After almost 2 months of traveling around Philippines we decided to write down these 7 tips which you must know before heading to Philippines to orient and save some money (and nerves) during their first trip in here. I wish we knew this before coming here, it would make our life easier.
1. Arrival and exit ticket
Before you fly to Philippines you might be asked for the exit ticket out of the country. Some travellers were not asked, but we were and without return ticket they would not let us get on the plane. If you don’t have an exit ticket you can create it for free on letuska.cz. Just book the ticket, choose “payment on branch” and print the ticket. We used it for this purpose (and several other times for visa) and it always worked like a charm.
2. Terminal fee
Traveling around PH, there is terminal fee to be paid in every airport and seaport when you depart only.
Manila airport has the terminal fee already included in price of the ticket for both domestic and international flights. Cebu airport has it included for domestic flights only. At all other airports be prepared to pay terminal fee at the departure.
– for international flights it is 750 peso (e.g. from Cebu)
– for domestic flights it is around 200 peso
It might be very unpleasant surprise for unaware travellers especially when leaving PH from Cebu. Logically you don’t have any peso anymore, because you are about to leave PH and suddenly you are asked to pay 750 peso. Not possible to pay in any other currency than peso.
Seaports have terminal fee usually about 15-50 peso. The one to Boracay is the most expensive we have seen – 100 peso. This is never included in the price of the ticket.
This is great things about Philippines – almost everyone speaks English well even in remote places, so there is no need to learn Tagalog (filipino language). We usually try to learn few basic sentences, but during our whole stay here we learnt only how to say “thank you” – “selamat”.
4. Money and ATM
When withdrawing money from ATM you will always pay 200 peso (4 euros) extra for international cards, so better withdraw more money at once to avoid paying this bank fee too many times. Usually you can withdraw 10.000 peso without problem, higher amount might be not possible at some ATMs.
1 euro = 55 peso
The prices will vary a lot throughout PH and also the seasons. In the most touristic places be prepared to pay much more than in less known islands. Good example is on the price of coconut throughout the country.
Coconut price in:
– Camotes islands – 40 peso
– Siquijor island, Mararison island: 30 peso
– Boracay: 150 – 200 peso!
– Libertad city (practically no tourism): 15 peso
Budget double room or bungalow: 500 – 800 peso (9 – 15 euros) per night for 2 people.
And the tip for accommodation – Those rooms which you can find online (booking, agoda) are usually much more expensive than those who do not have online presentation. So if you are willing to search for the place to sleep on the spot once you come, it might save you lot of money. We started to do it this way after the first 2 weeks and it worked well. Just bit more tiring to walk around.
Alternatively, you can also contact the property via FB or email and bargain the price online. Yes, we did it twice and lowered the price for 200 peso each time.
Curiosity: In Libertad we had the cheapest room rate from our whole SEA trip. 75 peso (1.4 euro) per head in double room! (following pic)
Filipino food is unfortunately not amongst the best of SEA. Actually the opposite. And that’s still us being polite. They eat lot of fat pork, don’t use any delicious spices like in Thailand or Vietnam and many times the street food is cold and not well done. Chicken is usually chopped to the pieces even with bones, so you have to be careful when eating not to swallow tiny piece of bone.
Street food prices:
Dish of meat (pork, chicken or fish) in sous with rice – 40 to 70 peso
Few pieces of small squid are usually about 30 peso.
From following picture – Fish 8 peso, shrimp paste 5 peso, veggies 12 peso, aubergines 12 peso, pork 30 peso, rice 10 peso, desert roll 10 peso.
Many times in evening people starts to make barbeque on the street. Piece of chicken 25 peso, pork 40, intestines 5. You can also have squid or fish for 70 – 100 peso from grill, but the fish was burnt and the squid chewy once we tried, so we never went for it again. Chicken and pork were usually very nice though.
The positive thing is that if you want to have some pastry for the breakfast you can buy it almost at every corner for super cheap price. It starts from 2 peso for small pieces. Ask for coconut one, it is so tasty and just 2 peso for one! Amazing for breakfast. Bigger pastries are for 5 – 10 peso. Just don’t expect French pastry, but some of them are quite tasty.
There are many ways of transport in Philippines and it’s worth to get familiar with them before going there.
Taxis are reasonably priced if the taximeter is running, so always check it and ask to turn it on if it is not. Even for longer routes about 15km it won’t be more than 250 peso (5 euros) in traffic.
These are basically motorbikes with big covered sidecars. It can take up to 6 people (or 8 locals) and is still very cheap. We calculated it usually costs about 3 peso per person per kilometer. Obviously it will not apply to touristic destinations. And even in less touristic places they will often try to overprice you. So negotiate (always before the ride) to get the price you are comfortable with. If you travel alone, you will have to pay extra to compensate empty tricycle.
Local public transport in forms of different vans for shorter distance. Some of the old ones are still from WW2! They are extremely cheap and extremely crowded. If you think the jeepney is already full, there will fit at least another 5 people inside. The price starts at 8 peso for the ride and the most what we paid was 15 peso for 30 minut drive.
The downside is that there is no route plan available, so you have to ask locals which jeepney will bring you to your destination. Also in traffic jam (almost in every city) you will breathe lot of fumes, which is very unpleasant. I wouldn’t recommend to use it with backpacks, despite many locals are using it for transporting big boxes and goods. We used it with backpack few times, so it is possible, but really uncomfortable.
Long distance bus
There are 2 types – with or without aircon. Obviously those with AC are bit more expensive, but also more comfortable. The price is about 100 (2 euros) peso for ride of 100km for non-aircon. Longer the ride, cheaper price per km you got.
They are running frequently between every bigger city and it is great transport on budget.
Ferries and speed boats
Boats are actually the way of transport which makes traveling around PH more expensive. Speed boats are very expensive – e.g. Siquijor – Dumaguete – Bohol took 3 hours and cost 900 peso (17 euros).
If you are buying ticket for the ferry, try to ask if there are more than just 1 class. Foreigners are usually automatically offered the best and most expensive class.
Ferries are slower and cheaper. And in our opinion much more pleasant – the waves don’t bounce the ship that easily, so you don’t feel sea sick. The price is about half of the speedboat price, but also double or even triple the time.
If you are traveling longer distance between islands, consider Cokaliong shipping company. They ride big overnight ferries with different classes. We used their service traveling from Cebu to Iloilo. 12 hours long overnight ride can cost 800 peso (15 euros) for dormitory bed style.
We wanted to spoil ourselves a bit, so we booked private double room for 2200 peso (1100 peso / 19 euros per person). When we entered the room we couldn’t believe our eyes. The difference in price is not so big, but the room was fabulous.
“Draw me like one of your french girls.”
They operate only around Cebu though.
8. Alternative places to visit
There are many beautiful well known places around PH. But in this last tip we want to mention those less known, but same amazing places. If you are like us and prefer to explore less touristic places than you will appreciate these. These are must know before heading to Philippines.
Siquijor island – This one is still quite famous, but with many peaceful places and very few people. Beautiful beaches, many waterfalls and motorbiking through the mountains is an amazing experience.
Camiguin island – Bit further from the Cebu, but even more interesting. Volcano like shape with white sand bar beach around. Pity we didn’t make it there. Next time!
Mararison island – One of our favourite spots in PH. Small island not so far from mainland of Panay, which offers both hills and beach.
Caluya island – Our dream destination which we never made it to. Very isolated islands, barely with any tourists. Beautiful beaches, waterfalls, coconut crabs and the most authentic experience. We spent 4 nights in Libertad city waiting for boat there which was grounded due to the bad weather. Then we had to move on.
Carabao, Tablas, Romblon islands – Possible to reach them from same port as Boracay – Caticlan port. Total opposite of Boracay – peaceful and laidback, with beautiful beaches and nature. Romblon has to offer amazing sand bank.
Sibuyan island – More difficult to reach, but still to be discovered green lush paradise with nickname “Galapagos of Asia”.
Tagaytay – City of Luzon island, just few hours from Manila to the south. Favourite holiday place for Filipinos. Breathtaking views on the volcano in the middle of island. Once there don’t forget to go for hike on Batulao – very special landscape.