“And when is your departure flight from the Philippines?” the check-in agent sweetly asked me as I dropped my bag for the trip from Kuala Lumpur to Cebu City. I smiled back and confidently bluffed “I fly to Bangkok in three weeks.”
“Great – if I could just see your flight confirmation?” She called my bluff, but I kept smiling. I maybe twitched.
I quickly searched my phone for the imaginary flight confirmation and, obviously, came up with nothing. “I can’t find it on my phone. I guess it’s on my laptop.”
“Well that’s fine, and you’ll need a printed copy anyway. You can go print one at our service desk on the second floor.”
I then walked away, panic-booked the first cheapish flex flight I could find from Manila to anywhere, printed it and checked in with a few minutes to spare. Then I tried to un-book the flight, but apparently AirAsia doesn’t have the two hour grace period a lot of airlines do. Lesson learned.
After finally getting IN to the country all went well – minus the dive disaster, but that is for another day. This is where I was during my month in the Philippines:
- March 5-6: Cebu City, Cebu Island
- March 6-10: Malapascua Island
- March 10-14: Moalboal, Cebu Island
- March 14-18: San Juan, Siquijour Island
- March 18-20: Dumaguete, Negros Island
- March 20-21: Manila, Luzon Island
- March 22-25: Pandan Island
- March 24-25: Manila, Luzon Island
- March 26-30: Legazpi, South Luzon Island
- March 30-31: Donsol, South Luzon island
- March 31-April 2: Legazpi, South Luzon Island
- April 2-3: Manila, Luzon Island
As with my Cambodia and Northern Thailand month breakdowns, I again used the Trail Wallet app on my phone to track the pesos flying at high speed out of my wallet. And on review, if it weren’t for flights and diving, the Philippines would be about on par with my other SE Asia stops, cost-wise.
The grand total for one month was $1066 or about $35.50 per day.
This time I was travelling with one or two other people for almost the entire month. I stayed in dorms or on friends’ sofas – not a single private room this month. Accommodation is a bit more expensive in the Philippines than other countries, especially in Manila. Luckily I didn’t pay a dime to stay in Manila (till the last day), thanks to Martin, a friend of a friend who put us up.
Transport added up, which makes sense because just about any journey is going to be a combination of jeepneys, busses, boats, trikes, taxis and occasionally planes as well. Food was also a good chunk, and sadly – for the higher prices – the fare on offer was almost all fried or fast food. Not my cup of tea. Two notable exceptions would be the chocolate crinkle bakeshop cookies and ice cream cones from 7-11. Nom nom nom!
The big category breakdown:
Accommodation: $185 Accommodation isn’t too bad in the Philippines. I was in dorms or three person shared rooms the entire trip, save for a few nights in Manila where I stayed with a friend and two nights spent on overnight busses.
Food: $307 This number shocks me – it didn’t feel like I spent so much money on eating. It is doubly disappointing as the food in general wasn’t great, and often was in such small portions that I would eat two meals in short succession (and this is saying quite a bit, since my appetite has dwindled to almost nothing in recent months). I could have got by on much less if I ate more meals from bakeshops, but after just a few days in the Philippines the sweet, doughy bread lost its appeal. That would be a serious budget-backpacker course of action… and I can safely say I’m past that.
Transport: $228 of which $100 was internal flights. This is a pretty high price tag for transport – the most I have spent in a month in Asia so far in fact. It does include two overnight busses and two internal flights, the remainder comprising everything from trikes to bikes to busses to taxis to ferry boats to bateaux-mouche. This doesn’t include the money I spent getting to and from the Philippines (via Kuala Lumpur in both directions).
Visa: $0 However, the impromptu exit-ticket-purchase necessary to get the free visa set me back about $130 in the end (not included in the month’s calculations)
Alcohol: $70 Philippines wins for the cheapest alcohol so far. Beer is very rarely over $1 (oh and it’s GOOD! Or, decent at least) and a 350 ml bottle of rum will only run you $1 as well. That means a mango smoothie is cheaper if you “water if down” with booze. Gulp. If you’re doing the math, I didn’t actually drink that much this month and would like to attribute the high price tag largely to St Patrick’s Day festivities, which included the purchase of some over-priced imported bottled Guinness. Although this might just be a wee bit of rationalising.
Entertainment: $181 of which $138 was diving. I did seven dives, but paid for five (two were reimbursed after the dive master nearly killed us… will post a longer spot on this later, but for now please beware if you ever think about diving with Harold’s Dive Shop in Dumaguete). A typical rate would be somewhere from 1.000 to 1.600 pesos ($22-$36) per dive, inclusive of reef fees and equipment rental. The remaining $43 covered motorbike rentals, fin rentals (for snorkelling), a whale shark trip, entrance to waterfalls and private beaches, park entrance fees, and a fish pedicure (5 pesos, or 11 cents US).
Miscellaneous: $94 This covered the usual – a SIM card with unlimited internet for a month, laundry, toiletries, a couple new shirts, a non-fish pedicure, two pairs of shoes, sunscreen and bank withdrawal fees.
- Three days of diving: $138 (6.175 pesos). In the Philippines a single dive (including equipment, guide and sometimes reef fees) ranges from about $22-$35, or 1.000 to 1.500 pesos. Since equipment rental is generally a daily thing prices drop for multiple dives.
- Flight from Dumaguete to Manila: $67 (3.000 pesos). And it was much nicer than a 26 hour boat ride for half the price.
- Flight from Legazpi to Manila: $33 (1.550 pesos). I would have paid twice that had someone told me that sitting in window seat A instead of F would have given me an unbelievable view of Mt Mayon as we took off and circled it at close proximity!
- SIM card for a month: $25 (1100 pesos). Under $1 a day for unlimited internet, not Thailand, but not all bad.
Like everywhere, I was sad to leave the Philippines. Thirty days just isn’t enough to see a country – especially one with over 7.000 islands. The number of picture perfect beaches blew my mind. Oh and I missed both Palawan and the rice terraces. So I have to get back for that! But for the moment I will be happy to get away from the bake shops and back to a noodle-based diet. Next up: Malaysian Borneo!
Here’s a perfect Filipino beach for posterity: