So you’ve read an article that listed Philippines as one of the top destinations for 2014 by Rough Guides, The Daily Telegraph, or Lonely Planet? Or maybe you heard about the whale shark encounter in Oslob, Cebu? Or the rising popularity of Boracay and Palawan? Maybe these stories makes you want to travel to Asia’s southeast islands? Let’s talk about some travel information on money and costs in the Philippines to get you started.
If you’re planning for your first visit in the Philippines, know that the Philippines is generally an inexpensive country but I highly suggest you not to underestimate the cost as you can easily overspend depending on where you go. Like any other place, planning is key.
The unit of currency is the Philippine Peso (Php), divided by 100 centavos. There are coins of 5, 10, 25, and 50 centavos, and Php 1, Php 5 and Php 10. The currently used banknote denominations are Php 20, Php 50, Php 100, Php 200, Php 500, and Php 1000.
Foreign Currency vs Philippine Peso
Philippines weak peso means you almost always get an advantage when exchanging money. It virtually gives American dollar, Euro, and Pound more value for their money.
Note: These costs are calculated on the basis of single travelers.
As far as a daily budget is concerned, backpackers staying in the cheapest guesthouses and eating meals at street stands can expect to spend in the region of Php 800 to Php 1500 ($20 to $37.5) per person. I hear people can even go as low as Php 400 to Php 600 ($10 to $15) . Opting for a decent hotel and smarter restaurants will push it up to at Php 2400 ($60). As soon as you jump to a mid-range hotel and smarter restaurants, it will cost around Php 3800 ($95). But if splurging is your style, getting a four- and five-star accommodation you’re looking at Php 10,000 ($250) at the very minimum, especially in the remote virgin islands.
- Accommodation: In Manila and other cities in Metro Manila except Makati and Taguig, you can find hotel prices for as low as Php 600 per night. In Makati and Taguig, it’s about Php 1,600 but the ones near Ayala Center and and the MRT will cost you Php 3,000 to Php 15,000 per night. Hostels and dorm rooms can be found in Manila, it will range between Php 300 to Php 550 per night. Hotels in the touristy islands such as Boracay in Aklan and Panglao in Bohol can be had for Php 800 to Php 3,000 per night. There are no hotels in remote islands, house stay is your only option and they usually charge FREE to something around Php 1,500.
- Food: Your average fast food meal in the Philippines will run you about Php 100. A good meal will run you about Php 400. While at a nice restaurant will run you about Php 800. A value meal from either Jollibee and McDonald’s is about Php 80.
- Drinking: For a country of drinkers, it is very easy to do it. Domestic beers will cost around Php 30 to Php 60. Imported beers will cost around Php 60 to Php 120.
- Tours: Tours in the Philippines are cheap. A typical car/jeepney/tricycle (habal-habal) rental with driving tour guide will cost less than Php 1,500 ($37.5) per day.
- Transportation:Because Philippines is an archipelago, flying is the best option if you are transferring from one island to another rather than the slow ferry or ro-ro bus, especially if you’re flying between regions (Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao). It’s often cheaper to get a bus than fly if you’re traveling around one region but it will take too much time. For example, in Luzon, the travel time from Manila International Airport to Laoag International Airport is around 10-12 hours on bus but is only an hour away by plane. Philippines does not have a bullet train yet and the the only running state-owned railway company Philippine National Railways is in Luzon and runs on a very limited distance, covering Caloocan in Metro Manila to Calamba in Laguna.
Read: Cost of Living in Manila
Armed with your PIN, it’s perfectly possible to travel on plastic in the Philippines since ATMs are widespread. They’re mostly located outside banks, though you’ll also find them at the airports, at larger supermarkets, and in the shopping malls. The majority of machines accept Visa and MasterCard, or any similar cards in the Cirrus and Plus networks.
Visa and MasterCard are the most useful cards to carry. Nearly all tourist shops and the more upmarket restaurants and hotels accept payment by credit card. But note that anywhere outside Metro Manila businesses still expect payment in cash.
A few places add on an extra fee, typically 3%, to the bill to cover ‘bank charges.’ To be on the safe side, always ask.
Major currencies can be changed at the big banks, exchange bureaus, big hotels, and at the malls. Exchange bureaus usually offer slightly better rates than banks, but there’s just a little difference. Hotels tend to have the worst rates and may add an additional service commission. There is no black market in the Philippines (that I know of).
Some items and services are subject to 12% E-VAT. If it’s not clear, be sure to ask. Top-end hotels and restaurants sometimes add a service charge of about 10% to 15%.