Whenever a topic about South East Asia comes up in conversations especially about travels, Thailand is always the first on anyone’s bucket list. The Siam Kingdom is arguably the most popular country in South East Asia in terms of tourism and very few people would even blurt out Philippines. This country of more than 7,100 islands is still an infant in the tourism industry but it is slowly changing now as it continues to grow as a perfect tropical destination.
The fact that the Philippines is still not yet popular means that there are less tourists and therefore traveling is more fun, more quiet, less busy and less expensive. With more than 7,100 islands, travelers don’t run out of options to choose from. More importantly, your chance of finding luxurious accommodation for a cheaper price is much higher in the Philippines than in Thailand. Here, you can travel like a king without spending a lot of fortune and enjoy the best of what the islands have to offer. So here’s how you can do it.
- Travel during low season:
Philippines is prone to typhoons and rainy season starts from June to October. Typically, this is the low season which most tourists try to avoid. However, typhoons do not strike in all places at the same time and there are places in the provinces that don’t really get typhoons at all. If you can take advantage of that, then you are guaranteed to enjoy low prices for as much as 40% on plane tickets and hotels plus you also get a higher chance of enjoying the beach all to yourself.
- Book flights and hotels early:
If you really want to get that beautiful summer tan and want to enjoy the spots during the summer, then book way ahead of your travel schedule. This means that you get better and cheaper deals with higher chances of getting the best room with the best views. The best idea is to contact a local agency, especially the ones specializing in all inclusive packages to the Philippines. If you go for higher end hotels, your chances of saving a substantial sum by booking through an agent increases dramatically.
- Avoid festival seasons and Holy Week:
If you want to see the cultural practices of the Filipino people, then we highly recommend our festivities and fiestas. Holy Week is also a must see because Filipinos have a different way of doing it. However, this also translates to huge crowd gathered all over the place and your chance of enjoying some quiet and relaxed moment will be disturbed by regular rituals of Pasyon – a reading on the suffering of Christ accompanied by chants and could last until Black Saturday.
Filipinos are very religious people and since Holy Week typically falls on a summer, expect that everyone will go away to some place for the Holy Week which means prices for hotels and flights are always driven up and planes and hotels are also fully-booked. Avoid Christmas, New Year and Easter as well if you want some quiet moments and if you are not willing to spend a fortune.
- Eat where the locals flock to:
Now, this is something you need to be mindful of. Filipinos love their fast foods but this is not what this is about. We are talking about real food here so try to observe where most locals get and eat their food. You will notice that Filipinos line up on roasted chicken stalls and you will see why when you taste it. Contrary to what many tourists say about Filipino foods, Philippine roasted chicken is the best and you can get a whole roasted chicken for only 5 dollars!
Moreover, when you buy your food, it is best to buy it from local market shops for guaranteed freshness. The ones in the supermarket sometimes have been frozen for a few days. Especially when buying fish and seafood, the best and the freshest ones can be bought directly from the fishermen and the prices are cheaper than the ones sold in the local market.
- Befriend the Locals:
Filipinos are generally friendly and so you can save a lot of money on accommodation, sightseeing and transport if you have a friend who lives in a province where you will visit. Nowadays there are different groups on social media where people can be friends with anyone and so if you plan on visiting the country, it will not hurt to invest in the locals before your travel date.
Filipinos would gladly offer you their home or get you in touch with someone they know who rent out an apartment or condo for you to use. They will also lend you their motorcycles (provided you have valid license of course) and if they have a car, they can show you around the province for sightseeing for free or for minimal charge. At all times however, it is important to be very careful who you befriend with online. Try to investigate first and check out very popular groups and check out profiles carefully before planning anything
- Choose your money-changing stores and ATM’s wisely:
While it may be safer to exchange currency at the airports, the conversion rate is typically lower than the ones outside. The banks and western Union are no better. If you see Subic Exchange in the malls, try that because their exchange rates are closer to the real deal. Furthermore, when you are withdrawing money using your credit card always uses the ones without commission charges. Try Citibank ATM’s or Metro bank. That way, you get more for your money.
- Stay away from the city center:
If you will choose a hotel or a B&B place, always choose the ones that are not located in the center. The ones at the city center are generally more expensive and very busy. This is also where befriending a local becomes significant because they can tell you where to stay at a cheaper price but with better quality.
For example, instead of staying on Boracay Island itself, why not stay in a big villa in Caticlan (very close to Boracay) where you pay for the whole villa at a fraction of the price of a room in Boracay with your own house help and huge beautiful garden? Not only, do you have the place all to yourself but you also get to enjoy peace and quiet without any tourists tailing behind.
- Concentrate on one place:
Philippines is an archipelago which means it consists of numerous islands. Transport from one island to another is cheaper compared to other countries in the South East but if you have to do it many times in your entire trip, it will definitely take up a lot of your funds and precious time. Try to focus on one place during your visit.
For example, if you want to see Palawan, then stay in Palawan. There are so many things to see and do in Palawan alone and 2 weeks for this will not be enough. Not only do you save time and money on transport, you also get to see more of the place and experience the local lifestyle. A lot of tourists make a mistake of trying to visit all famous places in one entire trip that most of their money actually get wasted on transport without actually seeing all they should see in a place. Don’t make that mistake.