebu for less than P2,000 on a sale.
Pro tip: Book flights in the wee hours of the morning when online seat reservations will have just refreshed. Since most people are asleep, booking websites will also load much faster.
Spend around: P1,000 to P2,000
Did you know that you can take a bus from Cubao to travel practically anywhere in the Philippines? It's called the RORO or Roll-On/Roll-Off system. A bus headed to a destination like Iloilo or Puerto Galera, for example, will embark on and disembark from ships. If you're not in a hurry, you can save thousands on airfare costs. Not only is it cost-effective, it's also scenic and a leisurely way to travel.
Pro-tip: Bring easy-to-eat food for the trip, such as cup noodles, sandwiches, biscuits and other snacks. Just like on a plane, RORO food can have high markups.
Spend around: P4,000 (all in) for trips to Calaguas, Aurora, Sagada, and Caramoan
Planning on traveling the country solo? It may help to join a travel group. Several Facebook groups organize trips to popular tourist and adventure destinations all over the Philippines. These groups are usually headed by mountaineers or frequent beachgoers who open their travel pack to “joiners” who pay to be a part of their trips.
Communal expenses like boat rides and guides are split. Travel groups also provide necessities like tents, cooking utensils, and guides. You can also meet new friends this way! Check out Facebook pages for Gala Outdoors PH and Feel Good Traveler for more details.
Pro-Tip: Being friendly goes a long way in making the experience positive for everyone. You may have just found your new regular travel buddies.
Spend around: P1,000 to P1,200 for a two-night stay
Luxurious accommodations are great, but if you're a cowboy, you might want to stay in hostels and guesthouses. These places are geared towards backpackers and budget travelers, and are nice venues to socialize, trade tips and make memories. If you're adventuring most of the day and just using your accommodations for sleep, then you can use the money saved for other activities. Fancy lodgings in Boracay, Cebu, and El Nido can go for tens of thousands of pesos a night, but because these are top tourist destinations, you're sure to find some highly rated yet affordable hostels as well.
Pro-tip: Visit TripAdvisor or backpacker forums! They have all the inside information on hostels and group homes, not just in the Philippines, but also anywhere in the world.
Spend around: P300 to P400 per day
Befriending locals can uplift your traveling experience. Aside from lowering your trip costs, they provide unique, insider access to holes-in-the-wall and off-the-beaten paths. Locals can guide you to the less touristy and therefore less expensive parts of the town for accommodation. They can also recommend cheaper ways of getting around. Plus, they know the best restaurants and dining experiences to try. You can also gain a lifelong friend.
Pro-tip: Offer your experiences as a local, too. Should your hosts decide to travel to Metro Manila or wherever it is you call home, don’t hesitate to return the favor. This only fosters more goodwill between you and your host throughout and beyond the duration of your stay. Better yet, make it a small business to contribute to your financial wellbeing. There are people who offer tourists walking and food tours in their cities to earn extra.
When the opportunity strikes, get out there and embark on a new adventure. That said, it is important to protect your physical and financial wellbeing, so prepare for possible situations as you discover new places. Give yourself and your family some peace of mind while you are away with FWD Life Insurance’s 3-in-1 Protection, which provides life coverage (KanLive), critical illness protection (KanMend) and accidental death coverage (KanGuard). Available on FWD’s online shop.